Verdict has used science to create a definitive list of the 50 best romantic movies of all time. We’ve cross-referencing critical scores from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic with audience scores from IMDB (the Internet Movie Database). After all, a critical darling isn’t always a fan-favourite.
We took the top romantic movies ranked on Rotten Tomatoes as our starting point and then cross-referenced them with the scores on the other two sites.
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- January 29, 2019
So whether you’re in a relationship and having a romantic night-in, or just want some harmless escapism while you wait for the one these films are the perfect thing to watch.
And for those who normally shun romance films due to their genre trappings, you’ve got no excuses. This list encompasses dozens of genres from sci-fi to period drama, comedy to action.
There really is something for everyone. So don’t worry, there’s more than just the classic rom-coms on here!
50. Bull Durham (1998)
Former baseball star Crash Davis is sent down to visit the Durham Bulls. He’s there to coach hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh to prepare him for becoming a major-league talent. Meanwhile, self-confessed ‘baseball groupie’ Annie Savoy has decided to make LaLoosh her lover. The two of them work their magic on LaLoosh and he’s soon called up to the major leagues. However, during that time, it has become obvious that Crash and Annie are the perfect match for one another.
49. Titanic (1997)
The highest earning romance film (if adjusted for inflation) of all time. Titanic tells the story of Jack and Rose, a pair of passengers on the Titanic from very different worlds. Rose is an upper-class but technically poor heiress engaged to a loveless brute. Meanwhile, Jack is a happy-go-lucky con-artist. The two cross paths when Jack saves Rose from a suicide attempt and they fall in love. Unfortunately, things are cut short when the ship hits an iceberg and starts to sink. There’s also an extensive framing device, and more build-up than you could shake a stick at.
48. The Town (2010)
A crime romance story for the ages. Doug’s gang rob a bank and take the teller as a hostage. When they eventually escape, they allow her to go free unharmed. However, Doug begins to follow the woman, Claire, to ensure the rest of the gang don’t kill her before she can talk to the police, and to make sure she doesn’t talk to the police herself. Eventually a romance forms between the pair, and Doug must battle his fellow gang members and the police to keep Claire safe.
47. Enough Said (2013)
Eva is a divorced mother faced with the prospect of loneliness as her daughter moves away to attend university. She strikes up a friendship with Marianne. She also begins a tentative relationship with a man named Albert who is in a similar position to her. Unfortunately, it becomes apparent that Marianne and Albert are actually ex-husband and wife. Eva then has to negotiate this tangled and dramatic relationship.
46. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Billed as the first ever ‘Iranian vampire Western’, A Girl Walks Home At Night is certainly interesting. The film follows the journey of Arash, a young man struggling to make ends meet. He eventually runs into a mysterious young woman who, unbeknownst to him, is a vampire. As their romance develops, he falls further into the life of crime that he was trying to escape from. The vampire could be his salvation or his destruction.
45. Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994)
The Richard Curtis classic follows the adventures of a group of friends through the eyes of the socially awkward Charles. After Charles meets Carrie at a friends wedding, he is immediately attracted to her. However, he cannot summon the courage to confess his feelings. The pair meet many more times at various other weddings and eventually a funeral. Each time, Charles struggles to tell Carrie about his feelings, though he risks losing her forever.
44. Up In The Air (2009)
Ryan is a the travelling employee of a termination consultation firm. He is essentially paid to travel around America visiting companies and firing their employees. Ryan loves his life and dreams of being the youngest person ever to rack up ten million frequent flyer miles. He also has a casual relationship with a fellow traveler named Alex. Unfortunately, Ryan’s way of life is disrupted when an ambitious young employee at his work starts promoting the idea of firing employees via Skype. To convince her of his way, he takes her on his next trip. During the adventure though, Ryan’s philosophy of having a free, unburdened life is tested, and he must reconsider everything he thought he knew about life, love, and happiness.
