Romantic movies can often be identified by the cover, but they come in many different shapes - sometimes they hide behind a musically-driven low-budget indie beauty, or in plain sight among the wrecks of the Titanic. Love is present everywhere in this list, so just take your pick and maybe learn something new about this complicated and irresistible feeling we call “love.” Here are some of the best romantic movies ever!
Level of romance: same as the number of times Jack and Rose say their names in the movie
Talk about starting with a cliché, but hey, if this movie proves one thing is that clichés work when they’re done right. This amazing love story loosely based on Romeo and Juliet follows the blossoming romance between a rich and depressed girl with an energetic humble peasant, as they meet aboard the Titanic. The story, as you know, doesn’t end incredibly well, but there is enough romance here to enchant viewers for many years to come. If there’s one movie to kick off Valentine’s Day in epic fashion, this is it.
- Titanic was the highest grossing movie of all time, until director James Cameron beat his own record with Avatar, in 2009 - an achievement made even more incredible considering that Titanic and Avatar had a 12-year interval between each other, and James Cameron made no other movies in that period.
- It was nominated to 14 Academy Awards, winning a total of 11 - joining Ben-Hur, and later, The Return of the King, as one of the few movies to win that many.
You should also watch: Romeo + Juliet
Level of romance: Shakespeare (with guns)
This modern version of the classic Shakespeare play turns swords into guns and horses into cars, but they talk exactly like in the original play, word for word - which can make the movie hard to watch for some. But the central performances by Leo DiCaprio and Diane Lane are enough to sell their fiery passionate romance that as we all know, ends on a tragic note. Arguably the greatest love story ever written.
It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Before Trilogy
Level of romance: way too real
A bit of a cheat here, but one you can forgive: the movies Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, were planned and produced in sequence with nine years of interval between each one, always with the same actors. So when you see the older versions of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy on the last movie, they are really that much older, no tricks.
We saw the first movie in the 90’s when it came out, so to sit down and see this couple arguing so bitterly on the latter movie wasn’t just hurting them, it was hurting us all. Ultimately though the message is that love is worth it. Just be ready for reality to hit hard. The trilogy has one movie for every lover - one for the teenagers in love, one for the reminiscing, and one for the adults dealing with reality. You won’t find a more complete package for Valentine’s Day!
When Harry Met Sally
Level of romance: I’ll have what they’re having
One of the most beloved romantic comedies of all time, this one has it all. The romance is believable and relatable, while the comedy is sexy, but never vulgar. The famous dinner scene is the most notable example, and it’s considered one of the funniest scenes in movie history. What’s not to love?
Level of romance: if you look up “romance” in a dictionary it will show this movie’s cover
The first of many Nicholas Sparks adaptations to come is also probably the best one. Both leads are charismatic and share great onscreen chemistry, traversing with confidence from when they romance explodes with passion, to when reality hits and they must go separate ways… only to reunite years later, in different circumstances. A modern love story that made many adults cry and became the favorite romantic movie of many, making it the perfect movie for Valentine’s Day.
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Level of romance: adorable
Rob Reiner has an immense sensibility for romance that most modern filmmakers can’t replicate. His talent for it is all over this humble but memorable little movie about a young boy and a young girl who start facing the symptoms of love, while having no idea of what to do with them.
Part a coming of age movie and part romantic comedy with kids, it’s impressive just how much adults can take from how these two kids love each other.
You should also watch: Moonrise Kingdom
Level of romance: adorkable
Having essentially the same theme as “Flipped”, this one’s main difference lies in Wes Anderson’s particular art-style and sense of humor, and it’s absolutely recommended.
Level of romance: it’s French
At first, it looks like this is going to be the tale of Amélie as we share her particular view of the world, despite all the clues leading to what eventually takes the front seat: a very particular love story. If the incredible cinematography and art direction don’t draw you in, the sensible true love that slowly blossoms surely will. Amélie is so incredibly unique as a character one can’t help but fall in love with her - she’s determined, but vulnerable; creative, but shy; idealistic, but ingenue. We love her, and you will too.
- Amélie was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Sound Mixing.
- Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet would later direct the controversial sci-fi Alien Ressurection, a choice of project as random and weird as this bullet point.
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(500) Days of Summer
Level of romance: there is a light that never goes out
The only movie on this list you could consider an “unromantic comedy”, it’s also one of the most important you could watch on Valentine’s Day. However, despite following the story of a man who fell in love with the wrong girl (a fact the movie states even before it even starts), the lessons you learn about love here are as important as in any other romantic comedy. In fact, I would argue this one is even more important: that a bad ending to a romance only opens way to the beginning of a new one. We fall in love, we break our hearts, and we try again!
Level of romance: *singing* all you need is love, love is all you need!
One of the most unassuming romcoms of the last few years, this musical adventure is simple at its core, but just like director John Carney’s debut (“Once” - read below), it’s one of the most sensible movies you can afford to watch. Unfortunately, it was poorly marketed, so a lot of people didn’t get to see it. Go watch it, you'll thank us later!
