The List/ Top 10 Most Romantic Movies Ever Made

Love is different for everyone, and exists in many different ways. Just like romantic movies come in all types. “Romantic longing has provided the cinema with some of its most glorious and idealistic movies: Casablanca and Brief Encounter are films with an unabashed, unironic passionate flame at their centre” says Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw on the genre that never goes out of fashion.

“Movies such as Gone With the Wind and Doctor Zhivago lent something grand and epic to romantic love, but it was perhaps the much-loved weepie An Affair to Remember that did the most to introduce us to the more domestic idea of the chick flick or the date movie – the romantic film adored by women and tolerated by their husbands and boyfriends. The romantic comedy was a further refinement, almost invented in its modern sense by Woody Allen and revived by Rob Reiner with his smash-hit, When Harry Met Sally, a success that has spawned a thousand sucrose imitations. Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood For Love is probably the most potent, old-fashioned romance of recent times. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung have that seductively heartbreaking self-sacrifice shown by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman or Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Love will never go out of fashion.”

From more light-hearted romantic comedies, to serious, heartbreaking dramas, these are the best romantic movies ever made for the people in the know.

10. Jules et Jim

“The way Jules et Jim emerged was a tribute to Moreau and to Truffaut’s obsession with the idea that women were magical. It’s an early dramatisation of feminist principles, but it’s also the portrait of a bipolar personality drawn to self-destruction. For Truffaut, it was a perfect balancing act between wry observation and sentimental involvement with his own characters. The period material, the sets and costumes, work very well in a wide-screen format, but in truth it’s the lethally mercurial temperament of Moreau that holds it all together. She was at her peak in the early 60s, young enough to be sexually compelling, but wise enough to be a tragic witch. Along with its less famous sequel, Two English Girls, this is Truffaut at his best.” David Thomson

9. A Room With a View

“Few collaborations are so distinctive that the names of those involved come to denote a genre, rather than just a credit. A Room With a View, the first of director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant’s EM Forster adaptations, was shot before the term Merchant-Ivory had become an insult; watch it today and you’ll blush to have ever smirked at the cliche. This is incredibly fresh and arresting film-making: moving and amusing, swooningly romantic and socially ferocious – nothing less than a full-frontal (in every way) assault on your soul.” Catherine Shoard

8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

“Eternal Sunshine was Kaufman’s second collaboration with Michel Gondry. The resourceful French director proved the perfect match to Kaufman’s freewheeling script, which puts us inside Joel’s memories as they are being stripped away. The film’s concept – that a couple can delete each other after a painful break-up so they can live on in blissful ignorance – seems at first a pessimistic take on love. But chinks of light begin to shine through as Joel’s memories of Clementine are systematically sought out and zapped. He recalls that, before the unhappiness set in, there were genuinely happy moments too and he recaptures (too late?) what made them fall for each other in the first place. In spite of all its pitfalls, Kaufman still makes love seem like the most precious thing in the world.” Killian Fox

7. Hannah and Her Sisters

That Chekhovian title may have promised Woody Allen at his most pretentious, but this 1986 roundelay grossed $40m and became his biggest ever box-office hit. The film shuffles interconnecting storylines concerning three Manhattan sisters… So what was it about Hannah that made it so successful? The balance of comedy and drama is deftly maintained, and there’s a palatable, soapy aspect to Elliot and Lee’s affair. The film, with its chapter headings, aspires to a novelistic structure, each part favouring a different character or storyline…. Typically, the perfectionist director was far from pleased with the movie. “Hannah and Her Sisters is a film I feel I screwed up very badly,” he said later. It was the relatively happy ending that was to blame: “That was the part that killed me.” But after all the characters have been through in pursuit of love and contentment, you couldn’t say they hadn’t earned it.” Ryan Gilbey

6. The Apartment

“CC “Bud” Baxter (Lemmon) is the poor sap in question. He’s rising fast at work, one promotion after another, but the secret of his success is that he loans out his apartment to the company executives for their trysts, one 45-minute slot at a time. It’s a sleazy little set-up, and Wilder keeps the movie galloping along so briskly that we can overlook the unpleasantness at first. But then reality starts to creep in as Baxter realises that the woman he longs to bring home in his arms – chirpy elevator assistant Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) – has already been to his apartment, in the company of his boss (Fred MacMurray)… Such stand-out scenes never impede the film’s precise, fluid rhythm. Wilder shot the picture in 50 days flat, and edited it in under a week. “We had three feet of unused film,” he said proudly. This is funny, fat-free film-making, expertly paced and played, ending in a romantic flourish to swoon over. It won five Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best screenplay. Wilder said it was “the picture [of mine] that has the fewest faults.” Everyone else knows it as a masterpiece.” RG

