Life has a way of throwing curveballs. There are ups, there are downs, and people come in and out of your life. Sometimes, for clarity, you just need to settle with a movie in the romance genre and believe in love again.

Today, I want to dig into the best romance movies of all time. We'll have a whole list of titles to add to your Netflix queues and onto all your streaming platforms.

And we'll dig into the history and tropes as well.

Let's dive in.

What Classifies a Romance Movie?

What Classifies a Romance Movie?'Casablanca'Warner Bros.

While love stories are the core of romance movies, the genre encompasses a wide range of narratives. Some key characteristics include:

  • Central Love Story: A relationship (or the pursuit of one) is the driving force of the plot.
  • Emotional Focus: The film prioritizes the characters' feelings and their journey towards connection.
  • Happy Endings (Often): While not always the case, many romance movies conclude with a positive resolution for the central couple.
  • Subgenres: Romance blends with other genres, leading to romantic comedies, historical romances, fantasy romances, and more.

Romance Movie Tropes 

Romance movies often employ familiar tropes that resonate with audiences:

  • Meet-Cute: A charming or quirky first encounter between the love interests.
  • Love Triangle: A protagonist torn between two potential partners.
  • Enemies to Lovers: Initial animosity blossoms into a passionate romance.
  • Grand Gesture: An extravagant declaration of love.
  • Misunderstandings: Obstacles caused by miscommunication or hidden feelings.

While these tropes can be predictable, they often tap into universal experiences and emotions, making them comforting and engaging.

The History of Romance Movies

Romance found its footing in the silent era of cinema, relying on visual storytelling and evocative music to convey the emotions of love and longing. Some notable examples include:

  • The Kiss (1896): This short film, considered one of the first on-screen kisses, captured the public's imagination and sparked controversy due to its perceived indecency.
  • The Sheik (1921): This desert romance, starring Rudolph Valentino, solidified his status as a heartthrob and established the archetype of the passionate, exotic lover.
  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927): F.W. Murnau's visually stunning film explored the complexities of marriage and temptation, showcasing the power of silent storytelling to evoke profound emotions.

The Golden Age of Hollywood: Wit, Charm, and Classics

The advent of sound ushered in a new era for romance films, allowing for witty dialogue, memorable songs, and the rise of charismatic stars like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Humphrey Bogart. Some of the most iconic romances from this era include:

  • It Happened One Night (1934): This screwball comedy, featuring a runaway heiress and a charming reporter, set the template for countless romantic comedies to come.
  • Gone with the Wind (1939): This epic historical romance, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, captivated audiences with its sweeping love story and unforgettable characters.
  • Casablanca (1942): This wartime romance, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, is considered one of the greatest films ever made, with its timeless tale of love and sacrifice resonating with audiences across generations.

Post-War: Diversification and Exploration

In the post-war era, romance films began to explore more complex themes and tackle social issues. The rise of independent cinema and the loosening of censorship allowed for greater diversity in storytelling and representation. Some notable examples include:

  • The Graduate (1967): This coming-of-age story explored themes of disillusionment, rebellion, and the complexities of desire.
  • Love Story (1970): This tearjerker about a young couple facing tragedy became a cultural phenomenon and solidified the "chick flick" genre.
  • Annie Hall (1977): Woody Allen's neurotic romantic comedy deconstructed the traditional rom-com formula with its witty dialogue and introspective characters.

The Modern Era: RomComs, Blockbusters, and Diverse Voices

In recent decades, romance films have continued to evolve, with a resurgence of romantic comedies in the 1980s and 1990s, the rise of blockbuster romances like "Titanic" (1997), and a growing focus on diverse stories and voices.

Today, romance films are more inclusive than ever, exploring LGBTQ+ relationships, interracial love, and a wider range of ages and experiences. Streaming platforms have also expanded the reach of romance films, allowing for more niche and experimental stories to find their audience.

The history of romance on film is a testament to the enduring power of love stories to captivate, inspire, and challenge audiences. Whether it's a classic Hollywood romance, a Bollywood musical, or a modern indie film, these stories continue to resonate with viewers around the world, reminding us of the universal desire for connection and the transformative power of love.

