I recently asked the 9500 women who follow me on Facebook: Name your favorite romantic movie. Every movie that got more than one vote I entered into a spreadsheet. Then I ranked them by number of votes. So if you’re looking for the best romantic movies or the best romantic comedies, you came to the right place!
And so, without further adieu, here are the top 50 most romantic movies according to the readers of this blog (and my followers on Facebook), along with a bit of my commentary:
1. The Notebook
An unlikely couple fall madly in love as teens, but are separated by her parents and circumstances. They find each other years later, and the love is still blazing.
Honestly, I don’t think this movie would have worked without the parallel story of the couple when they’re older, played by James Garner and Gena Rowland. The young love story is a little annoying. The witness of the love through the years is lovely. And the final scene is the best I have ever seen in a movie. I totally understand why this was #1!
The downside? Lots of sex before marriage. And I’ve told my girls not to watch it because it’s really quite erotic. They don’t need that at their age.
I combined votes for both versions (the BBC version and the Keira Knightley version) into one. There really is nothing more romantic than Mr. Darcy, who loves Elizabeth, and pursues her relentlessly though he’s rather bad at it. The five hour version is still my favourite.
What I love about Jane Austen, who wrote the book that inspired the movie adaptations, is that she treats love like it should be a serious choice, not just an infatuation we give in to. Elizabeth doesn’t care for Mr. Darcy at all at first, but as she knows his character, he becomes attractive to her. That’s the way to decide whom to marry; to look at the person objectively and realize whether or not they would be a good choice. How many women have rejected perfectly wonderful marriage partners because that weak-kneed feeling wasn’t there right off the bat? Austen shows us that true, deep love is a combination of attraction and deliberation, and it really works.
A lout of a guy has taken his wife for granted, used porn, and acted selfishly. Now he’s in danger of her leaving, and reality hits and he does a 180. He decides to love her unconditionally. His pursuit of her is certainly romantic, and it gives us hope that even difficult relationships can be turned around when one party decides to fight for love. A beautiful gospel message intertwined, too.
Definitely romantic. A husband dies young, and his bereft widow is completely at loose ends. Can she ever love again, or even get on with her life? I really enjoyed this movie, though I found the final relationship she settled in a little bit too typical. They go to bed first, then the love comes. A little much. But what I appreciated about the movie was that it portrayed her marriage realistically. She and her husband hadn’t always gotten along. They’d both annoyed each other. They’d both done things wrong. Yet the love was real and enduring.
Sometimes, when I want to tell my husband I love him, I still say, “As you wish”. You cannot explain this movie. You have to experience it. It’s in a category by itself, and even kids can enjoy it along with adults. Robin Wright did a superb job as Buttercup. And there are certain lines you will never, ever forget. Is it romantic? Perhaps that word doesn’t mean what we think it means.
An oldie but a goodie! But true confessions: I’ve never seen it. My whole knowledge of it is tied up in all the references to it in Sleepless in Seattle. So this is on my “must watch” list now! It is a classic, though, so I’m going to assume it’s great because it’s stood the test of time.
The first big blockbuster movie to delve into the question: can we fall in love with someone we met online? Director Nora Ephron brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together again for this movie after the success of Sleepless in Seattle. The two seem destined to do movies where they’re each other’s love interest, but appear together in hardly any scenes. I really did enjoy this one. Again, it shows that the main point of choosing whom to love is delving into their character. I’m all for movies like that!
True confessions: I haven’t seen this one either. Never even really heard of it, but so many people rated it the most romantic ever! So now I’ll have to. I have nothing to say about this one, except it’s next on my list. It’s based on a Nicholas Sparks book, and while I love some Sparks books, I don’t love them all. So we’ll have to see whether this is a good one!
9. Ever After
Love this movie! Drew Barrymore stars in an adaptation of Cinderella that truly works. As long as you realize this is supposed to be a fairytale, the movie is lovely. The scene with the gypsies is hilarious, well done, and definitely romantic. Best of all, there’s nothing objectionable in this movie. Old and young can enjoy it together. I think we watched it when our youngest was 7 for the first time, and we all loved it.
