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Best Romantic Movies - 20 Top Romantic Movies for Valentine's Day to Watch with Your Sweetheart
Favorite Romantic Movies
What movies are perfect for Valentine’s Day? Well, your favorites might depend on when you grew up. Whatever your preferences, I think there are some romantic movies that stand the test of time.
I have put together my top 20 (plus!) based on love stories that endure through difficult trials, stories that make you feel good even when death separates.
Recent Romantic Movies: The Notebook
1. Who hasn’t heard of The Notebook? It's a real weeper! Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, this 2004 movie promises to bring a few tears. Two different storylines mingle as we see the trials of a young couple, played by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, narrated by an older gentleman played by James Garner, who reads to a woman in a nursing home. It takes some time for the two stories to combine in a beautiful way. Love fights to win throughout this movie as social status, parental influence, and even memory loss get in the way for couples who are devoted to each other.
2. The Vow
The Vow, released in 2012, interestingly also portrays memory loss as a central issue as a newly married woman, played by Rachel McAdams (There she is again!), loses all memory of her love for her husband, Channing Tatum, after they are in a car wreck. McAdams' character tries for a while, but it's hard for her to love someone because she is "supposed" to.
A lot is made of their wedding vows, as hubby tries to win back the love of his wife. But will the vows be enough to keep together a couple whose relationship has totally changed? And whose love the young bride doesn't even remember? And what if she doesn't ever get her memory back? You'll wonder these things as the movie climaxes and works toward a resolution.
3. Dear John
3. Dear John, released in 2010, is another movie (Remember The Notebook?) based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, so how could we go wrong with this one? Channing Tatum's (Oh! And there HE is again!) and Amanda Seyfried's characters start a romance before Tatum enlists to go to war. Yeah, that causes all kinds of long-distance issues.
The couple keeps their romance alive for some time through letters, until, finally, a "Dear John" letter comes through the mail, as Seyfried's character has found someone else. What are the circumstances surrounding her moving on? It's questionable as to whether or not this couple will find their way back to each other.
4. 50 First Dates
I decided to include 50 First Dates (2004) for those who want a silly, funny, occasionally dramatic, love story. It has to be funny with Adam Sandler, right? He makes us laugh as he makes Drew Barrymore laugh. This gal is quite adorable in this comedy which is often very lighthearted. We soon find that there is a darker side to the movie, and a situation that threatens the possibility of these two ever lasting--no matter how much fun they have together. What keeps this couple apart is a unique and sad situation. What keeps them together is worth watching.
5. A Walk to Remember
A Walk to Remember, from 2002, is yet another movie based on a Nicholas Spark's novel. Sparks knows how to write those tear-jerking romances, doesn't he? Shane West plays a rebellious young man, whose path keeps crossing that of Mandy Moore, the preacher's daughter, no less. To say these two are an unikely couple is an understatement, but it's interesting to watch how their relationship evolves.
Although events in the plot are predictable at times, this movie explores young love and making wishes come true, ending with a somewhat surprising yet fitting resolution. Another perk of this movie is the beautiful singing, much of which is by Mandy Moore.
7. In 1993's Sleepless in Seattle, we see a relationship in which the characters never meet until the very end. Meg Ryan's character is touched when she hears a little boy on the radio looking for a new wife for his grieving dad.
On a whim, she writes a letter to him that somehow gets mailed. She suggests meeting at the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day, a throwback to the movie An Affair to Remember, which we will get to later. This movie is sweet and touching--a true romance.
I think I'm stuck on Meg Ryan movies, as she made a lot of romantic ones. Here are some more:
Movies from the '90s
6. Pretty Woman (1990) is one of my all-time favorites romantic movies. (I still have my VHS tape!) I love Cinderella stories, and this one is fairy tale for sure. Everyone surely knows the basic storyline with Julia Roberts as the sexy prostitute that wealthy CEO Richard Gere hires as his “date” for an important business meeting, a business meeting that turns into a several day event, or perhaps even goes on for a week. At any rate, neither of these characters expects what happens next.
“I want the fairy tale” is only one of the many memorable things Julia tells him. This movie has some great lines. It's actually one of the few movies I remember quotations from.
8. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) stars the adorable Meg Ryan alongside charming and handsome Andy Garcia--two of my all-time favorite actors! Ryan is an alcoholic, and her husband, played by Garcia, is struggling to figure out how he can help her. Like many people in a relationship tend to do, Garcia wants to "fix" his wife, which only drives Ryan's character away even further. This struggling woman must face her challenges, struggles, and somehow find her way on her own. This movie is a gripping drama that pulls in the viewer to root for the couple in hopes of finding their way back to each other.
