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 find the perfect list of romance movies. From a twisted love triangle to a parallel universe, here are our choices for the best romance flicks on Netflix.
‘The Phantom of the Opera‘ (2004)
Based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical, The Phantom of the Opera is a twisted love story that takes place inside an opera house in 1870. The story revolves around three characters: Christine (Emmy Rossum), the beautiful young singer; Raoul (Patrick Wilson), Christine’s childhood friend and soon-to-be lover; and The Phantom (Gerard Butler), a disfigured man hell-bent on making Christine his. The mesmerizing melodies joined with a slow-burning obsession make this movie enthralling until the very end.
‘Alex Strangelove‘ (2018)
Alex Strangelove is a coming-of-age story about Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), a high-school student who is ready to lose his virginity to his girlfriend, Claire (Madeline Weinstein). Things get complicated, however, when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale), a charming gay kid. This sends him on an emotional roller coaster, where his sexuality is blurred as his feelings for Elliot deepen. In the end, it’s a story of self-discovery and sexuality during an age where nothing makes sense. The well-cast ensemble and homages to teenage classics like Sixteen Candles are simply a plus.
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.
‘Ali’s Wedding‘ (2017)
Ali’s Wedding is proof that a single white lie can change your life forever. Ali (Osamah Sami) is the son of a prominent Muslim clergyman, whose only wish is for his son to become a doctor. When Ali lies about his exam results — spoiler: He failed — his life changes overnight. He is quickly arranged to be married, even though he has fallen for a Lebanese woman named Dianna (Helana Sawires). Ali’s Wedding may border on cliche at times, particularly when it comes to cultural norms and issues of race, but the offbeat comedy still has its heart in the right place.
‘Blue Valentine’ (2010)
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 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?
‘An Education’ (2009)
This coming-of-age story set in London in the 1960s features a teenage girl, Jenny (Carey Mulligan), whose life changes when she falls for David (Peter Sarsgaard), a man twice her age. Jenny swoons at the attention of an older man and leaps at the chance to be introduced into his world. An Education explores the idea of finding love in an unlikely person and how that person could end up changing your life forever.
‘The Princess Diaries’ (2001)
Although the love story in Princess Diaries isn’t the most prevalent part of the movie, it still exists in a story where a young woman finds out she is actually a princess. Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) experiences the surprise of her life when her grandma (Julie Andrews) — whom she has never met — shows up and announces that she is the queen of Genovia and Mia is the princess. Mia must decide if she wants to take over the throne or just be a regular teenager. Plus, she has just realized she has feelings for her best friend’s brother. Mia may not be thinking of love at the moment, but those are the times when it finds you anyway.
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.
Though Penelope may seem a bit farcical, romance rings true in a modern twist of a fairy tale. Penelope (Christina Ricci) was born with a curse and the only way to break it is to find true love. But as eligible bachelors fall in love with her sizable dowry, they take off once they find out about her curse. Penelope decides to break from her family and venture alone, finding her first real friend and possibly a love interest who may change her life forever.
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.
‘P.S. I Love You’ (2007)
When Holly’s (Hilary Swank) husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), suddenly dies from a brain tumor, Holly withdraws from her family and friends to grieve alone. She is unsure how she will ever get over her loss, but then on her 30th birthday, she receives a cake and message from Gerry. This would be the start of many messages that Gerry arranged to be delivered after his death. They take her on adventures to his homeland of Ireland, where she begins to figure out how to live without him. P.S. I Love You is a story about grief and how life does go on after you lose the love of your life.
‘Nappily Ever After‘ (2018)
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 not 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.
‘The Lake House’ (2006)
Time travel is a tricky thing, especially when romance is involved. With The Lake House, director Argentine Alejandro Agresti looks to tell the story of two individuals, Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) and Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock), who slowly fall in love while living in the same lakeside home two years apart. The two communicate via letters, and though the premise might seem a little outlandish, the comfortable chemistry between Reeves and Bullock carries the slow-burn of a film throughout its 1.5-hour duration. Well, that and some grade-A shots of Chicago’s south side. By the end, you’ll be rooting for the couple to — somehow — find one another in the present.
‘Been So Long’ (2018)
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.
Based on the award-winning Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, Stardust puts an imaginative spin on a pre-Tolkien style of fantasy. In the village of Wall, which shares a border with a magical land, young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) promises his love (Sienna Miller) that he will retrieve a fallen star the two see land. But when he finds the star, he realizes it’s actually a young woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes), who he must convince to come back to his village, while avoiding three evil witches and the sons of a dead king who are trying to capture her. Narrated by Ian McKellan and featuring appearances by Robert De Niro and Ricky Gervais, this campy adventure film will make your heart glow.
‘One Day’ (2011)
Based on David Nicholls’ best-selling book, One Day follows Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) on the same exact day for 23 years. The films starts in 1988 on the day of their college graduation, and follows them throughout the course of their lives, providing only a snapchat as to what happens on July 15. Sometimes the two are together and other times they’re seeing other people, though, they seemingly always find their way back to one another. It may not seem like a typical romance movie, but their love for one another is hard to deny. Pro tip: Keep some tissues handy.
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
When inquiring daughter Maya, played by Abigail Breslin, starts asking about the story of her mom, her father played by Ryan Reynolds begins to tell a story of three women that her mom could be. First, it’s his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks), then it’s Emily’s friend, Summer (Rachel Weisz), and finally his co-worker, April (Isla Fisher). He fell madly in love with each woman and any one of them could be her mother. Maya must try and figure out who her mother is, from the stories that her dad tells. Definitely, Maybe is a lighthearted love story that will have you trying to guess the real mother while also falling in love with the father-daughter duo.