The best romance movies on Netflix

The best romance movies on Netflix

Clockwise from top left: Blue Jay (Photo: The Orchard); Howards End (Screenshot); Always Be My Maybe (Photo: Netflix); She’s Gotta Have It (Screenshot); Stardust (Screenshot); Kicking And Screaming (Screenshot); Safety Not Guaranteed (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left: Blue Jay (Photo: The Orchard); Howards End (Screenshot); Always Be My Maybe (Photo: Netflix); She’s Gotta Have It (Screenshot); Stardust (Screenshot); Kicking And Screaming (Screenshot); Safety Not Guaranteed (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the title at the top of each slide for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Netflix list, but we decided romance movies deserved their own spotlight since they are often not included on our year-end lists as much as other genres. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is classified by Netflix as a “romance” (2) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (3) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Netflix announces new additions to their library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Hulu. And if you’re looking for a laugh, check out our list of
the best comedy movies on Netflix.

This list was most recently updated on April 1, 2021.

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The Artist

The Artist

Jean Dujardin
Jean Dujardin
Photo: The Artist

Jean Dujardin brings his usual million-dollar smile to the role of a silent-cinema star who’s on top of the world until the advent of talkies, which he dismisses as a fad, leaving the world to pass him by. Meanwhile, a starstruck fan he meets in a crowd (Bérénice Bejo) rockets to stardom, but never forgets her crush on him, and continues to admire him from afar (and sometimes a-near) as he slides toward irrelevance. By nature, The Artist is a charming romance, in which two naturally winning people are denied what they want just long enough to make audiences feel satisfied when everyone’s needs are finally met. It’s a beautifully shot, beautifully acted piece of fluff. [Tasha Robinson]

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3 / 21

Always Be My Maybe

Always Be My Maybe

Ali Wong and Randall Park
Ali Wong and Randall Park
Photo: Ed Araquel/Netlfix

Rom-coms have the tricky task of straddling the “rom” and the “com” part, with a lot of star-steered vehicles leaning toward the former. Always Be My Maybe thankfully focuses on the latter; there are a lot of laughs packed into its friendship-becomes-something-more story. In keeping with the Netflix rom-com tradition of encouraging new talent, ABMM offered Fresh Off The Boat director Nahnatchka Khan her film directorial debut; Grimm scribe Michael Golamco wrote the screenplay with the movie’s stars, Ali Wong and Randall Park. The film smartly kicks off by showing the pair as adorable childhood best friends, so that we’re rooting for them right out of the gate. [Gwen Inhat]

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4 / 21

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass in Blue Jay
Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass in Blue Jay
Photo: The Orchard

Set in an unspecified small town—sleepy establishing shots suggest a location somewhere on the West Coast—the indie film Blue Jay begins in time-honored fashion, with a chance meeting between a man and a woman. In this case, they’re shopping in the same aisle at the supermarket, and a major silent drama ensues before either party even acknowledges the other’s presence. Jim (Mark Duplass) appears to recognize Amanda (Sarah Paulson), but quickly decides to ignore her, though he doesn’t walk away. Amanda then spots Jim and, following a visible struggle about whether or not to say hello, finally does so. Jim greets her warmly, starts to go in for a hug, senses it might be unwanted, manages to retreat before he’s committed himself irrevocably. Duplass and Paulson counteract the deliberately banal dialogue (Duplass also wrote the screenplay) with superbly anxious body language; Jim and Amanda’s “casual,” “amiable” chitchat is so painfully forced that it’s a wonder nothing ruptures. These two people clearly have a troubled history, and it takes Blue Jay only a few minutes to generate intense curiosity about what it is. [Mike D’Angelo]

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5 / 21

Bonnie And Clyde

Bonnie And Clyde

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty
Screenshot: Bonnie And Clyde