9. Prelude to a Kiss (1992) stars Meg Ryan (She sure was busy in the 90s!) and Alec Baldwin this time as her main squeeze. This movie has it all-- humor, romance, and intense drama. The barrier to overcome here is the lovely Meg Ryan switching bodies with an old man. Whaaat? Yeah, it's a little confusing to watch, as the viewer tries to keep in mind who is really who in those bodies. The solution seems elusive, and any compromise looks impossible to live with.
As much as this woman's husband loves her, how will they survive such an obstacle in their relationship? Have you seen this one? It's definitely very enjoyable and a must-see.
Titanic (1997) is a must on the list of love stories in which to drown (pun intended) yourself. Cute Leonardo DeCaprio and the voluptuous red-headed Kate Winslet enjoy fun and passion all over the doomed ship, the infamous Titanic—all the way into the icy cold water when they go overboard with hundreds of others hoping to survive.
This tragic couple's love is timeless, endless.I can hear the theme song now. “Near, far, wherever you are . . . .” Just thinking about this tragic trip and never-ending love story makes me want to watch it again--even if it is a pretty long movie.
11. What Dreams May Come, (1998), starring Robin Williams, is one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies I have ever seen. If you haven't seen this one, you should. The scenes are breathtaking--dreamy, colorful, heavenly. This movie, although perhaps not as widely known as some of Robin Wiliams' other blockbusters, is a real gem. What this couple goes through is heart-wrenching, and they would literally go through heaven and hell to be together. And perhaps they do.
I've seen this movie twice, once recently, and I would love to watch it again. It's one I didn't have in my old collection, so I ordered the DVD to have on hand. This movie is based on a book, as well, one I might just have to read.
Untamed Heart DVD
12. A movie worth mentioning, despite its sometimes being corny and sickly sweet, is Untamed Heart (1993). A bit more innocent of a movie, this film stars the young Christian Slater and Marisa Tomei. Slater's character lives with a heart condition, which becomes the theme for a heartfelt connection between the two young lovers. This movie is refreshing with its young characters enjoying young love and even first love. Of course there are hurdles to overcome, there's drama, and yes, there is some heartbreak for sure. But this is a romantic tale worth watching. The best thing about this movie is the pure and joyful love between the couple, despite dealing with a life-threatening illness.
Movies from the 80s
13. When Harry Met Sally, released in 1989, is another classic romantic comedy with Meg Ryan (Yep, she was definitely a big lead in the romantic comedies in the '80s and '90s!) who plays alongside Billy Crystal in this one. Who hasn't heard of this movie? Remember the quotation "Can men and women ever just be friends?" That's exactly what these two are--long-time friends.
What happens when they try to be more than that? Can that even happen for them? You’ll enjoy lots of laughs as you watch these two in their journey. Even if you've seen this movie many times, it always seems fresh. And oh, so funny!
Overboard, from 1987, stars real-life, long-time sweethearts Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. After Ryan's character, a spoiled, snotty rich woman talks down to the poor carpenter, played by Russell, she then falls overboard, off her yacht, and suffers from amnesia.
The slighted working-class carpenter takes advantage of the situation, telling the snobbish diva that she is his wife. So he seizes the opportunity to whisk her off to his dirty run-down shack of a house to raise his three untoward hellions--I mean, boys. This is a fun, wacky, at times, dramatic romance. How this new "family" evolves is both hilarious and sad. And what happens if and when her rich husband discovers where she is?
15. Somewhere in Time
Perhaps a lesser known romantic movie but one definitely worth watching is Somewhere in Time (1980), another timeless romance, starring the late Christopher Reeve and the elegant Jane Seymour. Have you heard of it? Talk about trying to overcome insurmountable odds. These two find it hard to even be in the same room together? Why is that?
Well, these two star-crossed wanna be lovers in two exist in different time periods, yet our hero fights to find this woman. Is it too early for time travel? You've got to see this heart-touching drama that embraces true romance. It's been a long time for me--time to look this one up again!
Classic Romantic Movies
16. An Affair to Remember is a movie to remember, that's for sure! There may be many versions of this film running around, but my favorite is the one from 1957 with the dashing Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Meeting on a cruise, both are committed to other people. Still, they can't help but fall in love, so they agree to take care of some things when they part after the cruise and then meet in six months on the top of the Empire State Building. That's a romantic idea? But do they make it? Or just one of them? Or neither? Watch as they navigate through the obstacles life throws them.
