The Top 10 Romance Movies That Have Shaped Cinema History


Everyone loves a good romance flick. From first love, and summer romances, to stories of the ups and lows of marriage, romance movies keep audiences reaching over for the tissue box during their runtime. Some romance movies are unforgettable through their riveting characters, intriguing plots, and their overall substance. Here are the ten most influential romance movies of all time, ranked.

10 The Notebook (2004)

The notebook
New Line Cinema

Arguably the most popular romance film of the 2000s, The Notebook has garnered a massive following from audiences of all ages. The names Allie and Noah remain synonymous with actors Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, and for good reason–their onscreen chemistry is explosive. Fans can’t help but clap when Allie and Noah finally come together after overcoming every obstacle dealt their way, and cry when they peacefully pass away together in old age.

9 When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Meg Ryan as Sally in When Harry Met Sally
Columbia Pictures

When Harry Met Sally… plays into the idea of hate-turned-to-love, and does it quite well. Harry and Sally are polar opposites at the beginning of the film, with Sally holding Harry in contempt over his misogynist ideals, while Harry finds Sally absolutely unbearable. Life keeps bringing them back together, though, and their romance actually fleshes out credibly as they go from enemies to friends, and lastly, lovers that have taken their time to truly know one another. Easily one of the best-written romance films of all time.

8 Roman Holiday (1953)

Belgian-born actor Audrey Hepburn holds the hand of American actor Gregory Peck
Paramount Pictures

As touching as many romance films are, not many sweep the Academy Awards like Roman Holiday. Roman Holiday won Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, and notably, Best Actress for Audrey Hepburn–an impressive feat for her considering it was her first leading role. Princess Anne set Audrey Hepburn on the path to becoming one of the most adored faces in classic Hollywood.

7 Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain by Ang Lee
Focus Features

One of the most controversial films of the early 2000s, Brokeback Mountain defied all odds by not only making ten times its budget in box office returns, but sweeping the Academy Awards through nominations and wins. Brokeback Mountain earned Best Director for Ang Lee, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, and a Best Actor nomination for Heath Ledger. A groundbreaking film through and through.

6 Casablanca

Warner Bros. 

Dealing with WW2 tensions of the time, Casablanca depicts true love torn apart by insurmountable obstacles. Every character is a victim of circumstance; Rick Blaine is embittered over his ill-fated romance with Ilsa; Ilsa feels torn between her love for Rick and her sense of duty towards her husband, Victor; Victor is on the verge of losing his wife through no fault of his own. Even when Ilsa and Victor manage to escape with Rick’s help, there is no definite happy ending to this tragic tale.

5 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Paramount Pictures

Another Audrey Hepburn film on the list, Breakfast at Tiffany’s has Hepburn in her most stylish and daring role. Prancing through New York City sporting Givenchy’s finest designs, Audrey Hepburn portrays Holly Golightly, a wannabe socialite that survives by pocketing powder room money from rich dates.

When Holly meets Paul, her new upstairs neighbor, she feels an immediate connection considering their parallel life circumstances, but nevertheless, the couple goes through countless obstacles (most set up by Golightly herself) before ending up together.

4 Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire 2008
Celador Films

Slumdog Millionaire weaves several social commentaries into its love story, making audiences not only root for Jamal to reunite with Latika, but want him to win the contest and become a millionaire after a lifetime of poverty and suffering. The film brings awareness to the real-life circumstances of many people in Mumbai, and deserves to be recognized for its contribution to not only filmmaking, but dire social issues.

3 Ghost (1990)

Ghost (1990)

Paramount Pictures

Ghost deals with love after death while still making audiences laugh throughout its runtime. Everyone in the cast gave a flawless performance, from Patrick Swayze as the devoted Sam, Demi Moore as the mourning Molly, and Whoopi Goldberg as the charlatan, Oda Mae Brown. It’s not easy to root for a character that swindles people for a living, but Goldberg’s performance made audiences fall in love with the character through her sass, tenacity, and general comedic relief for the film–a well-deserved Academy Award win for Goldberg.

2 Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind hasn’t particularly aged well, considering its outdated themes and handling of certain characters–but it’s an entertaining love story nonetheless. Running at nearly four-hours runtime, Gone with the Wind keeps viewers reeled in as they follow Scarlett and Rhett’s tumultuous relationship, which lasts much longer than it should.

Vivien Leigh gave the performance of a lifetime as Scarlett, not only winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal, but convincing audiences into liking a rather reprehensible leading lady.

1 Titanic (1997)

20th Century Fox

The highest-grossing romance movie ever, Titanic brings romance to the tragic history of the doomed ocean liner. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio dominated the screen as the star-crossed lovers that go against societal norms to be together. Despite its heartbreaking outcome, Rose and Jack’s romance will remain one of the most beloved in cinema history.

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