The Most Romantic Movies of All Time

Romantic movies

Let’s make love, not hate.

Words by Deanna Janes

Love is patient. And love is kind. But love can also be a blow to the ego, a punch to the gut, and a pain in the ass. Just look to the best romance movies for proof. From timeless classics like An Affair to Remember and Casablanca, to contemporary takes including Cyrano, Love, Simon, and Moonlight, love is explored onscreen in all its glorious nuances.

Ahead, we’re rounding up the most romantic films of all time. Those that also include costumes that will make you weep, overarching themes of love is blind and love is for everyone, as well as those with plenty of sex scenes to get you in the mood. And luckily, several are streaming all over the digitial webs—whether you prefer to Netflix and chill, Hulu and hug, Prime and preheat, or Peacock and … you get it.

The Notebook (2004)

Romantic movies

Mixing business with pleasure: a recipe for spicy onscreen love affairs. One in particular we can’t get enough of? Then-real life couple Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as Noah and Allie in this soapy Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Their chemistry is so hot, it makes our teeth sweat.

Love Jones (1997)

Nia Long and Larenz Tate get hot and bothered in this classic from writer and director Theodore Witcher. They play a couple whose happenstance meeting in Chicago blooms into a relationship the two can’t seem to define. Though it was a box office dud back in the ‘90s, this is one you’ll want to rekindle.

Casablanca (1942)

Romantic movies

You can’t mention romance without referencing Humphrey Bogart’s Rick and Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa. A wartime romance declaring only love can stand the test of time, Casablanca does what most romantic films dare never to do: Forgo the “typical” happy ending. And we’re so glad it does.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Romantic movies

Love is never simple in a Jane Austen narrative. In Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy is a man in love with Elizabeth Bennet—but has a hard time making that known. Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen do their duty as lady and gentleman, and the dialogue in Joe Wright’s romance might make you weak in the knees.

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Romantic movies

Wong Kar-wai’s melancholic period drama is as romantic as the costume silks are vibrant. A love square of sorts, the story charts the sexual tension blossoming between two neighbors who’ve just learned their partners are sleeping with each other. Like any good romp between the sheets, this one takes its time.

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When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Romantic movies

Can men and women actually just be friends? It’s the predicament put to the test in Nora Ephron’s rom-com that made Billy Crystal a superstar, Meg Ryan every woman’s heroine, and Katz’s Deli the infamous New York City setting of the fake orgasm heard ’round the world.

Titanic (1997)

Romantic movies

All aboard James Cameron’s epic melodrama about love on the high seas. Even though the film snagged a boatload of shiny statues, its narrative harbors a fate not nearly as joyous. Feelings about the extra real estate on the big floating door aside, we’d have it no other way. For Jack and Rose, our hearts will go on.

The Best Man (1999)

Grab a plus-one for Malcolm D. Lee’s wedding drama starring Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, and Morris Chestnut. Precluding the walk down the aisle, the film works between timelines to reveal the secrets, hookups and friendship fractures plaguing Harper (Diggs) and his pals. But, oh, the chemistry between Lathan and Diggs.

Roman Holiday (1953)

Romantic movies

Audrey Hepburn made Breakfast at Tiffany’s a pop culture phenomenon, but William Wyler made lunch, dinner, and riding a Vespa in Rome a cultural fixture. His film, winner of three Oscars, kick-started a crop of American movies filmed in Rome. But we’re here to talk about romance.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Romantic movies

It’s a fact: the love between Westley and his Buttercup is not only strong, but it is true. How true? Let us count the ways. “True love” may be mentioned more times in Rob Reiner’s fantasy-adventure-romance than there are actual adventures to be had, but it doesn’t get any more swoon-worthy than this.

Like Water for Chocolate (1993)

Giving new meaning to hot chocolate, Alfonso Arau’s treat of a romantic drama belongs to a cook whose desires are baked into her dishes, filling all who dine on her feasts with whatever emotion she was feeling at the time of conception. Seemingly the inspiration for the Sarah Michelle Gellar headliner Simply Irresistible, this magical Mexican delight is grade-A fare.