When the title characters in 1967's Bonnie And Clyde first lay eyes on each other, they smile in what seems like immediate recognition. They both consider themselves exceptional people bound for glory, and they’re each pleased to encounter a kindred egotistical soul who’s ready to act as an admiring mirror and enabler. Within seconds of that first encounter, they’ve already formed the mutual admiration society that will lead them through years of crimes, and straight to the grave. Granted, Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) is stark naked, and Clyde (Warren Beatty) is trying to steal her mother’s car, so they each have an extra reason for wry amusement. But the easygoing charm of that first meeting summarizes what made Arthur Penn’s Bonnie And Clyde so controversial upon its release, and what still makes it memorable today. Forty years ago, charming, likeable, fun criminals were a licentious shocker; today, they’re old hat, but Bonnie And Clyde still maintains its amiable charisma. [Tasha Robinson]

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6 / 21

Can’t Hardly Wait

Can’t Hardly Wait

Lauren Ambrose and Ethan Embry
Lauren Ambrose and Ethan Embry
Screenshot: Can’t Hardly Wait

While every one of Can’t Hardly Wait’s characters can be defined by two or three words—the tortured geek (Charlie Korsmo), the misunderstood prom queen (Hewitt), the evil jock (Peter Facinelli), the doleful protagonist (Ethan Embry), the Janeane Garofalo type (Lauren Ambrose), the white homeboy (Seth Green), and more—it’s refreshingly fast-paced. For starters, it’s a true ensemble piece: Set mostly during a single house party the night of high-school graduation, it cuts effortlessly from wacky situation to wacky situation, with various characters getting drunk, finding love while locked in a bathroom together, unleashing inner rock ‘n’ rollers, seeking revenge, ending and beginning relationships, and trashing the home of a peripheral character’s parents. The film deserves credit, both for its breezy pacing and its uncommon tendency to make its characters smarter and geekier than they might have been. [Stephen Thompson]

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7 / 21

Howards End

Howards End

Illustration for article titled The best romance movies on Netflix
Screenshot: Howards End

Among the more critically vaunted films of the ’90s, the film stood out in a trifecta of successful literary adaptations (A Room With A View and Remains Of The Day were the others) from writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, producer Ismail Merchant, and director James Ivory. Howards End was nominated for nine Oscars, and provided wins for the art directors, Jhabvala, and the film’s luminous star, Emma Thompson. Then Pulp Fiction happened two years later, and their brand of well-behaved costume dramas fell precipitously out of favor. Yet there was a reason people responded so strongly to Howards End in 1992, and though the Merchant-Ivory template remains out of fashion, its reputation stands to be restored a little. In truth, E.M. Forster’s novel about class and national identity in turn-of-the-century England is too much book for any film to adapt properly; at its worst, Howards End glides dispassionately over the complexity and turbulence of the country’s crumbling social structure. But there’s grace and surprising bursts of emotion in the telling, too, starting with Thompson’s magnificent performance as a well-meaning middle-class matron caught between worlds. [Scott Tobias]

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8 / 21

I Lost My Body

I Lost My Body

I Lost My Body
I Lost My Body
Photo: Netflix

The best animated film of 2019 is partly about a luckless, lonely young man falling in love, and partly about a severed hand that’s slowly crawling across a city filled with small-scaled dangers. The two pieces complement each other, frequently pushing I Lost My Body toward the poetic and metaphorical. But the movie is also just beautiful and exciting on a moment-to-moment basis—as both a low-key romance and as a gory thriller. [Noel Murray]

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9 / 21

The Incredible Jessica James

The Incredible Jessica James

Jessica Williams in he Incredible Jessica James
Jessica Williams in he Incredible Jessica James
Photo: Netflix

Writer-director Jim Strouse (People Places Things) nails the trendsetting speech patterns and whip-smart witticisms familiar to listeners of Jessica Williams’ podcast with fellow comedian Phoebe Robinson, 2 Dope Queens, and writes Williams as a confident, charismatic young woman who rocks the hell out of a jumpsuit and who’s incapable of living on anyone’s terms but her own. Chris O’Dowd and Williams play well off of each other, conveying the stages of a new relationship from awkward first date to first big fight with an easy and believable chemistry. She plays well off of Lakeith Stanfield as well, in recurring interludes where Jessica imagines getting the last word with her feckless ex, which add a welcome dash of surrealism to the proceedings. The film does contain a few truly funny bits, like Jessica’s gift of a homemade child’s guide to dismantling the patriarchy to her conservative pregnant sister, making it feel like an enjoyable hangout with a funny friend throughout its 85-minute running time. [Katie Rife]

