In any good relationship, details matter. This list is like any good relationship. The details of the headline matter. This wasn’t assembled to be a list of the “Most Romantic” movies. We’re not love experts. We can’t see into your hearts and know which films make your blood flow faster and your brainwaves fire in all the right directions. That would be a very cool trick.
That said, we’ve long been pretty good at recognizing which movies are good and then organizing in an easily digestible list form. That’s something we love. In our hearts. That’s what we’ve done here for the list of the Best Romantic Movies Ever. This is a list of the 50 best movies in which romance occurs. Most of all, they are good movies. They also have some romance. It’s the kind of list where being a big space western that involves a dashing rogue who’s ready to pelvic-thrust his way through the galaxy works best if there’s a princess around who can put him in his place.
You know what? That feels like a good place to start…
50. The Empire Strikes Back
The strongest installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back offers grand space battles, nail-biting lightsaber face-offs, and more strange worlds to explore in a galaxy far, far away. At the beating heart of the film, though, lies the romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo. They bicker and flirt and toss one-liners back and forth (“I’d just as soon kiss a Wookie.” “I can arrange that!”) until they find themselves stranded and pursued by the Empire, forced to own up to their own feelings. The chemistry between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford crackles off the screen and brings a lightness — and a vulnerability — that would otherwise be missing in this dark turn of the series. Through banter and action alike, these two are a joy to watch. That is, right up until Han gets frozen in carbonite, but what’s a budding relationship without some mild torture? At least it gives our heroes the chance to confess their love in the perfect balance of heartbreaking and badass, when Han, standing on the brink of uncertain fate, responds to Leia’s “I love you” with a solemn “I know.” (Megan Sergison)
49. The Big Sick
The Big Sick is based on a true story, but it plays like a carefully crafted comedy of errors. Maybe it’s both. Even if you know how it’s going to end (the film was written by now-married Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon) it’s a nerve-wracking tale of romance that’s less will-they-won’t-they and more will-she-wake-up-from-her-coma. It’s heartwarming, it’s life-affirming, and gosh is it funny, with Ray Romano and Holly Hunter killing it as Emily’s parents, whom Kumail inadvertently winds up romancing more than his future wife. The Big Sick is a feel-good movie in which everything doesn’t always feel good, and it’s a real joy to watch. (Liz Baessler)
48. An Affair to Remember
Love often comes at the worst time when you least expect it, and that’s certainly the case in the romantic epic An Affair to Remember starring the incomparable Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. After a whirlwind romance on a ship, the two lovers promise to meet each other at the top of the Empire State Building. Tragedy strikes, and the audience believes there’s no hope for the two, but in one of the most emotional scenes ever, they come together in the end. What makes this movie so romantic is the unshakable hope for a happy ending that it cements in the viewer. So much of the romance we experience in real life ends in tragedy and doesn’t get the redemption this affair does and that makes it so satisfying. If you don’t believe us, the ladies of Sleepless in Seattle rave about this romance within a romance movie. It’s that good. Our advice: don’t watch this with makeup on. (Emily Kubincanek)
47. The Fly
Tale as old as time: boy meets girl at cocktail party for nerds, boy lets girl document his teleportation experiments, boy accidentally gets spliced with a fly and begs girl to blow his grotesque insect head off with a shotgun. David Cronenberg has many gifts, and one of them is setting up convincing couples for the audience to root for before the nails start peeling off and the skin starts to stretch. The only thing worse than falling apart and losing control of oneself is the tragedy of watching it happen to someone you love. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) deteriorates into FX madness, and Veronica (Geena Davis) loves him anyway. Right to the end, when she can barely bring herself to shoot the goopy pile of flesh fused to the telepod door. Abandoning him was never an option. While much has been made of The Fly’s coinciding with the AIDS crisis, Cronenberg’s line has always been that the film is a metaphor for aging; the inevitability that every love story must end tragically. Or, as Cronenberg puts it: “it was never just gloop, it was always conceptual gloop.” You had me at conceptual gloop. (Meg Shields)
46. A Knight’s Tale
Heath Ledger could play a romantic like no other; even when his romantic characters were bad boyfriends, like A Knight’s Tale’s William often is, he was never off-putting, always endearing and layered in his portrayal of a lovestruck, poetic soul. The final scene of this underrated period romantic comedy is enough to make anyone want to get swept off their feet. After undergoing a hero’s redemption and winning the climactic joust against serious bad guy Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), William meets his fickle lover Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon, maybe the best-dressed Medieval love interest ever) at the center of the stadium for a passionate kiss. The camera does a complete circular pan on the couple as he showers her in unselfconscious affection, his inferiority complex and masculinity issues behind him (personal growth is sexy!), while AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” plays them out. If that doesn’t do it for you, see also: the group love letter writing scene, the “Golden Years” dance sequence. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
