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Solid romance movies are hard to come by. Some are too cheesy and others lack substance. Plus, with Netflix offering thousands of titles to choose from, the search for a tug-at-your-heartstrings kind of movie can be daunting. Lucky for you, we have shed the tears and let out a collective “You went back to him?” groan to compile the perfect list of romance movies. Here are our choices for the best romance flicks on Netflix.
Marriage Story was one of four Netflix original films to be nominated for the 2020 Golden Globes and is yet another thought-provoking, deeply moving offering about real life from celebrated director Noah Baumbach. Baumbach, who has built his reputation on down-to-earth films about relatable characters like The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha, and another Netflix original, The Meyerowitz Stories, delivers perhaps his most profound work yet in Marriage Story. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a couple who genuinely love one another yet can’t make their marriage work, Marriage Story is one of the most honest, complex analyses of love and marriage you’ll ever see. “Marriage is hard” is the platitude we always hear but this film takes that saying to its absolute logical and philosophical extent.
One of the decade’s earliest entries to the “best romance of the 2010’s” conversation, Blue is the Warmest Color was refreshingly different when it was released in 2013. Writer-director Abdellatif Kechiche’s masterpiece follows 15-year-old romantic Adele’s (Adele Exarchopolous) quest to fall in love. However, despite her stated interest in boys, it’s a blue-haired girl (Léa Seydoux in the performance that propelled her to international stardom) who eventually captures her interest. The two teenagers pick up an intense love affair that, to be frank, probably would not have been approved by Hollywood studio execs. (Thank goodness for French film!) It’s a powerful film on young love and sexuality that isn’t shy about any of the details — facets that helped it earn the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
After a teenage fling, childhood friends Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) go their separate ways. She grows up to be a celebrity chef, engaged to a successful businessman, while Marcus stays in San Francisco to help out with his father’s air conditioner installation business. When Sasha’s boyfriend keeps putting off their wedding, she breaks up with him and moves back to San Francisco, where fate reunites her with Marcus. The two start hanging out again, and Marcus’s old feelings for Sasha reignite, but he has to deal with his feelings of inadequacy as well as her new boyfriend, Keanu Reeves (playing himself). Always Be My Maybe doesn’t reinvent the rom-com formula, but it executes it well, and all the actors involved give it their all (especially Reeves, delightfully over-the-top).
After her boyfriend dumps her (in a public restroom, no less), stand-up comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) decides to get over him by having a one night stand with a stranger, Max (Jake Lacy). Weeks later, Donna realizes she is pregnant and decides to have an abortion, but her life gets even more complicated when Max tracks her down and tries to start an actual relationship. Obvious Child is determined to wade through the gross muck of relationships, and its honesty about the difficulties of an unplanned pregnancy is refreshing. Slate is also perfect in the lead role, conveying her character’s ups and downs with aplomb.
Directed by James Ivory, this 1992 romantic classic features outstanding performances from iconic actors Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Exploring the various social classes of Victorian England, this story follows three families as they fight to make their mark on the world while the burgeoning love between Thompson’s Margaret and Hopkins’ Henry threatens to engulf everyone’s world in scandal. If you’re a Bronte fan, this Victorian love story is for you.
A charmingly romantic twist on time travel tropes, this Richard Curtis film centers on Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) discovery that the men in his family have the ability to go back in time. Naturally, he uses this power to win the woman of his dreams and give her the perfect life. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses as there are always limits to what we can and can’t change. With beautiful performances from Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy, this heartfelt, poignant drama delightfully masquerades as a romantic comedy.
Sick of their domineering bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs), two corporate assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) hatch a plan to make them fall in love with one another so they’ll stop being so darn demanding. Naturally, the assistants fall in love, too. This 2018 Netflix original was written by Booksmart writer Katie Silberman and delivers far more charm than your typical scheme-y rom-com. With engaging performances from the lovable Liu and Diggs as well as the relative newcomers, Deutch and Powell, Set It Up is a feel-good love-fest with plenty of laughs.
