From the first jitters of newfound love to the devastating heartbreak of loss, the best romantic movies can encapsulate a vast spectrum of human emotions.
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The films share common traits: compelling storytelling, engaging characters, and the capacity to transport us into narratives that celebrate love. Whether they’re timeless classics or contemporary tales, they all aim to capture the essence of what it means to love and be loved.
We’ve curated a list of our favourite romance movies- and this is by no means a complete list. These films not only contribute to the genre’s enduring popularity but also reflect the shifting cultural attitudes towards love, relationships, and intimacy throughout the decades.
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Best Romantic Movies to Watch in the UAE and Saudi Arabia
Every single movie from our picks of the best romantic movies is worth watching. They’re sorted by the year in which they were released.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner’s 1987 romantic adventure movie is a must-watch. It follows the story of farmhand Westley (Cary Elwes), who is deeply in love with Buttercup (Robin Wright). But their boundless devotion to each other wasn’t meant to be – Westley is captured by Dread Pirate Roberts, while Buttercup is forced to become engaged to the cruel Prince Humperdinck.
However, Westley hasn’t lost of hope. With the help of a few eccentric friends, he seeks out Buttercup and defeats Humperdinck in a thrilling duel. Love prevails in the end, and proves that even the most difficult situations cannot stand in the way of a happily ever after.
Pretty Woman (1990)
Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is a hardened corporate executive with a heart of ice, who, one late night on Hollywood Boulevard, stumbles upon a street-smart and vivacious prostitute called Vivan. Smitten by her charms and looks, Edward makes an offer Vivan couldn’t refuse – she was to be his escort for a week of swanky business and social events, and he would pay her handsomely in return.
Vivian, intrigued by the glitz and glamour of the rich, takes him up on the offer. But what was supposed to be a purely transactional arrangement soon takes a predictable turn – they both start to fall in love with each other. As Vivan gets exposed to the finer things in life, she slowly sheds her streetwise exterior and discovers a hidden elegance, while Edward finds himself captivated by her spirit and infectious zest for life.
As the week comes to an end, they both find themselves at a crossroads of a difficult decision. Should they shed all societal pressure and embrace each other, or continue on with their lives and bury the passion and love they have for each other?
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is an architect in Seattle who is still grieving over the loss of his wife, Maggie. His son, Jonah, calls a late-night radio show seeking a new wife for his dad, where Sam opens up about his love for Maggie and the void she had left.
Unknownst to both of them, across the country, Annie listens to the show and is captivated by Sam’s heartfelt words. She feels an instant connection unlike she’s ever experienced before. She books a flight to Seattle in the hopes of meeting Sam but hesitates to confront him when she gets the chance. Instead, she leaves him a series of messages under the pseudonym, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.
Sam is intrigued by these messages, feels a renewed spark of hope, and sets out to find the mysterious woman. As their paths inch closer, they face internal and external struggles within themselves. Annie is guilt-ridden about hurting her fiance, while Sam is still hurting over the loss of Maggie and doubts his ability to love again.
Amassing over $2 billion at the box office, James Cameron’s most recognized romance movie weaves a passionate love story through the real-life tragedy of the “unsinkable ship”.
Jack Dawson (Leonard DiCaprio) is a penniless artist who somehow sneaks into the Titanic and stumbles upon the beautiful and charming Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), and their rebellious spirit and shared passion for art parks an undeniable connection, and thus start a whirlwind of a love affair. Despite Rose’s family disapproving of Jack, who is considered a lower-class citizen, as well as being constantly pestered by her controlling fiance, Cal Hockley, the pair continues to nurture their blossoming romance.
But as disaster strikes and the unsinkable Titanic begins to sink, Jack and Rose’s love is tested amidst an unfolding tragedy as they fight for survival and make life-altering choices – a choice that Rose will carry with her forever.
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
The 1998 comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan explores a festering new romance and provides a unique look at online dating as it was a few decades ago.
Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is an owner of a small bookstore named The Shop Around the Corner and faces stiff competition from Foxbooks, a rival chain store managed by Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). Kathleen and Joe are bitter rivals in the real world, constantly clashing over business decisions and philosophies.
