The English Patient is like a modern day Casablanca(1942). It's reminiscent of that classic black-and-white film because it's set in the same time period, revolves around an ill-fated romance, and has all the drama of people caught in North Africa in the middle of a world at war.
But The English Patient gives all of these tropes a modern twist. 70+ year spoiler alert: Casablanca ends with the main characters apart, but still alive. The English Patient sees Katharine dying in a cave and Almásy nearly burned to death. The 1990's were a cynical time, and The English Patient combines 90's cynicism with old Hollywood romance.