Love Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller
Screenplay byErich Segal
Based onLove Story
by Erich Segal
Produced byHoward G. Minsky
CinematographyRichard Kratina
Edited byRobert C. Jones
Music byFrancis Lai
Paramount Pictures
Love Story Company
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 16, 1970 (1970-12-16)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.2 million[2]
Box office$173.4 million[3]

Love Story is a 1970 American romance film written by Erich Segal, who was also the author of the best-selling 1970 novel of the same name. It was produced by Howard G. Minsky,[4] and directed by Arthur Hiller, starring Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal, John Marley, Ray Milland and Tommy Lee Jones in his film debut.

The film is considered one of the most romantic by the American Film Institute (No. 9 on the list) and is one of the highest-grossing films of all time adjusted for inflation.[5] It was followed by a sequel, Oliver's Story (1978), starring O'Neal with Candice Bergen.


Oliver Barrett IV, heir of an American upper-class East Coast family, attends Harvard College where he plays ice hockey. He meets Jennifer "Jenny" Cavilleri, a quick-witted, working-class Radcliffe College student of classical music; they fall in love despite their differences. Oliver's father drives a long distance to Ithaca NY to see his son's hockey game vs. Cornell for the Ivy League championship. Barrett is suspended from the game for fighting and Harvard loses to Cornell, 4–3. Oliver turns down his father's offer of a ride back to Boston and help in getting into Harvard Law School.

Oliver is upset that he does not figure in Jenny's plans to study in Paris. She accepts his marriage proposal and he takes her to the Barrett mansion to meet his parents, who are judgmental and unimpressed. Oliver's father says he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny, but after graduation they marry nonetheless.

Jenny works as a teacher but without his father's financial support the couple struggles to pay Oliver's way through Harvard Law School. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position at a respectable New York City law firm. They are ready to start a family but fail to conceive. After Jenny undergoes three blood tests, Oliver is told that she is terminally ill.

Oliver attempts to continue as normal without telling Jenny of her condition, but she confronts her doctor and finds out the truth. Oliver buys tickets to Paris, but she declines to go, wanting only to spend time with him. Oliver seeks money from his estranged father to pay for Jenny's cancer therapy. His father asks if he has "gotten a girl in trouble". Oliver says yes, and his father writes a check.

Jenny makes funeral arrangements with her father from her hospital bed. She tells Oliver to not blame himself, insisting that he never held her back from music and it was worth it for the love they shared. Jenny's last wish is for Oliver to embrace her tightly as she dies.

A grief-stricken Oliver leaves the hospital and he sees his father outside, who has rushed to New York City from Massachusetts to offer his help after learning about Jenny's condition. Oliver tells him, "Jenny's dead," and his father says "I'm sorry," to which Oliver responds, "Love – Love means never having to say you're sorry", something that Jenny had said to him earlier. Oliver walks alone to the open air ice rink, where Jenny had watched him skate the day she was hospitalized.



Erich Segal was an academic who had branched into screenwriting with films such as Yellow Submarine and The Games. He wanted to do a "story out of a 1940s movie" updated to the present day, "based on what I have observed among my students, living as I do right on campus. It deals with today’s personal commitment of one to one and the quest for a permanent relationship which begins much younger than it used to. The old, mindless football game dating is gone. The question of sexual morality is irrelevant, but there is much less ‘swinging’ among young people now than in the old days.”[6]

The movie was originally written as a screenplay but Erich Segal was unable to sell it. Howard Minsky, who was head of the motion picture division on the east coast for the William Morris Agency, who represented Segal, believed in the project. According to Arthur Hiller, "He gave up his job and made an arrangement with Erich Segal because he had such faith in that project. He mothered it all the way through. If it hadn't been for him, it would never have been a film."[7]

Minksy says he had Segal rewrite the script seven times. The changes included altering the female lead from being Jewish to Italian-American, deleting the character of the girl's mother, and minimising swearing and nudity.[8] [9]

The script was read by Ali MacGraw, who wanted to make it. She had just made Goodbye Columbus for Paramount Pictures, then under Robert Evans. Paramount had signed MacGraw to a three picture deal and agreed to make the film as a vehicle for MacGraw.[7] In May 1969 Evans announced that he wanted a "senstive young actor" like Beau Bridges or Jon Voight for the lead and Larry Peerce, who had made Goodbye Columbus, would direct.[10] Evans later said Peerce took the job because he "desperately needed a gig" but the director was always unhappy working on the project and pulled out after a month.[11] He was replaced by Anthony Harvey, who had made Lion in Winter, but Harvey quit the project after collaborating with Segal. Eventually Arthur Hiller, who was making two films at Paramount (The Out of Towners and Plaza Suite) agreed to direct.[12]

