The 15 Best Romantic Movies to Watch on Valentine’s Day
Everyone's got a favorite Valentine’s Day movie. Even if you scoff at romantic comedies, or roll your eyes at tear-jerkers, we bet there's at least one soft-hearted flick that gets you every time. Whether you're searching for your favorite among the best romantic movies or want to binge some of the top romantic movies of all time, check out our list of the best movies to watch on Valentine’s Day.
A doomed voyage on a doomed ocean liner serves as the backdrop for the doomed romance between steerage level Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and first-class passenger Rose (Kate Winslet), who is engaged to rich jerk Cal (Billy Zane). Umm, you know the rest.
Why We Love It: This movie has everything—historical drama, forbidden love, secret assignations and a tragic finale so heart-rending that no less than astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has weighed in on how it could have had a happier ending.
Love & Basketball (2000)
Could two hoops-obsessed teens grow to love each other as much as they love basketball? This tumultuous love story follows two aspiring professional basketball players, Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan), over 13 years from childhood to post college.
Why We Love It: Have the stakes in a game of b-ball ever been higher than when Monica challenges Quincy to a final one-on-one game? If he loses, he calls off his wedding to another woman and chooses Monica; if not, he marries his fiancée.
Kate and Leopold (2001)
In this rom com with a sci-fi touch, a dashing duke (Hugh Jackman) who time-travels from 1876 to modern-day Brooklyn meets and falls for hard-charging career gal Meg Ryan.
Why We Love It: Just like Kate, our modern-woman resolve crumbles when faced with courtly manners and a well-placed bow. Plus, Hugh wears the hell out of a waistcoat and breeches.
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” With those words begins Jane Austen’s rocky-road-to-romance tale of the spirited Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightly) and her Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen).
Why We Love It: Austen managed to wring every ounce of romance from this, her most famous and best-loved novel. Knightly and the English countryside have never looked more lush and gorgeous. And no matter that you know how it ends, you can’t help but sigh the moment Elizabeth and Darcy admit they were meant to be.
The Notebook (2004)
The film recounts the ups and downs in the star-crossed romance between common country boy Noah (Ryan Gosling) and heiress Allie (Rachel McAdams). All is told as a series of flashbacks as the elderly Noah (James Garner) reads aloud daily from his well-worn notebook of remembrances to the love, Allie (Gena Rowlands) who is stricken with Alzheimer’s.
Why We Love It: An achingly tender story about the enduring power of love, the film’s unabashed sentimentality is the perfect anecdote for these cynical times. Also, this is Ryan Gosling at his most swoon-worthy.
Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
Successful fashion designer Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) returns to her hometown to announce her engagement to the aristocratic son of the mayor of New York City—and secure a divorce from her estranged husband and childhood sweetheart, Jake (Josh Lucas). However, Jake has other ideas.
Why We Love It: Despite the comedic elements, at its heart this is a story about how love has the power to inspire you to do better and be better in order to make yourself worthy of it.
Love Jones (1997)
When suave poet Darius (Larenz Tate) meets gorgeous photographer Nina (Nia Long) at a Chicago jazz club, he’s so sprung he recites a poem about her during the open mic session. That leads to a first date and steamy first date sex. But is their chemistry and mutual attraction enough to build a relationship on?
Why We Love It: A film that gives equal weight to love, sex, and the spoken word is a rare and beautiful thing.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
In this operetta (every line of dialogue is sung), the impossibly beautiful Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), along with her widowed mother, runs a struggling umbrella boutique in Normandy. Auto mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) lives with his ailing aunt. The pair fall in love over the objections of Geneviève’s mother and secretly plan to marry. But fate intervenes when Guy is drafted and goes off to war and Geneviève discovers she is pregnant. As Guy’s letters home become more sporadic, Geneviève begins to fall under the sway of her mother, who would prefer she marry a wealthy jeweler. Will she wait for Guy’s return?
Why We Love It: Bittersweet has never looked so lovely. The heartache is as dark and wrenching as the clothing and interiors are bright and bubbly. And that score! Our toes were tapping as we were crying our eyes out.
