Romance in cinema has come in many shapes and forms since its inception, from the melodramatic or screwball comedic films of the classic era, to the modern star-studded ensemble film. Some romance films are happy and sweet, some are cynical or irreverent.
And then there are some that fully embrace the romance aspect unabashedly. Therefore, the films included here are chosen for their undeniable, categorically, often beautiful quixotic feeling, as well as the sheer number of tropes featured in each film, ranking them as such.
Let's take a look at 15 of the most unabashedly romantic films of all time.
The Notebook (2004)
The love story of the rich girl and poor boy falling in love is a tale that has often been told, but the love story of Allie and Noah is one the most beautiful and touching, and undoubtedly one of the most unabashedly romantic films ever. The film's narrative goes back and forth between the present day where a man is reading a story to a woman in a nursing home who suffers from dementia and memory loss, and a young, passionate couple who fall in love one summer in the 1940s. He's telling her the story of Noah and Allie, who met at a carnival one evening and soon fell hopelessly in love. But because of social differences and family interference, the two are torn apart, only to be reunited years later when she is ready to marry another man.
What gives this film its romantic feel is the lovely 1940s period fare, gentle direction, gorgeous cinematography, and lovely musical score. From its opening scene of a sunset boat ride with gulls flying by, to the quiet beauty of Noah and Allie's boat ride surrounded by hundreds of lily-white geese, to slow dancing to their own version of “I'll Be Seeing You,” to their dramatic and iconic kiss in the rain. Of course, there's also the tender intimacy, the profound and sensitive story, and the passionate chemistry between actors Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in the flashbacks, and the understated warmth and emotion between James Garner and Gena Rowlands in the present. The Notebook is a simple love story but one of great depth of emotion that is deeply romantic in every sense of the word.
- Iconic Quotes: “If you're a bird, I'm a bird.”
- “I want all of you, forever, everyday, you and me.”
Tropes Employed (14): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Family Concerns or Interference, Kissing in the Rain, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Opposites Attract, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, Reunited in Death.
Kate & Leopold (2001)
Time travel is a very common trope in many films, but when it is a romantic film it is particularly wonderful. Such is the case with the sweet and hilarious Kate & Leopold. In the romantic comedy starring Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan, Leopold the Duke of Albany in 1876 follows time traveler Stuart back home to 2001 through a time portal and meets Stuart's ex-girlfriend and neighbor Kate, and despite being total opposites sparks fly. Leopold is a proper gentleman who believes in chivalry and civility and still wants to marry for love despite his Uncle's wishes; Kate is a tough and cynical market researcher who has lost faith in love and romance, until Leopold helps unlock the soft heart she truly has underneath that tough exterior. But being from two different times, the question remains, how will their love prevail?
What makes this film so romantic amongst the humorous fish out of water scenario is the tenderness of Leopold's character and the way he approaches life. He reminds us to let life happen and not rush to everything, and in a simple and straightforward kind of courtship and romance that's based on sincerity. From carriage rides, to candlelit rooftops dinners, and handwritten letters, Kate and Leopold share moments of sweetness and understanding delighting in the simplicities of life such as hearing a nearby man listen to the soundtrack of Breakfast At Tiffany's while cuddling together on the fire escape. Of course, the tension reaches a high as the two face the uncertainty of their future, and it's an absolute, and undoubtedly romantic joy.
- Iconic Quote: “Otis always told me love is a leap. Lamentably I was never inspired to jump.”
- Love Song: “Until…”
Tropes Employed (12): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Time Travel, Dancing, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), References to other films or books, Opposites Attract, Love Overcomes All, Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
While on vacation with her preoccupied fiancé in Italy, aspiring journalist Sophie discovers the “Secretaries of Juliet,” a group of women who write back to all the lovelorn who leave letters in the nearby Casa de Guiliettea asking for advice and counsel. Sophie discovers a 50-year-old letter written by Claire, a woman from England who as a young girl fell in love with an Italian boy, the two planning to run away together; but she loses her courage and returns home. Sophie is completely moved by her words that she decides to write Claire back, and lo and behold Claire and her disapproving and cynical grandson Charlie arrive, and three embark on a journey to find Claire's long-lost love Lorenzo.
The story of Letters to Juliet is romantic enough on its own but what really gives the film all the feels is the gorgeous cinematography of Italy, where every day feels like it's perpetually a sunbathed golden hour, and the ways in which all of its tropes are not just employed but fully embraced in ways that can make us believe in True Love, and that it can be found or restored at any age as the films follows two love stories. From its opening credits of romantic paintings and photographs of lovers, to its stunning locales, Letters to Juliet is a love letter to the purest romantics.
