Recommendation: nine of the best American romantic films

Summary: Our world is whirlpool of hate and fear, driven by lust and greed. Films about love show us glimpses of a better world. Here are nine of my favorite romance films, most relatively recent (i.e., doesn’t include Casablanca). You might enjoy some of them, something different for your holiday entertainment.

Most romantic films



Director: Morten Tyldum.
Writer: Jon Spaihts.
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen.

Bien pensant critics went berserk over this, the most anti-feminist story since the Rape of the Sabine women — to which this is somewhat similar. It’s a powerful story in the science fiction tradition of putting people in extreme situations — and watching them make choices.

Most critics refused to accept the situation, despite its plausibility, saying that it was politically incorrect. it. Its Rotten Tomatoes score was 30%.

The film is tightly plotted. It has good dialog, fine acting, and a strong ending. I recommend it as a modern love story. Unlike most of the others on this list, it written for adults.


Leap Year
Leap Year.

Leap Year

Director: Anand Tucker.
Writers: Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont.
Stars: Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.

Leap Year is one of the best romantic films of this generation. Of course, the critics hated it. They reacted to it much as vampires do when force-fed garlic. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 23%.

Amy Adams plays a young woman who values romance above worldly goods and the society of America’s elites — and who gambles much to get what she wants. She plays a free-thinking and independent women, free of the upwardly-mobile princess mentality of most American romance films.

Like most of the films on this list, it is a romantic commedy. Serious romance is almost a lost art in Hollywood.

The two leads have understated yet electric chemistry, with Goode providing a solid acting foundation for Adams’ usual superlative characterization.


The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride.

The Princess Bride

Director: Rob Reiner.
A 1987 film based on a 1973 book.
Writer: William Goldman (both the book and film).
Stars: Cary Elwes and Robin Wright.

The Princess Bride is an off-beat film for those who prefer their romance in a non-standard form. This kind of film is not my cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. It is a brilliantly executed film by some creative people and excellent actors.

It is a great family film, appealing to all ages.

As a fun but traditional sarcastic riff on traditional action-adventure romance, critics loved it. It score was 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. The public was less impressed; it grossed only $31 million.

I do not understand why so few people bought tickets. It is well worth seeing.




Director: Matthew Vaughn.
Based on a 1999 book by Neil Gaiman.
Writers: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn.
Stars: Charlie Cox & Claire Danes.

This is another of my favorite films. It is the romantic equivalent of a sugar high, a traditional romantic comedy adventure — without the almost obligatory post-modern syrup that proves the writers are above the material.

It is a fun film, creatively playing with the usual tropes. Like most of these films, it is shallow. Nobody in Hollywood can make – or wants to make – another Night of the Iguana.

This is the kind of film critics that usually hate, but even they could not hate it. The Rotten Tomatoes score was 76%. It won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form in 2008.

Audiences also liked it, but only a little. It grossed $136 million on a $88 million production budget – so at best it broke even.




Director: Tom McGrath.
Writers: Alan Schoolcraft, Brent Simons.
Stars: Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt.

This is one of the best children’s animated films, ever. It is a comedy for the kids, containing a fun romance for the adults. Megamind is a real family film.

Hollywood family-friendly annimated films tend to be unimaginative and derivative. When they have a romantic subplot, it is usually brutally clumsy. This is a shining exception. It’s worth seeing just to see something creative.

Like most creative films, it received absurdly low ratings from critics. It is an almost perfect film of its kind, and deserved better than a 73% TomatoMeter rating.

It is one of Dreamworks’ best films, making Shrek look like chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

You've Got Mail
You’ve Got Mail.


You’ve Got Mail

Director: Nora Ephron.
Writer of the 1937 play: Miklós László.
Writer of the screenplay: Delia & Nora Ephron.
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear.

It’s one of the great modern American romantic films. You’ve Got Mail is based on Miklós László’s 1937 play “Parfumerie”, from which came many romantic films and plays — including the great classic The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

Every aspect of this is well done: script, acting, music, direction, and cinematography. I am amazed that it has a Rotten Tomatoe rating of only 69%.