Global Romance Movies

Global Romance Movies

'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge'

Yash Raj Films

Love knows no borders, and romance films are made in every corner of the globe. Some notable examples include:

  • Bollywood Romances: Indian cinema is known for its colorful, musical romances, often blending family drama and social commentary.
  • European Arthouse Romances: European films often offer more introspective and nuanced explorations of love and relationships.
  • East Asian Romances: Japanese and Korean cinema have produced heartwarming and poignant love stories, often with a focus on cultural traditions.

The Best Romance Movies of All Time

The Best Romance Movies of All TimePride & PrejudiceFocus Features

This list is subjective and meant to be a jumping-off point for exploration. It's impossible to capture every great romance movie in a single list, so be sure to discover your own favorites!

These are in no particular order.

  • Casablanca (1942): Set in World War II Morocco, a man must choose between the love of his life and helping her husband escape the Nazis.
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005): A spirited young woman clashes with a wealthy bachelor in 19th-century England, only to realize they may be perfect for each other.
  • Titanic (1997): A doomed romance blossoms aboard the ill-fated ship as it sails towards its tragic destiny.
  • The Notebook (2004): A man reads to his wife from a notebook, recounting the passionate story of their young love.
  • When Harry Met Sally... (1989): Two friends wonder if men and women can ever truly be just friends, as they navigate their complex feelings over many years.
  • The Princess Bride (1987): A fairytale adventure filled with love, humor, and swashbuckling action as a young woman is kidnapped and her true love sets out to rescue her.
  • Before Sunrise (1995): A chance encounter on a train leads to a magical night of conversation and connection for two strangers in Vienna.
  • Dirty Dancing (1987): A young woman discovers herself and falls in love with a dance instructor during a summer vacation at a resort.
  • Love Actually (2003): Intertwined stories of love and loss unfold in the weeks leading up to Christmas in London.
  • Atonement (2007): A young girl's lie about a crime has devastating consequences for several lives, including the burgeoning romance between her older sister and the housekeeper's son.
  • Call Me by Your Name (2017): A passionate summer romance blossoms between a teenager and his father's research assistant in 1980s Italy.
  • The Shape of Water (2017): A mute woman working as a night janitor falls in love with a captured amphibian creature in a high-security government laboratory.
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011): A recently divorced man gets a crash course in dating from a charismatic womanizer, while his teenage son navigates his own first love.
  • Brokeback Mountain (2005): Two sheepherders develop a complex and enduring relationship in 1960s Wyoming.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): A couple undergoes a procedure to erase each other from their memories, but their love proves resilient.
  • Amelie (2001): A whimsical young woman in Paris sets out to improve the lives of those around her, while secretly yearning for love herself.
  • La La Land (2016): An aspiring actress and a jazz musician pursue their dreams and fall in love in Los Angeles.
  • Moonstruck (1987): A superstitious woman falls for her fiancé's estranged younger brother, leading to a chaotic and passionate affair.
  • Ghost (1990): A man is murdered and becomes a ghost, watching over his grieving girlfriend and trying to protect her from danger.
  • Notting Hill (1999): A charming bookstore owner in London falls for a famous American actress, leading to a whirlwind romance.
  • The Big Sick (2017): A Pakistani-American comedian falls in love with a grad student, but their relationship is tested when she falls into a coma.
  • The Vow (2012): A newlywed couple's lives are changed forever when a car accident leaves the wife with amnesia.
  • Love & Basketball (2000): Two childhood friends who share a passion for basketball navigate their relationship through the ups and downs of life and their careers.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019): A forbidden romance develops between a young painter and the woman she is commissioned to paint in 18th-century France.
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001): A young poet falls in love with a courtesan in the vibrant and seductive world of the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris.
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012): A man with bipolar disorder tries to rebuild his life and reconnect with his estranged wife, while forming an unlikely bond with a troubled young widow.
  • Lost in Translation (2003): Two Americans, a fading movie star and a neglected young woman, find solace and connection in a luxury hotel in Tokyo.
  • Love, Simon (2018): A closeted gay teenager struggles to come out to his friends and family while trying to figure out the identity of the anonymous classmate he's fallen for online.
  • The Fault in Our Stars (2014): Two teenagers with cancer fall in love at a support group and embark on a life-changing journey together.