- Iconic Quote: “Destiny wanted us to meet again. Grazie, destino.”
Tropes Employed (12): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Family Concerns or Interference, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Love Overcomes All, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, References to other films or books, Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
This widely successful and beautifully sweeping epic, is part romance and part disaster movie. Of course, the real-life story of the so-called “unsinkable” ship striking an iceberg and sinking in the freezing North Atlantic on April 15, 1912 is well known and a gripping story to tell on its own. But what added to the drama and became the heart of the film was the love story of Jack and Rose, the poor boy and rich girl who meet and have a whirlwind romance before tragedy strikes.
Director James Cameron humanizes the story by giving to dynamic characters fighting for their love before they must also fight for their lives. Their story is enthralling and captivating. Of course, there is more to the film than Jack and Rose, but just like the sought-after Heart of the Ocean necklace, the heart of Titanic is the idea that love can transform our lives in the most profound ways imaginable. Titanic's true beauty is not just in the dazzling artistic achievements, but in the palpable chemistry of its actors, the haunting musical score, the poignant moments of hope, grief and humanity, and the truly moving message that love is what's truly enduring, and unsinkable.
- Iconic Quotes: “You jump, I jump, right!”
- “I'll never go, Jack. I'll never let go.”
- Love Song: “My Heart Will Go On”
Tropes Employed: (12) Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Family Concerns or Interference, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Opposites Attract, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, and Reunited in Death.
One day Tommy and his friend Jeff are hunting in the Scottish highlands when they come across a village that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. There they meet the friendly villagers who are happily but hastily preparing for a wedding. But something is very strange about Brigadoon- they seem to be living in a bygone era and everything remains mysterious, until it's discovered that the town only awakens for a day every 200 years.
This proves to be quite that predicament when Tommy meets Fiona and they two quickly are smitten with each other, their feelings only deepening as the day turns to nightfall. This gentle musical fantasy starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse is dreamy and utterly romantic with its story of a mystical Scottish village that appears out of the mist as if a prince has awakened sleeping beauty, the charming and earnest performances, and lovely songs and dance sequences that express the beauty of falling in love. It's a musical fairy tale that embraces all of its romantic tropes wholeheartedly and showcases that love itself is truly magical.
- Iconic Quote: “I told ye, if you love someone deeply enough, anything is possible.”
- Love Songs: “Almost Like Being in Love,” “The Heather on the Hill”
Tropes Employed (12): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Time Travel, Dancing, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, and Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
The Lake House (2006)
In this poignant romantic fantasy, Alex and Kate are destined soul mates with a connection that includes a great love for a beautiful lake house that they both reside in at different times. The catch is that those times are happening simultaneously. Living two years apart, Kate and Alex discover this miraculous turn of events through the help of a magical mailbox! While the concept may sound wild, the film itself is tender and sweet as the two embark on the lovely lost art of letter writing, engaging in a courtship of the souls, yearning to find a way they can be together in person.
This film embraces its unabashedly romantic quality in the performances by Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves that manage to be magnetic in scenes together and apart, the lilting and gorgeous musical score, and the moving way the story unfolds. In The Lake House we see that it's the love that is meant to be that is the strongest of all.
- Iconic Quote: “The one man I can never meet, him I'd like to give my whole heart to.”
Tropes Employed (11): Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Time Travel, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), References to other films or books, Slow motion or dramatic kiss with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, Movie ends with kiss or wedding.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Jane Austen's classic novel has been adapted to the screen many times, but none embrace the romance of the story quite like Joe Wright's lush and luminous adaptation that features not only superb performances but direction, cinematography, and musical score that enhances that timeless story of love that blossoms over time in spite of first impressions. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy exemplify two people who exhibit prideful and prejudiced moments, but learn from their mistakes and shortcomings.
Two similar people who grow together as their feelings develop, it's a realistic love story set in a world of dreamy dances where you feel as if you're the only two people in the room, passionate arguments in the rain that almost result in a kiss, and misty morning confessions of love that bewitch the soul. Pride & Prejudice has some of the most incandescent and gorgeously romantic scenes ever put to film breathing new life into the timeless story.
- Iconic Quote: “You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you.”
Tropes Employed (11): Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Family Concerns or Interference, Kissing in the Rain, Dancing, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Opposites Attract, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, Movie Ends with Kiss or Wedding.
Some films earn the title of classic not only in terms of when they are made, but in the ways they enter into our lexicon, the ways in which they continue to move generation after generation, and the way they reach in our hearts and put up permanent residence. Casablanca is one of those such films, remaining one cinema's greatest of all time. Set in a Moroccan nightclub that is a place of solace and a safe haven for refugees during WWII, cynical Rick's life is turned upside down when his former lover Ilsa shows up in his gin joint, with her freedom fighter husband who is a fugitive trying to escape the country and the Nazis.