If you like romance films, you should see this one. But if you like romance, you probably already have.


An Affair to Remember
An Affair To Remember.
Sleepless in Seattle
Sleepless in Seattle.
Pride and Prejudice
The greatest romantic film of all time: the BBC mini-series of Pride & Prejudice.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See all film reviews, all posts about our heroes, about our myths, and especially these…

15 thoughts on “Recommendation: nine of the best American romantic films”

  1. You have become very wise, FM. I have checked out the 3 that I have not yet seen from my local library. Megamind was a surprise.

  2. Good list. I was actually planning to skip Passengers because the reviews were so bad, but now I’m reconsidering. Is it important to see it in the theater to appreciate the cinematography, CGI, etc?

    I just watched Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” on a plane. Also not a critical (70% RT) or commercial ($11M domestic gross) success, but I really enjoyed it.

  3. Coming to this way late but oh well. Good list. (for the ones I’ve seen) The Princess Bride is fun to break down, who’s the protagonist? Wesley is mostly dead for the middle third, Buttercup doesn’t do anything, Inigo is not followed and it’s the end of his story but he’s the only one with a clear goal, but it’s still great.

    I’d include High Fidelity, Father Goose and His Girl Friday on my list.

    1. The Murr,

      If you watch the other films, please comment on your reactions.

      I agree about Father Goose (I should have included it on the list). His Girl Friday is great, but lacks something essential imo for a good romantic story — comedy or not: character development. It keeps them from being comic books. Cary Grant is the same abusive dick at the end as at the beginning. If he had changed a bit it would have been a great film!

  4. They’ve been added to the list, but the list is extensive so it might be awhile before I see them. Can’t argue your point about His Girl Friday in terms of romance but I think Rosalind Russell is so spectacular that it makes up for the lack of progression in Cary Grant. It’s a contender for my top 5 greatest movies list, but you’ve made me rethink how I categorize romance movies. (how do the rules differ for a romantic comedy?)

    I also wanted to comment on ‘You’ve Got Mail.’ It would have been a great movie if Tom Hanks had lost and Meg Ryan had kept her store.

    1. the murr,

      “how do the rules differ for a romantic comedy?”

      That is a great question, and worth some thought! As a follow-up, are romantic stories still possible today — in the post-feminist era? Hollywood still makes them, but not many — and most are strange. To see some really interesting film, look at the Hallmark romance films. Some are quite daft, trying to fit the scripts from a bygone age into our time — when little girls are told they can fight giant angry bulls (how many films have you heard the lead girl say “I can take care of myself” when threathen by dangers that would make a squad of Marines worry), and dating has often become a fight in which many girls seek asshole guys (who treat them badly) and crush beta’s egos for fun (most of us are betas) and betas reply with Game (harsh, dark strategies to fake being alphas).

      “It would have been a great movie if Tom Hanks had lost and Meg Ryan had kept her store.”

      The greatest romantic stories are grounded in the realities of life. Such as Pride & Prejudice (and Austin’s other novels) foundation in recognition of ealry 19thC England’s class structure. Getting to a happy ending with a touch of realism keeps them from being totally wild fantasies, like children’s stories (e.g., Cinderella).

  5. I guess I see having Meg Ryan keep the store as more realistic while allowing the happy ending rather then ending up with her hopes and dreams crushed in large part due to the man she ends up with. On second thought there are plenty of stories, fiction and real life of marriages ruining dreams, Al Bundy in Married with Children and the pilot episode of Louie come to mind. But that strain of story telling colors You’ve got Mail in a different light.

    Up until now I’ve not watched any Hallmark films. I’m not sure I want to change that, but you make a decent argument why that could be interesting. (If only there were an MST3k for bad romance flicks to improve the experience)

    1. The Murr,

      You’ve Got Mail is a story about transitions in life, mirroring the changing NYC seasons it shows. Meg Ryan gets a great job at a publisher, so it is firmly in the modern romantic tradition — she has her careen and marries a nice rich guy.