If people realized they could vote for PARTS of movies, and not whole movies, I’m sure this would have been #1. The most romantic 9 minutes of movie time ever. Here it is:
11. Time Traveler’s Wife
A man is born with a horrible condition where he travels through time involuntarily. Things could be going well, and all of a sudden he’ll be gone. And you don’t know when he’s coming back.
But in his travels he meets and marries his wife, who has to live with never knowing when her husband will be there. And everytime he comes, he’s out of sequence. Sometimes he’ll be 50 when she’s 20, and sometimes vice versa.
I suppose it’s romantic, but I couldn’t really get into it. Still, it’s pretty high on the list. Not one of my favorites, though. I think I analyze time travel movies too much.
I love Austen! And the scene where Elinor finally loses it, after a whole movie of keeping her emotions in check, and starts bawling at Edward’s proposal is one of my favourite movie moments of all time. This movie is as close to perfect as any movie I have ever seen. Emma Thompson, who stars in it but who also wrote the screenplay, did an amazing job of capturing Austen’s story in just 2 1/2 hours. And I totally agree with the main message of this movie: Don’t let your feelings carry you away; love should be deep, and based on something beyond just feelings.
A warning, though: this really is a chick flick. Watch it with your girlfriends, don’t make your husband sit through it!
Two Kate Winslet movies in a row! Yet this one is the opposite of Sense and Sensibility–it’s all feelings and drama and emotion. And no one has to wonder what the ending will be. Everything in this movie is big–the love, the emotion, the tragedy. And it’s all magnified because we know what’s coming. The love in this is just over the top–I mean they only had a few days to fall madly in love because the ship’s going to sink. If you’re in the mood for a sweeping escape, fine. But don’t think that this is actually true to real life love! And the sex scenes are graphic, too.
The quintessential romantic movie. In fact, Nora Ephron made this movie to celebrate romance in movies. It works. You really root for them by the end. A fun chick flick. What I like about it, too, is that they include Hanks’ character’s son in the romance. It’s not just about two people; it’s about taking on an entire family that needs love. That’s real love. It’s not profound, but fun.
15. The Vow
I was a little disappointed in this movie, as I’ve written before. The true story is better than the fictional one presented here. The truth: a couple has been married briefly when she suffers a serious head injury. She awakes and does not remember him (and in fact thinks she’s still in a relationship with someone else). Her personality has changed. Yet he sticks by her because he made a vow, and in the end they’re happy together. The movie version isn’t really about the vow, it’s about “true love”. We have to push through because we had the real thing. I agree to an extent, but I just wanted it to be about commitment, not feelings. Still, a nice movie, if seeing Channing Tatum shirtless multiple times won’t make you think your husband’s a schlub.
A young, idealistic girl discovers a letter left 50 years ago, and decides to answer it, putting in motion two lovers, long separated, finding each other again. In the meantime, she discovers things about herself, and explores what love really means. A cute movie, but again, it’s probably one best saved for girlfriends and not husbands.
It’s the girl from the wrong side of the tracks meets the uptight rich guy and helps him embrace life and not just business. I’ve combined votes for the two versions into one, though some really preferred the Harrison Ford one, and others preferred Hepburn I’m not certain that marriages based on opposites actually work in the long run that well (though they certainly can). Whichever, it’s a nice story. Not profound, but very, very nice.
Poor, lonely Lucy (Sandra Bullock) works at the subway, watching other people go by and lead their lives. And in her imagination, she’s going to marry Peter. When Peter is thrown in front of a train and Lucy rescues him, she’s mistaken for his fiancee and embraced by his family. When Peter awakes with amnesia, he starts to believe it, too. But in the meantime Lucy learns how to live in real life, and falls for Peter’s brother instead, whose character is immensely better. I liked this one a lot.