In September 1969 it was announced Hiller would direct and that Harper and Row would publish a novelised version of the script in February of the following year.[13] According to Evans, Paramount had suggested Segal adapt the screenplay into a novel to help promote the film. Minsky says he was the one who suggested this.[8] Peter Bart, then an executive at Paramount, claims he suggested it. Segal says that he wrote the novel at the same time as the screenplay with considerable input from Gene Young of Harpers who was editor.[6] The book was published in time for Valentine's Day in 1970, and became a best seller.[14][8][9]


According to press reports, the lead role of Oliver Barrett IV was refused by Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Beau Bridges, Michael York and Jon Voight.[12] Evans says that Michael Sarrazin, Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine also turned it down.[15] MacGraw recalls auditioning opposite Christopher Walken, Ken Howard and David Birney.[16]

Hiller says "we tested eight or nine different actors and Ryan was the best. He didn't bowl us over at first. Then I saw some footage of a film he was just completing at 20th Century Fox and I thought it would be wonderful. He just had that empathy and feeling that was so necessary."[7] According to a contemporary account, O'Neal was tested on the recommendation of Erich Segal, who had worked with him on The Games; he was paid $25,000.[17] Evans later claimed he insisted O'Neal be cast because he made the best test, over the objections of Hiller who wanted Walken.[18]

In November 1969 Evans claimed "We looked at 1,000 actors and that's not an exaggeration. We tested 14 unknowns and none of them compared to O'Neal."[19]

Bill Cleary, former Harvard and 1960 U.S. Olympic hockey star (and later Harvard's hockey coach/athletic director), was Ryan O'Neal's hockey stand-in during key hockey scenes where skating and hockey-playing ability were required. Hockey scenes were filmed in three days at Harvard's former Watson Rink, which was rebuilt and is now known as Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Other hockey players in the film were played mostly by actual Harvard and Boston University hockey players, including Joe Cavanagh and Mike Hyndman.


Filming started 18 November 1969 on location in Cambridge and Boston, and New York. It was the first time a film had gotten permission to film at Harvard.[8]

Filming Love Story on location resulted in damage to trees on campus. This experience, followed by a similar experience with the film A Small Circle of Friends (1980), caused the university administration to deny most subsequent requests for filming on location.[20]

Jimmy Webb wrote a score for the film that was not used. Burt Bacharach was approached to do the score but pulled out when Robert Evans requested a score similar to that of Frances Lai. Eventually Lai was cast.[12]

The main song in the film, "(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story" was a major success, particularly the vocal rendition recorded by Andy Williams.

Arthur Hiller recalled, "We thought we were making a nice little movie. Well, all of us thought that except the producer who kept saying, "Arthur, believe me, this will be big." And I said, "Yes Howard, you're the producer, you have to feel that way." But he was totally right."[7]

Filming finished on 3 February 1970.[8]


The premiere for Love Story took place at Loews's State I theatre in New York City on Wednesday, December 16, 1970.[21]

Critical reception

Overall, Love Story received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 29 critics and gave the film a score of 66%. The critical consensus reads: "Earnest and determined to make audiences swoon, Love Story is an unabashed tearjerker that will capture hearts when it isn't inducing eye rolls."[22]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and called it "infinitely better than the book," adding, "because Hiller makes the lovers into individuals, of course we're moved by the film's conclusion. Why not?"[23] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times was also positive, writing that although "the plotline has been honored many times... It's the telling that matters: the surfaces and the textures and the charm of the actors. And it is hard to see how these quantities could have been significantly improved upon in Love Story."[24]

Newsweek felt the film was contrived[23] and film critic Judith Crist called Love Story "Camille with bullshit".[25] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "I can't remember any movie of such comparable high-style kitsch since Leo McCarey's Love Affair (1939) and his 1957 remake, An Affair to Remember. The only really depressing thing about Love Story is the thought of all the terrible imitations that will inevitably follow it."[26] Gene Siskel gave the film two stars out of four and wrote that "whereas the novel has a built-in excuse for being spare (it is told strictly as the boy's reminiscence), the film does not. Seeing the characters in the movie ... makes us want to know something about them. We get precious little, and love by fiat doesn't work well in film."[27] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "I found this one of the most thoroughly resistible sentimental films I've ever seen. There is scarcely a character or situation or line in the story that rings true, that suggests real simplicity or generosity of feeling, a sentiment or emotion honestly experienced and expressed."[28] Writer Harlan Ellison wrote in The Other Glass Teat, his book of collected criticism, that it was "shit". John Simon wrote that Love Story was so bad that it never once moved him.[29]

Love Story was ranked number 9 on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions list, which recognizes the top 100 love stories in American cinema. The film also spawned a trove of imitations, parodies, and homages in countless films, having re-energized melodrama on the silver screen, as well as helping to set the template for the modern "chick flick".