In the Netflix original Ibiza, Harper (Gillian Jacobs) is sent to Spain for a business meeting, so she naturally brings her two best friends, Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson), to join along in the merriment. Harper meets a famous DJ, Leo (Richard Madden), and her friends convince her to throw caution — and her meeting — to the wind to go to Ibiza and find this man. It’s different from regular romance plots, but conventional nonetheless. With a trio of hysterical ladies, Ibiza will hit your funny bone, but not tear too hard at your heartstrings.
Jessica Williams hasn’t quite had a breakout since The Daily Show, but The Incredible Jessica James is the first real chance she gets to show off her rom-com chops … and she succeeds marvelously. Jessica James, the character, may not be quite as incredible as you’d expect but she’s passionate and fun, and Williams plays her with a comedic resolve that makes you fall in love with her. Her chemistry with co-star Chris O’Dowd makes for a goofy, sexy, and refreshingly honest exploration of love after heartbreak. It’s a rom-com simply for lack of a better classification — this cynical but hopeful romp is very much its own thing.
Blue Valentine is a love story of the everyday struggle. It follows two people through their journey of falling in love, getting married, having a child, and falling out of love. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a young, working-class married couple. You experience their hardships and their triumphs. In the present day, Dean is pleading for their marriage to work, and Cindy is trying to decide if it’s worth it. This may not be a happy-ending-type romance, but it can’t always be happily ever after, right?
Written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze, Her is not your average love story. Theodore, the main character, (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely man who spends most of his time playing video games. He decides to buy the brand new OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. Her name is Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) and she is everything Theodore could want in a woman, but she isn’t real. Her explores what it would be like to fall in love with something you can’t see or touch. The Oscar-winning movie for Best Original Screenplay, Her is a new but relatable kind of love story.
Based on the novel of the same name, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is about a teenager named Lara (Lana Condor), whose life is turned upside down when love letters she has written to her crushes — meant for her eyes only — are mailed out. Each of her five previous loves confronts her one by one in an awkward, cringe-worthy fashion. Lara, normally a shy girl, must face the reality that her secrets are now out. She breaks through her shy exterior and lets herself have extraordinary experiences, and maybe she even finds love? This Netflix original will solidify your notions that high school was a rough time for all, but not without pulling at your heartstrings first.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Nappily Ever After tells the story of Violet Jones, played by Sanaa Lathan, who seemingly has it all — the job, the boyfriend, the hair — until it all falls apart. She comes to realize that the life she thought she wanted isn’t actually the life for her. In a late-night breaking point, Violet cuts all her hair off, shedding more than just her locks in the process. When she goes on a date with a soulful barber, she begins to understand what true happiness means to her. The Netflix original is a feel-good romance where one woman finds out what is most important to her.
Not all love stories are confined to America. In Been So Long, Michaela Coel (Black Mirror, Chewing Gum) plays Simone, a committed single mother living in London who falls — rather unexpectedly — for a man (Arinzé Kene) who may or may not be living in the shadow of his troubled past. Part musical part romance, the Netflix Original is a pure portrayal of finding love during a time when life is already complicated enough. It’s based on the stage musical by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill, and as such, you can expect the modern-day tale to incorporate elements of funk and soul, not to mention plenty of mood lighting.
On the surface, The Spectacular Now may seem played out and sort of cheap. Popular, charismatic boy dates quiet, inquisitive girl in their final year of high school and they unexpectedly fall in love. However, there’s a good reason this was a massive hit at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel conveys a refreshing honesty and humor that feels, well, real. No silly canned speeches or stupid, sexual objectification; just smart dialogue and direction that guides us through the story of two people who are genuinely meant to be together, discovering it earlier than most of us ever do. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley both experienced massive breakouts after this film. Fun fact: It was the last film ever reviewed by Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars.
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