I can’t help it. I’m a hopeless romantic who just loves… love! And this year I have found the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my honey: cooking a romantic dinner at home over a bottle of wine—maybe some smooth jazz in the background—and parking it on the couch to watch some romantic movies, share a dessert, and snuggle up next to my love.
Whether you’re curled up with your S.O. or parking it on the couch with Ben and Jerry, consider this list your official plan for the evening. If you’re looking for something to warm your heart, make you laugh out loud, cry your eyes out, or squeal with delight, these romantic movies will give you all the warm and fuzzies this Valentine’s Day, whether you like it or not. Happy love day!
THE PLOT: This movie follows nine intertwining stories all connected through the complexities of love. What happens when a prime minister falls for a staff member? Or when a writer comes home to find his wife is having an affair with his husband? Or when you are in love with your best friend’s wife? Full of many twists and turns and an incredible cast of characters, Love Actually is a timeless classic.
WHY WE LOVE IT: While I usually watch this movie around Christmas time, every time that I see it streaming on TV I just have to sit down and watch. The characters are so enthralling that I find myself passionately rooting for them, loving them, and (sometimes) hating them all at once. It follows all different kinds of relationships of all different ages and scenarios, making sure there is something in it for everyone.
THE PLOT: This classic romance is a fictional love story about Jack and Rose, passengers on the fateful Titanic voyage. Jack and Rose could not be more different: Rose is a wealthy first-class member and Jack his ticket in a gambling match. Rose is engaged to be married and Jack is just living day-to-day, but when they meet, they cannot deny their connection. The Titanic brings to life their quick but life-changing love story in such a way that will leave you in tears when it ends.
WHY WE LOVE IT: I watched this movie again just this week and was completely resubmerged into the desperation, heartbreak, and passion that is The Titanic. You truly feel like you are on the ship with the characters and feel their joys, losses, and pains as if they were your own. While this is one of the most romantic movies of all time, it is also packed with action to entertain everyone.
THE PLOT: Moonrise Kingdom, directed by the genius that is Wes Anderson, is a charming coming of age movie that takes place in the mid-to-late 90’s. When two 12-year-olds run away to escape their conventional lives, it turns the community upside down. This dramatic comedy does an incredible job of showing the often ironic nature of children and adults, as children run circles around the adults, free of the brokenness that the adults have endured.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Not only is the plot of this movie captivating, but the film’s whimsical nature, beautiful pastel coloring, and soundtrack make it enchanting. It is definitely quirky, as most of Anderson’s films are, but this one, in particular, has that sweet childhood feel to it. Moonrise Kingdom is the kind of movie that you want to watch on a rainy day or snuggled up to someone you love.
THE PLOT: When two best friends travel to Barcelona together for the summer, they become intertwined in a complicated, romantic, and sexy relationship with the same artist. It begins as a love triangle, but when his ex-wife comes back into the picture, it becomes more of a tumultuous “love square,” so to speak. Vicky Cristina Barcelona challenges typical social arrangements, illustrates the consequences of marrying the wrong person, and captures the intense romances of four very different, temporal, characters.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Vicky Cristina Barcelona is not the typical boy-meets-girl romance movie, which is why I think it is so great. It is unpredictable and messy and picturesque. This movie makes me yearn for summers abroad and European excursions. If you are missing travel as much as I am, this is the movie for you.
THE PLOT: From the acting duo that brought us Sleepless in Seattle (another great one on this list), You’ve Got Mail features Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in another romantic, hilarious, and charming love story. Kathleen (Ryan) owns a small, struggling boutique bookstore when Joe (Hanks) opens up a giant corporate bookstore around the corner, threatening to send Kathleen out of business. They become instant rivals and cannot stand the presence of one another, however, they are both members of the same online chat room where they fall in love with each other.
WHY WE LOVE IT: I love a good “opposites attract” story and this one is my favorite. Two people who are perfect for each other when they let down their walls and reveal their true hearts cannot stand each other in the real world due to complications with business and ego? So relatable and romantic. I think it explores the complicated nature of social media and online relationships that we are still navigating today. You’ll find yourself laughing, crying, and overall just rooting for Kathleen and Joe to find out that they are in love with each other!
THE PLOT: Sam Baldwin is a recent widower with a son that is determined to help his father find love again. When the little boy calls into a local radio talk show to search for a match, thousands of women call in and ‘apply’ to be with Sam… all the while Sam has no idea. When Annie, a reporter, calls in and convinces the boy that she is “the one” for his dad, they have to find a way to connect.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This is one of those pure love stories that are so rare nowadays. While so many films capitalize on the complexities that life as we know it has on love, Sleepless in Seattle brings me hope. The actors’ performances are all so incredible, portraying that once-in-a-lifetime kind of connection that hopeless romantics swoon over. This movie is sure to fill your heart, bring a smile to your face, and even a few happy tears to your eyes.
