Dawson Cole works on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. One day, an explosion on the job nearly kills him, throwing him into the water, but miraculously, he survives. Months later after recovering, Dawson learns that his close friend and surrogate father, Tuck Hostetler, has died and returns home for the first time in almost twenty years to carry out Tuck's final wishes. When he arrives at his house, Dawson is surprised to find that Tuck also arranged for Dawson's high school girlfriend, Amanda Collier, to join him. It seems that Tuck's intention was that Dawson and Amanda would perhaps rekindle their former romance. However, Amanda is now married to Frank Reynolds.
Dawson was born into a notorious backwoods criminal family with an abusive father. In flashbacks, it is revealed that as a teenager, he left his father's home and stayed overnight in Tuck Hostetler's garage. Tuck, a local mechanic who had recently lost his wife, allows Dawson to live with him and eventually considers him a son of his own.
Dawson and Amanda attended the same high school and began dating, soon falling in love. Before the prom, Dawson's father and brothers beat Tuck. Dawson, angered, goes to his fathers house with the intent of killing him with Tuck's rifle. However, they scuffle, and Dawson's cousin, an expectant teen father, is accidentally killed. In exchange for a lighter sentence, Dawson testifies against his father and brothers. However, since Dawson will not be paroled for another four years, he cuts ties with Amanda, forcing her to choose college over staying with him.
After Tuck's death, Amanda and Dawson meet with Tuck's lawyer and learn that they are to scatter Tuck's ashes at a cottage he owned with his wife. Later, Dawson and Amanda spend a passionate night together. They have lunch and discuss their plans, during which Amanda learns that Dawson knew she had continued to try to visit him in prison. The following day, Amanda decides to return to her family and her strained marriage, to meet her family commitments.
When Amanda goes home, Dawson remains at Tuck's to restore the garden. However, she later plans to split up with her husband, and she leaves Dawson a voicemail expressing her love.
After she left the voicemail, she receives a call from which she learns that her son needs a heart transplant. Having lost her daughter already, she feels miserable on hearing this news. Soon her son gets a heart transplant surgery donor. The next morning when she wakes up, she sees Dawson sitting by her side watching her sleep, though he was not actually there. She is informed that Dawson was shot and killed by his father, who is later arrested.
One year later, she receives a call from her son, who finds out that the name of the donor whose heart he received was Dawson Cole. She later visits Tuck's house and finds a letter for her written by Dawson in which he says that he understands that she has her commitments and she wants to keep them and he could only love her more for that. She walks in the garden, which has been restored by Dawson.
In an alternate ending on the DVD, Amanda leaves her husband and she and Dawson get together and enjoy walking through Tuck's garden and the end credits roll.James Marsden as Dawson Cole
Luke Bracey as young Dawson
Michelle Monaghan as Amanda Collier-Reynolds
Liana Liberato as young Amanda
Sebastian Arcelus as Frank Reynolds
Gerald McRaney as Tuck Hostetler
Sean Bridgers as Tommy Cole
Rob Mello as Ted Cole
Hunter Burke as Abee Cole
Jon Tenney as Harvey Collier
Caroline Goodall as Evelyn
Ian Nelson as Jared Reynolds
Schuyler Fisk as Older April
Robby Rasmussen as Bobby Cole / Aaron Cole
Julia Lashae as Clara
On June 17, 2011, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights to the novel The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks. On March 15, 2012, it was announced that the studio had tapped screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe to adapt the book.
On September 27, it was reported that Warner Bros. was in final talks with Michael Hoffman to direct the film, Will Fetters was set to rewrite the screenplay, marking his second adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, and Denise Di Novi was set to produce the film, along with Sparks and Sparks' agent Theresa Park as co-producers, marking Di Novi's fifth film collaboration with Sparks, Sparks' second time producing a film adaptation of one of his novels and Park's production debut. On July 25, 2013, Relativity Media acquired the distribution rights from Warner Bros., marking the studio's third film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. On October 22, Michelle Monaghan was cast to play the female lead Amanda Collier, and Ryan Kavanaugh was to co-produce the film. On October 24, the studio set the film for an October 17, 2014 release.
On January 9, 2014, the studio offered James Marsden from the 2004 adaptation of Sparks' 1996 novel The Notebook to play the male lead Dawson Cole, replacing Paul Walker after his death. On January 28, Liana Liberato joined the film's cast as the younger version of Monaghan's character, Amanda Collier. On February 12, Luke Bracey was added to the cast to play the younger version of Marsden's character, Dawson Cole. On March 12, Sebastian Arcelus and Gerald McRaney joined the cast of the film. Arcelus played Frank Reynolds, Amanda's husband and father of her children, while McRaney played Tuck, a widower who takes in young Dawson and becomes a friend and father-figure to him. On March 25, Jon Tenney was added to the cast to play Harvey Collier, the father of Amanda.
Principal photography began on March 6, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana for a 42-day shoot. On April 30 and May 1 the filming took place in the downtown Covington area. Also filming took place in parts of Pearl River, Louisiana.
On June 27, 2014, it was announced that composer Aaron Zigman would be scoring the music for the film.
The soundtrack album for the film, released on October 7, 2014, features original music primarily from the genre of country music, recorded by artists such as Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, David Nail, Colbie Caillat, Kip Moore, Eli Young Band, Eric Paslay, Thompson Square, and Thomas Rhett. "I Did with You" by Lady Antebellum was released on September 8, 2014 as the first promotional single from the soundtrack. The band's other contribution, "Falling for You" is also available on the deluxe edition of their fifth studio album, 747.
The titles and performing artists were published by Taste of Country.
The album debuted at number 54 on the Billboard 200, selling 6,200 copies in its first week.
The Best of Me opened in North America on October 17, 2014 across 2,936 theaters. It has grossed $26,766,213 in North America and $9,160,000 in other territories for a worldwide total of $35,926,213.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $10,003,827, finishing fifth at the box office behind Fury ($23,702,421), Gone Girl ($17,511,956), The Book of Life ($17,005,218) and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day ($11,456,954), making it the worst opening for a Nicholas Sparks' novel adaptation.
The Best of Me has been panned by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 8%, based on 74 reviews, with an average rating of 3.5/10. The site's consensus reads, "At nine films and counting, the line between Nicholas Sparks film fans and detractors is clear, and The Best of Me will change few minds on either side of the divide." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 29 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave The Best of Me an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
The Best of Me was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 3, 2015.