In The Mood for Love (2000)
When married next-door neighbors Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) discover their spouses are carrying on an affair, they begin a friendship that develops into an achingly slow-burning—but ultimately chaste—love.
Why We Love It: If loving the notion that the two leads should thumb their nose at morality and give in to their desires is wrong, we don’t want to be right.
Brief Encounter (1945)
It’s a simple story. Laura (Celia Johnson), a housewife, meets married doctor Alec (Trevor Howard) in a railway station. They go to lunch and to the movies. They take a drive and make an awkward trip to an understanding friend’s flat, where they’re both too British to have sex. Realizing an affair and a future together is impossible, and not wanting to hurt their families, they agree to part after one final poignant meeting in the train station. In other words nothing—and everything—happens.
Why We Love It: Although Laura and Alec are blanketed beneath layers and layers of British properness, there are oceans of emotion roiling just beneath that icy surface.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
In the early 1960s, cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are hired to herd sheep in the Wyoming mountains. An evening of whiskey drinking on the range leads to a night of passion. By morning, Ennis and Jack agree that what happened between them was a “one time deal” and they spend most of the rest of the film alternately giving in to and trying to run away from their deep love and longing for one another.
Why We Love It: Circumstances of time and place force Ennis and Jack to deny not only their own natures but the one great passion either will ever feel. Watching their love being snuffed out and their sense of self subsumed by convention is heartbreaking cinema of the highest order.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Ahhh, those heady days before the advent of Match, eHarmony, and Tinder. The moment Annie (Meg Ryan), a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, hears grieving widower Sam (Tom Hanks), talking on a radio call-in show about his difficulties getting over the death of his wife and raising his young son in Seattle, the audience knows the pair are destined to be together. So what if they live on different coasts and she’s engaged?
Why We Love It: Long distance love, many allusions to An Affair to Remember (see #14) and that ending atop the Empire State Building. Sublime.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
A quintessentially British film that centers on a group of friends who always seem to be attending one wedding or another. When perennial best man Charles (Hugh Grant at his most boyish and charming) meets and beds visiting American Carrie (Andie MacDowell) at wedding number one, he believes he’s finally met his match, but they part. However, their paths keep crossing over the course of many months, and a handful of nuptials.
Why We Love It: It has wit and charm to spare. The dialogue sparkles—and those accents! But for us, what seals the deal is Charles’ stammering declaration of love "Um, look. Sorry, sorry.... I, I just wondered... I really feel... in short, to recap in a slightly clearer version, uh, in the words of David Cassidy, in fact, um, while he was still with The Partridge Family, uh, 'I Think I Love You', and uh, I, I just wondered whether by any chance you wouldn't like to... uh... uh... um. No, no, no. Of course not. I'm an idiot….” Indeed.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
A playboy (Cary Grant) and a songstress (Deborah Kerr) fall in love on a transatlantic liner. Both are already attached but when they dock at New York, they decide to rendezvous in six months at the top of the Empire State Building. If they both show up, they will spend their lives together in bliss. If one has a change of mind… well. Of course, one doesn’t keep the appointment, but is the reason what you think?
Why We Love It: There could never be a list of the best romance movies without Cary Grant making an appearance. Throw in a romance aboard an ocean liner and we’re a goner. We defy anyone to maintain a dry eye during the climax. This is the love story by which all others are judged.
A love story that is as loud as it is funny. Loretta Castorini, a widowed bookkeeper (Cher), gets engaged to mama’s boy Johnny Cammereri (Danny Aiello). It’s not exactly a love match, but he’s nice enough and Loretta really wants to be wed. But when she visits Johnny’s estranged brother Ronnie (Nicholas Cage)—a fiery baker who blames his brother for the accident that left him with only one hand—to invite him to their wedding, the two fall instantly, passionately, lustfully in love. They spend the rest of the movie trying to figure it all out.
Why We Love It: Moonstruck isn’t concerned with chaste love or quiet romance. Love, in this film, is big, loud and messy; passion is all-consuming. It’s hilarious and with a heart big enough to reach several generations of Loretta’s extended family.