Romance is a popular genre in cinema, one that offers easy escape and probably, cause it’s closer to real life and easy to relate with. Almost every film, romantic or not, is likely to have a romantic sub-plot squeezed in. But good films that focus entirely on romance are few and far between. Here are, according to us, the best romantic movies 2000 onwards:
1. In The Mood For Love (2000)
Dir: Wong Kar-Wai
Wong Kar-wai’s In The Mood For Love is an enigma. It tells the recurring story of humanity — a series of what ifs and what could have beens. It is a paradoxical love story where the love story never begins. An eternal longing, moments of weakness where desire tries to seep in but is curtailed by the superego, which has set a line for itself — a line I would erase in an instant if I could.
But the truth is, we all suffer from this unending longing for something that we know we could never have or should never desire. The movie tells the story of two neighbours who connect with each other on account of both their spouses being out of touch and perhaps cheating on them.
The desire for coming closer to each other is constantly in battle with the want of not falling to the level of those that they despise so much — a battle to not becoming the very thing they fought against.
It is a heart-wrenching tale that will, perhaps, leave you in shambles.
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2. Amélie (2001)
Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Amélie is a beautiful romantic comedy of symbolism and metaphors; a piece of art that employs interesting and intriguing visual imagery. The use of magical realism to a very controlled degree is a genius method of showcasing the ambivalent themes and emotions of the characters involved. The storytelling is extraordinary and extremely impactful.
The movie takes several turns and twists to arrive at its romantic and extremely satisfying climax. But in the end, it all seems worth it for the build-up before the conclusion is just as meaningful and satisfying as the conclusion itself. Often, the journey is more rewarding than the destination itself. That is absolutely true in the case of Amélie. A brilliant entourage of events and characters lend to the absolute magnificence and brilliant lustre of the film.
3. Before Sunset (2004)
Dir: Richard Linklater
Before Sunset is the second instalment of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy. All the three films are brilliant, especially the first two, but this second part has a different charm about it. Time is an essential element in each of the three. The two lovers are constrained by the limitations of fleeting time but not fleeting feelings. Their conversations, spanning 18 long years, is the main focus of the film.
Their inhibitions, their intimacies, their world views and passionate proclamations of love over a casual evening stroll, a sightseeing trip and a hotel room make the movie grounded yet magically fantastical. [Related: Is This Song From ‘PK’ Inspired From Before Sunset?]
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Dir: Michel Gondry
Some people are just meant to be together and even a memory wipe can’t keep them away from each other. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind brilliantly portrays the flaws existing in every relationship while undermining their role in the destruction of that relationship. The importance of human memory is movingly illustrated.
True love is, indeed, eternal. It may be hindered but it cannot be contained or destroyed.
5. The Notebook (2004)
Dir: Nick Cassavetes
This one is a classic. A romance for all seasons and ages, The Notebook is a touching story that was able to bring out the human side of a relationship. It’s storytelling at its best. Each and every chapter of the movie as well as the characters have been crafted meticulously and executed to produce a spitting image of reality. A great contrast is shown between the magical and the real, both of which are essential parts of the film. We witness an amazing love story along with the lingering fear and inevitability of human mortality.
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6. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Dir: Ang Lee
Brokeback Mountain is an immensely moving piece of art that attempts to transcend the ‘normal’ and eases into themes that are considered taboo till this day in many parts of the world. It is a beautifully crafted story of two cowboys who indulge in a forbidden relationship with each other, a sharp departure from their orthodox traditions. The tone of the film moves from societal to character-driven as we jump into the lives of our protagonists and witness an unfolding of a love story, that is both painful and heartwarming.
7. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
Dir: Marc Webb
500 Days of Summer was a special, unexpected experience. More often than not, romantic movies depict ‘ideal’ romance. One that rarely exists or is possible to recreate in real life. 500 Days of Summer is genuinely different. It was an anti-romantic film that way. It draws a line between expectations and reality in relationships. And executes it so well. It is a brave take on the romantic genre that is not afraid to illustrate the fact that people, when they grow, often grow apart. The movie, in itself, is a wonderfully shot and executed piece of art that resonates with reality.
8. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Dir: David O. Russell
Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy-drama that focuses on two individuals, who suffer from bipolar disorders. When their lives are turned upside down, they find solace in one another and slowly grow close to each other. The movie is not only about the individuals, but also provides a universal message of breaking away the chains that tie you up and embracing that which brings joy into your life. Silver Linings Playbook successfully delivers some of the best-timed comedy lines along with a loveable romantic couple who brave the obstacles presented before them.
