romantic films

Romantic films about love, heartache and big gestures are an undying genre- witty romcoms may go in and out of fashion, but everyone likes a love story that leaves us in a feel-good mood (or wistfully meditating on past relationships).

Whatever your reason is for watching them, we’ve put together a list of our favourite romantic films of all time to cosy up to. Valentine’s Day is of course not too far off- so you might want to save a few of these for the 14th of February.

The best romantic films for Valentine’s Day

romantic films

Amélie

Kicking off the list is probably the most famous French film in existence, and if you studied the language at school since its release, you’ve probably been shown at least some of it. Audrey Tautou stars as the titular waitress in this whimsical romantic comedy, that depicts an almost fantastical version of Parisian life. She decides to help other people in her world find happiness, and orchestrates their lives in order to spread joy. She eventually finds herself on a journey to her own love and fulfilment. It’s a charming feel good film, that scored several Oscar nominations upon release. It’s cliche to call Paris the city and French the language of love, but then, that’s pretty much what Amélie is all about.

 

Available on: Amazon Prime

romantic films

10 Things I Hate About You

Moving over to America, 10 Things I Hate About You is another romantic classic. Before his iconic role as The Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger shows in this film that already had that gravitas and screen presence to eventually receive a (sadly posthumous) Oscar a decade later. Ledger plays bad boy Patrick, who’s paid by the new student at his high school Cameron to date the sister of Bianca, a girl he’s smitten with. Cameron is played by an also young Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Julia Stiles plays Bianca’s sister Kat. Of course, things begin to become more complicated than Cameron meant them to be. The film is a modernisation of the Shakespeare comedy The Taming of the Shrew, and was a breakout for all three stars, but it’s Ledger’s performance that everyone remembers about 10 Things.

 

Available on: Disney Plus

romantic films

Notting Hill

In the 1990s, Julia Roberts was to romcoms as Dwayne Johnson is to action movies set in a jungle these days: if she was attached, it was pretty much guaranteed to be a sure fire hit. One of the most memorable of these is Notting Hill, and it’s probably her most popular film here- ‘cos it’s set in Britain. It tells the story of a London bookseller, played by Hugh Grant at his most Hugh Grant, and a famous American actress (Roberts), who happens to walk into his shop. The pair, as you might guess, start a romance. It may be pretty fantastical and twee, but it’s popular for a reason: it’s very charming, and it’s pure romcom fun.

 

Available on: Netflix

romantic films

When Harry Met Sally…

Another brilliant romcom, this perennially popular film of the late 80s stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in the title roles, and tries to deal with the age old question of “Can men and women ever just be friends?” Directed by Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally… follows the two leads across 12 years of chance encounters, and it’s the relationship and interplay between the two that makes it great. It’s a great romcom story, and of course, there’s the famous fake orgasm scene at a diner, which has become an iconic comedy scene.

 

Available on: Amazon Prime

romantic films

Casablanca

This is the oldest film on the list and the definition of a classic- Casablanca is one of the most influential and imitated Hollywood movies ever made. Made and set during WWII, it stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a story about an American expatriate who must choose between love and helping a resistance leader escape the city of Casablanca to fight the Nazis. With it’s iconic lines and characters, it’s one of the best films of all time, and tells a great romantic story. It’s one of those films that everyone says you have to watch at least once.

 

Available on: Amazon Prime, Apple TV

romantic films

The Princess Bride

The second Rob Reiner film on this list, The Princess Bride is a fantasy romance about a farmhand named Westley who must save his love Princess Buttercup from the villainous Prince Humperdinck, with some help along the way. Sound silly? It is, but it’s become a huge cult favourite and one of those films that people love to quote. It’s fun, hugely watchable and skewers fantasy tropes, all while being a genuinely good romantic film. It’s a true “happily ever after” story.