You should also watch: Once
Level of romance: you may cry more than once
Most people turned their eyes from “Once” until it was nominated for the “Best Original Song” Academy Award, competing against three Disney songs (from Enchanted)... and won. But the beautiful “Falling Slowly” is just the tip of the iceberg of the many original songs the movie hides within, all composed and performed by the main duo, both real life musicians. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a musical though: it’s a story of love, friendship, and compromises - with beautiful songs composed by the characters, many of which help tell their story in ways dialogue never could.
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Level of romance: hard to resist
Another romantic comedy that has so far resisted the test of time and remained relevant and beloved since it’s original release. It’s hard to resist its inherent charm, from Julia Robert’s infectious smile to Richard Gere’s controlled charm, it’s a modern love story for everyone to fall in love with. It’s like it was made for Valentine’s Day.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Level of romance: Audrey Hepburn. Need I say more?
We couldn’t leave the classics behind, and no other movie came up more often than Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The unparalleled magnetism from Hepburn’s performance is still enchanting viewers to this day.
You should also watch: Casablanca
Level of romance: the most romantic detective movie ever
Casablanca may look like a detective story at heart (and it is), but love pulls all the strings here. If you want to see the quintessential love story that many have tried to replicate since, look no further than the irresistible charm of Casablanca - a story so beautifully composed that what a lesser movie would call a sad ending, Casablanca makes into one of the best endings ever.
13 Going On 30
Level of romance: definitely more than 30
Romantic comedies look so similar that sometimes it’s easy to miss the really good ones. If you judge this one from its cover, it looks like every romantic comedy ever, but it’s probably one the best you’ll ever see.
We follow the totally bonkers plot where a 13 year-old-girl hates her life and believes that everything will be awesome when she’s 30. Through some movie magic, that’s exactly what happens - she wakes up and she’s 30. But of course, she soon realizes nothing is that easy and that age is not a synonym of wisdom.
You should also watch: 50 First Dates
Level of romance: surprisingly a lot
There was a time when Adam Sandler actually made good movies. Criticism aside, this romantic comedy follows a funny premise: he falls in love with a girl with short-term memory loss, meaning he has to start from scratch every single day, while trying to make her remember him for good. It’s surprisingly charming, knowing when to be funny and when to get real for the most part.
If you can forgive Rob Schneider playing a native Hawaiian. Nothing is ever perfect, is it?
Level of romance: cynical but adorable
Ricky Gervais is a British comedian known for his acid humor, so it comes as a surprise that he starred in a romantic comedy - and that he did so blooming well at it. A cynical and socially awkward dentist starts seeing ghosts everywhere, and one of them is the ex-husband of the woman of his dreams. This friendly ghost takes as his life (or should I say “death”) mission to help the depressed dentist become the perfect pair for his late wife.
The humor is all around, from the initial discomfort of Gervais having to interact with people only he can see, to the slow change of personality that makes him a better person, more capable of showing and giving love.
Level of romance: ALL THE LOVE
Famously known as a Christmas movie for taking place during the holiday, Love Actually is a lot more about love than about Christmas - which is why it’s often remembered during Valentine’s Day just as much. The movie tells the story of four different British couples and their misfortunes during Christmas. It’s basic, but incredibly touching for such a simple premise. And THAT CAST.
Easily one of the best romantic movies for Valentine’s Day you could possibly find. And when Christmas comes around again, you’ll see it again.
You should also watch: Crazy, Stupid, Love
Level of romance: the same as the level of awkwardness
Steve Carell is a brilliant comedic actor known to act brilliantly in awkward scenarios. But this excellent drama-comedy-romance is much more than just awkward humor, including childish love, passion, divorce, and accepting our own mistakes before moving on. Perhaps its greatest achievement is showing with the main arc that falling in love is easy, but keeping that love is often the hardest part.
Oh yeah, and it has that scene with Ryan Gosling.
Level of romance: you will never forget that song
Perhaps Dirty Dancing is a bit too familiar at this point - like a song that played so much you can’t stand it anymore, despite it actually being good. Regardless, it’s impossible to talk about romantic movies and leave this one out - it’s one of the most beloved romantic movies ever. It captured a much wider audience than initially intended and has passionate followers that will defend it until this day.
- Originally, no one bet too hard on Dirty Dancing, but the movie became a gigantic box office hit, winning both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
- It also became the first movie to sell over a million copies in home video.
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You should also watch: Ghost
Level of romance: ditto
If you take what I wrote about Dirty Dancing above and just change the movie for “Ghost”, it fits just as well. It looks a little sillier now, perhaps, but Patrick Swayze is such a charismatic lead it’s easy to fall victim to the movie’s supernatural charm (pun intended).
It’s cheesy, corny, sometimes silly, but hey, isn’t that love?
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