Editor’s Note: This post is updated monthly. Bookmark this page and come back every month to stay up to date with the best romance movies on Netflix.
Updated for November 2017
Romance movies are not that different from horror movies. Both are incredibly hard to pull off, are heavily watched during a cold time of year, and hopefully end with every character covered in blood.
With that in mind we present to you a list of the best romantic movies on Netflix. Because romance deserves it, damn it. Virtually every song ever written is a love song but poor romance can’t get a fair shake at the movies. Whether it be a rom-com or just a straight-up soul-enlightening/crushing romance, our list of the best romantic movies on Netflix will get you back in touch with your cold, dead heart.
The African Queen
Certainly one to file under the classics section for all-time great movie romances is The African Queen. While in this particular John Huston masterpiece, neither the gin joint airs of Ingrid Bergman or the real-life crackle of Lauren Bacall are available to Humphrey Bogart, the film is nevertheless another hardboiled love story for the iconic movie star. And it is a sweetly unconventional one too.
In his element as a salty riverboat captain sailing up and down Ulanga River, Bogie’s Charlie is a wreck, but he is also prince charming for Katharine Hepburn’s Rose Sayer, an “old maid” who is doing missionary work with her brother when World War I breaks out. After Germans kill her sibling, Rose reluctantly attempts to escape down the river with Charlie, striking up an unlikely romance along the way. They also strike upon an even more unlikely adventure as instead of fleeing, they decide to battle the Germans in the name of dear old England! This is a jolly good adventure that is as authentic in Bogart and Hepburn’s chemistry as it is in its real, unforgiving African locations that were used.
Blue is the Warmest Color
Blue is the Warmest Color is categorized as a coming-of-age film and a romance movie. Ultiamtely, those two genres are roughly the same. What is a more important or poignant way to come of age than to fall in love? Adele is a young Frenchwoman who likes to gossip about boys until one day she sees another young woman with blue hair walking past. What follows is infatuation, romance, heartbreak, jealousy, confusion, late nights, comfort, and disappointment. You know, love. Blue is the Warmest Color is one of the definitive and great romance movies on Netflix
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Bridget Jones has become the archetype for normal, yet lonely female movie characters everywhere. Bridget Jones Diary, itself, is the archetype for some many romance movies that followed it. Bridget (Renee Zellwegger) is a normal, softspoken woman who is largely unlucky in love until one day, she isn’t. Her cup suddenly runneth over with men and she must choose between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (the answer is Colin Firth, dummies. C’mon.) It might be (very) loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, but it’s also basically Twilight with pasty British men instead of vampires and werewolves.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Nothing quite says “romance” like the encroaching the apocalypse. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World joins the hallowed fraternity of movies whose titles succinctly describe their plots. It is known worldwide that an asteroid will strike the Earth within three weeks. So most people respond with Bacchanalian glee, throwing sex and drug parties. Meanwhile Dodge (Steve Carell) just wants to go about his business… that is until he meets Penny (Keira Knightley).
At first glance, Atonement seems like standard people-talking-in-British-accents-during-WWII Oscar bait. Bu it is so much more than that. Atonement is as heartbreakingly tragic as it is earnestly romantic. It’s the story of how love can sometimes be derailed or destroyed by forces we absolutely wouldn’t expect. James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, and the young Saoirse Ronan (who earned an Oscar nomination here) are all remarkable and Atonement, is a romance-war hybrid that works.
This list has been all fine and good so far but I know what you’re thinking: WHERE ARE THE MILENNIAL CRAFT BREWERY ROMANTIC INDIE DRAMAS. Well here you go, hypothetical reader with incredibly specific tastes. Drinking Buddies is a mumblecore masterpiece starring some truly excellent and funny actors: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston. It’s a mostly improvised, simple story about relationships, jealousy and lots of great craft beer. Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) are flirty coworkers at a craft brewery who decide to go on a joint trip with their significant others Chris (Livingston) and Jill (Kendrick). Romantic comedy ensues.
Nothing says romance like a Jane Austen adaptation. And Gwyneth Paltrow, if you’re into a weird kind of love. Platrow stars as the titular Emma, an upper class lady who fancies herself a matchmaker. But of course matchmakers often have a hard time finding love themselves, don’t they? Enter Mr. Knightley (the incredibly British Jeremy Northam). Emma is a perfectly pleasant period adaptation and you will get exactly what your corny romantic heart needs from it. Also fun fact: the BBC did a TV adaptation of Austen’s novel the very same year the film came out (1996) starring Kate Beckinsale. So if you like the Paltrow version enough, compare and contrast with the Beckinsale version.
