The romance genre has been a timeless theme in fiction, and movies have brought it to life in a variety of ways. From romantic comedies to heart-wrenching dramas, the genre has something for everyone. In this paragraph, we acknowledge that love is one of those rare universal themes, and both romantics and cynics have always been able to find and enjoy different stories about fictional characters falling in or out of love. We also note that romantic storylines can be combined with other genres, adding extra emotional engagement to a story and ensuring it attracts a wider audience. While romantic subplots are popular, the greatest romance movies are those where the romantic aspect of the story feels like a priority. Here, we have compiled a list of the 25 best romantic movies of all time , emphasizing and epitomizing the romance genre, and ranked them from great to greatest.
Beauty and the Beast’ (1991)
Beauty and the Beast, released in 1991, is considered one of the most acclaimed animated Disney movies of all time. It holds the distinction of being the first animated movie to ever receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. The story follows the unlikely romance that develops between a young woman and a prince who has been turned into a beast. Initially, the woman is his prisoner, which could make the story uncomfortable, but it is handled surprisingly well. Like all great Disney films, Beauty and the Beast has a timeless quality that makes it both family-friendly and entertaining. It’s a funny and romantic classic that certainly deserves its status as one of the greatest Disney films ever made.
The Worst Person in the World 2021
The Worst Person in the World, a Norwegian romantic-dramedy, proves that not all great romance movies would necessarily make for great date movies. It’s unafraid to delve into the struggles of a young woman who’s grappling with both the professional and romantic aspects of her life, and feeling increasingly disconnected from a rapidly changing world. The film can be surprisingly downbeat at times, which might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect date movie. However, for those who have felt the struggles of being in their 20s or 30s while grappling with the uncertainty of where their lives are going, it can be a cathartic watch. The movie offers insightful commentary on the difficulties of modern-day dating and provides a realistic portrayal of romance. It’s an excellent film that deals with the realities of love, but it may not be the ideal choice for a romantic night out in the traditional sense. Read more: Ranking the Least Intelligent Movie Characters”
‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939)
Film enthusiasts often cite 1939 as one of the greatest and most important years in cinema history due to the release of many influential classics. One such historically significant film is Gone with the Wind, a colossal work in terms of runtime, scope, and box office revenue. The story primarily takes place during the American Civil War, making it feel like a historical drama or war film. However, the romance between the two lead characters, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, receives most of the focus. Although it is very over-the-top and melodramatic (and parts of the non-romantic aspects of the film can be uncomfortable for some viewers), it remains a landmark romantic epic that builds to an ending that is undoubtedly legendary. Carol 2015 Directed by the underrated Todd Haynes, Carol is one of the most compelling films that boasts two outstanding lead performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The film follows a younger woman who falls in love with an older woman. However, complications arise when the older woman is married, and all of this takes place during the conservative 1950s. Carol is one of the best romance films in recent times as it handles its story with great care, avoiding clichés and overused tropes. The movie captures the period’s history with great detail, making it an immersive experience for viewers. If that’s not enough, it also surprises audiences as a Christmas movie, offering a unique perspective on the genre. Overall, Carol is a fantastic movie that’s approachable, engaging, and a must-watch for fans of the romance genre. The Princess Bride’ (1987) The film’s witty script and excellent cast – featuring the likes of Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, and Wallace Shawn – all contribute to making it a beloved cult favorite. It’s a movie that manages to be both a romantic adventure and a clever parody of the same, with moments of comedy, action, and heartfelt emotion. Whether you’re in the mood for a swashbuckling adventure or a charming love story, The Princess Bride has something for everyone. And even after more than three decades since its release, it continues to capture the hearts of new audiences and remains a timeless classic.