I’ve never seen this one either, but reading about it on Amazon has made me want to rush out and get it! Set in the 1880s in the sweeping Australian outback, the movie follows a young man with a way with horses trying to keep his family farm together. Apparently the romance in this is lovely, the acting perfect, and the cinematography gorgeous.
I read this book and really loved it, and I know I saw the movie ages ago, but I don’t remember it. Now I’ll have to watch it again! Starring Christopher Reeve, it tells the story of a man in present day who falls in love with the picture of an actress from 1912. He figures out a way to transport himself back in time to meet her, where the attraction is mutual. But the slightest reminder of the modern world can send him back to the 1980s, so their relationship is always in jeopardy. A tear-jerker, apparently.
Okay, this one I can endorse wholeheartedly. It’s a British miniseries that tells the story of an earnest young woman, the daughter of a pastor who has been ostracized for stating his true beliefs. So they leave their idyllic home in the south to go to the industrial north, where she is thrown into the path of rich factory owners. Torn between her sympathy for the plight of the workers and the growth of her feelings for one particular rich dude, she has to make a choice. A very romantic ending, and an interesting look at social justice issues from the early days of the industrial revolution.
22. Love Story
This 1970s film follows law student Ryan O’Neal, who defies his family to marry musician Ali McGraw. But their marriage is destined to be short lived when illness strikes. You can’t get more tear jerker than this. For two decades this was THE romantic movie of all time, until people started to forget it. I’ve never actually seen it, either. Perhaps I’ll watch it, but it sounds just too sappy to me! UPDATE: A commenter said that it has the F word throughout, so you may want that warning!
23. Return to Me
Another one I haven’t seen, but after reading the reviews on Amazon I think I’ll have to. It’s billed as a comedy, and lots of people said it was hilarious, but the plot seems so SAD. A man in a great marriage loses his wife to an accident. At the same time, another woman (played by Minnie Driver) is about to die unless she gets a heart transplant. She received the heart, and then a year later the two meet (without knowing their connection). It’s on my list!
24. 50 First Dates
Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler did so well together in The Wedding Singer that they were brought back for this movie, focusing on Barrymore’s character who has suffered a brain injury which means that each time she goes to sleep she loses all memory after her accident. She can only remember one day at a time, and every day she meets Sandler for the “first time”. It was cute, not profound. His pursuit of her is lovely, and the ending is satisfying.
25. Young Victoria
A wonderful movie about a real-life love story. Everyone is trying to control young Princess Victoria, for when she is queen, they all want power. Yet what Victoria really wants is to make her own decisions. Meanwhile, everyone is trying to control Prince Albert of Prussia, too, though he, too, yearns to be his own man. He’s sent to London to try to woo her, and ends up succeeding, though not for the reasons his family wants. A lovely story. If only the two have been together longer in real life, for she spent so long in mourning for him. A great movie to watch with your teens (especially girls), too.
26. Family Man
I cannot say enough good about this movie, either (I even featured it in this post!). Nicolas Cage plays a selfish jerk who has every material comfort and success. Then one day, an angel figure gives him a glimpse of what his life could have been like, had he chosen to marry his college sweetheart. He lives in a small house; he has a bad job; his clothes are ugly. Yet he has the love of a wonderful, faithful woman, and his kids are darling. In the end, that’s what he wants, and when he gets back to his “real” life he decides to pursue it. A great movie showing that what really matters in life is relationships, not success. Guys will like it, too (though there’s a rather scantily clad female at the beginning you may want to fast forward through).
The ultimate in romance, supposedly. Patrick Swayze’s character dies, but is desperate to get a message back to his love Demi Moore, who is now in danger. He finds that he can channel himself through a reluctant Whoopi Goldberg. Honestly, I couldn’t get past the weird spiritual ramifications of this one. I think it’s dangerous to flirt with the paranormal. But this did resonate with many of my readers.
