If there’s one thing we can’t get enough of at The Digital Fix, it’s stories about people falling in love. Yes, the best romance movies can be mushier than badly-made mashed potatoes, but let’s be honest, people love seeing people fall in love.
That’s why so many romances have ended up on our list of the best movies; there’s just something gripping about watching two people fall for each other. Whether it’s the best rom-coms like When Harry Met Sally or the more stoic Casablanca, this genre is bursting at the seams with great stories, and plenty of new movies being added to the pile. We’ve put together a list of the greatest romantic films ever made. Just don’t go falling for us after reading, okay?
20. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Before Alfonso Cuarón was making Harry Potter movies and heading to space with Gravity, he gave us one of the best road movies ever made. It follows two teenage best friends driving an older woman through Mexico after she discovers her husband has cheated on her.
The movie isn’t necessarily a straightforward romance, with the sexual and emotional entanglements between the central trio only getting more complicated as the story goes on. But the script, written by Cuarón and his brother Carlos, relishes this complexity and enjoys romance in its most messy form. Not everything needs a perfect happy ending.
19. City Lights (1931)
Charlie Chaplin is known predominantly for his slapstick, and there certainly is plenty of that in City Lights, but this is his most romantic and disarming movie by far. Four years after The Jazz Singer brought talkies to the forefront, Chaplin defiantly made this silent masterpiece in which is Tramp character falls in love with a blind flower seller, played by Virginia Cherrill.
Of course, what follows has elements of farce as well as that slapstick, but it’s the emotional core of the romance story that really cuts through. The final scene has to rank among the most beautiful endings in cinema history. It shows that Chaplin was one of the best actors in history, as well as one of the funniest.
18. Before Sunrise (1995)
Richard Linklater’s romance Before Sunrise is a slow burn, following the adventures of a pair of strangers who encounter each other on a train. But Strangers on a Train this is not, and when a young Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna and return to her journey the next morning, they’re determined to make the most of their one evening together.
The movie isn’t complicated and essentially follows the couple around as they meander through the unfamiliar city, finding things to do and getting lost in conversation in the process. This isn’t a swelling romantic drama, but it is a perfectly relatable depiction of how it feels when you meet someone with whom you’re perfectly happy to simply talk.
17. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Look, a lot of romance movies don’t have happy endings, okay? And Call Me by Your Name is no exception. When young Elio finds himself falling for his father’s research assistant, Oliver, he descends into an Italian summer filled with yearning, passion, personal growth, and heartache in equal measure.
Yes, Call Me by Your Name might be most famous for that peach scene, but don’t let your own immaturity make you shy away. Luca Guadagnino is an extraordinary craftsman and perfectly wields his camera through the luscious Italian countryside to hone in on the budding and complicated relationship between the two young men.
16. Notting Hill (1999)
Hugh Grant has no shortage of romantic movies in his filmography, but Notting Hill tops them all as the most heartwarming and unlikely of the bunch. When a travel bookshop owner in the titular Notting Hill literally stumbles into a world-famous Hollywood actress (played by the world-famous Hollywood actress Julia Roberts), he finds himself falling for the most desired woman in the world.
Both hilarious and hapless, Notting Hill is a real showcase of British charm, and is Hugh Grant at his best. The ups and downs of their complicated fictional relationship will have you gripped in the eternally romantic will-they-won’t-they question, and Julia Roberts’ tearful and beautifully performed “I’m just a girl” monologue will have you on the floor.
15. The Shape of Water (2017)
What’s a creature feature doing on this list? Well, first of all, shut your mouth. We don’t disrespect Guillermo del Toro around here, and secondly, The Shape of Water is both one of the best monster movies ever made and one of the sweetest love stories ever told. Yes, it is about a woman falling in love with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but love takes many forms!
From its sublime cinematography to a Sally Hawkins performance with the lightness and subtlety of a feather, this Oscar-winning film is a must-watch if unlikely romance is your bag.
14. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
A bona fide rom-com classic, Sleepless in Seattle teams up genre heavyweights Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in what may be one of the funniest and most heartfelt date movies ever made. Directed with flair by the inimitable Nora Ephron, Sleepless in Seattle is a masterclass in filmmaking that should be part of everyone’s Valentine’s Day routine.
And hey, who doesn’t love a little Hanks? There’s something about him that lends itself to this kind of comfort movie. And we probably don’t have to explain Ryan’s contributions to the genre to you, either.
13. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Enchanting rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love stars Steve Carell as sad-sack Cal Weaver, a man in the middle of separating from his wife who’s mentored by the womanizing Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Hilarious and sweet, this incredibly entertaining rom-com works so well thanks to its likable main cast and surprisingly smart commentary on the nature of everlasting love.
Its core wing-man concept might sound a little shallow, but the film itself excels past that into something wonderful. This is not Hitch, we promise.
12. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Directed by Ang Lee and featuring potentially two career-best performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain is a tender and heart-breaking tale of two cowboys who fall in love but are torn apart by a prejudiced world. This is a must-see for romance fans. Just remember to bring the tissues because there won’t be a dry eye in the house by the time the credits roll.
Lee’s eye for crafting moving drama while side-stepping the wallowing in gay tragedy a lot of earlier LGBT movies rolled around in makes Brokeback Mountain stand out as a mature and memorable work. Now hold on, we’re about to hit play on Taylor Swift’s ‘Cowboy Like Me’.
11. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Written by Norah Ephron, the celebrated writer behind iconic romantic movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, this true classic follows two friends unsurprisingly named Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan). If you love autumnal vibes, this is for you.
The pair have known each other since college, and their history is littered with encounters, but they’ve never taken it to the next level. This film earns a spot on our list because it tackles the conventions of relationships, both platonic and romantic, and asks the difficult question — can men and women ever truly be friends? Plus, there’s the famous fake-orgasm scene set in Katz Delicatessen, which has gone down in history as one of those must-see comedy moments.
10. Titanic (1997)
A beautiful love story set against the backdrop of tragedy sees Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), a poor young artist, meet Rose (Kate Winslet), a wealthy aristocrat on board the maiden voyage of the doomed Titanic. James Cameron movies, whether people notice it or not, always make room for romance, which has helped his box office demographic spread considerably.
Their tender love story unfolds on the ship that, infamously, sank in the middle of the ocean after hitting an iceberg. This epic and heart-breaking story shows how love can blossom even on the cusp of disaster, and shows how opposites in society can attract.
9. The Notebook (2004)
Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Notebook tells the extraordinary tale of two lovers, Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling), from its early beginnings to tragic end.
The narrative flicks between the past and present, depicting a profoundly touching story that will leave your heart aching. Prepare to witness a tale of love overcoming all obstacles that will have you reaching for the tissues. Yes, it might be a 15-year-old’s top choice from 2010 for a sleepover movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good!
8. True Romance (1993)
Writer Quentin Tarantino takes romance to a new level with his genre-blending crime love story. A prostitute, some drugs, and a pimp might not sound like the right ingredients for a romantic movie, but Tarantino makes all these unexpected elements work.
The movie follows Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette), two star-crossed lovers forced to run after robbing a pimp. This off-beat romance isn’t your typical love story, but it’s stylish, exciting, and funny. If that doesn’t do it for you, the pimp is played fantastically by Gary Oldman, and that’s something worth seeing.
7. The Big Sick (2017)
Based on actual events in comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s life, this rom-com fictionalizes the first year of his relationship with his wife, Emily Gordon, played here by Zoe Kazan.
Whilst their relationship initially struggles with Kumail’s own battle with their cross-cultural romance, it’s only when Emily contracts a mysterious illness, and is put into a medically induced coma, that he realizes the depth of his feelings for her. Earnest, warm, and honest, this surprisingly funny romantic comedy is a charming slice of real life. If you like movies based on a true story, this is one to add to your list.
6. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this movie updates the setting to a modern high school and follows Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Patrick (Heath Ledger) as they try and woo two sisters. Unfortunately for our heroes, the girl’s protective dad has strict rules about who he lets date his daughters.
Strong performances elevated this to being among the best teen movies, while also catapulting Levitt and Ledger to stardom. But the real draw is Julia Stiles, whose whip-smart, feminist character is everything we want to be when we grow up, despite the fact we’re older.
5. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
While the story isn’t what you’d typically expect from a romantic movie, 500 Days of Summer manages to be oddly relatable. The drama follows Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, again) as he reminisces on the past year he spent with his girlfriend, Summer (Zooey Deschanel).
We see them meet, go on dates, and even go to Ikea (the ultimate test for couples). There’s just one problem — Summer doesn’t believe in relationships. This clever film captures exactly what it’s like to fall in love, be loved, and not love at all. And ultimately, it teaches a lesson about unrealistic expectations and how romanticizing everything can set you up for failure.
4. Pretty Woman (1990)
Los Angeles sex worker Vivian (Julia Roberts) meets Edward (Richard Gere) one night as he struggles with his car. A night together turns into days as Edward pays to keep her around, and the pair slowly start to fall in love. This film put Roberts on the rom-com map, and its entertaining plot makes it an easy one to watch time and time again.
It has stayed relevant, and as such, by the time Ticket to Paradise rolled around in 2022, we were so happy to see Roberts back in the romance saddle. And with George Clooney, no less.
3. Never Let Me Go (2010)
Adapted from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, three friends, Cathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightley), are all growing up in a seemingly normal boarding school. But nothing is normal.
A love triangle emerges in the midst of this dystopian movie, fueled by the emotions and hormones of growing up. It’s a perfect combination of love and loss, and its unpredictable plot will leave you thinking about it for a long time afterward.
2. Casablanca (1942)
You can’t make a list of the best romance movies and not include the enduring classic that is Casablanca. Set during the early days of World War II, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) meets his past lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband in the club Rick owns in Casablanca.
Old feelings bubble up to the surface, and Rick has to choose between the woman he loves and helping fight the Nazis. Casablanca is full of unforgettable moments, and memorable quotes you may be surprised to learn are from this movie. So, here’s looking at you, kid.
1. The Princess Bride (1987)
A true cult classic, The Princess Bride is a swashbuckling, hilarious love story that has stood the test of time. Few other films can make you laugh, swoon at corny romance tropes, or delight you with a bizarre fairy-tale world as well as this film can. Adapted from William Goldman’s 1937 novel and directed by Rob Reiner, the movie is a unique ‘damsel in distress’ story that isn’t afraid to make fun of itself.
Following the adventures of a farm boy called Westley (Cary Elwes) who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), from Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), it is a simple plot that is incredibly engaging and self-aware at the same time. The typical plot points that we see in all romance movies are played for laughs, and if you are after some cheeky comedy on date night, this fantasy adventure is as good as it gets. As you wish.
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