Sense and Sensibility 1995
Ang Lee is a versatile filmmaker known for his works in various genres, but he has shown a particular talent for making romance films. His adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a prime example of his ability to tell a compelling love story. Set in the late 1700s, the film follows a group of sisters who must navigate the complexities of life, love, and heartbreak in the wake of their stepfather’s untimely death. With a great cast and a transporting period setting, Sense and Sensibility stands out for its Oscar-winning screenplay, penned by Emma Thompson, who also stars in the movie. Plagiarism free
All That Heaven Allows’ (1955)
Anyone looking for a romance movie heavy on melodrama need not look any further than the filmography of Douglas Sirk. He’s best known for his mid-20th-century melodramas that feature sweeping emotions, bold colors, and some very theatrical acting that suits the overall bombastic nature of the stories he liked to tell. All That Heaven Allows might be his most famous movie when it comes to this style that he was known for, depicting the (for the time) scandalous romance that blossoms between a widow and a younger man who’s out of her social class. It’s the kind of thing that does feel outdated now, but when viewed through the appropriate lens, there is something attention-grabbing about what’s on offer here, and undeniably, Sirk was in a class of his own for the time.
is a standout LGBTQ movie of the past decade that should not be confused with the 1967 Jean-Luc Godard film of the same name. It follows two men who meet at a gay club with the intention of just having a one-night stand, but soon find themselves unexpectedly developing feelings for each other. What makes Weekend so effective is its realistic and grounded portrayal of human relationships, which sets it apart from more melodramatic romance films. It’s a reminder that movies about love and connection can take many different tones and forms, and Weekend is a powerful example of the quieter, more introspective side of the genre.
It Happened One Night’ (1934)
Old-school Hollywood screwball comedies don’t get much better or more iconic than It Happened One Night. Released in 1934, it was a game-changing film for its time and set the groundwork for what would become the modern romantic-comedy genre. The film pairs a man and woman together who are both trying to achieve the same goal, but at first dislike each other, only to develop strong feelings for the other as the story approaches its end. It’s remarkable how funny and entertaining the film remains, even though it’s now almost 90 years old. It has influenced countless other great rom-coms that feel more modern, but It Happened One Night still remains charming and endearing to this day. It’s also notable for being one of only three movies to win the “Big 5” awards at the Oscars, which include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ (2019)
Noémie Merlant holding Adèle Haenel’s face in her hands and touching foreheads in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’Image via Pyramide Films Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a slow-burn romance in the best way possible. It’s set at the end of the 1700s and follows two women on an island: one is a painter tasked with painting a wedding portrait of the other woman, who’s mysterious and reserved, yet soon the two reveal their feelings for one another, and so begins a passionate yet short-lived romance. Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ (2019) 2019 was one of the best years for cinema in recent memory, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire was one of the best to come out within such a stacked 12 months. It’s fantastically acted, deliberately paced without being boring, has plenty of striking imagery, and contains a final scene that, once seen, is hard to forget.
La La Land’ (2016)
There are many ways an old-school romantic musical set in detached, hipster-heavy L.A. during the 2010s could have ended in disaster, but La La Land was somehow a huge success. The story is about as simple as it gets: two young people fall in love, but since both are passionate about their professional lives, there’s tension, and the possibility that things won’t work out in the long term. It’s a very well-balanced film, as it starts light and funny, gets a little heavier in its second half, and then builds to an amazing, inevitable, and bittersweet finale. For any other musicals post-2016 that want to capture the grandeur and sweeping nature of old-school musicals in a modern setting, La La Land has set the bar scarily high.
‘Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans’ (1927)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans George O’Brien Janet Gaynor (2)Image via Fox Film Corporation Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans was one of the first movies to win Best Picture at the Oscars… sort of. In the first Academy Awards ceremony, there were two awards for Best Picture – one called “Outstanding Picture” and the other called “Unique and Artistic Picture” – with Sunrise winning the latter. It’s since been considered the “lesser” of the two original Best Picture winners, thanks to the Unique and Artistic Picture award only being a one-time thing. Still, it’s hard to argue that Sunrise didn’t deserve recognition, because it’s a creatively shot romantic-drama that was indeed innovative for its time, and remains one of the easiest-to-watch movies of the silent era.