If a cartoon can be romantic, my readers think this one is it! I agree it’s good, but only if you see the relationship properly. We have too many “beauty and the beast” fantasies as women about how we can tame our beasts, and we forget that The Beast was tamed because he was accepted AS A BEAST. The acceptance allowed him to flower. It wasn’t that she loved the potential inside of him; it was that she loved him. A good lesson for us all.
Another Austen movie! Rich Emma doesn’t want to marry, but she loves making sure that those around her do, and so determines to find a proper husband for Harriett. Yet all goes wrong as she convinces Harriett to throw aside a perfectly good match and aim for something higher. In the meantime, Emma strains her relationship with her Mr. Knightley, whom she eventually does marry. What I love about the film is that it shows, Austen style, that character should always trump all other considerations when marriage is involved. Another great movie to watch with girlfriends, not to make your husband sit through.
I loved these adaptations of the Janette Oke books. In the first movie, Marty (played by Kathleen Heigl) travels west with her husband in search of a new beginning. But when her husband dies in an accident, she finds herself alone and in trouble. Clark, a recent widower himself, suggests a platonic “marriage of convenience”. And predictably, their love deepens. It’s a very satisfying movie, and I enjoyed it immensely. Great to watch with kids, too.
Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep star in this movie asking what real love is. Meryl Streep’s marriage is loveless. She isn’t understood and isn’t cherished. Then one weekend, when her family is gone, she meets Clint, and they have a passionate, enthralling affair. At the end, she turns him away and chooses her family, but she never forgets him. Honestly, I have a hard time including this movie in the list, but I’m trying to be true to what my readers reported. This is a dangerous one to see. Is it romantic? Some may say so. But it’s about an affair, and any woman who has ever felt dissatisfied in her marriage could easily watch this and just yearn for that time away from her husband, where she could briefly live another life. I think it’s better to spend our emotions trying to make our marriages more romantic, rather than dreaming of something better.
UPDATE: I’m not sure I made my reservations about this movie firm enough, so I’m going to take another stab at it. The problem with this movie is that it makes an affair SEEM romantic. Affairs wreck marriages, tear families apart, and haunt children forever. It is NEVER worth it. And I’m a little disappointed that so many of my readers voted for this one. The love story in it IS enticing, but honestly, we should know better.
I’m Canadian, so how could I not agree? A great series, and a lovely story, based on the best children’s book of all time. If you haven’t watched it with your kids, do it! There are three Anne of Green Gables installments; the first one is her childhood (great for kids); the second is the romantic one. And the third? Well, the directors and writers lost their minds with the third and wrecked it. Just watch the first two and you’ll be fine.
33. The Proposal
The classic opposites attract movie. She’s uptight and emotionally repressed; he’s from a close-knit family and is remarkably stable. But she’s the boss. When she needs a marriage of convenience to avoid deportation, she blackmails him into marriage. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds are both great in this, and it’s a FUN movie. The end scene back in the office always makes me want to jump my husband. But it treats marriage far too lightly, and forgets that it is a commitment. Everyone does everything backwards here. So see it for fun if you want, but don’t try to glean any great truths out of it.
Never heard of this movie until it made the list, but now I have to see it! It’s “clean”; no bad language or elicit scenes. But a young girl makes a mistake and winds up pregnant during World War II. Her parents insist that she won’t bear a child out of wedlock, so she marries a reserved, shy farmer. Love apparently develops. Sounds lovely. I like the whole premise–that too often we are looking for wild passion, when it is the loveliness of ordinary days, with ordinary love, that ends up being so extraordinary.
Is this actually romantic? I don’t remember. I just remember a lot of violence, but I saw it so long ago. Apparently my readers think it’s romantic, though! Maybe this is a good date night movie, then, since the action will satisfy the men, too.
“Frankly, Scarlett…” this is just too cheesy for me! And I think I didn’t like it because Scarlett is so unlikable. She marries the wrong people. She hurts those she loves. She’s just so selfish. But I think the reason the story works is that in Rhett she finally meets her match. She finally finds a man who will stand up to her. In the end, though, she can’t keep him. It’s great to see from a historical standpoint, just to watch what they thought was entertainment and romance back in the 1930s.