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10 / 21

Kicking And Screaming

Kicking And Screaming

Illustration for article titled The best romance movies on Netflix
Screenshot: Kicking And Screaming

I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday,” Chris Eigeman snaps in Kicking And Screaming. “I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now.” It’s a funny, seemingly throwaway bit in a movie that, taken apart, consists of little more than seemingly throwaway bits: circular conversations about ancient pop culture, fleeting moments of sexual awkwardness, brief realizations of failure, and—once in a while—decisions to take action (which usually leads nowhere). The 1995 comedy by writer-director Noah Baumbach follows four recent college graduates for whom a challenge to list movies about monkeys has become a more meaningful, or at least more tangible, goal than figuring out what to do next. [Keith Phipps]

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11 / 21

The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in The Lovebirds
Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in The Lovebirds
Photo: Netflix

In terms of plot, The Lovebirds is nothing new. In fact, it’s simply the latest in a recent series of films, like Date Night and Game Night and Keeping Up With The Joneses, about a couple coincidentally caught up in wacky but legitimately dangerous criminal activity. In this case, it’s hipster creatives Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) who get pulled into a blackmail ring after they accidentally run over a cyclist with their car in the midst of a relationship-ending fight. Add a New Orleans location that isn’t especially necessary to the story and a dinner party full of judgmental friends (and one hunky coworker), and the Mad Libs card is pretty much filled out. The dialogue is the real star here—that, and the chemistry between the leads, of course. [Katie Rife]

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12 / 21

The Lovers

The Lovers

Tracy  Letts and Debra Winger in The Lovers
Tracy Letts and Debra Winger in The Lovers
Photo: A24

Azazel Jacobs’ The Lovers is set in the sort of unremarkable, average, suburban America that is rarely depicted in American movies in anything but a negative light, usually as a place where dreams go to die. So one of the unexpected virtues of this small, thoughtful film is how it resists treating these surroundings as soul-crushing or as a symbol of the failure of middle-class mores, all while telling a story about disaffection and the yearning to escape—a ballet of ordinariness that uses a nostalgic, waltzing score (by longtime Jacobs collaborator Mandy Hoffman) to reveal the internal melodrama of middling lives and longings. Its central characters, Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts), are fiftysomethings whose dull marriage reached a dead end long ago. Both are carrying on affairs—she with writer Robert (Aiden Gillen), he with dance teacher Lucy (Melora Walters). And just as they are about to finally leave one another for their respective paramours, they find themselves re-sparking their relationship. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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13 / 21

My Best Friend’s Wedding

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts
Screenshot: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Rom-coms have happy endings. That fact is such a given that it’s often preemptively held against the genre. Why see a movie when you already know exactly how it’s going to end? It’s ironic, then, that one of the most beloved rom-coms of all time challenges the very nature of what we want from a happy ending. The all-around delightful My Best Friend’s Wedding—more so than maybe any other romantic comedy—benefits from not knowing exactly where things are going. The 1997 film stars Julia Roberts as Julianne Potter, a commitment-phobic restaurant critic who’s sent into a tailspin when she learns her longtime best friend—and one-time college hookup, whom she made a pact to wed if neither were married by 28—Michael O’Neal (Dermot Mulroney) is about to marry the bubbly, 20-year-old White Sox heiress Kimmy Wallace (Cameron Diaz). When Julianne confesses her love and impulsively kisses Michael, it doesn’t make him realize he’s in love with her. It only helps him confirm he’s actually in love with Kimmy. And even though she’s heartbroken, Julianne sets about righting her wrongs, ensuring the wedding goes off without a hitch. There are plenty of meta rom-coms and rom-com parodies, but My Best Friend’s Wedding is something unique. It’s a deconstruction of the romantic comedy genre that’s also a fully functioning, agreeably mainstream version of one. [Caroline Siede]