Box office

Love Story was an instant box office smash.[30] It opened in two theatres in New York City, Loew's State I and Tower East, grossing $128,022 in its first week.[21] It expanded into another 166 theatres on Christmas Day and grossed a record $2,463,916 for the weekend, becoming the number-one film in the United States.[31][32] It also grossed a record $5,007,706 for the week[33] and grossed $2,493,167 the following weekend.[34] It remained number one at the US box office for the next four weeks, before finishing second behind The Owl and the Pussycat for one week and then returning to the top of the box office for another six weeks.

It went into general release in the United States on June 23, 1971, expanding into an additional 143 theatres in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis, grossing $1,660,761 in five days and returned to number one at the US box office for another 3 weeks, for a total of 15 weeks at number one.[35][36] It was the sixth highest-grossing film of all time in U.S. and Canada with a gross of $106,397,186.

Adjusted for inflation, the film remains one of the top 50 domestic grosses of all time.[5] It grossed an additional $67 million in international film markets for a worldwide total of $173.4 million ($1.3 billion in 2023 dollars).[3]

Arthur Hiller later reflected, "We had been going through a period of individuality in the 1960s, what I call the ‘biker films, like Easy Rider (1969). If Love Story [had come] out a few years earlier, it would have been run over by the motorcycles. A few years after, it would be lost to special effects. Movies have their time of why they work and why they don’t."[37]

Hiller also said, "The message of Love Story really is what two people can give to each other for love alone. You know, people made fun of the phrase "Love means never having to say you're sorry." But think about it. All it says is that if you love somebody, you understand they're not perfect and they don't have to apologize for every little thing they do that isn't perfect. Its an affirmation of the human spirit... We hit at a time when if you disagreed with somebody, you hated them. That was the feeling in 1969 and 1970. Well, people were tired of that and were looking to say, hey, love is okay. You can be mad at somebody and still love them."[7]

Peter Bart, an executive at Paramount when the film was made, said "Love Story had become a sort of cinematic aphrodisiac. A kid would take his date to the film, they would cry together, commiserate about the tragedy, then they would go to bed, as though to celebrate their survival. Hence each night the lines seemed to grow longer as the boys kept pressing their luck."[38]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Academy Awards April 15, 1971 Best Picture Howard G. Minsky Nominated [39]
Best Director Arthur Hiller Nominated
Best Actor Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Best Actress Ali MacGraw Nominated
Best Supporting Actor John Marley Nominated
Best Story and Screenplay – Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced Erich Segal Nominated
Best Original Score Francis Lai Won
David di Donatello Awards June 29, 1971 Best Foreign Actor Ryan O'Neal Won
Best Foreign Actress Ali MacGraw Won
Directors Guild of America Awards March 12, 1971 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Arthur Hiller Nominated [40]
Golden Globe Awards February 5, 1971 Best Motion Picture – Drama Won [41]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Ali MacGraw Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture John Marley Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Arthur Hiller Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Erich Segal Won
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Francis Lai Won
Golden Screen Awards 1972 Golden Screen Won
Grammy Awards March 14, 1972 Best Instrumental Composition Theme from Love Story – Francis Lai Nominated [42]
Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Love Story – Francis Lai Nominated
Best Pop Instrumental Performance Theme from Love StoryHenry Mancini Nominated
Laurel Awards 1971 Best Picture Nominated
Top Male Dramatic Performance Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Top Female Dramatic Performance Ali MacGraw Nominated
Top Cinematographer Richard C. Kratina Nominated
Top Composer Francis Lai Nominated
National Board of Review Awards January 3, 1971 Top 10 Films 8th Place [43]
Writers Guild of America Awards 1971 Best Drama – Written Directly for the Screen Erich Segal Nominated [44]

American Film Institute

Year Category Nominee Rank
1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies[45] Love Story
2002 AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal 9
2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes "Love means never having to say you're sorry" 13
2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)[46] Love Story


