Most Romantic Movies of All Time, Ranked
There’s nothing better than falling in love. Except, of course, experiencing two strangers fall in love on the big screen in front of you. Humanity’s love affair with romantic movies is as old as movies themselves and as deep as the emotions they portray. But figuring out which movie is perfect for eliciting the exact type of love story you want to experience any given day can be tricky. There are as many types of love stories as there are types of love.
That’s why we did the work for you. Here are 31 of the absolute best romantic movies, ranked for timelessness, universal themes, audience and critic ratings and overall entertainment value. And, just like love itself, with a little personal preference thrown into the mix.
31. Love and Basketball
Release date: April 16, 2000
Director: Gina Prince-Blythewood
Box office earnings: $27.7 million
Bottom Line: Love and Basketball
You know what they say: All’s fair in love and basketball. Ever since they were young, Monica and Quincy have been both playmates, teammates and, eventually, lovers.
But the very real pressures of achieving their dreams combined with the very real sexism of the world of sports leaves them trying to figure out how — or if — they can even remain in each other’s lives.
30. Legends of the Fall
Release date: Jan. 13, 1995
Director: Edward Zwick
Box office earnings: $160.6 million
Bottom Line: Legends of the Fall
This intense mid-90s love story isn’t often found on romantic movies lists, but it absolutely should be. It’s a story of family bonds, war, betrayal and, of course, love that is as wild as the western environment it’s set in.
It features a steamy and angsty long-haired Brad Pitt who perfectly balances tortured and lovelorn in basically every scene. In many ways, the love story here lives up to its name. It’s truly legendary.
29. The Photograph
Release date: Feb. 14, 2020
Director: Stella Meghie
Box office earnings: $20.7 million
Bottom Line: The Photograph
Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield will have you believing in love again with this picture-perfect (all puns intended) love story. Issa Rae’s character discovers a long-lost photograph after her mom passes that sends her on a quest for the truth.
Along the way, she finds love. But she’s afraid of making the same mistakes her mom did, so she pushes her chance at lasting love away. It’s a movie about the ways we internally and externally fight our own happiness. And it’s a movie about loving deeply that will leave you feeling all the feels.
Release date: Dec. 12, 2019
Director: Michael Haneke
Box office earnings: $29.9 million
Bottom Line: Amour
After a retired woman in her 80s suffers a debilitating stroke, her also 80-something husband faces the realities of caring for her in this new, debilitated state. He has to explain the situation to their daughter as their long-standing love faces a major test.
While most stories of romance feature young love or new lovers finding themselves, this French film is a reminder that love is an action verb. And one whose actions must change throughout time.
27. The Vow
Release date: Feb. 6, 2012
Director: Michael Sucsy
Box office earnings: $196.1 million
Bottom Line: The Vow
When she loses all her memories in a devastating car accident, a woman’s husband tries to make her fall in love with him all over again. With Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams starring in this film, it’s hard not to fall in love just based on their chemistry alone.
But the fact that this is based on true events makes every up and down on this emotional roller coaster even more heartbreaking (and heartwarming).
26. Before Midnight
Release date: May 24, 2013
Director: Richard Linklater
Box office earnings: $23.3 million
Bottom Line: Before Midnight
The third in director Richard Linklater’s trilogy, this movie usually doesn’t get the same romantic accolades or attention as the original “Before Sunrise” or even “Before Sunset.” But it deserves them, and the 98 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes from critics would certainly agree.
What makes this story one of the most romantic in the already romantic trilogy is the fact that it shows a very real and true depiction of life after marriage. It’s a beautifully done portrait of loving while also living together. And continuing to find magic amongst all the muck.
25. Something's Gotta Give
Release date: Dec. 12, 2003
Director: Nancy Meyers
Box office earnings: $265.3 million
Bottom Line: Something’s Gotta Give
The impressive box office earnings definitely do this delightful movie justice. A perpetual bachelor, played by Jack Nicholson, is only interested in uncomplicated relationships with younger women. But when he meets his girlfriend’s mother, they find themselves wound up in each other’s lives in a way neither of them expected — or even, at first, wanted.
It’s classic Nancy Meyers with quippy dialogue and hearts on sleeves. It’s a charming and fun reminder that it’s never too late to learn something new about yourself (or to fall in love).