Titanic might well be the deadliest romance film of all time, because it’s a film that ultimately aims to be a romantic drama and a disaster movie at the same time. And it succeeds surprisingly well at doing both of these things, though with a runtime well over three hours, it can certainly afford the time and space to essentially be two movies in one. Jack and Rose make up one of the most famous couples in cinema history, with their tragically short love giving Titanic its heart, and surely being one of the main reasons it’s so beloved. It also delivers as a disaster movie, with the sequences involving the titular ship sinking still holding up to this day, making Titanic an emotional and hard-to-resist film on two fronts.
Before Sunrise (1995)
In Before Sunrise, two young people strike up a conversation on a train. They’re both traveling, and decide to continue spending time with one another in Vienna. They each acknowledge they need to go their separate ways in the morning, but as the night goes on, they fall for each other more and more, making their eventual parting feel remarkably sad. It ends up not being the end of their story, however, due to sequels Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013) showing what happens when they reunite by chance, and then decide to have a relationship together. For as great as the follow-ups are, Before Sunrise does feel the most romantic and heartfelt, with the other two movies feeling a little more drama-focused, given the characters naturally get a good deal older between movies.
Moonlight’s a movie that’s certainly more than “just” a romance, though that plays a considerable part in the overall unique coming-of-age story the film tells. Its first third follows a boy named Chiron, with its second act showing his teenage life, and then the final act of the film spending time with him as a young adult. Part of Chiron’s story involves him coming to terms with his sexuality, and the bond that develops between him and Kevin, who’s also shown at three different ages throughout the film. Director Barry Jenkins also followed Moonlight up with the romantic drama If Beale Street Could Talk, further showing his mastery of intimate, personal relationship-focused films.
The premise of Her initially sounds absurd, which makes the powerful nature of the film all the more surprising and impactful for viewers willing to give it a shot. It’s essentially about a man in the future who falls in love with an operating system that’s only supposed to act as a personal assistant of sorts. Her uses this premise to explore humanity’s relationship (here literal) with technology, and the way it can sometimes make people feel distant from others, and sometimes bring them closer. As far as science-fiction movies go, it’s quite gentle, and depicts a warmer future than most, even if it can be a moving and even emotional film to watch at times.
Cinema Paradiso’ (1988)
Easily ranking among the greatest Italian films of all time, Cinema Paradiso is about as close to perfect as movies get. It’s a coming-of-age drama that begins shortly after the end of World War Two and covers multiple decades thereafter, being about a young boy who develops a love for film, and sets out to become a great director. The film does spend time on its protagonist falling in and out of love, though ultimately, it’s perhaps his passion for film that ends up as the strongest “romantic” element of the movie. It’s a movie about how much people love movies, and how movies reinforce feelings of love and give opportunities for people to present stories about heartbreak, romance, and anything in between. In being the ultimate love letter to cinema, Cinema Paradiso is arguably one of the most romantic movies of all time.
When Harry Met Sally’ (1989)
When Harry Met Sally is one of the best movies of the 1980s, and perhaps the gold standard for the traditional romantic-comedy. As far as simple stories about mismatched people who initially dislike each other but grow to have feelings for one another, it’s essentially a tie between this and It Happened One Night when it comes to which is the most iconic. Thanks to two iconic lead performances from Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, and a sharp script by Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally is a blast to watch from beginning to end. When the jokes are so consistent and the chemistry is as believable as it is here, even those who dislike romance films with a formula will find this one hard to resist.