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14 / 21

Safety Not Guranteed

Safety Not Guranteed

Aubrey Plaza
Aubrey Plaza
Screenshot: Safety Not Guranteed

Substituting charm, and sometimes quirk, for special effects, the no-budget time-travel caper Safety Not Guaranteed squeaks by on goodwill and guarded expectations. Aubrey Plaza plays a Seattle magazine intern whose interest is piqued by a classified ad looking for a time-travel partner. “This is not a joke,” it reads. “Bring your own weapons.” (The ad duplicates an Internet-famous real-life counterpart.) Although naturally skeptical—this is Aubrey Plaza, after all, to whom eye-rolling comes as naturally as breathing—Plaza sees a chance to land her first story, and she sets out to track down the person who placed the ad, but her trip is hijacked by a staff writer (Jake Johnson) whose old flame happens to live in the small town where the ad originated. As expected, the would-be time-traveler turns out to be a trifle unbalanced, but fortunately (at least for meet-cute purposes), he comes not in the form of a filthy basement-dweller, but the more attractive shape of Mark Duplass, whose implausible obsession has its roots in past tragedy. He’s also trying to reunite with a long-lost love, although in his case, it’s a little more complicated than simply looking her up. [Sam Adams]

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15 / 21

She’s Gotta Have It

She’s Gotta Have It

Tracy Camilla  Johns
Tracy Camilla Johns
Screenshot: She’s Gotta Have It

In the first three minutes of She’s Gotta Have It, writer-director-star Spike Lee offers up a Zora Neale Hurston quote, a plaintive jazz score by his father Bill, artful photos of New York street life by his brother David, and sumptuous black-and-white footage of bridges and brownstones, shot by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson. In 1986, few American independent films looked and sounded as distinctive as She’s Gotta Have It, and Lee upped the ante further by seeming to promote a theretofore-unrecognized new Harlem Renaissance. From the jump, She’s Gotta Have It announced that it wasn’t going to define black life in terms of crime and poverty, just as it wasn’t going to bind independent filmmaking to moribund realism. Tracy Camilla Johns plays a young commercial artist juggling three boyfriends: genteel professional Tommy Redmond Hicks, preening model John Canada Terrell, and Lee, a livewire bike messenger. (Johns also has a predatory lesbian friend… best forgotten.) The movie tries to compensate for its lack of story by promising a frank look at female sexuality, but the title tells the tale: When it comes to its central idea, She’s Gotta Have It is more leering than revelatory. Luckily, Lee has more on his mind than just making some nebulous points about gender relations. She’s Gotta Have It is a calling-card film in the best sense of the term, in that it doesn’t just show what Lee can do, but what anyone can do. [Noel Murray]

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16 / 21

Someone Great

Someone Great

DeWanda Wise, Gina Rodriguez, and Brittany  Snow in Someone Great
DeWanda Wise, Gina Rodriguez, and Brittany Snow in Someone Great
Photo: Netflix

This NYC-set heartbreak story is written and directed by Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and stars Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise as three longtime best friends. When Rodriguez’s Jenny gets dumped by her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (LaKeith Stanfield), she suddenly has to take inventory of her life, evaluate what she wants, and reflect on nearly a decade of memories she built with a person who suddenly can’t be a permanent part of her life anymore. It’s one of the genre’s most gutting and complete portraits of a breakup and its sticky, chaotic aftermath. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]

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Stardust

Stardust

Illustration for article titled The best romance movies on Netflix
Screenshot: Stardust

Look, there’s never going to be another The Princess Bride. That film’s lightning-in-a-bottle combination of whimsy, postmodern comedy, and buckets of charm generated by its immensely likable cast can only be imitated, never replicated. But with its kid-friendly “long ago and far away” world-building and sophisticated storytelling, Matthew Vaughn’s Stardust comes closer than most films this century to matching the appeal of Rob Reiner’s classic. It’s based, like Princess Bride, on a book—Neil Gaiman’s 1998 novel of the same name, itself an expansion of his earlier comic-book miniseries. And like the Reiner film, it benefits from narration, Ian McKellen’s grandfatherly oration subbing in for the ramshackle draw of Peter Falk’s ambling voice-over storytelling. [Alex McLevy]