AWOL is how indie romances should be – small, authentic, affecting. Joey (Lola Kirke) and Rayna (Breeda Wool) are two young women from a nowheresville Pennsylvania town. They meetcute at a local carnival and quickly fall for each other but circumstances threaten to crush their romance before it can even begin. AWOL understands first and foremost that while love is easy, relationships (and arguably everything else in the world is hard). Sometimes what you want and what your environment is able to allow you to have are two very different things.
Like Crazy is excellent because of how simple it is. Felicity Jones plays Anna, a British woman who falls in love with American Jacon (Anton Yelchin) while attending college in Los Angeles. Oftentimes in romances, ridiculous circumstances conspire to keep our star-crossed lovers separated. This time around it’s just plain-old visa issues. It’s mundane and simple but it’s also something that could so easily and probably frequently interrupt burgeoning relationships. Jacob and Anna attempt to keep their long-distance relationship alive but then enters an interloper…an Jennifer Lawrence-ian interloper.
Todd Haynes, director of Carol and Far From Heaven knows longing. And if there’s an element that makes for an excellent romantic movie experience its longing. That desperate sense is baked into nearly every frame of Carol. Based on a 1950s romance novel, Carol is the story of a young photographer (Rooney Mara) and an older woman going through a divorce (Cate Blanchette) undertaking a forbidden affair. Forbidden because, you know, ’50s. And that’s where the longing comes in. Nothing is more romantic or sexier than a forbidden romance. Carol channels that romantic energy into something mature, fascinating and heartbreaking.
Back in 1995, when Richard Linklater debuted star-crossed romance Before Sunset, no one could have imagined that it would one day constitute the beginning of a multi-decade romantic trilogy. That’s what Linklater does though – the unexpected. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy return as Jesse and Celine, once young lovers who are now middle-aged parents. Before Midnight is a beautiful film and the perfect capper to this trilogy as it brings a level of realism and discomfort into a once idealized relationship. It’s about the impossibility and absolute necessity of love.
Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut is a romance? Wikipedia describes it as an “erotic drama” so we’ll take it. Eyes Wide Shut is Stanley Kubrick’s final and perhaps most inscrutable film. It’s long, bizarre and, expensive. There’s a popular theory that Kubrick wrote and directed the film just to break up real-life couple turned co-stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. If so, mission accomplished. Still, despite how bizarre the movie may seem and is the message at hand is deceptively simple (at least I think it is?): love is good and sex is good. Don’t overthink it, Tom and Nicole.
Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go is one of those charming movie-going experiences in which a movie catches a handful of actors right before they become bigger stars. In Never Let Me Go‘s case, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield all star as different spokes of a love triangle well before they’d become household-ish names (in the right households at least). Based on a novel from British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go posits an alternative reality in which human beings are able to live well-past 100 years. How do they achieve such a medical breakthrough? Well, it’s not good news for our three leads, let’s say.
Our list is not wanting for hard-nosed “REAL LOVE IS HARD DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND” adult romance movies. So sometimes you’ve just got to switch it up and indulge in some fantasy romances. In Penelope Christina Ricci stars as the eponymous Penelope. Due to a curse placed upon her family, Penelope has the ears and nose of a pig. And the only way to get rid of it is, get this: fall in love. Thankfully James McAvoy is on hand to help with that very task.
Sleeping with Other People
We love famous people. We love famous funny people. We love famous funny people acting in movies about un-acted upon mutual attraction. Sleeping with Other People‘s script could have been 1 page that just said “Jason Sudeikis, Allison Brie, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet, and Adam Scott do stuff. Sexual tension ensues” and it would have been worth a ticket on that alone. Thankfully there are the makings of a plot just beyond that. Sudeikis and Brie star as old friends who have a one-night stand and then 12 years later feel compelled to act as though it didn’t really matter to them.
The Reader isn’t just a punchline to Hugh Jackman’s best joke while hosting the Oscars – it’s also an excellent, achingly romantic movie in its own right. Kate Winslet stars as Hanna, a woman having an affair with a younger man…a much younger man in the 1950s. Things are going pretty well for the pair until the younger man, Michael, discovers a disturbing truth about his older paramour. A disturbing truth that rhymes with Shnazi Shympethizer. Things may not be what they seem, however, thanks to another secret Hanna is harboring. The Reader occasionally gets criticized for being transparent Oscar bait and while that may be partly fair, it’s hard to resist its doomed romance and winding twists and turns.