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43. The Graduate (1967)
Few films are quite as well known as The Graduate. At the time of its release, The Graduate was caused a real scandal. The film follows Benjamin Braddock, a 21-year-old graduate who is seduced by the older woman, Mrs. Robinson. However, as his relationship with her heats up, Benjamin finds himself more attracted to her daughter. This incenses Mrs. Robinson, who seeks revenge.
42. Groundhog Day (1993)
The classic comedy based on the real traditions of one small American town. Phil Connors is an arrogant news reporter who is filled with contempt at being assigned to cover Groundhog Day. Unfortunately for him he gets stuck in a timeloop, forced to repeat the day over and over again. He’s totally alone in the timeloop as no one else experiences it with him. Eventually, he decides to become a better person and help the town. He also decides to make his feelings for his news producer Rita clear.
41. The Lunchbox (2014)
Saajan is a widowed accountant who is about to retire. Ila is a young housewife trapped in a loveless marriage. Through a rare mix-up of India’s famous “dabbawalas” (a delivery system that picks up and delivers lunches from homes to people at work) the lunch Ila made for her husband ends up in Saajan’s hands. Realising the mistake, Ila writes a letter to Saajan and places it in the next lunchbox to apologise. He responds to her and eventually they form a friendship which forces both of them to examine their lives and what would really make them happy.
40. Shakespeare In Love (1998)
The Academy Award-winning classic. Shakespeare In Love sees the famous playwright struggling with his life as he tries to write Romeo And Juliet. However, the arrival of Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, shakes things up for him. Viola has a strong interest in acting, and disguises herself as a boy to audition for one of his plays. She impresses the bard who casts her in one of his plays, and it isn’t long before they begin a love affair.
39. Roman Holiday (1953)
A 1953 classic with Audrey Hepburn as Ann, a crown princess on a state visit to Rome. There, she runs into Joe, a reporter for the American News Service. However, while their identities are unknown to each other, Joe and Ann come to relish the freedom that they feel with one another. The film follows them across Rome as they go on various adventures.
38. The Princess Bride (1987)
Playing on just about every romantic movie trope, The Princess Bride is a real tour de force of romantic cinema. The film is stuffed to the brim with side-stories and subplots. However, the major storyline follows a woman named Buttercup who falls in love with a man named Westley. Sadly though, disappears before they can get married and, after waiting years for his return, Buttercup unhappily agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck. Before the wedding, however, she gets kidnapped. This starts a chain of adventures for Buttercup and her new friends.
37. The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Maki (2017)
A fun Finnish romantic drama. Olli is a lightweight amateur-turned-professional boxer who is scheduled to go up against a US professional. Before the match, he attends a wedding and falls in love with Raija. However, as the pair fall ever more deeply in love, the media circus around the boxing match becomes increasingly manic. Olli has to decide which is more important to him: his boxing career or his new love?
36. Say Anything… (1989)
The originator of the ‘standing under a love-interest’s bedroom window with a boombox’ trope. The film centres around aspiring kickboxer Lloyd and high-flying student Diane, a pair of star-crossed lovers. As is the way of these things, Diane’s father Jim is determined that she must not date Lloyd, as he believes the kickboxer is beneath her. However, the pair grow closer together anyway, and Jim plots more desperately to break them apart.
35. The Shape Of Water (2017)
A delightful genre mash-up from Guillermo Del Toro which looks set for Oscars glory with no less than 13 nominations. The film takes place in a mysterious government lab in the 1960s. There, mute cleaner Eliza encounters the lab’s newest asset, a fish-man monster fished up from the Amazon rainforest. Eventually, Eliza forms a connection with the beast, and hearing he is due to be killed, escapes with him. When she gets the monster back to her apartment, their connection grows into true love. Unfortunately, a shadowy government agent is on their tail and things seem set for a dramatic confrontation.
34. Manhattan (1979)
Perhaps a contentious film considering this one was directed by and stars Woody Allen. Still, Manhattan is a sumptuous romance set in the eponymous New York borough. The film follows Isaac and his group of friends and covers their various romances and break-ups. Woody Allen plays Isaac, and the films examines his relationships between various women before finally settling on his love for the 17-year-old Tracy. In the current climate around Hollywood, Manhattan is sure to raise some eyebrows but if you can look past that (and, honestly, we understand if you can’t) it’s a solid movie with some great shots of New York City.
33. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
One of the greatest love stories of the 21st Century. Slumdog Millionaire is ostensibly a film about how the former-beggar Jamal came to know the answers to the questions on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? However, it is actually much deeper. The film revolves around the romance between Jamal and Latika, a young woman he met as a child. Separated for many years, Jamal’s appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is actually an attempt to reach out to Latika and rescue her from the life of crime she has become embroiled in. Jamal also has to deal with his brother Salim’s association with the crime family. The film’s ending is uplifting and neatly wraps up the film’s many story-arcs.
32. Before Sunrise (1995)
Jesse and Céline are two young people traveling through Europe on a train from Budapest. Jesse is getting off the train at Vienna and convinces Céline to accompany him. She does so and the film follows them as the roam around Vienna by night, gradually become closer and closer. Along the way they share anecdotes about their respective romantic histories. Both struggled through difficult break-ups and are in Europe as an escape. As a film about young love and impulsive desire, they don’t come much better than this one.
31. Wings Of Desire (1987)
A German language film with biblical overtones and a profound love for human life. The film follows angels Damiel and Cassiel who act as observers over the city of Berlin, still divided by the Berlin Wall. They may observe but never interact with the world and are visible only to children. However, when Damiel begins to fall in love with a human woman he faces a choice over whether to give up his immortality or his love, he must make a decision.
30. Sense And Sensibility (1995)
Ang Lee’s classic adaption of the Jane Austen novel. The Dashwood sisters are impoverished when their half-brother inherits the family fortune and throws them out of the family home. A cousin invites them to stay in a small cottage on his land. While they’re there, a whole series of romances unfold, with scandals, betrayals, and heartbreaks along the way. For a film based on a novel written in the early 1800s, this one feels remarkably modern.
29. The Crying Game (1992)
A very British romance. In rural Northern Ireland, IRA fighters take a British soldier hostage. They hold him to ransom, and he gradually befriends them. However, when none of their demands are met, he is set to be killed. The soldier makes one of his IRA captors promise to seek out his girlfriend in London. The soldier does escape but is killed in a freak accident. Believing his terrorist comrades are dead, the IRA fighter, Fergus makes good on his promise to find the soldier’s girlfriend, Dil. However, when his old life comes back to haunt him, he must protect Dil at all costs.
28. The Handmaiden (2016)
This one is a little more racy than other films on this list so watch out for that. The film is set in Korea when it was under Japanese rule. The action centres on Lady Hideko, a wealthy orphan who lives with her strict uncle. A conman plans to marry Hideko, take her inheritance, then commit her to an asylum. To do so, he hires Sook-hee to pose as her handmaiden and convince Hideko to marry him. Hideko and Sook-hee fall in love and plan to escape from Hideko’s murderous and sexually abusive uncle. The two hatch an elaborate plan to escape and kill the men who’ve abused them.
27. The Big Sick (2017)
Based on the true story of Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani who wrote the film. Kumail is a stand-up comedian who is heckled at one of his shows by Emily. The two form a loving relationship. However, due to his family’s belief that he should marry someone from a similar ethnic background, Kumail breaks up with Emily. Shortly afterwards, she falls into a coma. Kumail realises the mistake he’s made and is forced to sit beside her hospital bed with her dismissive parents, waiting for Emily to reawaken.
26. Your Name. (2017)
The fifth highest-grossing non-English film ever made, to say Your Name. made waves would be a vast understatement. The story follows boy and girl Taki and Mitsuha who keep switching bodies with each other. Gradually they fall in love, but after he starts losing the abilities to switch bodies with Mitsuha, Taki realises something is wrong and travels to her hometown to find her. Unfortunately, the town was destroyed by a meteorite, and Taki must try to find a way of traveling back into the past to save his love.