9. Her (2013)
Dir: Spike Jonze
Her, in one word, is extraordinary. It is an unforgettable experience that takes you through a roller-coaster ride of emotions. The bodyless love that manifests between a man and artificial intelligence is taken up to levels that should not have been possible.
Her gives us a beautiful and heart-touching look into the depth of human relationships. The movie is artistically beautiful and philosophically intriguing. Our values surrounding love are constantly questioned. We find ourselves delving deep into the meaning of humanity. We wonder whether what can be perceived and loved as a human become truly human, perhaps more human than the rest of us.
The study focuses on the growth of both characters. A growing man and an evolving AI. This movie will make you happy and hurt you bad. It is a pleasurable torture-fest on the sweet pain of love.
10. Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche
The French romantic film Blue Is the Warmest Color follows a young teenager through her journey into adulthood as she struggles with her sexual preferences. The movie paints a beautiful picture of lesbian romance and the underlying realities and strifes that people in all relationships have to follow while covering it with a homosexual tone. That’s the USP of the film. It does not force the theme nor does it make a case for it. It considers this love as a normal occurrence and builds upon it, using characters and not political agendas.
11. The Great Gatsby (2013)
Dir: Baz Luhrmann
Based on one of the greatest works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is an extravagant romantic drama about a man with an abundance of wealth and even more secrets hidden in his past. On the surface, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a pure romance with murder and revenge plots intertwined into it. Deep inside, it is a psychological study into the vanity of humanity especially post World War society.
The film focuses on the characters as much as the story. Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby displays passion. His desire to fill the void in his heart with material distractions is easy to connect with. The movie is so special because of its amazing portrayal of the inner workings and the psychology of a man who is deeply in love with a woman as well as how his surroundings often hinder him in this quest.
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12. The Theory of Everything (2014)
Dir: James Marsh
It has been a long time since I have seen The Theory of Everything. But the heartwarming and heart-saddening true story of the life and relationship of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde is still fresh in my memory.
This is a very special film, where the exploits of the famous scientist in his field take a step back in order to get a closer look upon his life and health and what implications his work and physical condition have on his wife, Jane, who struggles to maintain a balance between family and work.
The simplicity of the story is what draws one towards it. The young undying love developing into daily frustration and the mutual acceptance of the eventual destruction of that once-beautiful relationship leaves the audiences lamenting as they get a piece of how imperfect the world is for even those who may appear to be at the zenith of their success.
13. The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
Dir: Josh Boone
A soulful and sorrowful romantic drama film about two cancer-afflicted Individuals who know they’re moving closer to death by the second. But the movie is not really about a broken relationship or about love’s labour lost. It is a tale that celebrates the little moments of love and friendship that become a huge influence on our lives. A relationship can be short-lived but love endures eternally. The Fault In Our Stars is one of the most touching tales of romance I’ve witnessed in the recent years.
14. La La Land (2016)
Dir: Damien Chazelle
La La Land is wonderful from the word go and sticks the landing. Damien Chazelle renders an enthralling experience. Although the film encapsulates numerous themes about life, sacrifice, opportunities and ambition, it is a romantic film at heart and takes you through the anxiousness and excitement of first love.
It is winter when we meet our charming lead pair Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone). While the male protagonist is a struggling jazz pianist, the female is an aspiring drama actress. Chance encounters and jazz brings them closer. What follows is a string of heartwarming moments – eye gazing, long walks, dancing under the moonlight and some wordplay. What keeps everything in harmony is the music, which by the end of the film, swiftly delivers its message and ensures you leave the theatre a changed person.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are spectacular in their roles. La La Land is a grand example of engrossing storytelling blended with outstanding performances and a stirring soundtrack. (By Mayank Nailwal)
15. Kimi no Na Wa/Your Name (2016)
Dir: Makoto Shinkai
What do you get when anime is at its glorious best? A joyful, mind-bending romantic tale like Your Name. Director Makoto Shinkai’s dazzlingly animated tale mixes complex scientific theories, Eastern mythology along with heart-breaking teenage love. Shinkai’s works – 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Garden of Words – are often cited when addressing him as a worthy successor to Miyazaki and Takahata’s legacy. Shinkai strengthens that reputation with Your Name. This is the tale of two teenagers, Mitsuha and Taki. Mitsuha lives in the countryside with her beloved grandmother, younger sister and an estranged politician father. Taki lives in Tokyo. Out of the blue, one day Taki finds himself in Mitsuko’s body and vice-versa. They are forced to live in each others’ bodies two or three times a week.
