Best Romance Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best romance movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (2017) – Luca Guadagnino

Timothée Chalamet was devastating during the end credits after a broken heart by his dad’s research assistant (Armie Hammer) in James Ivory’s Oscar-winning script directed by international darling Luca Guadagnino.

29. ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips’ (1939) – Sam Wood

The misty mountain meeting and train station farewell between Robert Donat and Greer Garson were so memorable that it’s easy to forget that they’re only a small part of this classic about a beloved school teacher.

28. ‘Now, Voyager’ (1942) – Irving Rapper

Bette Davis and Paul Heinreid smoked suggestive cigarettes on a cruise line tryst that built to one of the great Hollywood romance lines of all time: “Don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

27. ‘The Heiress’ (1949) – William Wyler

Featuring one of the great final shots of any movie, this romance won four Oscars, including Best Actress for Olivia de Havilland, whose naive heiress falls for Montgomery Clift’s handsome fortune hunter.

26. ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952) – John Ford

Few movie kisses are more iconic than John Wayne spinning Maureen O’Hara, red hair blowing in the wind during an Irish thunderstorm. It was so iconic that Steven Spielberg restaged it with Elliot in “E.T.”

25. ‘Chungking Express’ (1994) – Wong Kar-Wai

Before “Happy Together,” Wong Kar-Wai made his powerful debut with this kinetic tale of heartbroken cops finding love amid expired pineapples and “California Dreamin’.”

24. ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ (1995) – Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood showed his softer side by directing himself as a traveling covered-bridge photographer who romances lonely housewife Meryl Streep.

23. ‘Jules & Jim’ (1962) – Francois Truffaut

Arguably the most famous love triangle of international cinema, Jeanne Moreau is torn between the two title beaus, running across a bridge in one of the most iconic images of the French New Wave.

22. ‘Sense & Sensibility’ (1996) – Ang Lee

Ang Lee won the Golden Globe for Best Picture while Emma Thompson won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in the greatest of all Jane Austen films, just ahead of Joe Wright’s “Pride & Prejudice.”

21. ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1939) – William Wyler

Laurence Olivier falls for Merle Oberon in this classic literary romance captured beautifully by Gregg Toland’s Oscar-winning cinematography.

20. ‘Remains of the Day’ (1992) – James Ivory

Of all the Merchant-Ivory productions, it’s hard to top this costume drama about a butler (Anthony Hopkins) who falls for the new housekeeper (Emma Thompson) in the run-up to World War II.

19. ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998) – John Madden

While it’s an outrage that it beat “Saving Private Ryan” for Best Picture, this tale of a young Shakespeare falling for the muse of one his most famous plays is one of the most creative scripts ever written.

18. ‘Witness’ (1985) – Peter Weir

After Han Solo and Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford was charming as an undercover cop hired to protect a young murder witness in Amish country, where he falls for the innocent Kelly McGillis.

17. ‘Carol’ (2015) – Todd Haynes

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara fall for each other in a taboo romance against 1950s social norms, captured by Todd Haynes’ exquisitely colorful compositions in one of the most underrated films of the 21st century.

16. ‘Marty’ (1955) – Delbert Mann

Paddy Chayefsky’s play-to-screen adaptation won the Best Picture Oscar and Cannes Palme d’Or in a story so quietly brilliant that its emotional impact sneaks up on you with blinding truth about loving who makes you happy, no matter what others think.

15. ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ (1948) – Max Ophuls

“By the time you read this letter, I may be dead.” So begins Max Ophuls’ brilliantly directed romance between the never-better Joan Fontaine and the eternally suave Louis Jourdan.

14. ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000) – Wong Kar-Wai

Few films are as perfectly photographed as Wong Kar-Wai’s tale of two Hong Kong neighbors who bond over suspicions that their spouses are cheating, developing feelings for each other while trying to stay platonic.

13. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ (1959) – Alain Resnais

Alain Resnais’ French New Wave masterpiece follows a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) shooting an anti-war film while having a fling with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) in the ashes of Hiroshima, Japan.

12. ‘Brief Encounter’ (1945) – David Lean

While David Lean is known for sweeping epics like “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Brief Encounter” is proof that he can deliver a small, intimate romance about two strangers who meet by chance at a train station.

11. ‘An Affair to Remember’ (1957) – Leo McCarey

Released in between “Love Affair” (1939) and “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), this version of two lovers meeting atop the Empire State Building remains the best rendition thanks to the chemistry between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

10. ‘The Way We Were’ (1973) – Sydney Pollack

Political differences doom this romance between Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, who croons the Oscar-winning title song by the late great Marvin Hamlisch, who also won for Best Score. Sing it now: “Memories!”

9. ‘Love Story’ (1970) – Arthur Hiller

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Forget the soapy tragedy of Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal; go back and watch how Arthur Hiller directs this tale with artistry, all set to Francis Lai’s Oscar-winning score.

8. ‘The Notebook’ (2004) – Nick Cassavetes

The best Nicholas Sparks adaptation saw Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams play the younger versions of James Garner and Gena Rowlands, whose son Nick Cassavetes directs the most iconic romance of the 21st century.

7. ‘Dirty Dancing’ (1987) – Emile Ardolino

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” Patrick Swayze lifted Jennifer Grey into movie history at an upscale Catskills resort as Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes belted the Oscar-winning song “Time of My Life.”


6. ‘A Place in the Sun’ (1951) – George Stevens

Few embraces are as romantic as Elizabeth Taylor kissing Montgomery Clift in George Stevens’ bulging, soft-focus close-ups to Franz Waxman’s violins in this ill-fated love triangle doomed by Shelley Winters in a rowboat.

5. ‘Before Sunrise’ (1995-2013) – Richard Linklater

Before “Boyhood,” Linklater followed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they simply walked and talked in “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” showing a relationship over incremental ages.

4. ‘To Have and Have Not’ (1944) – Howard Hawks

Lauren Bacall taught real-life lover Humphrey Bogart how to “whistle” while sailing to Martinique in the best of the Bogie & Bacall romances. When Bogart died in 1957, Bacall fittingly had a whistle placed in his casket.

3. ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961) – Blake Edwards

Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly sings “Moon River” to George Peppard, doubting her feelings for him then leaping out of a New York cab for a kiss in the rain. Who says there’s no such thing as a happy ending?

2. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005) – Ang Lee

“I wish I knew how to quit you.” Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal pioneer a tearjerking gay cowboy romance, while Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are unforgettable as their suspecting wives at home.

1. ‘Casablanca’ (1942) – Michael Curtiz

“Play it, Sam.” “We’ll always have Paris.” “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” You won’t find better dialogue or higher stakes than this romance between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, whose reluctant hero symbolizes U.S. involvement in World War II. Like the song says, the world will always welcome lovers as time goes by.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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