10 Best romance movies of all time

Tom Percival
A collage of the best romance movies ever including Titanic, Love, Simon, When harry Met Sally, Crazy Rich Asians, and Before Sunrise.20th Century Studios, Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros.

Valentine’s Day has been and gone for another year, but that doesn’t mean you should stop celebrating love. Here are the ten best romantic movies for your next date night.

Love has inspired some of the greatest works of art in human history, from poets to playwrights. It should come as no surprise then that it’s one of Hollywood’s oldest genres, with The May Irwin Kiss (1896) – a 20-second-long film showing a couple kissing – supposedly the oldest romantic movie.

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Still, the genre’s come a long way since that simple story. Nowadays, A-list stars build their entire careers on the backs of brilliant rom-coms; one of the highest-grossing movies ever is a romance movie, and the genre has become much more inclusive, telling stories that include all forms of love. The problem is, though, that there are simply too many romance movies to choose from. So, to help you, we’ve compiled a definitive list of the best romance movies.

10. Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightly) and Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) kiss on a moor in Pride and Prejudice (2005)Focus Features
“You Have Bewitched Me, Body And Soul.”

Before Matthew Macfadyen was famous for toadying up to the Roy family in Succession, he was probably best known for playing the dreamiest Mr Darcy (sorry, Colin Firth) in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice. Our hero, though, isn’t Mr Dacy. It’s Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightly), a modern woman living in a not-so-modern world who is facing increasing pressure to find a husband. Despite her reluctance, Elizabeth’s attitude to matrimony changes when she meets the wealthy but rude Mr Darcy.

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Arguably the best adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous novel (yeah, we said it, Sense and Sensibility fanatics), this charming film avoids the prim and proper stuffiness of other period dramas by leaning into the wit of Austen’s characters. As a result, Pride and Prejudice feels incredibly modern while retaining the spirit of Austen’s original text, largely thanks to Joe Wright’s deft direction and Deborah Moggarch’s clever script.

9. Sleepless in Seattle

Annie (Meg Ryan) nand Sam (Tom Hanks) meet at the Empire State Building in Sleepless in SeattleTriStar Pictures
“They knew it.”

If you think a romantic comedy where the couple doesn’t meet until the last five minutes of the film wouldn’t work, then you’ve clearly never seen Sleepless in Seattle. It helps that the film just so happens to star two of the greatest actors of all time and is written and directed by the inimitable Nora Ephron, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Sleepless in Seattle tells the story of Sam (Tom Hanks), a recent widow, and Annie (Meg Ryan), a journalist, who are drawn together after a chance encounter on the radio.

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What separates this endearing love story from other films in the genre is the fact that, unlike so many films about love, our protagonists are actively resisting trying to get together (spoilers, it doesn’t work), constantly making excuses as to why they can’t meet and avoiding each other. It’s a fun spin on the usual formula, although we wonder if it would have worked with other actors. Hanks and Ryan, as we already said, are just so good that it’s hard to imagine Sam and Annie’s unique dynamic playing out with anyone else in the roles.

8. Love, Simon

Simon and Bram ride the Ferris wheel at the end of Love, Simon20th Century Studios
“She’s not really my type…”

The heartwarming story of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality while balancing the trials and tribulations of high school, Love, Simon, is a brilliant mix of teen hijinks and a touching coming-of-age story. As you might expect, our hero is the titular Simon (Nick Robinson), a young man with a big secret: he’s gay.

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Still, Simon’s not ready to share this part of himself with the world, so when a classmate starts blackmailing him, it’s basically the end of the world. As charming as it is compelling, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with Simon and his friends. Film aficionados will note that Love, Simon shares a certain amount of its DNA with John Hughes’ movies. However, there’s a sensitivity to the film that separates it from its slightly glib and superficial contemporaries in the coming-of-age genre.

7. Notting Hill

William (Hugh Grant) and Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walk down the street in Notting HillUniversal Pictures
“I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills.”

Before Hugh Grant spent his days terrorizing Paddington Bear or stealing Willy Wonka’s chocolate, he was best known for playing lovable fops with floppy hair in romantic movies of variable quality. Of those films, Notting Hill, with its playful spirit and charming characters (sorry, Four Weddings and a Funeral fans), is arguably the best.

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Directed by Roger Mitchell and written by the master of the rom-com Richard Curtis, Notting Hill tells the story of William Thacker (Hugh Grant), a bookseller who falls for the world-famous actor Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) when she happens to wander into his London bookshop. As British as a trip to Buckingham Palace for tea and scones on a rainy day, there’s a whimsical charm to Notting Hill, and Curtis’s script is choc full of so many weird and wonderful characters – Spike (Rhys Ifhans) will steal your heart – that it almost makes up for its ever so slightly predictable love story.

6. The Notebook

Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) kiss in The Notebook (2004)New Line Cinema
It wasn’t over, it still isn’t over.”

If you were to ask nine out of ten people what the greatest romantic movie of all time was, I guarantee you they’d say The Notebook. Well, we’ve got a bit more imagination than most people, but it’s undeniable that Nick Cassavetes’ sentimental story of an elderly man telling his dementia-stricken wife how they fell in love is one of the most moving love stories of all time.

