In the entertainment industry of today, most things are destined to be forgotten within a few months, or even weeks, of their release. Not every movie can be a massive success like Black Panther. But some films are never quite forgotten, and that’s how we end up with true classics. All of the movies on this list were released before 1980, but they’re still more than worth watching today.
Romantic movies have been around since the very beginning of video production, and the classics are still some of the best. In fact, many of the best romantic comedies in recent memory are inspired by the movies that came before them. Some of these movies will make you cry, and many of them will make you laugh, but they’re all classics for a good reason. Fire up your Netflix or Amazon Prime account, and start checking them off your list.
17. Gone With the Wind (1939)
Easily one of the most beloved movies of all time, Gone With the Wind is a true epic. The story, set in the south during the Civil War, has many characters and plotlines. It needs them to fill its jaw-dropping four-hour runtime. But through it all, it’s the love between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler that has been entrancing audiences for nearly 80 years. The winding, troubled story of their romance will forever hold an important place in cinematic history. It hasn’t quite aged super gracefully, but if you watch with a critical eye, it’s well worth it.
16. Brief Encounter (1945)
Many of the best romantic movies are about a love that isn’t supposed to happen. In Brief Encounter, Laura is married with children, and she’s perfectly happy in her life. That is, until she has a chance meeting with Alec, a complete stranger. They fall in love, which obviously causes some problems in her life. As opposed to some of the flashier names on this list, Brief Encounter is a small, realistic work, and it uses its small scale for maximum emotional impact.
15. Funny Girl (1968)
The Broadway production of Funny Girl made a star out of a young Barbra Streisand, and the movie had more of the same magic. Streisand won an Oscar for her portrayal of the ambitious, strong-willed performer Fanny Brice, and Omar Sharif was splendid as her husband, Nicky Arnstein. The first of several musicals on this list, Funny Girl’s powerful songs are both thrilling and deeply personal. Streisand completely owns this movie, with the audience hanging on her every word. Nicky Arnstein might not be the perfect man, but their relationship still seems absolutely meant to be.
14. Casablanca (1942)
Set during World War II, Casablanca is perhaps the most famous war romance movie ever. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman star in this true classic, and their romance is another that is not meant to be. Bergman’s character is married, and Bogart must decide whether to respect that or pursue his own desires. Bergman and Bogart have incredible chemistry together, and their pairing is a large part of what makes the movie so successful. Casablanca has served as an inspiration for many later films, including the smash-hit La La Land.
13. My Fair Lady (1964)
Another classic movie based on a Broadway musical, My Fair Lady is both visually stunning and incredibly entertaining. The movie stars Rex Harrison, who originated the role of Henry Higgins on Broadway, and one of our absolute faves, the one and only Audrey Hepburn. On Broadway, the role of Eliza Doolittle was played by Julie Andrews, but she wasn’t yet seen as a big enough star to headline the movie. Andrews would have been amazing in the movie, but Hepburn brings more than enough charm to the part. She’s stubborn, but she comes to love Henry Higgins as he teaches her to be more of a proper lady. The story might be a little dated, but it’s still great fun.
12. The African Queen (1951)
The African Queen pairs Hollywood legends Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, and they work incredibly well together. In this adventurous drama, Hepburn plays a missionary in Africa at the beginning of World War I. Bogart is the captain of a supply ship, who first warns the missionaries that a war has broken out. Lots of drama ensues, but there is a strong bond between the two main characters. Katharine Hepburn often played strong women who didn’t have a love interest, but it’s fun to watch her in a more romantic role.
11. Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn turned out another top-notch performance in Roman Holiday, this time paired with Gregory Peck. In the movie, Audrey plays the European Princess Ann, who is on a tightly scheduled state visit to the Italian capital. She sneaks out of her country’s embassy, and ends up on a whirlwind Roman adventure with American reporter Joe Bradley. Joe does some questionable things while trying to get his story as a reporter, but the chemistry between the two is still palpable. It’s hard not to feel the spirit of romance when you’re zipping around on a Vespa, right?
