In these strange, dark times we need all the love we can get—even if it’s in the form of fictional characters who can’t exactly love us back. But who’s to say you can’t find your soul mate in one of these powerful romantic films, now streaming on Netflix? Such is the power of cinema. And the drama and heartbreak packed into some of these iconic stories will have you feeling all the ups and downs of true love.
Here are the Best Romantic Movies Streaming on Netflix:
50. L’auberge Espagnole
Director: Cédric Klapisch
Maybe “Europudding” is a pejorative term for a reason, and maybe L’Auberge Espagnole is kinda the definition of Europudding. But the film is also a great case for the virtues of Europudding as an aesthetic, a frothy, lightweight flick that actually manages to find subtext in its continental blend of nationalities: It’s a casual statement piece about the benefits of multicultural contact, proof of how connecting with people who vibe with life differently than we do can change us for the better. It’s also sweet as hell without tasting treacly, a buoyant, joyful flick whose protagonist, uptight student Xavier (Romain Duris), is able to dodge his grim corporate future by heading off to Barcelona and staying in a house loaded with other, considerably less uptight students hailing from Italy, Belgium, England, Germany, Denmark, and Spain (obviously), who teach him how to unwind mostly just by passing through his orbit. You’re probably well-familiar with this kind of movie – “conventional career drone loosens up through socialization” is a pretty tried-and-true narrative framework, after all – but L’Auberge Espagnole has a breezy, unfussy earnestness that compliments its post-European Union identity.—A.C.
49. That’s Not Us
Director: William C. Sullivan
When six friends reunite for a weekend at the beach, a relaxing getaway turns into an uninvited opportunity to deal with their emotional baggage. That’s Not Us follows three couples—one lesbian, one gay and one straight—during a presumably carefree weekend full of memories, intimate moments and exploration. Two have come to rekindle their sex life, while another couple grapples with how a prestigious grad program will force them hundreds of miles apart. For the third, the revelation that one of them doesn’t know how to ride a bike spurs a begrudging effort to grow together. But while the serene backdrop seems like the perfect place to soften the blows of their difficult issues, the tension that boils may be enough to end each relationship altogether. That’s Not Us is a fleeting and bare look into the lives of six twentysomethings as they fight growing older and growing apart to be the people—and couples—they fell in love with. —A.W.
48. Grosse Pointe Blank
Director: George Armitage
A slick combo of dark comedy, romance and ‘80s nostalgia, Grosse Pointe Blank is almost a partner to star John Cusack’s later film, High Fidelity. Both are about lonely men rethinking their direction in life set to a great soundtrack, but only in Grosse Pointe Blank does John Cusack play a hitman who murders Dan Aykroyd with a television. All that violence, and it still managed to capture the sweetness of returning home, and reconnecting with the one that got away/the one you left on prom night.—Garrett Martin and Shannon Houston
Director: Mélanie Laurent
Nothing’s more effective at shaking a teen out of their monotonous high school routine than the arrival of a new student. That’s the stuff actress/director Mélanie Laurent’s sophomore film, Breathe, is made of: mystery and allure, with generous dollops of adolescent rivalry, sexual awakening and verbal abuse spooned on top. Think of Breatheas a distant European cousin to the fraught teen movies of Larry Clark as well as Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen, stories of imperiled youth, loneliness and volatile sentiment. —A.C.
