When a prank on a fellow high-school student goes wrong, popular but rebellious Landon Carter (Shane West) is threatened with expulsion. His punishment is mandatory participation in various after-school activities, such as tutoring disadvantaged children and performing in the drama club's spring musical. At these functions he is forced to interact with quiet, bookish Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore), a girl he has known for many years but to whom he has rarely ever spoken. Their differing social statures leave them worlds apart, despite their close physical proximity.
When Landon has trouble learning his lines, he asks Jamie for help. She agrees to help him if he promises not to fall in love with her. Landon laughs off the strange remark, believing Jamie to be the last person with whom he would ever fall in love. After all, Landon has access to the prettiest and most popular girls in town; and between her shy demeanor and old-fashioned wardrobe, Jamie doesn't exactly fall into that category.
Landon and Jamie begin practicing together at her house after school. The two form a tentative friendship, and Landon learns that Jamie has a wish list of all the things she hopes to do in her life, such as getting a tattoo and being in two places at once.
During the play, Jamie astounds Landon and the entire audience with her beauty and voice. Landon kisses Jamie during the play, which was not in the script, and Landon tries to get close to Jamie, but she repeatedly rejects him. It is only after a mean joke played on Jamie by Landon's friends that Jamie agrees to get to know Landon after he punches out Dean and shuns Belinda (his friends who played the joke) and takes Jamie home. The two pursue a relationship. He takes her out to dinner and dances with her, something he never did for anyone else. When he discovers that Jamie has a wish list, he sets out to help her accomplish them. One memorable date had Landon taking Jamie to the state line. He excitedly positions her on the line in just the right way, and when Jamie asks him what he's doing he tells her "You're in two places at once". Her face lights up with joy, as she realizes that Landon set out to make her impossible dreams come true. One evening, Landon asks her to find a star for him with her telescope. When she asks why she is for looking it, he replies, "I had it named for you." She embraces him and whispers "I love you" to him for the first time.
Jamie finally tells Landon that she has terminal leukemia and has stopped responding to treatments. Landon gets upset at first. Jamie tells him the reason why she didn't tell him because she was moving on with her life and using the time she left but then Landon happened and she fell in love with him. Jamie starts to break down as she says to Landon "I do not need a reason to be angry with God." and she flees.
Jamie's cancer gets worse and she collapses in her father's arms. He rushes her to the hospital where he meets Landon. Landon doesn't leave Jamie's side until her father practically has to pry him away. Jamie's father sits with Jamie and tells her that "If I've kept you too close, it's because I wanted to keep you longer." Jamie tells him that she loves him and her father breaks down.
Landon continues to fulfill various wishes on Jamie's list, such as building her a telescope so she can see a comet. Through this process, Landon and Jamie learn more about the nature of love. The movie ends with Jamie's death, but only after the couple are married in the same chapel as was Jamie's deceased mother, the event that topped Jamie's wish list. Landon himself becomes a better person through Jamie's memory, achieving the goals that he set out to do, like she did.
Four years later, Landon visits Jamie's father. It is obvious that Jamie helped him to focus and become a better person. For example, he reveals he has finished college and been accepted to medical school; prior to meeting her he had no plans for life after high school. He tells Jamie's father that he is sorry he could not grant Jamie's wish to witness "a miracle" before she died. Her father says "She did. It was you".
The inspiration for A Walk to Remember was Nicholas Sparks' sister, Danielle Sparks Lewis, who died of cancer in 2000. In a speech he gave after her death in Berlin, the author admits that "In many ways, Jamie Sullivan was my younger sister". The plot was inspired by her life; Danielle met a man who wanted to marry her, "even when he knew she was sick, even when he knew that she might not make it".Both the book and movie are dedicated to Danielle Sparks Lewis.
Comparisons to novel
While there are many similarities to the novel by Nicholas Sparks, many changes were made. On his personal website, Sparks explains the decisions behind the differences. For example, he and the producer decided to update the setting from the 1950s to the 1990s, worrying that a movie set in the 50s would fail to draw teens. "To interest them," he writes, "we had to make the story more contemporary." To make the update believable, Landon's pranks and behavior are worse than they are in the novel; as Sparks notes, "the things that teen boys did in the 1950s to be considered a little 'rough' are different than what teen boys in the 1990s do to be considered 'rough.'"
Sparks and the producer also changed the play in which Landon and Jamie appear. In the novel, Hegbert wrote a Christmas play that illustrated how he once struggled as a father. However, due to time constraints, the sub-plot showing how he overcame his struggles could not be included in the movie. Sparks was concerned that "people who hadn't read the book would question whether Hegbert was a good father", adding that "because he is a good father and we didn't want that question to linger, we changed the play."
A significant difference is that at the end of the novel, unlike the movie, it is ambiguous whether Jamie died even though during the 1950s cancer meant death. Sparks says that he had written the book knowing she would die, yet had "grown to love Jamie Sullivan", and so opted for "the solution that best described the exact feeling I had with regard to my sister at that point: namely, that I hoped she would live. In the novel, Landon's father is a congressman, but in the film he is a cardiologist who helps Jamie with her illness. Due to his career, he had enough money to pay Jamie's home medical attention.
Smaller differences also exist, such as when Jamie gives Landon her mother's book in the movie, she says "Don't worry, it's not a Bible". In the novel Jamie does give him her mother's Bible with her favorite passages underlined. Also, although Jamie is described as having blue eyes and blond hair in the book, Mandy Moore has gray eyes and brown hair.
• Shane West as Landon Carter
• Mandy Moore as Jamie Sullivan
• Peter Coyote as Reverend Sullivan
• Daryl Hannah as Cynthia Carter
• Lauren German as Belinda
• Clayne Crawford as Dean
• Paz de la Huerta as Tracie
• Al Thompson as Eric
• Jonathan Parks Jordan as Walker
• David Lee Smith as Dr. Carter
1. Dare You To Move - Switchfoot
2. Cry - Mandy Moore
3. Someday We'll Know - Mandy Moore, Jonathan Foreman
4. Dancing in The Moonlight - 2001 Remix Toploader
5. Learning To Breathe - Switchfoot
6. Only Hope - Mandy Moore
7. It's Gonna Be Love - Mandy Moore
8. You - Switchfoot
9. If You Believe - Rachael Lampa
10. No One - Cold
11. So What Does It All Mean? - West, Gould & Fitzgerald
12. Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough - New Radicals
13. Cannonball - The Breeders
14. Friday On My Mind - Noogie
15. Empty Spaces - Fuel
16. Only Hope - Switchfoot