  • (500) Days of Summer (2009): A young man recounts his whirlwind romance with a woman who doesn't believe in love, leading to a bittersweet exploration of love and loss.
  • About Time (2013): A young man with the ability to time travel tries to find love and create the perfect life, but discovers that changing the past can have unexpected consequences.
  • Shakespeare in Love (1998): A young William Shakespeare finds inspiration for Romeo and Juliet when he falls in love with a woman who is forbidden to be an actress.
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A young man from the slums of Mumbai becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and recounts his life story, including his love for a childhood friend.
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995): Two sisters with contrasting personalities navigate love and loss in 19th-century England.
  • Bend It Like Beckham (2002): A young Indian girl in London rebels against tradition and pursues her passion for football, while also dealing with cultural expectations and family pressures.
  • Bridget Jones's Diary (2001): A thirty-something woman documents her chaotic love life and struggles with self-image in a hilarious and relatable diary.
  • Her (2013): A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an artificially intelligent operating system that evolves to become his confidante and lover.
  • Brooklyn (2015): A young Irish woman immigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950s and falls in love, but must choose between her new life and her past when a family tragedy calls her back home.
  • The Holiday (2006): Two women from different countries swap homes for the holidays and find unexpected romance with local men.
  • Love, Rosie (2014): Two childhood best friends navigate their complex feelings for each other over many years and continents.
  • Pride (2014): A group of gay and lesbian activists join forces with striking miners in 1980s Britain to fight for their rights and find unexpected solidarity.
  • Carol (2015): A forbidden love affair blossoms between a young aspiring photographer and an older married woman in 1950s New York.
  • Me Before You (2016): A quirky young woman is hired to care for a wealthy man who has become paralyzed after an accident, and their relationship blossoms into something unexpected.
  • The Lobster (2015): In a dystopian future, single people are sent to a hotel and given 45 days to find a romantic partner or be transformed into an animal of their choice.
  • The Theory of Everything (2014): The story of Stephen Hawking's life, his relationship with his wife Jane Wilde, and his battle with motor neuron disease.
  • Begin Again (2013): A down-on-his-luck music producer helps a singer-songwriter find her voice and rediscover her passion for music, while sparking a connection between them.
  • The Spectacular Now (2013): A hard-partying high school senior strikes up an unlikely romance with a shy and introverted girl, leading to a coming-of-age story about love and self-discovery.
  • Blue Valentine (2010): A non-linear narrative explores the passionate beginning and heartbreaking unraveling of a young couple's marriage.
  • Crazy Rich Asians (2018): A New York economics professor accompanies her boyfriend to Singapore for his best friend's wedding, only to discover he's from an incredibly wealthy family and the target of jealous socialites.
  • A Star Is Born (2018): A seasoned musician discovers and falls in love with a struggling young singer, helping her rise to fame while battling his own demons.
  • Palm Springs (2020): Two strangers meet at a wedding in Palm Springs and become trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again.
  • The Half of It (2020): A shy and introverted teenager helps a jock write love letters to his crush, but her own feelings for the girl complicate matters.
  • Love, Jones (1997): A young poet and a photographer fall in love in Chicago's vibrant arts scene, but their relationship faces challenges as they pursue their individual dreams.
  • The Wedding Planner (2001): A successful wedding planner falls for a handsome doctor, only to discover he's the groom-to-be in the wedding she's organizing.
  • Hitch (2005): A professional "date doctor" helps men woo the women of their dreams, but his own romantic life takes a turn when he falls for a gossip columnist.
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002): A young Greek-American woman falls in love with a non-Greek man, leading to hilarious culture clashes and family antics as they plan their wedding.
  • Two Weeks Notice (2002): A liberal environmental lawyer takes a job as counsel for a billionaire real estate developer, but their clashing personalities and unexpected attraction lead to a complicated relationship.
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003): A magazine writer tries to get a man to dump her in 10 days as part of an article assignment, but her plan backfires when she starts to fall for him.
  • Sweet Home Alabama (2002): A successful New York fashion designer returns to her Southern hometown to finalize her divorce from her childhood sweetheart, but rediscovers her love for him and the life she left behind.
  • 27 Dresses (2008): A perpetual bridesmaid who has always put the needs of others before her own finally gets a chance at love when she meets a cynical journalist who writes a scathing article about her.