Rick is not only thrust into a world of political intrigue despite his philosophy that he sticks his neck out for no one, but he's forced to confront unresolved feelings for Ilsa, who still remains in love with him as well. Casablanca is not the happiest love story but it's completely romantic in the gorgeous, and noirish cinematography and dramatic score, the palpable chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and the un-ironic dialogue that manages to feel authentic in feeling. Endlessly quotable, this romance is not about a happily ever after, but the strength that a love that will always be with you will give you in the darkest of times. As the song says, “the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”
- Iconic Quotes: “Here's looking at you, kid.”
- “Of all the gin joints, in all the world, she walks into mine.”
- “We'll always have Paris.”
- Love Song: “As Time Goes By”
Tropes Employed (10): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Opposites Attract, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
When movies are romantic on their own, it's a beautiful thing. But when a film has characters aware of their propensity of romance because of their adoration for romantic films we get a creative self-referential delight. That is exactly what Nora's Ephron poignant Sleepless in Seattle does so well. Sam (Tom Hanks) is a widower in Seattle whose son calls in a late-night radio show, wanting help on getting his dad a new wife; Annie (Meg Ryan) is a woman in Baltimore who hears this call and is so touched by what Sam says about his late wife, she is inspired to write him a letter (along with many other single women) as well as do her own research on him.
Feeling both timeless and of its era, and both aware of its unrealistic romantic notions while also fully embracing them, the result is sweet, beautiful and truly touching. With many references and similarities to the classic film An Affair to Remember, the film points out how our romantic expectations can be a hindrance, while still letting us remain hopeful in our search for our soul mate. As Annie's friend Becky tells her, “You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.” Of course, that is impossible, but what Sleepless in Seattle shows us is that doesn't mean we should stop trying to find that person that can make us feel like we are.
- Iconic Quote: “I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like…magic.”
Tropes Employed (10): Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), References to other films or books, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All.
Only You (1994)
The very best romantic comedies will have us laughing as much as we delight and swoon at the romance of the story. Only You is one of the most shining demonstrations of that blend of humor and romance with stunning Italian locales and a wonderful cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, and Bonnie Hunt. This film is undoubtedly for those unabashed romantics who believes in soul mates and destiny. The story follows Faith Corvach, who she believes has known the name of her soul mate since she was 10 years old. Getting the name Damon Bradley off an Ouija Board and from a carnival fortune teller, she kept that name in her heart waiting for destiny to find her.
Flash forward to her as an adult, engaged to a perfectly nice man, she gets a phone call from Damon Bradley who is in Italy, and Faith drops everything to find him, convinced destiny has finally called- literally. With her best friend along for the ride, her world is turned upside down when she finally meets her mister right. This is the kind of story that may seem convoluted to some, but that's the true charm of this film which has some unexpected twists, wonderful performances and that lovely unabashedly romantic feel. With references to Roman Holiday, moonlit carriage rides, and the belief that destiny is written in the stars, Only You is a sheer delight.
- Iconic Quote: “I was born to kiss you.”
Tropes Employed (10): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, References to other films or books, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, and Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
An Affair To Remember (1957)
There is a saying that is often heard in the film world- “They don't make them like this anymore,” and this is certainly true about this classic melodramatic romance. The infamous film referenced on another movie on this list (Sleepless in Seattle), An Affair to Remember follows Nickie and Terry (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr), two people who meet on their cruise home to New York, and fall very much in love, despite being involved with other people.
Wanting to make sure their feelings were not just brought on by the romantic setting and atmosphere, they agree to meet on the top of the Empire State Building in six months' time if they still feel the same. But when tragedy strikes, we don't know if their love will prevail. This is a type of film that's most definitely romantic as there is not one hint of irony or irreverence, but rather lovely, earnest, dramatic moments that remain authentic in feeling. This is as classic as they come, and a film that is worthy of the adoration it receives from romantics everywhere.
- Iconic Quotes: “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories. We've already missed the Spring.”
- “I was looking up. It was the nearest thing to heaven. You were there.”
- Love Song: “An Affair to Remember”
Tropes Employed (10): Whirlwind Romance, Lovers Separated, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
Fools Rush In (1997)
On the surface, one may think this is just a typical, fun 90s rom-com, with an emphasis on the comedy. And while that is certainly true, Fools Rush In leans into the romance more than you may think. In fact, it deserves to be in this unabashedly romantic movies list, because this film and its characters are truly about destiny and looking for signs for they will lead you to where and who you belong with. In true opposites attract style, Isabel and Alex meet and have a one-night stand which results in a pregnancy, and after a meet-the-family dinner, marry quickly.