25. Carol (2015)
An utter classic, one of the greatest same-sex romance films ever made. After Therese and Carol meet by chance at a store in New York, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. However, Carol’s abusive former husband, Harge is determined to put a stop to their relationship. Pursuing a morality clause that would allow him to have fully custody of their daughter, Harge hires a private investigator to find evidence of Carol’s homosexuality. This puts a real dampener on her budding relationship with Therese. Eventually, Carol must make a difficult decision as to whether to be open about herself and the woman she loves or lose her daughter.
24. The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964)
They say the French are natural romantics and this film is definitely strong evidence of that. The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg focuses on another illicit romance between two young people with disapproving older relatives. However, when the male party, Guy is conscripted to go away to war, his partner Genevieve moves (despite being pregnant.) The pair eventually must face the prospect of living separate lives and leaving the memories of their youthful romance behind.
23. God’s Own Country (2017)
The first post-Brexit romantic movie. Johnny is a young farmer working for his father on their land in the Yorkshire moors. He yearns for escape but is trapped by family commitments. As his father’s health fails, the family must hire an extra worker, Gheorghe, a Romanian migrant worker. At first, Johnny’s racist, small-town attitudes prevent any friendship between the two. However, while camping on the moors during lambing season, a tender romance forms between the pair.
22. Lost In Translation (2003)
One of Bill Murray’s best-loved roles sees the star playing Bob, an aging movie star in Tokyo to film whisky adverts. While there, he meets Charlotte, a young graduate who is struggling with marital troubles. The pair form a platonic friendship and Bob meets Charlotte’s friends. For the first time in his life he doesn’t feel judged. Their friendship develops and the pair must consider whether or not to have an affair.
21. The Artist (2011)
A real treat for movie buffs. Valentin is a successful silent film actor who finds a love interest in Peppy, a young fan who dreams of being a dancer. After silent film falls out of fashion, Valentin’s life slowly falls apart and he is driven to suicide. However, he is saved at the last minute and, learning of his condition, the now-successful Peppy takes him in. While Valentin is initially dismissive, Peppy cares for him and helps him get back on his feet. The two fall gradually fall in love.
20. Her (2013)
A love story that could very well be an episode of Black Mirror. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twobley, a lonely introvert whose job is to write personal letters for those who are unable to do so themselves. In the midst of his divorce from his childhood sweetheart, Theodore buys a learning AI designed to adapt and evolve. The operating system names herself Samantha. As he talks to Samantha, Theodore begins to fall in love with her. Conflicted about his feelings, Theodore must decide between relationship norms and following his passion for Samantha. The results prove surprisingly tender and sweet.
19. Sideways (2004)
A film which, oddly enough, had a significant impact on the Santa Ynez Valley wine-growing region of California’s Central Coast. The film follows a road trip between two middle-aged men, borderline alcoholic Miles Raymond and former actor Jack Cole. The latter is soon to be married and is on the prowl for one last fling. They take a trip to the aforementioned Santa Ynez Valley. There Miles celebrates red wine varietal Pinot Noir while denigrating Merlot (those opinions had a real life impact on wine sales!) While there, the two embark on various affairs. However, eventually their new loves throw them out and they are forced to reckon with reality.
18. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
Arguably one of the greatest romance movies ever made. When he discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine had her memories of their relationship wiped from her brain, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure. However, during the process he revisits the earlier, happier days of their relationship and desperately seeks a way to preserve his memory of her. The majority of the film takes place in Joel’s mind as he attempts to save a happier, idealised version of Clemetine from being wiped from his brain. The ending of the film is beautifully touching and wonderfully observed.
17. It Happened One Night (1934)
The oldest film on this list and one of the most culturally significant. Spoiled heiress Ellie has eloped with a fortune-hunter who married her for her money, much to the disapproval of her father. After Ellie escapes her father’s clutches to reunite with her husband, she runs into journalist Peter Warne. He persuades her to give him the story of her relationship in return for his not telling her father where she is. Ellie agrees. They travel to meet Ellie’s husband and along the way begin to fall in love. Ellie must decide which is more important to her, love or money.
