17 of the Best Romantic Movies to Watch on Valentine’s Day (and All Year Long)

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When Harry Met Sally

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When Harry met Sally… (1989) – Trailer HD Remastered

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Meg Ryan. Billy Crystal. Rob Reiner. Cable-knit sweaters. A fake orgasm at Katz’s Deli. Nora Ephron did not play around when she wrote this perfect rom-com about whether a man and a woman can really be friends without their feelings getting in the way. Over 30 years later, we’ll still have what she’s having.

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In the Mood for Love

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IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE | Official Trailer | 20th Anniversary Restoration

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Wong Kar-wai’s moody, sensual masterpiece stars Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as two neighbors who become entangled after learning of their respective partners’ affairs. Beautifully shot and acted, this exploration of intimacy and longing is both a feast for the eyes and a punch in the gut.

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Love & Basketball

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Love & Basketball (2000) Official Trailer – Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps Basketball Movie HD

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Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps are an unforgettable duo as Monica and Quincy, two childhood friends who love basketball, and eventually, each other. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s 2000s classic follows the pair through the years as they grow up and apart, but ultimately find each other again.

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Casablanca

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Casablanca | 4K Trailer | Warner Bros. Entertainment

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Set during World War II, Casablanca club owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) finds his former lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband on the run from Germans. Conflicted by the run-in, he must decide whether to help them flee the country or rekindle his romance. Here’s looking at you, kid.

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Moonlight

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Moonlight | Official Trailer HD | A24

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Although its Best Picture spotlight was stolen in memorable fashion by other romance contender La La Land, Moonlight remains one of the best films I’ve seen in the past decade, and among the best of director Barry Jenkins’ work. The love story between Chiron and Kevin is deeply affecting, pulled along by career-defining performances from a cast including Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris.

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Before Sunrise

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Before Sunrise (1995) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

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When American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French student Celine (Julie Delpy) strike up a conversation on the train, sparks fly instantly and he invites her to spend the day with him in Vienna before his flight the next morning. Director Richard Linklater knows how to play with time, and in this cult classic, he explores the whirlwind of young love with a looming expiration date. Of course, fans know that it doesn’t really end there; the trilogy continues with Before Sunset and Before Midnight.

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Pride & Prejudice

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Pride & Prejudice (2005) Official Trailer

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Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen are Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright’s magnificent adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous story. Their chemistry burns through the screen, whether it’s in a rain-drenched confession of love or the mere brushing of their hands.

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire [Official Trailer] – In Theaters December 6, 2019

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In 1770s France, a stubborn bride-to-be and the artist commissioned to make her wedding portrait (Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel) fall into a passionate romance as her nuptials loom. By the end of Céline Sciamma’s gorgeous film, page 28 will forever be ingrained in your mind. (If you know, you know.)

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If Beale Street Could Talk

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK | Final Trailer

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Another Barry Jenkins masterwork, If Beale Street Could Talk is adapted from James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, and follows a radiant KiKi Layne and Stephan James as Tish and Fonny, long-time friends turned lovers who face the turmoil of a racist wrongful conviction.

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The Notebook

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Adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, this modern classic follows the sprawling love story of Noah and Allie, which spans from their teenage years to old age. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams make an incredible pair in this tear-jerker.

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Cinema Paradiso

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Cinema Paradiso Official Trailer

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One of the most famous Italian films of all time—and, frankly, one of the most famous films of all time, period—Cinema Paradiso is a love story both between two people, and between a filmmaker and cinema. Written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, the story follows 8-year-old Salvatore as he befriends a projectionist who encourages him to love the craft of directing—and, eventually, a woman named Elena Mendola.

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Mississippi Masala

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Mississippi Masala – U.S. Re-Release Trailer (2022)

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Sarita Choudhury stars as Mina, a young woman whose Indian family seeks refuge in the States after fleeing a dictatorship in Uganda. In Mississippi, their new home, she catches the eye of handsome carpet cleaner Demetrius (Denzel Washington), and the two fall for each other despite their families’ disapproval of their relationship.

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Titanic

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Titanic 25th Anniversary | Official Trailer

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The Door Debate aside, James Cameron’s film is beloved for giving us the epic romance between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), two lovers aboard the doomed Titanic. Following its 25th anniversary, our hearts still go on and on for this film.

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Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing (1987 Movie) Official 35th Anniversary Trailer – Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey

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“Nobody puts baby in a corner” might be the line best remembered from 1987 classic Dirty Dancing, but there’s a much better one that captures the spirit and sweeping romance between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grae’s dance duo Johnny and Baby: “I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.” Runner-up is “I carried a watermelon,” but hey, I digress.

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West Side Story

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WEST SIDE STORY (1961) | Official Trailer | MGM

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Up

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It only takes a few notes of that iconic theme song to get misty-eyed. This Pixar classic isn’t just a family adventure with talking dogs and floating houses; it’s also a sweet portrayal of a lasting love. The grumpy-on-the-outside-sweet-on-the-inside Mr. Fredricksen (Ed Asner) shows us how someone can honor a partner and the life they’ve built together long after they’ve passed.

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It’s a Wonderful Life

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IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies

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Already a Christmas classic but deserving to become a favorite in the year-round romance rotation, It’s A Wonderful Life features some of the most memorable lines of the genre. (“George Bailey, I’ll love you ’till the day I die” being a personal favorite.) Sentimental but never saccharine, it remains one of the most beloved films ever made, 76 years after its release.

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Erica Gonzales

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now. 

Headshot of Lauren Puckett-Pope

Culture Writer

Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture writer at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television and books. She was previously an associate editor at ELLE. 

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