The Best Romantic Movies Ever Made
If now is not a good time to get stuck into some weepy, wistful, wish-fulfilment love stories, then we’re not sure when is. We're all holed up in our homes, and though it's easy to immediately turn to comedies and thrillers (Outbreak, anyone?), heart-tugging romantic films are a sure-fire way to get your mind off things for at least 90 minutes. Here are some of our favourites, all available to stream right now.
1| An Affair to Remember
An Affair to Remember pretty much spells out its own staying-power in the title. But don’t take our word for it: the American Film Institute considers it one of the most romantic films of all time. The movie starred Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, and had both an interesting history and future. It was, nearly scene-for-scene, a remake of director Leo McCrary’s 1939 film, Love Affair, and it would also go on to inspire a rom-com classic, Sleepless in Seattle, particularly that iconic ending with the Empire State Building.
2| Titanic (1997)
A little more disastrous than the cruise from An Affair to Remember, Titanic is the very definition of epic romance. The film catapulted a young Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio into instant stardom and gave birth to some of the earliest Internet memes: Remember, “Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls” and “I’m king of the world!”? If you don’t, then you know what should be top of your viewing list.
3| God’s Own Country (2017)
This film broke hearts and opened minds when it came out of nowhere at Sundance a few years back. The story, by director Francis Lee, follows Yorkshire farm boy (Josh O’Connor’s breakout role) who’s still in the closet because of societal pressures but desperate for connection. When a migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) arrives for the season, the most tender and honest depiction of a budding relationship ensues. Easily this generation’s Brokeback Mountain.
4| The Lobster (2015)
The Lobster is probably Colin Farrell’s second-best performance after In Bruges, which could also have an argument for making this list. (To be honest, he’s wholly underrated as an actor, but that's for another article). This film, which takes place in a dystopian society where singles must pair up or be transformed into an animal, is as sad as it is funny and as weird as it is romantic. Plus, it’s courtesy of writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favorite), who got his first Oscar nomination for its script.
5| The Princess Bride (1987)
The Princess Bride has it all—witchcraft, giants, sword fights, Cliffs of Insanity, pirates, princes, thieves, fire swamps and ROUSs (Rodents of Unusual Size). But at its heart, this classic which put the effervescent Robin Wright on the map, is a tale of love and loyalty that holds up sturdily through the years.
6| Atonement (2007)
Sure, there’s lots of war, death, deceit and tragedy, but this movie spans the life of a relationship so tumultuous that you won’t be able to take your eyes away. Or, could it possibly be all that steamy chemistry between stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy? Or perhaps, it’s the score with all that typewriter tapping that keeps you rapped. And when that twist comes at the end—you just try and hold in those tears, we dare you.
7| Shakespeare in Love (1998)
If it’s winning the Oscar for best picture, it deserves a place in the cannon of great romantic films. And you know it must be good if everyone can forgive Gwyneth Paltrow her sub-par British accent. Complete with feel-good funny moments and built around characters you actually want to root for, Shakespeare in Love is rife with a star-studded ensemble cast including Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
8| Love and Basketball (2000)
Who doesn’t need a little sport with their love story sometimes? Stars Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan weren’t new to the scene when Love and Basketball released, but this movie might be what they’re both best known for. One doesn’t easily forget the first time their characters meet on the court at age 11, or the “score and strip” game they play as high school sweethearts, or the coming back together after years of passion put into the game of basketball instead of the game of love.
9| The Notebook (2004)
Turn it on for the love story, stay for the sex scene. After seven years not knowing that they were pining for each other, Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) get to kiss in the rain, bring it into the house, up the stairs (pants around ankles, not easy) and into the bedroom. The scene is over three minutes long and deserves every second. The Notebook was arguably Gosling’s turning point from child actor to Hollywood heartthrob, and it’s easy to see why after that scene.
10| Splash (1984)
Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah in their prime star in this quirky romance about a man and mermaid falling in love. Sound implausible? It is, obviously, but just look at The Shape of Water and tell us that implausible love stories involving sea mammals don’t stand the test of time. If you take away the mermaid part, it’s really a story about chance encounters and the decisions you make after they happen.
11| Once (2007)
Girl meets guy. Guy plays guitar. Girl sings. They live happily ever after. Actually, Once and its backstory is not a perfect fairytale, and that’s partly what makes it so darn good. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová were real-life band partners before they starred in the movie together and fell in love on set and then fell out of love years later. It’s a bit sad to know how it all ends up, but, life mimics art mimics life, as they say.
12| Cold War (2018)
Cold War came from the back quietly and beautifully and eventually was nominated for Oscars, BAFTAs and more. With so few lines but many emotions, this Polish drama follows a music director (Tomasz Kot) and his pupil (Joanna Kulig) and their tumultuous love affair spanning decades in Cold War-era Europe. Beware: you’ll probably want to jump in the sack with both leads by the end of this black-and-white romance.
13| Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)
Thomas Hardy, the original author of 1874’s Far from the Madding Crowd, was heavily influenced by Romanticism during an uptight Victorian era. So, it’s no surprise that the film adaptation of his story would bring romance in full force. Stars Carey Mulligan (who plays a free-spirited property owner and farmer who is just looking for someone to tame her for god’s sake) and Matthias Schoenaerts (enter, the tamer) give an on-screen chemistry to rival them all.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.