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18 / 21

Straight Up

Straight Up

James Sweeney and Katie Findlay
James Sweeney and Katie Findlay
Screenshot: Straight Up

Straight Up is funnier, fresher, and more authentically yearning than many of the rom-coms that have found success on streaming platforms over the past few years. In addition to writing and directing, James Sweeney also stars in the film as Todd, smart and fastidious twentysomething who has been presumed gay for most of his life (a “Kinsey 6,” in the parlance of one running gag). Is he, though? After failing to develop any meaningful romantic or sexual relationships, Todd has started to wonder if he’s just been conforming to expectations based on his nontraditional masculinity and general squeamishness, including a case of genuine OCD. Though his only two friends assure him that he couldn’t be anything else but homosexual, Todd tentatively branches out after a library meet-cute with struggling actress Rory (Katie Findlay), whose name allows them to bond over a mutual love of Gilmore Girls. Rory, who shares Todd’s intelligence and one-ups his sometimes-mordant sense of humor, has her own reasons for feeling comfortable with a relationship that de-prioritizes physical affection in favor of talk, talk, talk. Sweeney and Findlay’s motormouthed, interlocking dialogue makes a convincing case that maybe chat could be better than sex. [Jesse Hassenger]

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19 / 21

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Noah Centineo and Lana Condor in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Photo: Netflix

Directed by Susan Johnson, To All The Boys combines the stylized cinematography of a Wes Anderson movie with the heart of a John Hughes film and the spirit of the best of the 1990s high school rom-coms. Based on the first in Jenny Han’s best-selling trilogy of young adult novels, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before centers on introverted high school junior Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), whose world comes crashing down when her secret stash of love letters accidentally make their way out into the world. To avoid dealing with the fallout from the note sent to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard), Lara Jean pulls a classic screwball comedy move and impulsively kisses another letter recipient, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Once Peter gets a handle on Lara Jean’s situation, he suggests they start fake dating each other so that Lara Jean can avoid Josh and he can win back his ex-girlfriend by making her jealous. They draw up a contract of ground rules (no to any more kissing, yes to Sixteen Candles-inspired back pocket spins), and set about duping their school—both in person and via social media. Soon enough, however, Lara Jean and Peter’s fake relationship leads to some real feelings. [Caroline Siede]

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20 / 21

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Tamara Mello, Jacqueline Obradors, and Elizabeth Peña
Tamara Mello, Jacqueline Obradors, and Elizabeth Peña
Screenshot: Tortilla Soup

With ticket prices cresting the two-figure mark, it’s curious to witness the concurrent rise in movies that fixate on the preparation and consumption of gourmet cuisine. What’s the point of ogling the delectable craft-services spreads in Chocolat, Woman On Top, and What’s Cooking? when you can actually eat a perfectly good meal for a pittance more than a ticket? The makers of Tortilla Soup, an all-Hispanic remake of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, are hoping audiences will come for the fried bananas and squash flower soup, and stay for the warmed-over family melodrama. Like all of Lee’s work, Eat Drink is well wrought and superbly acted, but it’s also his most conventional effort to date, overstuffed with draggy subplots that take too much time to resolve. For the remake, these flaws have been transposed with slavish fidelity, though director María Rispoll (Twice Upon A Yesterday) and her screenwriters streamline the plot a little and come away with a better movie than it had any right to be. Hector Elizondo leads a solid cast as a widower and world-class chef who still lives with his three grown-up daughters in Los Angeles, but worries with good reason that he may soon be left with an empty nest. Though the story is flavorless and predictable, it’s also warm, diverting, and emotionally credible, which is more than can be said for the multicultural mush of What’s Cooking? or the lite magic realism of Woman On Top. The food looks great, too, for those fetishists seeking a little foreplay before dinner reservations. [Scott Tobias]

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