5. In the Mood for Love

“Wong Kar-wai takes his time shooting a film, setting out without a conventional script and waiting to see where the mood takes him; his actors rarely have possession of the bigger picture. As it turned out, this is a sizzling romance about two cuckolded next-door neighbours (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) who fall in love with one another. As rendered by Wong’s regular cinematographer, Christopher Doyle (and his replacement, Mark Lee Ping-bin, who took over when the shooting schedule overran), the lush colours on screen are mellowed with nostalgia and ripened by sensuality…. It is an unorthodox romance, widely regarded as the director’s finest work. And it is as impeccably turned out as you would expect from a Wong film. Audiences might well emerge craving props and costumes featured in the movie – the silk and gossamer dresses worn with perfect Audrey Hepburn poise by the regal Cheung, or the brilliantine that gives Leung his authentic Clark Gable sheen, or the snazzy noodle-flasks with which these almost-lovers collect their supper from a basement cafe. Unlike its 2004 semi-sequel, 2046, there is more here than just style. A heartbreaking final scene more than substantiates the idea that it is a Brief Encounter for the 21st century.” RG

4. Breathless (A Bout de Souffle)

“Breathless was Godard’s first feature, and his first demonstration of how to turn the raiment of the Hollywood dream inside out. In addition to putting Godard’s love-hate relationship with Hollywood up on the wall like graffiti, it was a signal that movies could be made nearly as quickly and cheaply as we might write emails. So it’s important to remember that while Breathless still feels desperately modern, it was made before the machinery of our modern culture. It was done from a four-page outline, on about $48,000, with a quarter of that paying for Jean Seberg, a failure in Hollywood, but the hip new thing in Paris in 1960. She’s Patricia, an American who sells the New York Herald Tribune on the streets, and Belmondo is Michel, an existentialist idiot on the run after he shoots a cop. His days are numbered and the film moves like a Charlie Parker solo – so hectic you wonder if the alto sax will live out the next 16 bars. There’s no way it should work, being made up as they went along, but Godard knew it was time to treat the audience like dirt and his characters like shit. This casual malice turned into a monument nonetheless.” DT

3. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight

“An American man and a French woman in their early 20s meet on a train heading through Europe. They alight in Vienna, amble around for 14 hours and shoot the breeze…. For the 2004 sequel, Before Sunset, we find Jesse, now a writer enjoying success with a novel about a one-night stand, bumping into Celine in Paris. The couple steal away on a stroll around the city, but things have changed…. And then, just shy of a decade later, came the third, Before Midnight. To those looking for a happy ending: in the interim, they became a proper couple, living in Paris, but together on a writer’s retreat in Greece. Their cares and preoccupations are those of the early middle-aged – children, exes, disappointment – but miraculously, marvellously, they never become careworn.” RG

2. Casablanca

“Casablanca stands for movie romance in great part because it is hardly true to life. It won the best picture Oscar and seemed to be history coming to life – it opened just after the allies had occupied the real Casablanca. In fact, divorce and infidelity rates increased rapidly during the war. But Casablanca reassured us all; it promised that honour was intact.” DT

1. Brief Encounter

“How many other countries would pick Brief Encounter as the best movie romance of all time? But for a generation that remembers when the trains ran on time and station buffets were as tidy and inviting as the one in this movie, Brief Encounter is etched in nostalgia for an era when trapped middle-class lives contemplated adultery but set the disturbing thought aside… Today, the set-up begs for satire. But Brief Encounter has survived such threats, because it is so well made, because Laura’s voiceover narration is truly anguished and dreamy, because the music suckers all of us, and because Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are perfect. I realise, “perfect” seems dangerously prim and old-hat, an ultimate proof of hopeless gentility…. As for Celia Johnson, it is due largely to her that the film is still so moving. Her agony and her rapture stay interior, and they flip-flop like nerves in this beautiful, grave black-and-white movie. Her voice is measured but the eyes are desperate. That she holds the film together is beyond doubt.” DT