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The Totally Necessary Updated Rankings of Nicholas Sparks Films: The Most Important List Ever

April 5, 2017

Hello all. Mark here.

When you hear the name Nicholas Sparks I’m pretty certain you will groan, scoff or say “I loved The Notebook!” His 11 book adaptations have grossed $882 million worldwide and provided Kleenex thousands of new customers. However, the romantic films have taken a nose dive in quality since he took over producing and screenwriting duties. The genre he helped create (Sparksian) has now become predictable, and each feels like a paint by the numbers retread of the prior movie. Just look at the posters.

Sparks movie posters

The first five differed slightly but then it became all about the face palms. Check out the poster breakdown here. 

Why have I decided to rank these movies? I have a strange fascination with these tear jerkers because they are critic proof, really weird and always cast big name talent. Their quality has slowly declined (or was it ever there?) yet some are better than others.  People keep coming back for more and must find the unabashed melodrama satisfying. Do people find enjoyment in untimely death, cancer, lost love, mom jeans, poster face grabbing and ghosts? I do know that when watching The Notebook, 87% of the people in the packed theater were crying their eyes out. It actually took me out of the movie because I had never been surrounded by so many crying people.

Sidenote: Sparks said he was a better writer than Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, Blood Meridian, The Road) and thinks his books are Greek Tragedies. Just had to add that in there.

Along with the ranking I’ve included the “Sparks Meter.” I compiled 15 of his most repeated elements in an effort to figure out what is the most “Sparksian of all the Sparks movies. Here are the 15 elements.

Boats,  Widowed, Divorced, Only child, Death of a love interest, Two love stories taking place during one film, Cancer, Water smooching, Beach scene involving cuddling, frolicking, swimming etc…, Letter writing, Moving to new town, Secrets, Pickup truck. Love triangle, Angry parents

The Average “Sparksian” score is 8.


1. A Walk To Remember

A Walk To Remember

Roger Ebert sums up this movie perfectly.

A Walk to Remember is a love story so sweet, sincere and positive that it sneaks past the defenses built up in this age of irony. It tells the story of a romance between two 18-year-olds that is summarized when the boy tells the girl’s doubtful father: “Jamie has faith in me. She makes me want to be different. Better.” After all of the vulgar crudities of the typical modern teenage movie, here is one that looks closely, pays attention, sees that not all teenagers are as cretinous as Hollywood portrays them. A Walk to Remember is a small treasure.

6 of 15 Sparkisms. (Widowed, Only Child, Death of a Love Interest, Cancer, Secrets, Angry Parent)

2. The Notebook

The Notebook

The Notebook was incredibly passionate and super bonkers (They die at the same time!) Rachel McAdam’s character is by far the most three-dimensional of Spark’s ladies (she literally fought for her character) and Ryan Gosling became a megastar overnight because of this movie. The Notebook is by far the most popular of the nine films because of the commited acting, passion, and all around care spent on the script.

8 out of 15 Sparkisms. (Widowed, Only Child, Death of a Love Interest, Angry Parent, Smooching in Rain, Boat, Letter writing, Pickup truck)

3. The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride is the least manipulative of all the Spark’s films. It tells the story of two couples who compromise, love and get all emotional. Jack Huston, Brit Robertson, Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie) and Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) do a fine job of playing the good looking people who fall head over heels in love. The Longest Ride defeated all of my skepticism and left me sort of liking the movie despite the ham-fisted storytelling and cliches. The best part is that nobody dies at the end via a flash mudslide!

10 out of 15 (Boat, Only Child, Widow, Smooching in water (X2), Letter writing, Pickup truck, Beach frolicking, Two love stories taking place at once, Secrets)

4. The Last Song

The Last Song

Greg Kinear is my homeboy. The Last Song is a teenager tear maker but it helps sea turtles and Justified’s Nick Searcy makes an appearance so it isn’t all bad. The Last Song is not good but poor Greg Kinnear acts his face off in order to create some emotional resonance.