16. Before Sunset (2004)
A sequel to the aforementioned Before Sunrise. This film takes place nine years after the first one. Once again, Jesse and Céline meet, and once again they only have a limited amount of time to spend together. They begin to rekindle their romance from many years before, despite both their lives having moved on.
15. Only Yesterday (1991/2016)
Technically Only Yesterday was released in 1991, but it only received an English dub in 2016, so it’s a more recent film for Western audiences. Taeko is a 27-year-old woman who travels to visit the elder brother of her brother in law. The trip brings back memories of her childhood and she is forced to wonder whether she ever achieved her dreams. Along her journey she is accompanied by Toshio and the two begin to fall in love.
14. Elevator To The Gallows (1958)
A real classic crime-romance. Florence Carala and Julien Tavernier are lovers who plan to kill Florence’s husband, Simon Carala. Julien does so and arranges the murder to look like a suicide. However, while fleeing the scene, he gets trapped in an elevator. Small-time crook Louis and flower shop assistant Véronique steal Julien’s car, and disappear. Seeing Véronique in the car, Florence assumes Julien has abandoned her. Meanwhile, when Louis is involved in another murder various cases of mistaken identity test the resolve and romance of both couples.
13. Beauty And The Beast (1946)
Quite a different tale from Disney’s 1991 version. This version has Belle’s father steal a rose from the Beast’s garden, causing the Beast to imprison him. However, Belle’s cowardly father arranges for Belle to switch places with him. As she spends time with the Beast, Belle falls in love with him. However, in his magic mirror, Belle sees her impoverished family struggling without her and her father near death. She persuades the Beast to free her for a week to go and visit her father on his deathbed.
When she arrives at home, Belle’s sisters learn of the Beast’s fortune and trick her into staying longer than her allotted week so their brother can steal the Beast’s fortune. By the time Belle returns, the Beast is near death from a broken heart. However, her love restores him and he transforms back into a prince who promises to make Belle his queen and force her shrewish sisters into carrying the train of her wedding dress.
12. On The Waterfront (1954)
More a crime drama than a romance film, On The Waterfront follows Terry, a dock-worker and former boxer who lost a championship fight thanks to pressure from the mob. In the past, he was pressured into luring a popular dockworker into an ambush after that worker had promised to inform the police about the mob. That ambush results in the death of the worker. Terry eventually falls in love with that man’s sister. As his feelings grow, he is forced to choose between his comfortable silence siding with the mob, and doing what is right.
11. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film about a lot of things. And yes, a lot of those things involve kick-ass women swordfighting and being bad-ass. However, at it’s heart, it’s also got two separate love stories. Firstly, there’s the warrior and bodyguard duo, Mu Bai and Shu Lien who travel together and have complex feelings for one another. Then there’s Jen and her lover Lo, who are desperate to reunite after being torn apart by the forces of fate. For those who are looking for something less traditional to watch on Valentine’s Day, this one is perfect.
10. The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946)
A touching post-war film which dealt with what were, at the time, very contemporary concerns. The film revolves around Homer, Fred, and Al, three former war heroes who struggle to fit back into their lives after the end of the war. All three have wives and girlfriends waiting for them back at home, who provide them with various levels of support. Homer lost both his hands, is forced to use hooks for prothesis, and struggles to believe anyone could love him. Fred meanwhile is stuck with a woman who doesn’t really love him. Only Al’s life seems to be going well. However, all three discover love in places they didn’t expect to find it.
9. The African Queen (1951)
For Londoners wondering why there are parakeets living in Hyde Park, legend has it that this film is to blame. Rumour has it that a flock of the birds escaped from Pinewood Studios during the filming of The African Queen and lived on in Hyde Park since then. Who knows whether or not that’s true, but still, it’s a fun anecdote! Here, Katherine Hepburn plays the original bad-ass enterprising female hero, as missionary, Rose. She and her brother are stationed in Africa when the war between Britain and Germany breaks out. Rose’s brother is beaten to death so she concocts a plan for revenge. Rose enlists boat captain Charlie into her scheme to transform his boat into a torpedo ship to take down a German vessel. To do so, they must make the perilous voyage downriver and along the way they fall in love.