 

Available on: Amazon Prime

romantic films

Shaun of The Dead

This is for those who might want something little different for Valentine’s Day watching, but if Die Hard can be a Christmas film, Shaun of the Dead can be a romcom. It’s one of the best and most acclaimed comedies out there. The “romantic comedy with zombies”, as it calls itself, has a pretty simple plot. Everyday slacker Shaun, along with his best friend Ed, attempts to save his family and friends and win back the affections of his recently ex girlfriend Liz- whilst navigating a zombie apocalypse. It may not have the usual elements of most romcoms, but it does have some genuinely heartfelt moments, with Shaun trying his best to become a better person- and romance and bromance are key to the plot. Part romcom, part horror spoof, part commentary on 21st century London life- Shaun is a great ride from start to finish, and one that feels surprisingly real and down to earth- other than the zombies.

 

Available on: Netflix

romantic films

West Side Story

For this particular entry, we’re putting a musical, and what better than West Wide Story? A retelling of the definitive love story Romeo and Juliet, West Side follows Tony and Maria, who attempt to navigate love while being from two separate New York gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. The fierce rivalry between the gangs of course makes things difficult, and the story also touches on important social issues like peer pressure and gang violence. While the 1961 film is a classic, the newer 2021 version, directed by Steven Spielberg, has also received huge acclaim, so either choice is a good one. Get ready for excellent music and plenty of finger-snapping.

 

Available on: Apple TV

romantic films

Brief Encounter

Like Casablanca, Brief Encounter is another true classic of the romantic genre and one that’s always worth watching. Also set during the war, it centres on an intense and passionate affair between Laura, a married mother, and Alec, also married and a total stranger to her. The two meet by chance on a platform at a railway station and begin to fall for each other, despite their married lives. It received three nominations at the Oscars, and is directed by David Lean, known for epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, with a script from legendary playwright Noël Coward.

 

Available on: Amazon Prime

romantic films
Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in a scene from the film 'Pretty Woman', 1990. (Photo by Buena Vista/Getty Images)

Pretty Woman

Before Notting Hill, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven and Eat Pray Love, Julia Roberts first shot to fame with 1990’s Pretty Woman. The film paired her with leading man Richard Gere, and tells the story of a Hollywood prostitute who becomes the escort for a rich businessman, and begins to develop a relationship with him. It became a smash hit and a rom-com classic, kickstarting not only Robert’s career but also the 90s rom-com genre. With the current West End musical version currently performing, there’s no better time to revisit it- if nothing else, it’ll have you humming along to Roy Orbison for days.

 

Watch on: Amazon Prime, Disney+

romantic films

Call Me By Your Name

Another career-making romantic movie, Call Me By Your Name made Timothée Chalamet a household name and one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. Directed by Italian director Luca Guadagnigo, the story of 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver in 1980s Italy was lauded by critics and scored several Oscar noms. Its performances were widely praised, particularly Chalamet’s, and its central gay love story was seen as a new stepping stone for LGBTQ representation. Its often melancholy portrayal of first love and the heartbreak it can bring will stay with you long after the credits roll.

 

Watch on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

romantic films

Titanic

Titanic needs no introduction: James Cameron’s smash hit is one of those films that only come around every so often, lighting up the box office and appealing to everyone. The love story between the upper-class Rose and the working-class orphan Jack has become ingrained in pop culture and mythologising the tragedy of the Titanic. You’ll be swept along by its epic nature and leading performances from Leo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, and the three-hour runtime will fly by. After dominating cinemas for weeks, there was no stopping Titanic from winning the Best Picture Oscar and ten other awards, cementing its place in film legend. Much like the first Avatar, Titanic is being freshly remastered in shiny 4K for release in cinemas in February, so you experience it on the big screen again for Valentine’s Day.

 

Watch on: Amazon Prime

romantic films

Bridget Jones’ Diary

The first Bridget Jones film is now over twenty years old, but it still remains one of the best romcoms around. Based on the 1996 novel of the same name, the film brought together some of the best British talents in Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Richard Curtis to combine them with American actress Renée Zellweger to create the iconic story of a binge-drinking thirty-something who keeps a diary about her often difficult love life. The Christmas jumpers, the quotes, the (at times literal) fight between Mark and Daniel for Bridget’s affection- it all makes Bridget Jones one of those relatable yet still a bit fantastical rom-com that you watch so many times you can recite it backwards. Two sequels followed in the years after (with a fourth likely on its way!), but the original Bridget Jones still remains the best.