17. Dr. Zhivago is a classic from 1965 based on the book by Boris Pasternak. This movie features a difficult love triangle with a man, played by Omar Sharif, who adores his doting wife but is smitten by the unforgettable Lara. With World War I in the background, this man begins an affair with Lara while he also continues to love and support his wife and family. This movie will keep you on your seat as you are torn as to whom he should choose. This film shows how complicated love can be, all the way until the dramatic, climactic ending.
18. Romeo and Juliet Although this classic Shakespeare play has been made into many different film versions, my favorite is the 1968 version with Olivia Hussey. I've been enthralled with it since my class viewed it in the ninth grade (many years ago). From dueling families, these star-crossed lovers fight the forces that keep them apart. They would rather die than be apart from each other in this life.This tragic love story has many great lines. I memorized the entire balcony scene when in junior high--just for fun! One of the most well known lines is, of course, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
19. Love Story is a romance from the 70's about two young lovers from families of dramatically different socio-economic backgrounds. How they overcome family expectations makes for a classic story. The couple, played by Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw, struggle to make ends meet when O'Neal's rich father cuts him off. Little do the couple know, their marriage will also be tested "through sickness and in health." This movie's famous line is "Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry." This movie has some haunting music that shadows a heartbreaking--and heartwarming--story line. I listened to the soundtrack album (yes, the vinyl 33 size) from the movie when I was a kid--my mother's copy. Now I have my own copy and still stick it on the turntable now and then to listen to the haunting music.
Some might suggest Gone with the Wind as a classic romantic movie, but, in my eyes, the love between Rhett and Scarlett, although passionate, doesn't survive. The characters in these other movies endure, even though death might separate
20. My Fair Lady is a delightful musical about a poor young waif taken in by a wealthy professor. The story is based on the play Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw. I adore the 1964 film version starring the lovely Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, who is a perfect complement to actor Rex Harrison paying the gruff Professor Henry Higgins.
The arrogant professor takes a bet that he can make this poor street urchin presentable by helping her speak correctly and act appropriately. Their journey, as he tries to turn Eliza into a lady, is entertaining, heart-warming, and sure to please.
21 (oops!) The Sound of Music (1965) is a joyful kind of musical, with delightful singing throughout from Julie Andrews, as the nanny, and the seven Von Trapp children. With wealth and status in the way, along with the backdrop of war, a romance between this rich military man and his nanny is unlikely and wrought with barriers to overcome if they are to be together. Seven children, for one!
I was skeptical about this one for years and would actually turn the channel when this movie would come on TV. After I finally watched some of it, I was hooked. I now have my own copy of the movie and am even beckoned by repeats of the film on television. I love the story, and the music sung throughout by the Von Trapps and Julie Andrews is fun!
As you can see, I have a hard time stopping at twenty, as there are many amazing romantic movies out there. Another movie I'll throw in is the 2011 release of Jane Eyre, starring Emma Stone.
I haven't seen this one, but I'm betting with the ever-growing popularity of Emma Stone, along with the classic love story based on a great book, this one is sure to be a winner.
And based on the comments so far on this article, I seem to have been remiss in leaving out a few favorites. Here they are, in brief:
You've Got Mail: (1998) This one was actually on my original list, until I realized I was going heavy on Meg Ryan movies. In this movie, Ryan is paired yet again with Tom Hanks, as they develop an online attraction, not knowing who the other is when they are at each other's throats in real life. It's a darling movie.
Jerry MaGuire: (1996)Tom Cruise and Renee Zeilweger are great together, he as the unscrupulous sports agent, and she as the loyal employee who follows him in his mis-adventures. I had forgotten how much I liked this movie, even though it "had me at hello!"
As Good as it Gets, circa 1997, chronicles an unlikely romance between Helen Hunt's and Jack Nicholson's characters. This movie has both humor and drama. It's fun to watch crotchety ole Melvin (Nicholson) transformed when he has to take care of his neighbor's little dog. Greg Kinnear delivers an outstanding performance as the neighbor who becomes involved in Melvin's and Carol's (Hunt) lives.
Don't discount Kevin Costner in 1991's Robin Hood. This is another beautiful romance with good-looking people in a gorgeous setting! It has Morgan Freeman in it, too!
Okay, one more Meg Ryan film, this time paired with Nicolas Cage in City of Angels (1998). Cage is an angel who falls for the mortal Ryan. Will Cage choose to give up his place in Heaven and join Ryan on earth? And, if he does, can he reverse his decision if her life is cut short? Don't watch this movie unless you have an extra box of tissues.
With this list of ideas, there is surely something for everyone to enjoy on Valentine's Day--or any day. Grab your tissues and snuggle up to your significant other, whether it's a guy or gal or a furry four-legged buddy.