The only thing people remember about the movie is that ONE SCENE that made Meg Ryan famous. I wracked my brain trying to remember the rest of the movie to figure out something to say. So here goes. What I like: it shows how the deepest love usually grows out of an enduring friendship. Sometimes we focus too much on wanting to be “swept away” that we miss the decent guy that’s right in front of us. A good lesson.
38. Music and Lyrics
Another Drew Barrymore one–this time pairing her with Hugh Grant (who really is too old for her), which I never thought worked. Hugh Grant’s character had one hit song back in the 1980s, and now he needs a comeback. So together poet Drew and songwriter Hugh try to come up with a hit song. A cute movie, though I didn’t think much of it at the time. The absolute BEST part of it, though, that I will never forget, is the “mock” 1980s song they created to have been the hit. They even made a video, and my girls and I STILL sing it all the time because it is just so bad (and I don’t know how they managed to encapsulate all the badness of 1980s videos so well). Honestly, even if you don’t see the movie, watch the video. I laugh so hard I almost pee every time:
Here’s a romantic comedy for those who aren’t 20. Jack Nicholson’s character has always dated younger women. Diane Keaton’s character is sure that she is past the age of romance. And you can guess where this one goes. It’s cleverer than most movies, and it doesn’t pander to the young. Still, it doesn’t focus on traditional values at all, so if you’re offended by that, here’s your warning.
Another Jack Nicholson offering. In this one, he’s a romantic novelist of all things, but in real life he’s mean and he’s suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder–truly suffering from it. His relationship with his gay neighbour and a down-on-her-luck waitress (Helen Hunt) start to personalize him and help him step outside of himself.
I remember liking this as a movie but not as a romance, because Hunt was too young for him, and I always thought he didn’t deserve her.
41. Bed of Roses
Few people have seen this, but I really loved it. It answers the question: can love and marriage heal a person? Christian Slater is very together. He’s relatively wealthy, he has a great family, he’s stable. But he’s lonely. Mary Stuart Masterson is successful but highly screwed up, stemming from a tragic, abusive childhood. She tries to keep everything under control, and doesn’t understand romance. Slater falls deeply in love and pursues her. In so doing, she gets scared and runs away. In the end, what the movie shows is that love CAN heal, but only if you enter the relationship strong. If you’re too needy, love can’t make up for the hole in your heart (and, as I believe, only God can). But it’s a beautiful story of how we really aren’t designed to be alone.
Reese Witherspoon’s character has a problem. She’s rich, she’s successful, and her even more successful boyfriend wants to marry her. But many years ago, back home in Alabama, she was married. And they never technically divorced. So now, before she can marry the boyfriend, she has to confront her past (and her ex) and get him to sign divorce papers. At the same time, she has to juggle a false identity she’s been parading to her New York friends. Guess what happens? (yeah, it’s kind of predictable). A highly satisfying movie, if a little forgettable.
The last Austen movie to make the list! This is actually the most romantic Austen book, though the movie isn’t as high calibre as the others on the list. A decade ago Anne refused the hand of Frederick because he wasn’t wealthy, and she was persuaded by an older, female mentor to wait for a more eligible match. Ten years have gone by and she has never gotten over her love, and never had another offer. She has withered away, and lost her beauty. Frederick, meanwhile, has made his fortune and he returns home. And now she has to watch him court other women. Will they ever find each other again? (Yeah, you probably know the answer to that one). Incidentally, they think this was the most autobiographical of Austen’s books. She likely was persuaded against a marriage early in her life, and she never received another offer.
44. Hope Floats
In a story that mirrors Sandra Bullock’s real life a little too much, Bullock’s character discovers that her husband is cheating on her when he reveals it on a national talk show. She heads back to her mother’s home in Texas to lick her wounds, where she meets a guy (Harry Connick Jr. ) who has held a torch for her since high school. Another feel good movie that is a tad forgettable, but fun at the time.