As time passes, they get a hang of the body-swapping routine and slowly form an inseparable connection. Mitsuha and Taki continue leaving notes or messages in their respective settings. One day, the body-swapping stops. Taki sets out to investigate why. The prevalent Japanese fiction themes like memories of natural disaster, patriarchy, dealing with young-age deaths, are embedded in the emotionally engaging narrative. How he blurs the line between fantasy and reality reminds us of another greatest anime director Satoshi Kon. The anime, on the whole, is a brilliant take on the volatile phase of adolescence. The ending, furthermore, adds a different meaning to the word ‘soul mate.’ (By Arun Kumar)
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16. The Handmaiden (2016)
Dir: Park Chan-wook
The Handmaiden is a beautifully stylistic erotic psychological thriller. The film, in itself, is an enigmatic piece with amazing visuals and great cinematography. The romance is completely unconventional in this one as we are taken through a lust-filled relationship between two women who eventually betray each other. The characters are all driven by their own interests and ready to do anything for their selfish material desires. The movie is dark and often beautifully horrifying. But this dark tone allows one’s mind to shift deeper into the abyss of the dark romanticism that has been constructed within the world of The Handmaiden.
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17. Moonlight (2016)
Dir: Berry Jenkins
It’s hard to put down in words what I felt after watching this one. Berry Jenkins’ Moonlight is an experience. It’s a groundbreaking film that amazingly gets under your skin and never lets go. From the first scene to last, it stays raw and thoughtful. The director encapsulates several socially verboten issues through the story of its protagonist in three acts, with each act depicting different stages of his life.
Jenkins coherently infuses themes of drugs, poverty, racism and intolerance in the core plot of self-discovery and sexual identity. It isn’t necessary for a person to be gay to fully relate to the proceedings as the story is well told. And this is the filmmaker’s biggest achievement. One can easily see the world through Chiron’s eyes and comprehend the fight that is to overcome insurmountable hurdles in life.
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18. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Dir: Luca Guadagnino
Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a pure love story and nothing else. This movie follows a young teenager as he falls in love with an older male American graduate student. The beautifully shot sequences are almost dreamlike, sublime.
The many visages of love are brilliantly captured in the film. The pain of separation, the thrill of romance and the inescapable yet warm hands of desire all come alive on the silver screen. By the way, this is also a gay love story. But the fact that it is about that barely crossed my mind while watching it. Fortunately, no excessive emphasis is laid on it.
The sheer authenticity, purity and innocence with which love has been portrayed make it feel so organic we even forget such relationships are even frowned upon. For that brief moment, the world becomes perfect — it rejoices with an abundance of love.
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19. The Shape of Water (2017)
Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s romantic dark fantasy The Shape of Water is a visually stunning and emotionally stimulating experience. The movie brings together two outcasts who initially seem very different from each other. One is a mute cleaner working in a secret government facility and the other a captured humanoid amphibian who is to be vivisected soon. The two develop a deep bond and share a sort of isolation from society. The movie takes this uncommon couple and puts them in a setting where they are both allowed to flourish and are also contested. Clearly one of the best romantic movies till date, The Shape of Water is awe-inspiring at its best.
20. The Big Sick (2017)
Dir: Michael Showalter
Although billed as a romantic comedy, The Big Sick is a fresh and very thoughtful take on relationships. Kumail Nanjiani’s amusing performance and his arresting screenplay stay with you for a long time. The movie has everything that a romantic comedy needs: it is funny, charming, witty, and sensitive. And the best part about the film is that its origins lie in reality unlike most romcoms which depend on lazy writing and coincidental occurrences to drive the plot. This realism is so true to life that it resonates with the audiences on a personal level.
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21. A Star is Born (2018)
Dir: Bradley Cooper
A Star is Born has been made and re-made 4 times. That, in itself, is proof of its timeless romantic calibre. The most recent one starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is truly inspiring. It is one of the most passionate and visionary recreations I’ve recently seen. The story is extremely compelling and although the characters are portrayed as famous musicians, the movie seems extremely relatable.
The ups and downs are portrayed wonderfully. The movie did not create an illusion of real life, it created life itself. The beauty of the music is otherworldly.
It’s a powerful piece of work and the emotional heft it carries is astounding. It truly feels as if the two actors playing the roles are madly in love with each other.
In today’s world, we often become desensitized to the emotions of others. A Star Is Born is strongly recommended for it has an uncanny power to make you feel whole and simultaneously leave a void in your heart.
By Deepjyoti Roy
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