THE PLOT: “Behind every great love is a great story.” Based off of the novel by Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook is about two teenagers from different backgrounds and status that fall utterly in love, and are then dragged apart by life. Just before the female protagonist, Allie, is about to be married, she feels the need to track down her former lover, Noah, and it needless to say their love never ended. The best part? You get to hear the story from Noah’s perspective years and years later in life, proving that true love is lasting.
WHY WE LOVE IT: No list of romance films would be complete without The Notebook. I remember when I first watched this movie. I had heard over and over that it was the most tear-jerking romance movie I would ever watch and that is accurate to this day. I love that you get to see the characters throughout so many stages of life, too. It makes it extra romantic knowing that the actors, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams fell in love in real life with Gosling reportedly saying that his relationship with McAdams was “a hell of a lot more romantic” than The Notebook. Sigh!
THE PLOT: Vivian Ward, a working girl in Los Angeles, gets picked up and hired by a wealthy businessman on a business trip, Edward. In order to make his trip a little more fun, he decides to pay Vivian to keep him company all weekend long, a great deal for both of them. However, the more time they spend together, the closer they become and the more different their worlds seem. The O.G. rags-to-riches story, Pretty Woman will not disappoint romantics, fashionistas, and honestly anyone that has a heart.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Everyone dreams of being swept off their feet and this film allows your imagination to play that out. The relationship between a cold-hearted businessman with a free-spirited hooker is so irresistibly charming that I don’t think it will ever get old. Not only is the romance to die for, but the fancy clothes and parties from Edward’s world, juxtaposed with the drugs and grit from Vivian’s world make it bewitching. By far my favorite part of the film is Vivian’s confidence and the way she stays true to herself, even when thrown into the depths of high society.
THE PLOT: Adapted from the famous Jane Austen novel, the Pride & Prejudice film follows Elizabeth Bennet, one of five daughters in a British family, trying to find a husband. Elizabeth is the eldest sister and therefore has surmounting pressure on her to find a match, but Elizabeth could want nothing less… that is until she meets Mr. Darcy. The pair cannot seem to find any common ground, but are inevitably drawn to each other. A period piece filled with witty banter, society scandals, and intense chemistry, Pride & Prejudice is a classic love story that has beat the test of time.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Honestly, any movie where the characters have English accents is enjoyable for me to watch and Kiera Knightly as Miss Bennet is unprecedented. She is one of my favorite female protagonists: headstrong, outspoken, confident. The combination of her strength and Darcy’s reservedness makes for some very sexy chemistry, the kind where even the brush of a fingertip makes your heart flutter.
THE PLOT: This modern remake of the 1976 film stars two of Hollywood’s biggest names: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. While on tour, strung out, alcoholic rockstar Jackson Maine (Cooper) stumbles into a drag bar where Ally (Gaga) captivates him with her rendition of La Vie En Rose. He takes her out after her show, hears part of a song she wrote and is hooked. From there, Ally goes from dive bars to world recognition. The journey of her rise to stardom and their relationship is inspiring, frightening, and enchanting, all enhanced through incredible music.
WHY WE LOVE IT: I saw this movie in theaters (ah, how I miss them) and left in a puddle of tears. Lady Gaga’s voice on its own has moving capabilities, but her acting is something else entirely. Bradley Cooper’s incredible voice also utterly impressed me. The plot, the characters, the songs, the romance… A Star Is Born lives near the top of my movie list and got the boyfriend stamp of approval as well (he might have cried a bit, too).
THE PLOT: An experimental lab announces a new procedure that can erase any memory of a bad relationship. Both Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) have the procedure and forget that they ever knew each other… but in order to remove the memories, you have to revisit them. Halfway through the procedure, Joel realizes that he doesn’t want to forget Clementine and tries to hold onto whatever he has left of her, but the procedure does its job. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes an almost psychological thriller-esque concept and uses it to explore the nature of true love.
WHY WE LOVE IT: I think part of the reason why this movie is so great is that we have all wanted to forget an ex at some point in our lives. It sounds great—no more bad memories, no more grudges, etc.—but we are ultimately reminded that our memories make us who we are and that love cannot simply be erased.
THE PLOT: Harry and Sally first meet in 1977 where they argue for the entirety of a road trip about whether or not men and women cannot be friends without sex getting in the way. When they run into each other 10 years later, they strike up a strictly platonic friendship, determined they sex will never be an issue… that is, until they become attracted to each other.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Both Harry and Sally are two of the wittiest characters in any romantic comedy that I have ever seen, which makes When Harry Met Sally all the more entertaining. Their perfect banter is the stuff of dreams. It also proves that many of the best love stories come from friendship, despite the characters’ fight against it. It is so smartly funny that it is sure to keep you laughing.