The film was first broadcast on ABC television on October 1, 1972, and became the most-watched film on television surpassing Ben-Hur (1959) with 27 million homes watching, with a score of 42.3 by Nielsen ratings and an audience share of 62%.[47][48] The rating was equalled the following year by Airport (1970) and then surpassed in 1976 by Gone with the Wind (1939).[48]

Harvard College screenings

The Crimson Key Society, a student association, has sponsored screenings of Love Story during orientation to each incoming class of Harvard College freshmen since the late 1970s. During the showings, society members and other audience members mock, boo, and jeer "maudlin, old-fashioned and just plain schlocky" moments to humorously build school spirit.[49]


Love Story: Music From The Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Released1970 (1970)
ProducerTom Mack
Professional ratings
Review scores

The soundtrack from the film was released separately as an album, and distributed by Quality Records.[51]

All tracks are written by Francis Lai, except where noted

1."Theme from Love Story"3:20
2."Snow Frolic"2:58
3."Sonata in F Major (Allegro)" (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)2:17
4."I Love You, Phil"2:04
5."The Christmas Trees"2:48
6."Search for Jenny" (Theme From Love Story)3:04
7."Bozo Barrett" (Theme From Love Story)2:43
8."Skating In Central Park" (John Lewis)3:04
9."The Long Walk Home"1:30
10."Concerto No. 3 in D Major (Allegro)" (Johann Sebastian Bach)2:35
11."Theme from Love Story" (Finale)3:52
Total length:30:15


Weekly charts

Weekly chart performance for Love Story
Chart (1970–1971) Peak
Argentine Albums Chart[52] 2
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[53] 18
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[54] 9
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[55] 11
French Albums Chart[56] 6
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[57] 12
Italian Albums (Discografia internazionale)[58] 1
Italian Albums (Musica e dischi)[59] 1
Spanish Albums Chart[60] 1
UK Albums (OCC)[61] 10

Year-end charts

Year-end chart performance for Love Story
Chart (1971) Position
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[62] 67
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[63] 32

Sequels and remake

O'Neal and Milland reprised their roles for a sequel, Oliver's Story, released in 1978. It was based on Segal's 1977 novel. The film begins with Jenny's funeral, then picks up 18 months later. Oliver is a successful, but unhappy, lawyer in New York. Although still mourning Jenny, he manages to find love with heiress Marcie Bonwit (Candice Bergen). Suffering from comparisons to the original, Oliver's Story did poorly with both critics and audiences.

NBC broadcast Love Story, a short-lived romantic anthology television series, in 1973–1974. Although it shared its name with the novel and movie and used the same theme song – "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story" – as the film, it otherwise was unrelated to them, with no characters or storylines in common with either the novel or the film.

In February 2021, remodeled ViacomCBS streaming service Paramount+ announced a remake of Love Story as a TV series, to be part of their new lineup of content. The series is to be produced by young adult stalwarts Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, made prominent due to young adult hits such as The O.C., Gossip Girl and Looking for Alaska. It is to be made for Schwartz and Savage's production house, Fake Empire, as a co-production between Paramount Television Studios and CBS Studios.[64]

Jenny Cavilleri's "disease"

Vincent Canby wrote in his original New York Times review that it was "as if Jenny was suffering from some vaguely unpleasant Elizabeth Arden treatment".[26] Mad magazine ran a parody of the film ("Lover's Story") in its October 1971 issue, which depicted Ali MacGraw's character as stricken with "Old Movie Disease", an ailment that causes a dying patient to become "more beautiful by the minute".[65][66] In 1997, Roger Ebert defined "Ali MacGraw's Disease" as a movie illness in which "the only symptom is that the patient grows more beautiful until finally dying".[67]

In popular culture

In 1971, the 20th episode of the fourth season of The Carol Burnett Show featured a take-off of the film called "Lovely Story", with Carol Burnett in the MacGraw role and Harvey Korman in the O'Neal role.[68]

The film's female protagonist has been credited with the spike in the baby name Jennifer in North America in 1970, launching it to the number 1 feminine given name.[69] It would hold this position for 14 years.

At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Canadian Pairs figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skated their free skate to the film's theme, initially losing the gold medal in a now-infamous 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal moment in sports history.

In 2020, the film's theme music was played during the funeral procession of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.[70]

In an interview at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, Taylor Swift cited Love Story as an inspiration for the autumnal set design of All Too Well: The Short Film.[71]

See also


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