45. Moulin Rouge!
The thesis of Moulin Rouge!, repeated in song and speech throughout the film, is simple: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” But Moulin Rouge! itself is anything but simple. It’s campy and melodramatic, tender and heart-wrenching, and achingly romantic. Director Baz Luhrmann, in classic Luhrmann fashion, tells a classic story of forbidden love via sensual orgy, stuffing each frame of the film with a stunning volume of visual and aural stimuli. When Christian (Ewan McGregor) and Satine (Nicole Kidman) confess their love to each other, they don’t just tell each other how they feel. They sing it in a 10-song medley atop a giant, elephant-shaped boudoir. The secret lovers cue fireworks with their kisses and belt their affections while twirling around the Eiffel Tower. And, like any great love story, Moulin Rouge! ends in excruciating tragedy. You leave this film in a stupor, like you’ve just awoken from a lush and ludicrous dream. (Sophia Stewart)
44. The Notebook
If there were a set of awards for these movies — a list within the list, if you will — The Notebook would be a top contender for Most Manipulative. It probably wins. And while we all know what it’s doing from the moment the Nicholas Sparksiest Nicholas Spark movie begins, it still sorta wins you over. Its cast is, among so many other things, winsome. Go ahead Nicholas Sparks, just this once (because Gosling and McAdams), manipulate away… (Neil Miller)
43. The Apartment
Romance is non-binary. It isn’t something that you are either in or out of. Love is far more complex than most stories care to explore, which is exactly why The Apartment feels just as fresh today as it did almost 60 years ago. The relationship between C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and Fran Kubelik (Shirley Maclaine) is far from common, especially in the 1960s, and while we do root for them to get together — as we would any romantic comedy — they defy our expectations by not giving us the Hollywood ending. It is a relationship that is elevated beyond mere physical or emotional attraction and illuminates the heart of what love is: the closest friendship between two people. (Jacob Trussell)
42. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and Funeral is a big, warm hug of a film. Following an extended circle of friends through wedding season, the movie centers on commitment-averse Charles (Hugh Grant, who’s never looked cuter, welcome to my Ted Talk…). Charles finds himself in familiar rom-com territory: always being at weddings and never actually getting married himself. Always being too late, too indecisive, and too tongue-tied. But, in large part thanks to Richard Curtis’ fantastic script, Four Weddings pulls off something far softer and satisfying than its premise would suggest: that there is happiness in listening to your heart and staying true to what you want, be it marriage… or something else. From unexpected tear-jerking gut punches to situational comedy gold, Four Weddings runs an emotional gauntlet while remaining delightful, sly, and endlessly endearing. Can I marry this film? (Meg Shields)
41. About Time
My immediate answer for anyone looking for a great rom-com or a nice date-night movie is always About Time. It’s funny, warm-hearted, and genuinely emotional in certain moments, carried out by two charming performances on the part of Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams. Like most romance films, there are moments throughout that are clearly meant to tug at the heartstrings in familiar ways, but the gorgeous theme music really enhances those moments, and I’m a sucker for them every time. The film, in particular, is well-rounded in its exploration of life and family in addition to Tim and Mary’s love story. In a way, their relationship almost takes a back seat during the second half of the film, but for this story that’s not at all a bad thing. Showing their growth as partners throughout their marriage, dealing with the practicalities of day-to-day life, almost heightens their romance because it portrays everything after meet-cute, something you don’t always get to see in romance films. (Natalie Mokry)