What’s better than a love story? Whether you’re all about the rom-com or you love a romantic drama told through love letters, there’s a romance movie to fit your taste. From Chicago to the rolling hills of Italy, the best romantic movies are set around the world and span several decades. They also feature some of cinema’s favorite leading men — because what’s better than a film starring Hugh Grant or Tom Hanks?
Whether you prefer the latest release from Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, or you love the classics, a cozy night in watching a romantic flick is one of winter’s best-loved pastimes. With this in mind, here’s a highly subjective (but no less qualified) list of the best romantic movies from the past and present.
The Best Romance Movies from Yesteryear
Whether you love the black-and-white films of old Hollywood or you’re all about the Brat Pack, there’s a romantic classic to fit your style! Here are a few to watch for the first time (or the 10th)!
1. Guys and Dolls (1955)
What’s better than an opposites-attract romance starring some of the most legendary actors of all time? This film features Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra as Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, two notorious gamblers that have the run of New York City. Short on cash, Detroit bets Masterson that he can’t take the local missionary, Sarah Brown, to Havana, Cuba on a date. But the wager takes on new meaning as Sarah and Sky find real connection. This romantic musical is set against a glistening city background with song and dance for the young and old.
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s isn’t only the romantic adventure of a young, newly-minted American socialite escaping her past, it’s also the inspiration for decades of female fashion. After all, what’s more iconic than Audrey Hepburn in a pair of dark sunglasses and dripping in diamonds? The story is about love and the courage it takes to confront it. Breakfast at Tiffany’s gives us a kiss in the rain and Audrey Hepburn in one of her most iconic roles. Is there anything better? (Apart from a little blue box tied with a bow?)
3. My Fair Lady (1964)
Another Audrey classic is the 1964 film adaptation of the English musical My Fair Lady, based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. It’s a story of second chances; of understanding privilege and position; and of opening yourself to rejection for the sake of love and future happiness. In the classic British telling of My Fair Lady, not only do we get beautiful gowns and glamorous hats, but a love story that unfolds when the characters realize that life isn’t about its spoils; Rather, it’s the simple things that really make life worth living. For that, we’ll dance all night.
4. The Princess Bride (1987)
Is there a love story with more adventure, heartbreak, or joy than The Princess Bride? We think not. Based on the William Goldman novel of the same title, it features pirates, evil kings, a band of merry misfits, and true love worth fighting for. With all the trappings of classic fairytales but a quirky twist all its own, it’s little wonder that this story has become an icon of pop culture. Whether you love sword fighting, logic games, tales of revenge, or the quest for true love, The Princess Bride is an absolute must-watch.
5. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
When Harry Met Sally is the perfect best friends-to-lovers romance. Directed by Rob Reiner, it features Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in what, thanks to the incomparable writing talent of Nora Ephron, feels like a real life scenario, As this slow-burn romantic comedy evolves, it asks important questions about the relationships between men and women and reminds us that sometimes it’s the day-to-day kindnesses — versus the Valentine’s Day spectacles — that matter most in love. After all, what is love without friendship?
The Best Modern Romances
Hollywood’s production of excellent romance movies hasn’t slowed down. The 1990s and early 2000s were host to some of the genre’s best, with everything from heroine foibles like Bridget Jones’s Diary to the glamour and glitz of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Here are just a few of our favorite modern romantic films.
6. Titanic (1997)
When it comes to romance movies, young Leonardo DiCaprio was the ideal leading man. In Titanic, the iconic Academy Award-winning love story of tragedy on the high seas, Leo plays charming artist Jack Dawson, who offers Rose DeWitt Bukater, played by Kate Winslet, a chance at freedom. As the story of the Titanic’s sinking is well-known, this Oscar winner for Best Picture reminds us that love is enduring, and that nothing — not class, money, tragedy, or time — can break the bonds of the heart. And, of course, it has some of the best music of all time.
7. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
With an ensemble cast that includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and many other recognizable names, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a modern classic. It’s one of those films that makes you laugh and cry in the same scene, and its twist ending is sure to surprise and delight. And speaking of Ryan Gosling…
8. The Notebook (2004)
The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, stars Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, James Garner, and Gena Rowlands. While its end is bittersweet, the film itself is an important reminder that the future is forged by the choices we make. A simultaneously playful heartbreaking film told through letters and poems, its story of Noah and Allie’s love is one of triumph over adversity and a world whose odds are not in their favor.
9. A Star Is Born (2018)
A remake of a classic that starred Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand in two prior iterations, this modern telling is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It features Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the lead roles and has one of the most unforgettable soundtracks in recent years. You’ll be singing “Shallow” for weeks after you see it.
10. To All the Boys I Loved Before (2018)
This young adult romance is the first in a trilogy of films that explores first love and the possibility of what the future might hold. The film features some typical romantic tropes, but themes of motherhood, loss, and fear weave themselves between the humor and colorful scenery to create a poignant and substantive film. For fans of films with joyful endings, To All the Boys I Loved Before is an escape you’re sure to enjoy.
In addition to the above films, there are a few honorable mentions:
- Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
- Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere
- Dirty Dancing, starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze
- La La Land, Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet
- Notting Hill, Starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant
- Romeo + Juliet, Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes
Let’s Fall in Love
Sometimes, you want a rom-com to make you laugh, and sometimes you want a love story to make you cry. Romance movies do both by transporting us to new places and new times. They give us the chance to imagine falling in love with an Italian artist, a renegade cowboy, or a New York City gambler; and they weave themes of loss, fear, heartbreak, and hope into their narratives.
Watching our favorite romances reminds us that while love may not conquer all, it makes life worth living. The genre is expansive and full, so whether you prefer modern rom-coms, silent films, black and white or Disney animated, there’s a movie for you.