Happy Together’ (1997)
Wong Kar-wai’s a director who often makes movies that focus on love and relationships, though usually with a focus on the more emotional or difficult parts of love. While something like Chungking Express explores bittersweet feelings like longing and (a romantic sort of) loneliness, his 1997 film Happy Together is ultimately about a relationship falling apart. It centers on a gay couple who believe a holiday might help mend their struggling relationship, only to find things get worse when they go away together. It’s not a fun or easy-to-watch movie, but it’s incredibly powerful and remarkably well-acted, and as far as darker romance movies centered on break-ups go, it’s undoubtedly one of the very best.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)
Eternal-Sunshine-Of-The-Spotless-Mind The premise of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an instantly intriguing one, given it revolves around two people who, after breaking up, both undergo a procedure that will erase all memories of their ex. Eventually, they cross paths again, and it leads to a difficult situation once they realize that they used to know each other in such an intimate capacity. Once again, it’s a romance film about the sad parts of being in a relationship, but such stories are just as valid – and important – as the sunnier ones. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind emerges as a haunting, sad, yet not entirely hopeless film, and its unique story and striking imagery make it one film that’s difficult to forget, much like somebody important that you used to know.
Days of Heaven’ (1978)
Two people walking in a field in Days Of HeavenImage Via Paramount Though Days of Heaven is about a complicated and eventually dangerous love triangle, it’s one of those movies where the plot feels like it takes a backseat. There is a believability to the romantic interactions, sure, but much of the film’s passion and spectacle come about due to the way it’s shot, and because of the music by Ennio Morricone. It’s hard to put into words, but there is something intoxicating and quite moving about the whole thing, even if on paper its story sounds a little clichéd, and it’s overall a fairly simple film. Still, it’s hard to deny that few directors could make films as beautiful as Terrence Malick could at his peak, and Days of Heaven might well be his best.
Brokeback Mountain’ (2005)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger sitting on the grass together in Brokeback MountainImage via Focus Features Though it infamously didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture (does anyone actually remember Crash?), Brokeback Mountain endures to this day as one of Ang Lee’s best films. It’s a tragic gay romance about two cowboys who, in the 1960s, meet and fall for each other, even though it’s at a time when homosexuality was considered taboo and unacceptable to many. There seem to be more tragic gay romance movies than tragic heterosexual romance movies, though that appears to be changing in more recent years. It can make Brokeback Mountain a difficult watch at times, but it’s hard to deny the powerful filmmaking and acting on display here, with career-best performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
In the Mood for Love’ (2000)
In the Mood for Love stands as perhaps Wong Kar-wai’s most famous film, and – unsurprisingly, given the title – one of his most romance-heavy. That being said, the romantic elements are very subdued, though the film is all about love, heartbreak, and desire, and the way such things can complicate one’s life. It’s a slow and very restrained movie, but it sticks in the mind long after watching, and is also gorgeously shot and scored. It’s a classic of international cinema for a reason, and has earned its status as one of the most well-known Hong Kong films of all time.
‘City Lights’ (1931)
A well-paced romantic dramedy that doesn’t waste any time, City Lights is one of Charlie Chaplin’s very best movies, and certainly his best romantic film. It follows Chaplin’s Tramp character as he falls in love with a blind flower girl and sets about doing what he can to help raise enough money for her to have an operation that’ll restore her sight. It’s funny, touching, and bittersweet at all the right moments, feeling like an essentially perfect movie for the majority of its runtime. The best Chaplin movies are undeniably timeless, and given City Lights is absolutely one of his best, it also stands as one that seems most resilient to aging or having its impact wither in time.
Romance movies don’t get much better than Casablanca. Made and set during World War Two, it follows two lovers who cross paths by chance, and have their feelings reignited, with the only problem being that one has become jaded in time due to the love lost, and the other has remarried. Read more: Best Quotes in Any Spider-Man Movie, Ranked The story naturally gets wider in scope, thanks to it being set in WW2, and so the characters find themselves grappling with personal stakes and how their actions will affect the world at large. It pulls off this ambitious story with a tight runtime, plenty of memorable side characters, some surprisingly funny humor, and a pace that still feels pretty quick, even by modern standards. It’s hard to fault and stands as a classic in every sense of the word, and deservedly stands as arguably the greatest romance film of all time.