45. Shall We Dance
Okay, I really liked this movie because of what DIDN’T happen. Richard Gere’s character needs something more in his life, and when he keeps passing a dance studio on his way to work, he decides to stop in and start taking lessons. Jennifer Lopez’ character is the teacher, and the two develop an obvious attraction. As he gets better at dancing he’s in demand as a partner, and his wife (Susan Sarandon) starts to worry he’s having an affair. But he never does. And in the end, he asks her to dance. From that movie is one of my favourite clips of all time, that I included in yesterday’s post. But I think what it teaches us is that all marriages get into ruts. Gere wanted to pull his out, but he did it alone. If he had talked to his wife first, and involved her, they would have been so much happier. Ruts aren’t the problem; how we deal with them are the problem.
46. Lake House
Another movie I haven’t seen, but it looks intriguing. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves team up again after the success of Speed for this romance. Reeves moves into a glass house on a lake, and starts corresponding through the mailbox with a former tenant (Bullock). But soon they discover that they’re actually living two years apart. Sounds like a cool time travel movie.
47. Far and Away
Want to watch Tom Cruise before he went nuts? Here’s your chance, in this epic movie sweeping across Ireland, New York immigrant communities, and the race for land in Oklahoma. It’s another opposites attract movie: Cruise is a scrapping Irish tenant farmer; Nicole Kidman is an aristocratic Protestant. Thrown together in New York they pretend to be siblings, but eventually something deeper grows. It shows the underside of early New York so well, and shows the desperation, and the hard work, that went in to building North America.
48. My Big, Fat Greek Wedding
Don’t watch this one without a bottle of Windex handy. Oh, my goodness, what a fun movie. Guys will love it, too! And it’s a great portrayal of how we can both decide who we want to be, and keep those roots with our families, too. Toula has always been embarrassed by her big loud Greek family, and yearns for a different life. But when she starts dating Ian, who comes from a staid, WASP family, she finds that she loves her family after all, and there really is room for all.
49. Notting Hill
The only Julia Roberts film to make the list, which is interesting since she’s usually considered the queen of romance! In this film, she’s a famous movie star, and Hugh Grant plays a boring bookstore owner. A chance encounter leads to a brief affair. And when Roberts needs to escape the paparazzi, she turns to Grant. But is he willing to live in her kind of life? I thought the portrayal of Grant’s friends and family were lovely in this movie, though I wasn’t overly fond of their romance. It was focused too much on sex. And it seemed they were both looking for an escape from their lives, not really for each other, and I don’t think that reason for marriage bodes well in the long run.
If you can fast forward through the graphic sex scenes (that show Gwyneth Paltrow naked) and live with the fact that William Shakespeare was actually having an affair, this is a great movie and definitely deserved its Oscars. I’d see it not as a romance but as a historical movie, because I think it raises some interesting historical possibilities. What was the story behind Romeo and Juliet? Was there more to Shakespeare’s subsequent plays than we think? In this movie, Paltrow wants so badly to be an actor, but she’s a woman. So she dresses up as a man, and is hired to play Romeo. Shakespeare discovers Paltrow is really a girl, and the two start an affair. But Paltrow can’t escape her family obligations to marry a complete lout, and so she does, knowing she’ll be miserable. Great performances by all, including Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck and Judy Dench. But seriously, fast forward through the sex scenes.
So that’s what you all picked! Thank you for your votes. I’d like to add one more movie, just another feel good one, that sums up my attitude towards romances, and it’s The Wedding Singer. It’s hilarious as a look back at the 80s, and Sandler and Barrymore are great. But one thing I really liked about it was the central message that when you’re choosing a mate, you’d better look at character. Don’t get married for the sake of getting married; really look at WHO you’re marrying. The most romantic movies will have that as their main theme! So I’ll let Sandler have the last word:
Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!
Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.