THE PLOT: Reese Witherspoon plays Melanie, a successful New York fashion designer that is engaged to the wealthy Andrew Hennings (Dempsey). Melanie seems to have it all figured out, but she’s hiding a secret past back in her small Alabama hometown, including a secret husband that refuses to divorce her. When Melanie returns to her hometown to confront him, she is forced to question why she fled her real life and started an entirely new one.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Young Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey? I would already be sold on a film but Sweet Home Alabama gets bonus points for being incredibly adorable. Reese Witherspoon is perfect for the part, as she embodies both glamour and southern roots. It is a true testament to “you can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the girl.”
THE PLOT: Amélie is about a timid waitress who makes it her mission to help those around her, creating an entire world that she ‘designed.’ This whimsical comedy transports you to life in modern-day Paris through the eyes of someone that sees the beauty in the most simplest of things.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Not only is the plot of this film endearing, but the cinematography is incredible, as it was filmed in over 80 Parisian locations, giving viewers an intimate experience. The cast’s charm is felt through the screen as if they are real people we are witnessing, not actors and actresses. Amélie is in French, but don’t be intimidated by the subtitles- you’ll be so invested in the story that you won’t even realize you are reading.
THE PLOT: Sex, Lies, & Videotape is about a man who videotapes women discussing their relationships and how he reveals the nature of a married couple’s relationship. Exploring lust, affairs, and marriage, this film makes you feel as if you are watching the scandals in real-time.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Sex, Lies, & Videotape is undoubtedly provocative. The relationships that the film follows are so tangled and real that you cannot take your eyes off the screen. This film paved the way for an independent American film in the 1990s when it won the Palme d’Or in 1989.
THE PLOT: Set in a quiet French town, Chocolat is the story of the mysterious Vianne and her daughter. The pair arrive in town and Vianne opens up a chocolate shop, where she uses her gift of knowing exactly what customers want and how to satisfy them with the perfect confection. The only problem is that Lent is about to begin and this town is very uptight, so Vianne is guaranteed to shake things up.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Chocolat is one of those feel-good movies that make you want to sing in the rain and dance in the street. I think it is a testament to how sometimes one person can come into your life, seemingly from out of nowhere, and can turn it upside down for the better. Vianne and her charming daughter are definitely a light in a dim world.
THE PLOT: Audrey Hepburn portrays a modern-day princess that escapes her royal obligations to explore Rome alone, where she meets Joe Bradley, who she does not know is an American reporter tasked with getting a story on her. They spend an incredible day together and Joe is forced to question his plan as they begin to fall in love.
WHY WE LOVE IT: A princess torn between love and royal duties? This movie is definitely an adult version of a fairytale. Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning performance makes this movie so captivating, so it is a sure choice for any movie night, especially one as romantic as Valentine’s Day.
THE PLOT: One of the most famous American dramas of our time, Casablanca is about Rick Blaine, a nightclub owner in Casablanca that is reunited with his old lover, Ilsa, as she is running from the Nazis with her husband. Ilsa’s husband is a known rebel with threats coming from all sides, so Ilsa turns to Rick for help escaping the country. Loyalties are tested and old flames are brought together in this classic black and white movie.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Every film class I have ever taken mentions Casablanca at least once, and rightly so. The cinematography, the character development, the dialogue… it is all spectacularly done. It has just the right amount of drama, action, and romance to keep you entertained until the very end.
THE PLOT: Love & Basketball is the story of neighbors Quincy McCall and Monica Wright, growing up together and pursuing their dreams of playing basketball. They become best friends and each other’s biggest supporters and challengers and end up falling in love. But happy ever after doesn’t start there, because what comes first: love or basketball?
WHY WE LOVE IT: This movie is the ultimate combination of sports and romance. Quincy and Monica’s childhood friendship also reminds me of one of the best friendships: Vada and Thomas’s from My Girl. Not only is this a great love story, but Love & Basketball still provides relevant criticism of race and gender.
THE PLOT: Adam Sandler plays the ultimate wedding singer until he gets left at the altar and can no longer stand the idea of weddings. However, they say you find love when you least expect it, and Robbie (Sandler) finds it in Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore). There is only one problem… she is engaged to Mr. Wrong and Robbie is supposed to help her plan the wedding.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The Wedding Singer is a must-watch romantic comedy. Sandler and Barrymore are undeniably lovable and you’ll be rooting for the two of them the whole time… and hating their other partners. Need more convincing? Just watch this video of Adam Sandler singing “You Spend Me Round” at what looks like one of the most fun weddings ever!
This post was originally published on February 13, 2020, and has since been updated.