46. Save the Date
Director: Michael Mohan
A keen observation of the transition from artsy hipsterhood to responsible adulthood, Michael Mohan’s Save the Date examines the difficulties young adults face considering grown-up phases like marriage when half of their parents have divorced. With irrepressibly appealing performers playing flawed characters, he strikes a chord that resonates, even if some of the notes are a bit familiar. Lizzy Caplan (Bachelorette) stars as Sarah, a fiercely independent artist/bookstore manager who reluctantly agrees to move in with her adorable rocker boyfriend, Kevin (Geoffrey Arend). He’s so blissed-out about their new living arrangement that he’s completely tone-deaf to the fact that no, she wouldn’t appreciate being proposed to in front of all their friends (and a bunch of strangers, too) at the end of one of his packed shows. Key to the story and style of the film are Sarah’s ink drawings, created in real life by graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown, who co-wrote the screenplay. They serve as a creative window into Sarah’s soul while conveniently advancing the plot at a critical juncture.—Annlee Ellingson
Director: Rebecca Johnson
Based on a true and tragic story, Honeytrap tells the story of a young and naive teen from Trinidad, who moves to London to live with her mother for the first time since her childhood. We know Layla’s desire—desperation, really—to fit in with the Brixton crowd is going to end badly, but Jessica Sula’s portrayal makes the character’s seemingly simple-minded moves feel completely relatable. Not unlike the beautiful French film, Goodbye First Love, Honeytrap takes young love and its oft accompanying obliviousness very seriously. When Layla chooses the (ahem, wildly attractive) bad guy over the good guy, and finds herself unable to walk away from an abusive relationship, we can’t help but identify with her because writer/director Rebecca Johnson has taken care to show how Layla’s decision making is informed by both familial strains and a culture that celebrate hyper-masculinity. But it’s the end of the film that delivers a powerfully shocking blow—one that will make you wholly relieved that your days of teenage love are (hopefully) far behind.—Shannon M. Houston
44. Wild Canaries
Director: Lawrence Michael Levine
Flailing, waning coupledom sometimes resorts to practically anything to keep the romance alive: therapy, swinging, having a baby. Why not a murder mystery? A heart-on-sleeve ode to screwball comedies with a dash of Hitchcockian intrigue, Wild Canaries grounds some seriously dark hijinks in the anxiety and selfishness of a couple’s impending nuptials, using their fears of spending their lives with another insecure, difficult person to map out just how out of their depths they are in this whole real-life thriller scenario—or just how much romance needs a spirit of adventure and spontaneity to stay alive. It helps too that actors like Alia Shawkat, Kevin Corrigan and Jason Ritter are on hand, willing to lean in hard on such a caper, while director Lawrence Michael Levine (who stars with his partner Sophia Takal as the leading duo) somehow seamlessly blends his many genre touchstones with his origins in mumblecore, lending the antics some broad physical comedy in the process. The gag in which he, panic-stricken, slowly reclines the seat in his car in order to avoid being detected on a stakeout is worth the run-time alone.—Dom Sinacola
43. The Way He Looks
Director: Daniel Ribeiro
Based on Daniel Ribeiro’s 2010 short I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone, the Brazilian drama The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) follows one teen’s ingenious coming-of-age story. Consistency is at the center of Leo’s world, from weekly visits with his grandmother to the walk home from school with his best friend, Giovana. That’s because Leo is blind, a condition that makes adapting to unforeseen changes difficult. As the high schooler’s desire for self-sufficiency grows, his behavior begins to confuse and alienate those closest to him. Much of that growing disconnect stems from his new friendship with Gabriel, a boy whose innocent insensitivity towards Leo’s visual impairment forces the shy teen out of a stifling routine. Ribeiro’s exploration of the experiences that catapult us through the complicated throes of teenhood is at times subtle, but always grounded and ultimately the film’s greatest strength. When and how do we become independent from our parents? What type of verbal or physical commitments does a relationship require? Where is the line between friendship and something more? And most interestingly, what does it say about the biology of sexuality, and the chemistry of love, when you can’t see the person you’re attracted to? The Way He Looks is no traditional tale of growing up. It’s a tender illustration of the coming out we all experience as we cross the threshold of young adulthood.—Abbey White
42. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Director: Bharat Nalluri
A stylized study on the ageless paradox of suddenly finding oneself in fortunate circumstances, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day features Frances McDormand as the title character, an out-of-work nanny suddenly thrust into the glamorous existence of Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), a blossoming West End actress in 1939 London. Lafosse requires a social secretary to sort out the impending mess of her love life, at least until she can land the lead in a new musical being produced by one of her current paramours. Miss Pettigrew must navigate the nasty waters between the haves and have-nots, who are all rather deceptively mixed together in the upper-crust theater scene. Only two or three twists of McDormand’s wizened countenance are required to let us know that all is not as it seems; in the end, the characters’ integrity is the only virtue that cuts the smoke of the flash pots.—David Mead
41. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Released in mid-summer of last year, director Lorene Scafaria’s (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) feature film directorial debut came and went without much fanfare. To be fair, it was a hard sell. An apocalypse comedy/rom-com/road trip movie starring the likes of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, two actors who don’t seem like they belong in the same world together let alone in a romantic pairing, the movie was never going to be a runaway hit. It’s certainly not without its flaws, with a tone that oscillates sharply between comedy and drama. And yet, Carell and Knightley’s combined charm and chemistry make this one end-of-the-world road trip worth checking out.—Dan Kaufman