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While the more cynical film fan might argue that The Notebook is overly saccharine, I disagree. What the film does is lay bare one of life’s most heartbreaking contradictions: love is terrifyingly infinite and shockingly impermanent. No wonder people cry when they watch it. Couple those existential themes with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ superb chemistry, and you’ve got a recipe for something truly special.

5. Casablanca

Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) talk in Casablanca.Warner Bros.
“Here’s looking at you kid”

Some people might roll their eyes when they see Casablanca on a list of the best romantic movies ever. It’s like going to a beautiful Italian restaurant and ordering a cheese pizza. Well, to you, hypothetical (and very judgy) reader, I’d say, ‘Have you ever tried cheese pizza? It’s delicious.’

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In all seriousness, the story of Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) falling back in love on the edge of World War 2 is one of the most compelling love stories ever written. Honestly, Casablanca is a masterpiece (much like cheese pizza), which, despite being more than half a century older than other films on this list, feels every bit as modern and dynamic as its contemporaries in the genre.

That comes down to cinematographer Arthur Edeson’s stylish camerawork, its immensely talented cast, and perhaps most importantly, its nuanced plot, which asks the watcher, What would you be willing to sacrifice your happiness for the greater good?’

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4. Titanic

Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Cate Blanchett stand at the front of the Titanic.20th Century Studios
“I’m the king of the world!”

A sinking ship may not be the traditional setting for a romantic movie, but director James Cameron’s epic but doomed romance set on an even more doomed ship is easily one of the greatest love stories ever told. Our star-crossed lovers are Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), two people from opposite ends of society who fall head over heels with each other while sailing across the ocean on an unsinkable ship. Unfortunately, it sinks, and you probably know the rest.

An audacious piece of filmmaking, everything in this film is as big and ambitious as the eponymous ship. From the meticulously crafted sets to the sweeping score and heartfelt story, Titanic is a masterpiece. Arguably, though, what makes Titanic so great is that it has something for everyone; it begins as a beautiful burgeoning romance about how love transcends class and ends as an exciting action movie, as the freezing inky black Atlantic ocean slowly devours the ship.

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3. Crazy Rich Asians

Rachel and Nick embrace while the cats of Crazy Rich Asians look on.Warner Bros.

Directed by Jon L Chu, Crazy Rich Asians is a bright and lively celebration of the triumph of love over the objections of bitter parents. Based on the book of the same name, the film follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she travels to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) and discovers, to her shock, that he is “crazy rich.” How rich? Let’s just say when his family plays Monopoly, they do it with real hotels.

While Rachel and Nick’s love story is as touching as any on this list, the thing that sets Crazy Rich Asians apart is its charming cast of colorful and lovable characters who inject some real humor into the story. While some might argue that Nico Santos and Akwafina, who play the lovable comic relief, steal the spotlight from Wu and Golding, you’d have to have a bachelor’s degree in ignorance not to be spellbound by Michelle Yeoh’s Eleanor, who gives one of the coldest and most imperious performances ever put to celluloid.

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2. When Harry Met Sally

Harry and Sally crouch down while looking at a rug.Columbia Pictures

Can men and women ever really be friends? This is the question at the heart of Rob Reiner’s iconic and slightly neurotic rom-com. And while I don’t think I agree with the film’s conclusion on that question, I do think that When Harry Met Sally is a very easy movie to fall in love with. Set over a decade, the film follows Harry Burns and Sally Albright as they realize their true feelings for each other.

Sharply written by Nora Ephron, Sally When Harry Met Sally is laugh-out-loud funny and tinged with just the right amount of melancholy you’d expect from a love story like this. With that in mind, Ephron’s words would just be smudges on a script without the incredible Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan to bring them to life.

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The pair have sensational chemistry and bounce off each other like a real old married couple. While the movie’s best remembered these days for the infamous diner scene (“I’ll have what shes’ having.”) I’d argue that it gave us Carrie Fisher’s best performance (outside of a galaxy far, far away) is its real lasting legacy.

1. Before Sunrise

Celine and Jesse gaze into each other's eyes in Before Sunrise.Columbia Pictures
“Come on. It’ll be fun. Come on.”

No other film has ever captured the bone-aching joy of falling in love quite like the Before Trilogy. Picking just one of these magnificent movies is like asking Cupid to pick his favorite arrow, but we’ve come down on Before Sunrise, the first in the trilogy.

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Why? Well, because it’s the film that introduced us to one of the cutest couples in the history of movies, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). Before Sunrise is a movie defined by its transience, you don’t know where it’s going or what will happen. While watching the film, it feels like Jesse and Celine’s love story could end at any time – blown away like a mist on a Vienna morning – which gives the film a fairy-tale-like quality that its sequels lack.

Technically, the film’s astoundingly beautiful, and director Richard Linklater and his cinematographer Lee Daniel do incredible work in capturing the breathtaking beauty of one of Europe’s most gorgeous cities. Still, it’s Hawke and Delpy’s breathtakingly naturalistic performances that made us fall head over heels with their love story.

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About The Author

Tom Percival is the Features Editor at Dexerto. He has a BSc in Geography and an MA in Broadcast Journalism. Tom's been in the media for nearly a decade and he's worked at UNILAD, The Digital Fix and the BBC. Nothing excites Tom more than a good hot take except maybe Spider-Man and Game of Thrones. You can email him here: tom.percival@dexerto.com