  • The Proposal (2009): A high-powered book editor forces her assistant to marry her in order to avoid deportation to Canada, leading to a hilarious fake engagement and unexpected romance.
  • Knocked Up (2007): A one-night stand between a slacker and a career-driven woman results in an unplanned pregnancy, forcing them to navigate the complexities of parenthood and an unlikely relationship.
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999): A modern retelling of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," set in a high school where a popular girl can only date once her rebellious older sister starts dating.
  • Never Been Kissed (1999): A young journalist goes undercover as a high school student to write an article about teenage life, but her own insecurities and awkwardness resurface as she tries to navigate the social scene.
  • Legally Blonde (2001): A fashionable sorority queen enrolls in Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend, but discovers her own potential and passion for justice along the way.
  • Mean Girls (2004): A teenage girl raised in Africa moves to the United States and navigates the treacherous social hierarchy of high school, while trying to fit in and find love.
  • Clueless (1995): A wealthy and popular Beverly Hills teenager uses her social skills to matchmake her friends and teachers, but her own romantic life is a bit more complicated.
  • You've Got Mail (1998): Two business rivals who despise each other in real life unknowingly fall in love online, leading to a charming and heartwarming romance.
  • While You Were Sleeping (1995): A lonely transit worker saves a man from an oncoming train and is mistaken for his fiancée, leading to a web of lies and unexpected romance with his family.
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993): A widowed man's son calls into a radio talk show to find a new wife for his father, sparking a nationwide search for love and a magical connection with a journalist in Baltimore.
  • The Wedding Singer (1998): A heartbroken wedding singer falls for a waitress who is engaged to another man, leading to a hilarious and heartwarming race against time to win her heart before it's too late.
  • My Best Friend's Wedding (1997): A woman realizes she's in love with her best friend just days before his wedding, leading to a series of desperate attempts to sabotage the ceremony and win him back.
  • The Princess Diaries (2001): A shy and awkward teenager discovers she is the heir to the throne of a small European country, leading to a royal makeover and a budding romance with her bodyguard's brother.
  • A Walk to Remember (2002): A popular high school senior is forced to participate in a school play with a quiet and religious girl, leading to an unexpected romance and a life-changing journey.
  • Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998): A reimagined version of the classic Cinderella story, set in Renaissance France, where a strong-willed and intelligent young woman captures the heart of a prince.
  • The Age of Adaline (2015): A young woman is rendered ageless after a freak accident, leading to a life of solitude and hidden identities until she meets a man who challenges her to embrace love and mortality.
  • The Lake House (2006): A lonely doctor living in 2006 begins exchanging letters with an architect living in 2004 through a magical mailbox, leading to a romantic connection despite the time difference.
  • One Fine Day (1996): Two single parents, a columnist and an architect, find themselves thrown together when their children miss a field trip, leading to a chaotic and charming day of romance.
  • Serendipity (2001): Two strangers meet by chance while Christmas shopping and feel an instant connection, but decide to leave their future to fate. Years later, they embark on a quest to find each other again.
  • 28 Days Later... (2002): A man wakes up from a coma to find London deserted after a virus outbreak turns people into rage-filled zombies. He joins a group of survivors and forms a bond with a young woman, fighting for their lives and their love.
  • Warm Bodies (2013): A zombie falls in love with a human girl, sparking a chain reaction that could change the entire zombie world and offer hope for a future where love conquers all.
  • Love & Other Drugs (2010): A charming pharmaceutical rep falls for a free-spirited woman with Parkinson's disease, leading to a complicated and passionate love story that challenges their perceptions of love and life.
  • The Ugly Truth (2009): A romantically challenged morning show producer is forced to work with a cynical TV personality who spouts harsh truths about relationships, but their constant bickering masks an underlying attraction.
  • No Strings Attached (2011): Two friends decide to have a casual relationship with no emotional strings attached, but their feelings for each other become more complicated as they try to maintain their no-strings policy.
  • Friends with Benefits (2011): A corporate headhunter and an art director agree to a friends-with-benefits arrangement, but their casual relationship becomes more complicated as they start to develop feelings for each other.
  • Love, Actually (2003): Nine intertwined stories explore the different facets of love, from unrequited crushes to budding romances, in the weeks leading up to Christmas in London.
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004): Bridget Jones navigates the ups and downs of her relationship with Mark Darcy, while dealing with a new love rival and a hilarious misunderstanding with her boss.