But despite the haste, the cultural differences, and family concerns, Alex and Isabel soon learn that nothing matters when you find your destiny, something Isabel always believed in and Alex learned to embrace when he met her. Through all the comedic and romantic moments we see a wonderful blend of humor, tenderness and even some poignant themes about family and coming together, never shying away from the idea that signs are everywhere.
- Iconic Quote: “Love is a gift, not an obligation.”
Tropes Employed (10): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Family Concerns or Interference, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Opposites Attract, Love Overcomes All, and Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Vibrant and energetic, this Oscar-winning musical from Director Baz Lurhman stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as the ill-fated lovers set against a fantastical version of the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris at the turn of the century. Christian is the hopeless romantic penniless writer, and Satine is the cynical courtesan who doesn't believe in love. In this musical world, it's not long before love changes everything, except for one sad fact- the fate of the Moulin Rouge is dependent on the financial support of the possessive Duke who wants Satine for himself, so she and Christian must keep their love affair a secret.
There is nothing quite like the kinetic energy and editing style of a Luhrman film, not to mention the gorgeous set pieces which bring to life a dazzling world that can only exist in our dreams. From the storybook look, to the musical numbers of re-imagined pop songs, as well as a poignant original love duet “Come What May,” this film is unabashedly romantic, visually, musically, and story-wise with the tale of lovers who in the end learn that even in the darkest of times, the greatest thing is to love and be loved in return.
- Iconic Quote: “The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”
- Love Song: “Come What May”
Tropes Employed (10): Whirlwind Romance, Soul mates, Family Concerns or Interference, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Opposites Attract, Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music.
Sylvie's Love (2020)
The type of love story romantics truly adore, it's refreshing that even in the modern age of cinema we can still fully embrace a simple romantic story. Set in Harlem New York, the story follows Sylvie, a sweet and ambitious girl who loves television and dreams of working in the field while working in her father's record store, and Robert, a virtuoso saxophonist who dreams of being the next Charlie Parker or John Coltrane who gets a job at said store. After a whirlwind summer romance, professional opportunities and distance break them apart, until a chance encounter years later reignites a spark that never truly faded away.
This tender drama is rich with 1950s period flare and lovely performances from Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha, dreamy cinematography, an old fashioned charm found in films of a bygone era, and the theme that we should never give up on a love that is extraordinary, giving Sylvie's Love its unabashedly romantic feel.
- Iconic Quote: “Do you remember that thing you told me about wanting me to be happy, even if it meant you couldn't be a part of my life? What if I can't be happy unless you're a part of it?”
Tropes Employed (9): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Dancing, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Love Overcomes All.
Equally funny and romantic, Serendipity plays into the idea that fate and destiny are undeniable, and it can lead us to our soul mate if we listen to and believe the signs around us. How we find love is more than just a banal coincidence but a beautifully serendipitous event. For Jonathan and Sara, who meet one evening during Christmas in New York trying to buy the same pair of cashmere gloves, their chance encounter leads to an amazing night together of flirting, ice skating, and the famous frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity itself.
The two then agree to let fate decide if they will find each other again writing their names and phone numbers on a book and five-dollar bill. If they're meant to be those items will find their way back to them. If that isn't enough to give this film its unabashed romantic feel, the earnestness exuding from stars John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale solidifies it. What makes this film so great is that it balances these romantic ideals with sharp humor without ever contradicting it. This is a film that can make us want to travel to New York, visit that famous sweet shop and find the other half of a pair of gloves.
- Iconic Quote: “You don't have to understand you just got to have faith…in destiny.”
Tropes Employed (9): Whirlwind Romance, Fate or Destiny, Soul mates, Lovers Separated, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All.
Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)
This classic film has everything a romance fan is looking for. The beloved story of Holly Golightly, her handsome neighbor, and a cat without a name, is a tale of two lost people who find unexpected love with each other, learning that when we find our person, we can't deny it or run away. Filled with all the romantic tropes this film is most known for Audrey Hepburn‘s incredible fashion, the iconic love song, and that final kiss in the rain. It makes us all dream of finding that huckleberry friend to travel down our own moon river with.
- Iconic Quotes: “If I could ever find a real live place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name.”
- “People do fall in love, People do belong to each other. Because that's the only chance anybody's got for real happiness.”
- Love Song: “Moon River”
Tropes Employed (9): Soul mates, Kissing in the Rain, Love Triangle or Quadrangle, Love Song, Un-ironic Romantic Dialogue, Obstacles (Distance, Time etc), Slow motion or dramatic scene with lilting music, Love Overcomes All, and Movie ends with kiss or Wedding.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks