We love a love story—which explains the endless stacks of romance novels piling up on our nightstand. Thanks to romantic movies and rom-coms, we can fall in love over and over again, without the risk of heartbreak. All it takes is one viewing of Titanic for us to feel “on top of the world.” (Well, in the first hour, at least.)
While Titanic may be one of the most epic films on this list, there are many more where that came from—including hidden gems you may not have seen yet. We’ve assembled a broad range of romantic movies from Hollywood to Bollywood. And since there’s no one kind of love, these movies are about everything: Instant connections (Before Sunrise) and short-lived affairs (Brief Encounter); wedding celebrations (Monsoon Wedding) and the travails of dating (Love Jones). Some, like The Big Sick, are even based on true stories.
Since romantic movies beg to be revisited, all of our selections are available to stream either on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or other services. Movie marathon, anyone? Happy endings are not guaranteed, but unforgettable stories are.
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On the eve of WWII, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) encounters a former lover, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), while she’s trying to flee Morocco with her husband. That old flame of theirs has not faded—but is there a chance for them to be together? No matter what happens next, Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris, and we’ll always have them.
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Love and Basketball
As kids, Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) bond over their shared love for basketball. As they grow older, their romantic connection and their careers grow in tandem. Love and Basketball is coming-of-age-story, sports movie, love story, and classic, all in one.
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A French student (Julie Delpy) and an American wanderer (Ethan Hawke) meet on a train, and spend an enchanted day roaming around Vienna until their other obligations pierce the bubble they’ve created. This simple plot summary hardly touches the magic of this film, which builds connection the way it’s built in real life: Through conversation and an ineffable spark. BRB, booking one of these scenic train routes because… you never know. For the full effect, watch the entire trilogy, which tracks Jesse and Celine over the years.
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Up is about everything that happens after a heartbreak. The iconic opening segment tells the story of Ellie and Karl without dialogue, using elements of animation alone. After Ellie passes away, Karl sets off on a journey to travel to their bucket list destination.
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In 1963, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) spend time herding sheep in a remote mountain in Wyoming. They return completely changed. Brokeback Mountain is a gorgeous tear-jerker.
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Like Water for Chocolate
Mexico, 1910. Tita (Lumi Cavazos) and Pedro (Marco Leonardi) are madly in love, and destined to be kept apart by society and meddling mothers. Laura Esquivel’s bestselling novel about a woman who infuses her food with passion and emotion made for a lush film.
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Smashing genre and convention, Atlantics is unlike any love story you’ve ever seen. Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) and Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré) are lovers, before Souleiman leaves Senegal to find a job in Spain. But he never really leaves her, as you’ll see. A story of ghosts, migration, and the Atlantic ocean, this Grand Prix–winning movie will stay with you.
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When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally is a genre-defining movie, raising the bar for all rom-coms to come. Nora Ephron’s masterpiece is about Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally’s (Meg Ryan) decade-long journey to get together after they meet during one fateful cross-country road trip.
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Bridges of Madison County
She’s a housewife enjoying an empty home for the first time in years. He’s a National Geographic photographer passing through Iowa, taking pictures of local covered bridges. Over the course of three days, Francesca (Meryl Streep) and Robert (Clint Eastwood) experience a kind of cosmically fated, epic love—but is it enough to drastically change their lives?
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From Nicholas Cage and Cher’s palpable chemistry to witty yet heartfelt dialogue, there are endless reasons to watch Moonstruck.
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In this soaring Italian movie, a famous film director returns to his Sicilian hometown upon the death of his mentor. While there, he takes a nostalgic tour through the films and relationships that made him, including one heart-warming summer romance.
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In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love is the kind of movie that will have you longing as deeply as the characters on screen. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) are next-door neighbors in 1962 Hong Kong, but that’s not all they have in common. Their partners are having affairs, too. The neighbors are drawn to each other, but refuse to mimic their spouses’ actions.
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Paris is the City of Love, and Amelie is an ode to all the love stories that take place within it. Amelie (Audrey Tatou) is a shy waitress who likes inserting herself into other people’s lives with notes, and coy schemes. Eventually, she meets someone who helps bring her out of her imagination, and into the real world.
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A Star Is Born
A Star Is Born is a romance made, and remade, for each generation since the first version in 1937. The movie’s fourth iteration stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as an aging rocker and a cabaret singer with star potential. At first, their romance is unlikely—but Jackson Maine (Cooper) knows, after seeing Ally (Lady Gaga) perform, that she’s a real talent. As he says, so famously, “I just wanted to take another look at you.”
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Love Jones is a movie about a group of Black artists in Chicago, and the real work of love, and the undeniable power of connection. Above all, it’s authentic—a quality that has rendered it a cult classic, years after its 1995 release.
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For Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), love isn’t the problem—being caught in the throes of history and major sociopolitical change is. The lovers meet in 1940s Poland in a Polish folk dancing troupe, and spend the next two decades orbiting each other’s lives.
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Edward Kynaston (Billy Crudup) is one of the most famous stage actors of his time, known for playing all of Shakespeare’s women characters. Maria (Claire Danes) is desperate to break precedent, and play the parts herself. Stage Beauty shows how shared ambition can fuel a budding romantic relationship, and also complicate it.
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Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton play Mildred and Richard Loving, the real interracial couple who spent nine years fighting for their right to be together. It’s thanks to them that a 1967 Supreme Court decision declared state laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional. Loving is a triumph.
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If Beale Street Could Talk
In 1970’s Harlem, Tish (KiKi Layne), Fonny (Stephan James) fall in love. Thanks to Barry Jenkins’ direction and the movie’s gorgeous cinematography, their love story is rendered with undeniable reverence. But false accusations send what should be the couple’s happy ending careering. What is the place for romance in a world of injustice? Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, the story is as relevant as the year it came out.
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Little England is an old-fashioned romantic drama, in that it’s sweeping, epic, and will have you hanging on to every last plot twist. Orsa (Pinelopi Tsilika) and Moscha (Sofia Kokkali) are sisters living on the windswept island of Andros in the 1930s. It’s a place where men are gone sailing for most of the year, leaving women to dream of romance—or escape. Their mother is set on marrying them off, and doesn’t take their desires into consideration. What results is a gut-wrenching tale of forbidden love, within a family.
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Technically, Carol is a Christmas romance. Cate Blanchett plays a New Jersey housewife rattling around in a big, cold house. Her life is filled up by a chance meeting with Therese (Rooney Mara) in a department store one Christmas. Their connection is undeniable—but can they find a place in the world that will accept them? Todd Haynes directed this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt.
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The Big Sick
Real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon mined their unusual love story—which involves an unexpected coma and inter-cultural family tension—to fuel this funny, and deeply felt romance. Nanjiani plays himself, and Zoe Kazan is charming as a version of Gordon.
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Something’s Gotta Give
Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) is 63-years-old, and tends to date women half his age. Then he meets Erica (Diane Keaton), the mother of his current girlfriend (Amanda Peet), and begins to have feelings for her. Let Something’s Gotta Give kick off your Nancy Meyers marathon, and feast on clever dialogue and gorgeous kitchens.
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Spoiler: Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is murdered at the start of Ghost. Sam must learn the rules of the afterlife to find a way to communicate with Molly (Demi Moore), his lover left in the land of the living. The incredibly moving film is also a meditation on love that transcends boundaries.
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The Way We Were
Can love surmount political differences? Katie Morosky (Barbara Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford) meet in college, and are drawn to each other despite being essentially polar opposites. Their relationship continues, on and off, for the next few decades, with each phase testing their values and their commitment to each other.
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Monsoon Wedding is a classic Bollywood romance about—you guessed it—a wedding and all the stress and drama it entails. At the core of this bustling movie is one woman’s journey, away from one kind of love and towards another. But surrounding her are many relationships that seem real; as if director Mira Nair happened to gain access to the internal turmoil and joy of an actual wedding.
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Naturally, Titanic appears on a list of the all-time best romantic movies. First released in 1997, James Cameron’s doomed love story continues to impact culture—and Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet continue to be asked about whether their characters could’ve shared that piece of wood.
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The title of Brief Encounter says it all: Laura (Celia Johnson), a married woman with children, meets a stranger named Alec (Trevor Howard) on a train. Their passionate and brief romance imbues both of their lives with meaning and excitement. But what comes up must come down.
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Call Me By Your Name
Based on Andre Aciman’s novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name is a love story infused with Mediterranean summer light, longing that transcends boundaries, and a feeling of fate. As much as this is the story of Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothee Chalamet), it’s worth watching for the tour-de-force monologue from Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), who understands the urgency of love.
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Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) are obviously meant to be—but Allie’s strict mother disapproves. Her actions send their summer love reeling off course. But love finds a way back in this iconic Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
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