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 June 2018
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. Ultimately, 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
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. But 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.
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 Jacob (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.
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.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Wow, a lot of cheesy romantic comedies have the number “10” in them. It’s nice to pretend that 10 Things I Hate About You is a spiritual prequel to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. In the latter, however, it’s the adults who are behaving like assholes in the pursuit of romance. Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) works for a magazine and wants to write an article about, well, read the title again.
There’s a big hitch in her plan, however, as the man she’s supposed to lose is Matthew Freaking McConaughey. Good luck with that, sister. McConaughey may or may not look back fondly at his history of romcoms but this one is unequivocally good and the best example of Hudson and McConaughey’s respective charms.
Love Actually is so closely associated with romance films, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas that it’s almost a self-parody at this point. This is a picture that has been picked apart for comedic and memeable scraps time and time again since its debut in 2003. Still, it holds up as a genuinely sweet, mega-omnibus love story.
It doesn’t hurt that Love Actually also features the most impressive roster of British acting talent this side of a Harry Potter movie.
Midnight in Paris
Who knew that all it would take for Woody Allen to get out of his later-career rut would be to get the hell out of New York? Allen’s modest career renaissance began with 2005’s London-centric Match Point and continues with 2011’s Paris-tastic Midnight in Paris. It’s a cliche that Paris is a city of romance for a reason.
Allen highlights that romance with a time traveling plot that features Owen Wilson’s Gil Pender, a screenwriter in a crumbling relationship, meeting up with literary icons like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to learn a thing or two about life, love, and literature.
Revolutionary Road is a romantic drama set in 1948 that reunites Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet as Frank and April Wheeler. Frank and April live a happy little idyllic American life with an unthinkable secret: they’re unhappy.
Revolutionary Road is “revolutionary” in the sense that it finds the unhappiness buried beneath the most ideal romance. This is Dicaprio and Winslet we’re talking about here. How could they possibly not enjoy each other’s company?
So many American romance dramas find the sinister in day-to-day life. Revolutionary Road just finds the sadness and explores the solutions therein.
Let Me In
Let Me In is an adaptation of the 2008 Swedish romantic horror film Let the Right One In. Both films deal with a young, bullied boy meeting and falling in love with a vampire girl. Let Me In seemed like an awful idea at the time. It came just two years after the original, which was considered to be a modern romance and horror classic. But this version, as directed by Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves is surprisingly good.
Let Me In is a faithful adaptation of the original without being derivitive and boring. The secret is in the direciton and cinematography. So much of what made Let the Right One In great was its quiet, snowy Scandanavian scenery. Let Me In finds equal levels of creepy serenity in the New Mexican desert.
The end result of Reeves’ scenery change and careful direction is great adaptation buoyed by superb performances from child actors (and members of the three name club) Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Beauty and the Beast
2017’s live-action version of Beauty and the Beast isn’t the best depiction of the classic fairy tale ever but that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be. All Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast really needed to be was a fun little dip into nostalgia with sumptuous visuals and a believable romance. On that front, everything goes according to plan.
Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens is her beast. Belle heads off from her small French town to the Beast’s castle to rescue her father. What follows is Stockholm Syndrome: The Movie. But sexier. Beauty and the Beast really does look good and Watson and Stevens have just enough chemistry to make this a worthwhile romantic experience.
If you want a satisfying romance movie experience sometimes you have to go to Paris. Amelie is a French-language film about Amelie, a young Parisian movie who deals with her own sense of isolation by trying to better the lives of those around her. Eventually those efforts get her in touch with something truly scary: love.
Amelie features many archetypes that we’ve come to appreciate in our romance movies. Star Audrey Tatou is the perfect and original manifestation of a twee manic pixie dream girl – only this time removed from the male gaze. It’s a wonderful, romantic film about the limits of selflessness.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Casting Gerard Butler as a man so ugly he feels the need to cover his face is an interesting decision to be sure. But questionable casting aside, Joel Schumacher’s 2004 remake of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical is a fun, romantic time.
Emmy Rossum stars as Christine Daaé, an actress who takes over for a play’s lead when a mysterious accident causes the lead actress to leave. Ghostly occurrences continue to happen to the production and eventually Christine comes to believe her own “Angel of Music” could be behind it.
The story of The Phantom of the Opera is wonderfully moody, gothic, and romantic. Rossum and Butler have good chemistry as the leads and the film is a worthwhile update to a classic story.
Weirdly, there may be few concepts more romantic than indecision. Romance, human attraction, and love are all a mystery. No other time in a person’s life is more mysterious than their adolescence – when they’re on the cusp of adulthood but not quite. Perhaps that’s why so many great romance movies feature young people who must soon face big decisions about their future.
Beautiful Girls is one of those movies. Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) is a semi-successful musician in New York. When Willie returns home to Massachusetts for a high school reunion, he’s forced to confront the fact that he’s at a crossroads in his life. Lots of decisions about his adulthood linger, including whether he should marry his long-time girlfriend, Tracy Stover (Annabeth Gish).
Beautiful Girls aptly captures the romance of youth and adolescence and features an enormous cast of noteworthy actors like Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman, Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rappaport, and more.
God’s Own Country
British film God’s Own Country is all about what happens when a sudden bolt of intimacy and sexual tension is introduced into a lonely, pastoral life.
Johnny lives on a farm in Yorkshire with his father and grandmother. Due to his father’s stroke, most of the responsibilities fall to Johnny and he leads a lonely existence among the calves and lambs. Then when his family hires Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe, Johnny realizes that his feature may not be as lonely as he assumed it might be.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
What does love feel like if not an infinite playlist of your favorite songs?
In Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, two young people, Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) are two teenagers who go to the same high school. They don’t know each other but meet when out one night and discover that they’re both trying to see a rare performance by their favorite elusive indie band, Where’s Fluffy? Over the span of the night the two grow close as they try to find the show and tend to their drunken mutual friend.
Nick and Norah is about the romantic magic of music and One Great Night in the city.
We embrace every kind of love on our list of the best romance movies. Sometimes that includes some questionable, and some would say “icky” kind of love. So…Outside In is a teacher-student romance. But don’t panic! It’s ok.
Jay Duplas stars as Chris, a man who was wrongly imprisoned at age 18 and who is relased at age 38. When Chris is released, he immediately meets up with his old high school teacher, Carol (Edie Falco), who was his penpal when he was in prison. He wastes little time before he declares his love for her.
Despite its subject matter, Outside In is a mature, well-handled exploration of love and what it means to love someone for themselves as opposed to what they do for us.