      More interesting are the romances between beta guys and feminists. They’re a Hallmark speciality. But the hit TV show Castle is my favorite example. The commonplace American romance shows the domestication of a mustang man. In Castle we see an alpha transformed into a pitiful buttmonkey beta.

      Watch Designated Survivor to see how the male lead’s arc plays out. He starts as a typical weak beta. Fired from his job. Backstory of his fiancee telling him she’d pregnant — probably with a bad boy’s child (being a beta, he still marries her). Will this mark an inflection point, the introduction of Game into American fiction — showing the evolution of a beta into an alpha?

      1. I meant Lucky Louis above, the HBO show, not Louis, the fx (I think) show.

  6. Pingback: Megamind – Non-woke Christian Film Analysis

  7. I’ve got to disagree with MegaMind. The film is an attack on manhood and serves to bolster up the feminist idea of female moral superiority. In other words, the film clearly delivers the message that without women and their civilizing effect, the world would be lost.

    In order to get a better idea of how the movie portrays manhood, consider the three dominant male characters:

    First, there is MegaMind, himself. He is portrayed as a troubled child who knows only evil and who grows up to be a thorn in the side of his nemesis, MetroMan. MegaMind devotes all of his creative energies toward inventing new methods, machines, or mind-games in order to thwart MetroMan in his task of defending MetroCity. It’s clear, though, that MegaMind isn’t actually evil; he simply isn’t good at being good and embraces wrong-doing so that he can win at something. He doesn’t really want to hurt people, he just wants to be seen and feared as a powerful force so that his ego can get stroked. Eventually Roxanne figures this out and channels MegaMind’s desires for greatness toward becoming a good man. While this is not a bad thing in itself, it falsely reinforces the idea that a woman can change a man and that without women men are destructive tyrants.

    The second of the male characters is MegaMind’s archenemy, MetroMan. At first, he appears to be the perfect hero as he defends MetroCity from MegaMind. He has plenty of opportunities to flirt with Roxanne, who is a news reporter, and he enjoys the adoration of the people of MetroCity. He and MegaMind go back and forth for years, but eventually, following a moment of self-reflection, MetroMan realizes that he “isn’t being true to himself” and thus opts out of his hero role and hides from the city and from his responsibility.

    The other male character is an incel. He starts out the movie as Roxanne’s camera-man and has a ridiculous crush on her. Through a turn of events, he acquires super-human powers. However, he is not able to handle the power, and after getting rejected by Roxanne, he becomes a villain who then threatens her life.

    None of these men are men of strong character. Yes, MegaMind does turn from his evil, but only when persuaded to do so by Roxanne. Roxanne is the only one with character. She never wavers in her conviction of right and wrong and is disgusted by MetroMan’s abdication. It is she, and only she, who has the moral capacity to save the city. None of the men were fit for the task.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      These things are subjective. I have similar conversations with my sons. I see these thru a traditional lens, in which these stories were part of the patriarchal dynamic. My sons see these through eyes of those for whom that is dead letter history, from when dinos roamed the earth. This insight changes everything.

      I’ve had a similar transformation of perspective during my lifetime. I watched the first few seasons of Castle and enjoyed them. Now they are almost unwatchable for me, as I see them in the long plot arc of Castle being broken by Beckett from a strong dynamic alpha into a crying beta. The signs were all there in season one (my youngest son saw them), but I didn’t.

      Previous generations went through this with films featuring Black Americans, like Gone with the Wind.

      There are no “stories” as objective objects. It is all interpretation. You are seeing Megamind thru the eyes of the present.

      1. “There are no “stories” as objective objects. It is all interpretation. You are seeing Megamind thru the eyes of the present.“

        I suppose this is where we differ. We all have a subjective lens of interpretation, yes, but that does not prevent there being one objective meaning, particularly when considering the author/maker’s intent.

      2. Larry Kummer, Editor


        Since we disagree on the meaning of this simple passage, that’s obviously not so.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top