10. Marty (1955)
Marty is too often overlooked, but it still won the Academy Award for Best Picture back in the day. This sweet, simple movie tells the story of two people who think they might not be destined to find love, and it’s very endearing. Marty is a 34-year-old butcher who still lives with his mother, while Clara is a schoolteacher who has few romantic prospects. The two might not be the most glamorous on-screen couple, but their connection is honest and adorable. Many times in movies, less is more when it comes to the plot, and this movie gets a lot done without too much going on.
9. West Side Story (1961)
Original stories are exciting, but it can be just as thrilling to see a new twist out on an old classic. This musical is an updated version of Romeo and Juliet, with some important differences. It takes place in 1950s New York, where two rival gangs, one white and one Puerto Rican, fight for their turf. Tony and Maria make hearts ache as the star-crossed lovers who are destined to cause trouble before meeting a tragic demise. There’s a remake in the works, so let’s hope they don’t mess this one up.
8. It Happened One Night (1934)
Released in 1934, It Happened One Night is the earliest movie on this list, but don’t be discouraged. Starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, this cooky romantic comedy follows a young socialite who breaks out from her father’s control and winds up falling for a reporter. The two pair well together, and it’s one of the few movies to win all five of the biggest categories at the Oscars. It was also one of the last big movies before the strict moral code was enforced, meaning this early rom-com has jokes most classic movies couldn’t get away with.
7. An Affair to Remember (1957)
The American Film Institute named An Affair To Remember one of the most romantic films ever, and we have to agree. Stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr have unreal chemistry with each other, so you really root for them from the first moment. After meeting on a Transatlantic ocean liner, they agree to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months if they’re both single. Sounds like something out of a fairy tale, right? Some complications get in the way of immediate true love, but this movie will absolutely still make you swoon.
6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Audrey Hepburn made relatively few films in her career, but she still managed to log several iconic roles. Her performance as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s easily tops them all. As the independent, dreamy Holly, it’s hard to believe any man wouldn’t fall head over heels for her. The moment when Holly and Paul Varjak finally kiss in the rain is probably one of the most romantic of all time. People love to remember Audrey’s famous little black dress and pearls, but the romance in this movie is just as great.
5. Some Like It Hot (1959)
No list of classic movies would be complete without at least one film starring Marilyn Monroe. In this hilarious golden age picture, two men become drag queens to escape from the mafia after witnessing a crime. The portrayal of drag on screen was way ahead of its time, but there was still a classic romantic element. Marilyn Monroe’s character Sugar fell in love with Joe, played by Tony Curtis, despite his over-the-top makeup. This movie is filled with slapstick shenanigans, but it’s still romantic and heartfelt at its core.
4. Hello, Dolly! (1969)
Barbra Streisand stars in this Broadway musical adaptation, and it’s both a riotous good time and pretty romantic. Dolly Levi is a matchmaker who has time to take care of everyone but herself, but all that changes when she finally teams up with the stubborn Horace Vandergelder. The romantic comedy plot ends with pretty much every major character in a relationship, which is just the way it should be! The romance is a fun aspect of this movie, but it also has some of the best show tunes of all time. You’ll be feeling romantic and have about a dozen songs stuck in your head.
3. Rocky (1976)
You might not think of Rocky as a romance movie, but hear us out. Boxing is obviously a major part of the story here, but Rocky’s relationship with Adrienne is just as vital. Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire are an adorable match made in movie heaven, and that’s not even up for debate. It’s amazing to watch how Adrienne comes out of her shell with Rocky, and she helps him every step of the way. Boxing is cool or whatever, but Rocky is also a love story.
2. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
In this classic rom-com, Katharine Hepburn stars as a socialite who is forced to choose between three handsome men. Played by Cary Grant, James Stewart, and John Howard, you can guess that there are some hijinks before the ultimate decision is made. One man is her ex-husband, another is her current fiancé, and the third is a reporter sent to cover the wedding. We won’t give away the ending, but love is a tricky game. However silly this movie may be, it’s still pretty darn romantic.
1. The Apartment (1960)
Another classic romantic comedy, this one won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1960. Starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment is all about how one thing can lead to another in unexpected ways. Lemmon’s character allows his bosses to use his apartment to have affairs in hopes of getting a promotion, but he ends up falling in love with the elevator operator. Shirley MacLaine is at her charming best in the role of the elevator operator Fran, who can dish it out as much as she can take it. There’s more going on here than meets the eye, and it all comes together perfectly.