  • Mamma Mia! (2008): A young woman invites three men from her mother's past to her wedding on a Greek island, hoping to discover the identity of her father, leading to a fun-filled musical celebration of love, friendship, and family.
  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018): A prequel and sequel to the original film, exploring Donna's past and her relationships with the three men, as well as Sophie's present as she prepares to reopen her mother's hotel and learns more about her family history.
  • The Best Man (1999): A group of college friends reunite for a wedding, but old rivalries and hidden secrets resurface, threatening to disrupt the celebrations and jeopardize their friendships.
  • The Best Man Holiday (2013): The college friends reunite for a Christmas holiday, but their lives have changed dramatically since they last saw each other, leading to heartwarming reunions, emotional revelations, and a renewed appreciation for their bond.
  • Think Like a Man (2012): Four men whose love lives are in disarray turn to Steve Harvey's relationship advice book for guidance, but their women catch on and turn the tables on them, leading to a battle of the sexes and a hilarious exploration of modern relationships.
  • Brown Sugar (2002): A music journalist and a hip-hop record executive, who have been friends since childhood, grapple with their growing romantic feelings for each other while navigating the challenges of their careers and personal lives.
  • Hitch (2005): A professional "date doctor" helps men woo the women of their dreams, but his own romantic life takes a turn when he falls for a gossip columnist who is determined to expose his secrets.
  • Something New (2006): A successful African-American woman who has always dated within her race unexpectedly falls for a white landscaper, challenging her preconceived notions about love and relationships.
  • Jumping the Broom (2011): Two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds clash when their children decide to get married, leading to hilarious culture clashes and a heartwarming celebration of love and acceptance.The Photograph (2020): A young woman discovers a hidden photograph that leads her on a journey to uncover the secrets of her mother's past and a love story that spans generations.
  • In the Mood for Love (2000): Two neighbors, both suspecting their spouses of infidelity, develop a strong bond in 1960s Hong Kong. (Hong Kong)
  • Monsoon Wedding (2001): A chaotic Indian wedding brings together a diverse group of family and friends, exploring themes of love, tradition, and modern life. (India)
  • Amélie (2001): A quirky Parisian waitress sets out to secretly improve the lives of those around her, while searching for love herself. (France)
  • Talk to Her (2002): Two men form an unlikely friendship while caring for their comatose partners, exploring themes of love, loss, and communication. (Spain)
  • Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995): Two young non-resident Indians fall in love during a European vacation. Raj must then win over Simran's traditional family so they can marry. (India)
  • Lust, Caution (2007): A young Chinese woman is recruited to seduce and assassinate a powerful collaborator during World War II, but her mission becomes complicated when she develops feelings for him. (China/Taiwan)
  • A Separation (2011): An Iranian couple's decision to divorce leads to a series of events that expose social and cultural tensions in contemporary Tehran. (Iran)
  • Amour (2012): An elderly couple's love is tested when the wife suffers a debilitating stroke, forcing her husband to care for her and confront the realities of aging and mortality. (France/Austria)
  • Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013): A passionate and intense coming-of-age story about a young woman who falls in love with another woman, exploring themes of identity, sexuality, and self-discovery. (France)
  • Ida (2013): In 1960s Poland, a young woman on the verge of taking vows as a nun discovers a dark family secret from the Holocaust era, leading her on a journey of self-discovery and reconciliation. (Poland)
  • The Lunchbox (2013): A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a lonely young housewife with an older man, sparking an unusual epistolary romance. (India)
  • Wild Tales (2014): An anthology film exploring themes of revenge and human nature through six darkly comedic and shocking stories. (Argentina/Spain)
  • Mustang (2015): Five orphaned sisters in rural Turkey rebel against their conservative upbringing and the arranged marriages their family has planned for them. (Turkey/France)
  • Toni Erdmann (2016): An aging father tries to reconnect with his workaholic daughter by creating an outrageous alter ego, leading to a hilarious and heartwarming exploration of family dynamics and personal liberation. (Germany)
  • The Handmaiden (2016): Set in 1930s Korea, a young woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but she is secretly part of a con man's plot to defraud the heiress of her inheritance. (South Korea)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019): A forbidden romance develops between a young painter and the woman she is commissioned to paint in 18th-century France. (France)

Let me know what you think in the comments.