 

Watch on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Grease - romantic films

Grease

The tale of Danny and Sandy and their summer romance swept audiences along when it was released back in 1978, and it hasn’t stopped doing so since. John Travolta and Oliva Newton-John sing and dance throughout this now classic romance, as Sandy Olsson, on holiday from Australia, meet Danny Zuko, a local high school boy, and falls in love. When Sandy ends up staying in America and becoming a transfer student, the two have a chance to develop their relationship, but mixed feelings and peer pressures mean that things don’t go as smoothly as they thought they would. You’ll be hard pressed to not start singing along to the addictive soundtrack- and if you can’t get enough Grease, a new spin-off series called Rise of the Pink Ladies is on its way to Paramount Plus later this year.

 

Watch on: Netflix

romantic films

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Another Kate Winslet film, and one of Jim Carrey’s more serious roles, Eternal Sunshine blends elements of sci-fi to explore love and memories. When Joel (Carrey) finds out that his girlfriend Clementine (Winslet) has erased all of her memories of him after a fight, he sets out to do the same. However, while the procedure is going on, he relives his memories from the two-year-long relationship and realises that he doesn’t want to forget her even as the memories are slowly fading. The smartly funny but still melancholy story can feel all too relatable, with its commentary on how trying to forget and block out sad memories can sometimes end up making things even harder to move on from.

 

Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

romantic films

Up

Out of all the films on this list, the animated one might be the biggest tearjerker- the central romance and story between Carl and Ellie are technically told within the first few minutes of the movie- but of course, things for them don’t really end there. Most of the film is about an older, more curmudgeonly Carl on an adventure in a flying house alongside the plucky young Russell and a talking dog, but at its core is a tale of a man trying to deal with the loss of his wife by setting out to achieve a trip to Paradise Falls, the place that his wife desperately wanted to visit. It’s a film where the romantic relationship has a permanent presence throughout, with Carl keeping the memory of his marriage alive.

 

Watch on: Disney+, Amazon Prime

romantic films

Romeo + Juliet

Well of course the most famous love story of all time would find a place on this list, and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has become a cult favourite. The modernised version, now with guns and a Los Angeles-esque setting, features Leonardo DiCaprio before he set sail on the Titanic and Claire Danes as the two star-crossed lovers. Lurhmann’s direction and the overall feel of the film feel very 90s, and yet still very much watchable and relevant over 25 years later. Also starring Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite and Miriam Margolyes, the film’s creativity and use of timeless Shakespearean dialogue make this not only one of the best ways to experience the story, but also one of the best romantic films around.

 

Watch on: Amazon Prime, Disney+

romantic films

Sleepless in Seattle

One of the films that made Tom Hanks into the star he is today, Sleepless in Seattle pairs him up with When Harry Met Sally’s Meg Ryan, in a love story in which an engaged reporter begins to become enamoured and falls for a lonely widow caring for his son. The film does away with tropes of love across class lines and instead is about love across cities, with Meg Ryan’s Annie only finding out about Sam (Hanks) and his grief after his son calls into a talk radio show. The screenplay also makes the film whizz along, with more ponderous and thoughtful dialogue than most other similar romcoms. It’s a film for anyone who’s ever felt a connection over a long distance.

Available on: Amazon Prime

romantic films

500 Days of Summer

Another one of those romcoms with a melancholy feel to it, 500 Days of Summer sees Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) reflecting on his relationship with the girl he thought was his soulmate, after their relationship fails. Tom was convinced that true love and soul mates do exist, but the titular Summer (Zooey Deschanel) does not. The film follows a non-linear narrative, as Tom desperately tries to figure out exactly what went wrong in a relationship he thought was perfect, and if he can turn things around and win summer back. It became a sleeper hit and won critical acclaim, and has proved it has the longevity to land on our list.

 

Available on: Disney+, Amazon Prime

Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

For the best shows to stream, check out our January streaming guide


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