8. Before Midnight (2013)
Yet another entry in the ‘Before’ series, which we’ve already seen twice in this list. Once again, Jesse and Céline are together in a European location (this time the Greek Peloponnese), where they only have a certain amount of time discuss love, life, and everything else. Widely considered the best of the trilogy, this one is best enjoyed after having seen the other two entries.
7. Gone With The Wind (1939)
What’s the highest-grossing movie of all time? If you said Avatar you’d be wrong. Well, you’d sort of be right, but if you adjust for inflation Gone With The Wind beats it by a country mile. In fact, (adjusted for inflation) Gone With The Wind made around $400m more than Avatar. And with good reason, it’s an all-time classic. The film follows Scarlett, a young woman who is madly in love with Ashley who doesn’t love her back. Throughout the film she pursues him, occasionally flirting with Rhett Butler. However, after plenty of twists and turns, battles of wit, and family loyalty at stake, it’s anyone guess as to who Scarlett will eventually end up with. Safe to say, the film does not end as anyone might expect.
6. Call Me By Your Name (2018)
In many ways, 17-year-old Elio lives a charmed life. The precociously intelligent son of a university professor, he spends his summers in the family’s mansion somewhere in Northern Italy. The one downside of his life is that for six weeks per year, he must give up his bedroom to a graduate student chosen by his father to help his studies. This year, the visitor is wise-cracking American, Oliver. Elio’s attraction to Oliver is immediate but he must wrestle with his own feelings before he dares to act on his desire. A subtle, beautiful portrayal of first love.
5. The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)
The classic Robin Hood story. This one has absolutely everything – daring feats, courtly intrigue, masterful archery, and of course, the love story between Robin and Maid Marian. If you know anything about Robin Hood, chances are it appeared in some form in this tale. Still, the whole story is both familiar and yet deeply fresh and exciting throughout. A Valentine’s Day classic!
4. Three Colors: Red (1994)
A truly bizarre French film based around the French revolutionary idea of fraternity. Here we follow Valentine a young French woman who has a chance encounter with the mysterious Kern. Kern is an older man, a judge who is a voyeur on his neighbours private lives. He becomes a mentor type figure for Valentine and together they discuss the true meaning of altruism. This is one of those films that’s almost impossible to accurately describe. It’s better to watch. It’s also been considered ‘anti-romance’, so it might be the perfect thing to watch if you’re not so enamoured with the idea of Valentine’s Day.
3. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
The most joyful rom-com you’ll ever see. Singin’ In The Rain follows the travails of famous silent-film actor Don Lockwood. Don is a huge success in his career but struggles with Lina, the leading lady he always gets paired with. While escaping from a bunch of wild fans one day, Don meets Kathy, and is immediately charmed by her. Unfortunately, Lina who is in love with Don, conspires to get rid of Kathy. After she does so though, Kathy and Don are reunited when the studio transforms Don and Lina’s latest film into a ‘talkie’ picture and Kathy must get involved. This film began life as a vehicle to promote various other musicals, but as a marketing gimmick, few films have ever been as successful.
2. Casablanca (1942)
One of the most iconic romantic movies ever made. Rick Blaine is an amoral nightclub owner operating in Casablanca in the war. He comes into possession of some significant documents which could be used by allied refugees to escape the conflict. However, no sooner has Rick got his hands on the papers, his former lover Ilsa arrives with her husband Laszlo. As a resistance leader, Laszlo desperately needs the papers to escape. In his bitterness, Rick refuses to hand them over. Ilsa must convince Rick to part with the papers, and put aside his anger at their break-up.
1. Beauty And The Beast (1991)
According to our calculations, Disney’s classic animation is the best romantic film of all time. The classic tale sees intelligent outcast Belle trapped by the Beast in his magical castle, with only living furniture for friends. Thankfully, Beast is much more than the monster he appears, and soon a deep friendship forms between the pair. Unfortunately, the townsfolk are out to destroy the Beast and it’s up to Belle to rescue him and break the curse that turned him into a monster.