24. Crazy, Stupid, Love
Release date: July 19, 2011
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Box office earnings: $145 million
Bottom Line: Crazy, Stupid, Love
Finding himself newly single in his 40s thanks to his wife’s affair and subsequent request for a divorce, a depressed man, played by Steve Carrell, must learn how to rediscover his own confidence so he can rekindle his ability to attract women. Thanks to a self-appointed ladies man, played by Ryan Gosling, he’s given a bunch of tips and tricks to snag anyone he wants.
He eventually has to learn how to do it his own way, just like his young mentor has to learn how to be willing to open up and connect when true love comes along.
23. It Happened One Night
Release date: Feb. 23, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Box office earnings: $2.5 million
Bottom Line: It Happened One Night
While it’s definitely a reflection of its time, “It Happened One Night” is a classic romantic comedy that’s worth watching. While many modern romantic movies aren’t afraid to embrace nudity, this film had a scandalous half-a-leg showing that was enough to make audiences in the 1930s gasp.
Claudette Colbert is a feisty heiress with a mind of her own who befriends the newspaper reporter Clark Gable. But along the way, they (of course) become more than just friends.
22. Sleepless in Seattle
Release date: June 25, 1993
Director: Nora Ephron
Box office earnings: $227.8 million
Bottom Line: Sleepless in Seattle
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are a dynamic pairing in this classic love story about two people who never met but seemed to like the idea of each other enough to do so.
Written in a time before Zoom or FaceTime or other digital ways we now have to connect with each other, it’s a story about a woman who doesn’t want to live with regret. And a man who doesn’t want to live alone anymore. And the explosive connection that happens when they finally cross the continent to meet.
21. 50 First Dates
Release date: Feb. 13, 2004
Director: Peter Segal
Box office earnings: $198.5 million
Bottom Line: 50 First Dates
After “The Wedding Singer,” it became clear that the bubbly Drew Barrymore was a perfect match for the goofy Adam Sandler. And the charming pairing led to this movie.
Sandler’s character is in love with the woman of his dreams and wants her to love him back. The only problem is she has short-term memory loss. So every morning he has to start over, consistently convincing her (and her protective family) that his intentions, just like his love, are pure.
20. P.S. I Love You
Release date: Dec. 21, 2007
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Box office earnings: $155.7 million
Bottom Line: P.S. I Love You
Adapted from the novel with the same name and same heart-wrenching story, this movie follows a newly widowed young woman whose dead husband sends her on an invigorating treasure hunt of sorts through a series of letters that allow her to honor him while learning to live without him.
While many critics found it too over the top at times, most audience members loved it, with an 80 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you like your romance stories delivered with equal parts tears and laughter, this is the movie for you.
Release date: Dec. 7, 2007
Director: Joe Wright
Box office earnings: $131 million
Bottom Line: Atonement
For those who need love stories to be imbued with tragedy, pain, heartbreak and stunning period-piece outfits, there’s nothing better than “Atonement” After being torn apart by a jealous sister and a crushing lie, two star-crossed lovers find themselves in different parts of the world attempting to live without each other. That is, until they can live with each other, in one way or another.
Set in the already-charged emotions of World War II Britain, this movie will pull at your heartstrings like no other.
Release date: Nov. 4, 2016
Director: Jeff Nichols
Box office earnings: $12.9 million
Bottom Line: Loving
Based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who bravely faced racism and bigotry in Virginia that eventually resulted in a legal battle that would get rid of the last remnants of legal segregation allowed in the U.S.
This 2016 movie does the reluctant heroes justice on many fronts, showing the very real dangers they faced and how they navigated it all with hope and love. And, as a bonus, the actors look a lot like the real couple, reminding you that these were real people whose inspiring choices changed the world.
17. Romeo + Juliet
Release date: Oct. 27, 1996
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Box office earnings: $51.8 million
Bottom Line: Romeo + Juliet
If you’re into classic Shakespeare stories, there’s nothing more classic than the story of Romeo and Juliet. And this Baz Luhrmann mid-90s retelling of the story is both gorgeous and haunting.
Featuring two up-and-coming stars of the time, Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio prove how timeless this story can be. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. It’s, at times, bizarre. And, of course, it’s gut-wrenchingly tragic. But it’s also a reminder that not all love stories end in “happily ever after.”
16. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Release date: March 19, 2004
Director: Michael Gondry
Box office earnings: $74 million
Bottom Line: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Sometimes the best love stories are best served with a side of abstract philosophy in action. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”features Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey as former lovers who can’t quite seem to shake each other, despite the fact that they’re literally trying to erase every memory they have together thanks to a controversial memory-erasing service.