7 out of 15 (Cancer, Divorce, Water Kissing, Boat, Beach, Secrets, Moving to new town)

5. The Choice


The Choice is not a good film but you can tell the actors gave it their all. It is totally unnecessary schlock, but Teresa Palmer is likable and some of the cinematography is quite nice. The reason I put it at five is because it wasn’t trying to be anything other than a bad Sparks film that focuses on an insanely obvious plot twist. Also, I’m pretty sure it broke the world record for Teresa Palmer face grabs.

5 out of 15 (Boat, Beach, Pickup Truck, Beach Scene Involving Cuddling, Frolicking)

6. Safe Haven

Safe Haven

Lady on the run finds a nice family and talks to a ghost. Did I mention the ghost was her love interests dead wife? The twist comes so from a place so far off that is miles behind left field. If I had taken a sip of water before the twist reveal I would’ve spit it out from humor/shock. Safe Haven is bonkers and the How Did This Get Made crew covered it perfectly.

7 out of 15 (Beach, Moving to new town, Secrets, Widow, Pickup truck, Water Smooching, Letter Writing)

7. Message in a Bottle

So…….Kevin Costner plays a widow who is tricked by a reporter for a story. Eventually, the two fall in love and as he is going to visit her he dies in a freak storm. Basically, everything that happens in this film is unnecessary. I love me some Paul Newman though.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman was in this movie!

8 of of 15 (Widow, Secret, Beach, Boat, Death of a love interest, Letter writing, Pickup truck, Angry parents)

8. Dear John

Dear John

Entertainment Weekly sums up this film perfectly 

John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) find themselves in a How I Met Your Mother situation when Savannah breaks up with John for Tim (Henry Thomas)—only for Tim to die of lymphoma, giving Savannah and John the opportunity to rekindle their love. The twist comes off as insensitive and implausible: ”Let’s celebrate this really nice dude’s death and how it conveniently made it possible for John and Savannah to hook up!” Poor Tim.


11 out of 15 (Death of a love Interest, Angry Parents, Widow (X 2), Boat, Letters, Water smooching, Love triangle, Pickup truck, Beach cuddling)

9. The Lucky One

The Lucky One boat

Nope. The whole thing is based on an unnecessary lie (just tell that lady) and features the stock drunk husband who will inevitably do something dumb and hurt his family. Both Zac Efron and Taylor Shilling have proven they have personalities in other movies, but The Lucky One sticks them so far in the muck there is zero enjoyment.

7 out of 15 (Boat, Secrets, Only Child, Divorce, Water Smooching, Moving, Pickup Truck

10. Nights in Rodanthe 

Nights in Rodanthe

Never put Diane Lane in mom jeans. Don’t kill Richard Gere in a flash mudslide. James Franco is in this movie. It is all very weird. It dedicated a five minute scene to Gere and Lane throwing canned goods into a waste basket. If they filmed this as a way to take a beach vacation I applaud them.

5 out of 15 (Beach, Loss of a loved one, Divorce, Water smooching, Letter Writing)

11. The Best of Me

The Best of Me

Dumb, manipulative and wastes all of its talent. The Best of Me has an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (lowest of all the Sparks films) and the screenplay was written by Sparks (bad idea). I’ve never watched a more underwritten/overwritten (if that makes sense) snoozer and it kinda sucked because James Marsden and Michelle Monoghan are fantastic actors.

11 out of 15 (Water Smooching (X2), Loss of a loved one, Divorce, Pickup truck, Secrets, Two love stories at once,

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2017 8:55 am

    Sparks said he writes better than Cormac McCarthy? … oh god, he’s actually worse than I thought.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 7, 2017 8:33 pm

      Sparks thinks a lot of himself. Too bad the critics don’t agree. lol

  2. John Leavengood permalink
    April 9, 2017 12:28 pm

    I absolutely LOVE the title of this article. “Absolutely Necessary.” LOL


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