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If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Based on the same-name story by author James Baldwin and featuring a simply sublime soundtrack, Barry Jenkins’s superb film stars KiKi Layne and Stephan James as Tish and Fonny, teen sweethearts who are ripped apart when Fonny is falsely accused of rape by a racist cop.

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Romantic movies

A guy who stands up to your father is such a turn-on. This is exactly what Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze, does for his more-than-a-summer-fling fling, Baby, who is, of course, Jennifer Grey. Soul music, naughty dance numbers, cabin lovemaking—it has everything a good Bible Belt movie needs.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

If violent delights have violent ends, then romantic delights so too have romantic ends. And only Baz Luhrmann can take the two ends of that spectrum and connect them in the middle to form a bloody heart. That’s exactly what the visionary director does with his swoon-worthy 1996 adaptation of the Shakespeare essential, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

One very necessary ingredient in a successful love story? Passion. And the passion simmering beneath the surface of Céline Sciamma’s award-winning romance is just begging to ignite. A meditation on liberation through art, Portrait’s narrative unfurls between a Brittany artist and the alluring bride-to-be she’s been tasked with painting. It’s very: Observe, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t feel.

Loving (2016)

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga team up to play real-life couple Richard and Mildred Loving in this Jeff Nichols biopic, about an interracial couple whose marriage would be the catalyst for changing miscegenation laws when their case goes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Carol (2015)

Romantic movies

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara bring Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, The Price of Salt, to gorgeous life as Carol, a woman confined in a loveless marriage, and Therese, the department store clerk who sets her free. Passion, forbidden romance, heartbreaking odds—the stage is set in this Todd Haynes gem.

Desire (1936)

Romantic movies

Old Hollywood icons Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper lock lips for the better part of this 1936 Frank Borzage rom-com set in Spain. It follows a French jewel thief and the American holding onto her pearls, and, we have to say, it doesn’t get much more romantic than those long, golden-age kisses.

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Moonlight (2016)

A triptych narrative told over several decades, Moonlight is many things: It’s soaring, it’s heartbreaking, it’s undeniably romantic. Though the protagonist’s road to the end of the reel is paved in adversity, and identity and sexual confusion, Barry Jenkins’s Chiron does experience love and romance. And when he does, it’s so moving, you’re going to want tissues within reach.

Once (2006)

Romantic movies

Most romantically-tuned films spend 90 minutes or so convincing us why its leading man and woman shouldn’t be together. John Carney’s musical snack uses its reel convincing us the pair—an unnamed busker and a married immigrant—should never part.

Say Anything (1989)

Romantic movies

If a shameless display of affection does not live up to a man blaring ‘80s rock on his boombox outside our window, then we kindly pass. Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), the protagonist in Cameron Crowe’s mature teenage love story, has revealed just how grand a grand gesture should actually be.

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

This vibrant New Dehli affair from Mira Nair challenges the stereotype of a loveless arranged marriage, following the festivities as dozens of wedding guests fly in (emotional baggage and all) to witness the marital union of a groom and his handpicked bride.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Romantic movies

Don’t act like cartoons can’t make you swoon. Disney taps into enchantment with an animated tale as old as time: Cursed man must make woman love him to break the spell. Not only were audiences whisked away, but the Academy also—this was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture nom.

It Happened One Night (1934)

Romantic movies

This iconic Frank Capra-directed Best Picture winner has a title that could be referring to one of two things: 1) that time Clark Gable’s Peter and Claudette Colbert’s Ellie fell for each other, or 2) that time one film influenced every single romantic comedy that came after it.

If You Are the One (2008)

A sweeping lark that allows its Hokkaido, Japan scenery to fill every pixel of your screen, this Chinese blockbuster follows an odd couple whose chance encounter via online dating is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Peppered with deadpan humor, it’s not your typical romantic watch—but that is what you’ll love most about it.

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