The couple end up hiding out in various parts of the brain’s memories in an effort to spend just a little more time together. They are eventually reminded that just because it may go wrong doesn’t mean that love isn’t worth remembering. Or, sometimes, trying again.
15. Moulin Rouge
Release date: May 16, 2001
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Box office earnings: $179.2 million
Bottom Line: Moulin Rouge
Another one of Baz Luhrmann’s bold and beautiful films to make the list, “Moulin Rouge” delivers musical medleys and a heart-breaking love story. Even though their love seemed doomed from the beginning, a hopeless romantic writer (played by Ewan McGregor) and a jaded courtesan (played by Nicole Kidman) steal a few precious moments away from the wicked world to spark an epic love.
But, like most epic stories, things go awry in big ways. And their love may not be enough to save both their lives, but it is enough to bring some good into the world.
14. Say Anything
Release date: April 14, 1989
Director: Cameron Crowe
Box office earnings: $21.5 million
Bottom Line: Say Anything
If you’ve ever seen someone standing in a long coat with a boombox outside of someone’s window, this is the movie that inspired hopeless romantics everywhere. A young, baby-faced John Cusack falls in love with the girl of his dreams but can’t seem to say the right things to make her stay.
It’s an iconic, feel-good story about young love and how we’ll do or say anything … in order to get what we want.
13. The Big Sick
Release date: July 14, 2017
Director: Michael Showalter
Box office earnings: $5 million
Bottom Line: The Big Sick
Based on real life events of comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s love story with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, this movie follows a Pakistani American and an unexpected romance with a white psychology student. After breaking up when they agree they don’t have a future together thanks to cultural and lifestyle ambition, Emily is hospitalized and Kumail realizes just how important she really is to him.
But, for Emiy who is eventually healed, nothing has changed. They have to face a number of life decisions on their own that make it seem like their paths may never cross again. But it is as much a comedy as it is a love story, so things do eventually work out.
12. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Release date: August 17, 2019
Director: Susan Johnson
Box office earnings: N/A (Netflix)
Bottom Line: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Instead of telling the boys she has a major crush on how she feels, Laura writes it in a letter. But when her letters are mysteriously mailed out all at once, she has to deal with the real-world consequences of her love-letter fantasies.
This Netflix movie based on the popular book is filled with teen angst, new romance and a whole lot of young love.
11. 10 Things I Hate About You
Release date: March 31, 1999
Director: Gil Junger
Box office earnings: $60.4 million
Bottom Line: 10 Things I Hate About You
Arguably one of the most iconic and classic adaptations of Shakespeare in modern movies, this classic late 90s teen romcom took “The Taming of the Shrew” to the next level (and then some).
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long ago you were in high school, the messages and story in this movie are as timeless as the love story. And since it’s only based on the play, you don’t have to endure any Shakspearean language to understand what’s happening.
10. Notting Hill
Release date: May 13, 1999
Director: Roger Michell
Box office earnings: $363.9 million
Bottom Line: Notting Hill
I’m just a writer, sitting in front of a keyboard, asking you to love this movie. The classic “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy…” line has made its way into modern lexicon largely thanks to the meteoric success of this Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant romantic comedy.
The idea that even the world’s biggest superstar is just a human who wants love and connection combined with Hugh Grant’s overwhelmingly expressive and charming facial reactions makes this movie a must watch (that you’ll want to watch again and again and again).
9. Dirty Dancing
Release date: Aug. 21, 1987
Director: Emile Ardolino
Box office earnings: $214.6 million
Bottom Line: Dirty Dancing
It’s hard to have a list about classic romantic movies and not include “Dirty Dancing.” Even though the music and the fashion clearly date this movie, there’s something genuinely timeless about the story. A girl from the right side of the tracks (or, in this case, the Catskills camp), falls for a hunky but distant dance instructor on the other side.
If you haven’t ever seen it, snuggle up with your dancing shoes and get ready to have the time of your life.
Release date: July 13, 1990
Director: Jerry Zucker
Box office earnings: $505.7 million
Bottom Line: Ghost
Another movie where Patrick Swayze swoons the masses, this romantic film had couples (and hopeful single ghost hunters) making sensual pottery for decades. When a wealthy banker is killed in a seemingly random mugging, he discovers he’s still a ghost who can watch over and help protect the girlfriend he loved and left behind. When she discovers she can connect with him through the help of a psychic, they continue their relationship in, well, creative ways.
But it isn’t all happiness and love, since he has to protect his girlfriend from the same people who had him murdered. Only, he’s, you know, a ghost. This movie was one of the highest-grossing films of all time when it was released.
7. Always Be My Maybe
Release date: May 29, 2019
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Box office earnings: N/A (Netflix)
Bottom Line: Always Be My Maybe
An honest, funny and genuinely refreshing take on the romcom genre, “Always Be My Maybe” features comedian Ali Wong and the hilarious Randall Park as childhood sweethearts who never seemed to sync up to find love.
When they reconnect as adults, they seem to be even further apart than ever. But after a few adventures that include a downright perfect cameo from Keanu Reeves, they discover there still may be hope for their love in the future. It’s fun, funny and an absolute joy to watch.
6. If Beale Street Could Talk
Release date: Dec. 25, 2018
Director: Barry Jenkins
Box office earnings: $20.6 million
Bottom Line: If Beale Street Could Talk
For those who understand that love is complicated and life (including many unfair issues beyond your control) can sometimes get in the way, this movie will sing to your soul. Its powerful message of love triumphing over all combined with powerhouse performances, especially from KiKi Layne and Regina King, will have you feeling combinations of emotions you didn’t think possible.
And, if you fall in love with the movie, you can always revisit the characters in the bestselling novel.
5. The Bodyguard
Release date: November 25, 1992
Director: Mick Jackson
Box office earnings: $411 million
Bottom Line: The Bodyguard
While many romantic movies end with the couple getting together, there are very rarely well-told romance stories about true love between people who cannot (or choose to not) be together. “The Bodyguard” tells that kind of story perfectly.
Whitney Houston shines on screen as a pop star (surprise, surprise) who needs protection from terrifying death threats. Kevin Costner is the best chance she’s got. He’s also stubborn, frustrating and hard-to-read. But as the two begin to trust each other, they also fall for each other.
4. Shakespeare in Love
Release date: Dec. 11, 1998
Director: John Madden
Box office earnings: $289.3 million
Bottom Line: Shakespeare in Love
A fictitious story that feels so grounded it makes you want it to be real, “Shakespeare in Love” follows a writer’s blocked William Shakespeare who desperately wants to write a universal story of love to impress the Queen who says it cannot be done.
He starts out writing just another love story that probably won’t live up to his already-famous reputation. But as he falls in love with a woman who thwarts convention to be an actor, he realizes that sometimes true love is tragic. And he ends up writing “Romeo and Juliet,” the emotions and tragedy of which mirror his own star-crossed offstage love story.
3. While You Were Sleeping
Release date: April 21, 1995
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Box office earnings: $182 million
Bottom Line: While You Were Sleeping
Like Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock is another 90s actress who defined the romcom genre. But of all the movies she’s done, “While You Were Sleeping” is our favorite.
Yes, Bullock is great as the lonely transit worker, Lucy, who manages to save her longtime crush (played by Peter Gallagher) from an oncoming train. But it’s the quirky family she meets while he’s in a coma that we can’t help but fall in love with again and again.
2. When Harry Met Sally
Release date: July 21, 1989
Director: Rob Reiner
Box office earnings: $92.8 million
Bottom Line: When Harry Met Sally
Any time romantic movies get brought up, someone inevitably brings up “When Harry Met Sally” — and we don’t blame them. It follows people over the course of several years who slowly transform from strangers who can barely stand each other to soulmates who can’t stand to be apart from each other.
Plus, it features adorable couples telling the stories of how they met and when they knew they were in love. It’s charming. It’s light-hearted. And it’s a romantic classic.
Release date: Jan. 23, 1943
Director: Michael Cirtiz
Box office earnings: $10.5 million
Bottom Line: Casablanca
When two A-list stars collide, an A-list classic film isn’t always the result. But that sure was the case with “Casablanca.” Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart play former lovers who meet again when she needs help getting her new husband to safety (he’s actually her old husband, but she thought he was dead, so she fell in love but then learned he was alive … ah, just watch it).
Even though they both recognize that they do and will always probably love each other, Bogart helps Bergman’s husband escape. And he insists she goes with him, delivering the classic line “Here’s looking at you, kid” as a goodbye. It’s a story of love, loyalty, duty, romance, war and a whole bunch of iconic movie one-liners that will have you saying “Oh, that’s where that reference is from.”