But things are a bit different when they are online. Through an AOL chatroom dedicated to classic literature, they anonymously meet as Shopgirl and NY152 and instantly click. They share witty banter, confide their deepest secrets, and develop a blossoming emotional connection and, eventually, romance.
But as the truth starts to unravel, and Joe and Kathleen learn about each other’s online personalities, their worlds collide beyond fighting over the bookstore. Will they reconcile their personal feelings with their professional rivalry, or will the virtual love get a reality check?
City of Angels (1998)
Brad Silberling’s 1998 classic provides a celestial twist to the routine romance movie template.
The film follows Seth, an angel who observes and guides humans unseen. One day, he chances upon Maggie, a passionate and dedicated heart surgeon. He finds himself captivated by her and forms an impossible connection.
Maggie can see Seth – a rare anomaly he attributes to her impending death. Regardless, they continue to nurture their relationship, finding warmth in each other’s presence and seeking a glimpse into their worlds.
As their bond deepens, they must also face the inevitability and implausibility of things. Seth, torn between his angelic duty and his forbidden love, yearns to experience the human world with Maggie. But becoming human would mean giving up on his immortality. On the other hand, Maggie, who finds solace in Seth and a promise of something more beyond life’s inevitable end, wants to accept him in her life, but that means she will have to live with the burden of his sacrifice.
Notting Hill (1999)
Roger Michell’s charming love story made us believe that love can be found in the most unexpected circumstances.
William Thacker (Hugh Grant) is a shy travel bookshop owner who stumbles upon Anna Scott, a Hollywood superstar who enters his bookshop seeking refuge from the paparazzi. The pair strike up a conversation and find a surprising connection beneath their different facades. As love blossoms, William’s life is thrown into chaos as he tries to navigate the trick waters of fame and fortune, while Anna discovers the joys of leading a normal life.
As their bond deepens, the demanding nature of Anna’s job forces them to confront a difficult decision: should they follow their dreams or choose love instead?
Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones’s Diary explores the chaotic world of a single woman navigating love, life, and everything in between.
The film follows Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger), a 32-year-old Londoner, as she juggles her career, relationships and weight loss goals. During New Year’s Eve, she vows to improve herself: quit smoking, find love, and get married.
That’s when she stumbles upon two men vying for her heart: the charming but commitment-phobic Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who is her boss and offers many forbidden thrills, and the uptight and judgmental Mark Darcy, a childhood friend who represents stability.
As she navigates through the mishaps and chaos that this brings, she ultimately discovers strength and self-acceptance, and learns that perfection is just an illusion, and to her embrace her flaws.
Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’ classic Love Actually is a romantic comedy set in London and follows the stories of several characters as they navigate love, relationships, and the holiday season.
The film explores various facets of love – from youthful infatuation to unrequited love, from rekindling an old flame to long-term commitments, and it does so with warmth and humour, making it a lighthearted and entertaining film to watch during a date night (or any time else).
Love Actually stars an ensemble of some of the finest actors in the industry, including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Billy Nighy, and more.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
When their relationship turns sour, Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski decide to undergo a medical procedure to erase each other from their memories forever. But as it turns out, true love lasts forever.
After the procedure, Joel wakes up dazed and confused. He realizes what he has done and feels immense confusion and grief. He starts to find clues to their relationship – letters, voice messages, and photographs – that trigger the hazy memories of their once passionate yet volatile love story.
As Joel attempts to piece together the timeline of their relationship, he realizes the flaws within himself, and in Clementine, whose fear of commitment clashes with her love for Joel.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a unique and non-linear plot that weaves between past and present and dives deep into themes like free will, identity, and the nature of love. It’s beautifully shot and masterfully executed and is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates cinema as a whole.
The Notebook (2004)
One of the most iconic and popular romance films of the past few decades, Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook is a passionate and poignant exploration of love’s enduring strength.
Featuring outstanding performances from Ryan Gosling and Rachel Adams, The Notebook follows the story of a young lumber worker, Noah, who falls in love with a vivacious summer visitor, Allie, from a wealthy family. Their fiery romance is filled with passion, stolen kisses, and grand promises scribbled in Noah’s notebook.
However, Allie’s class differences and her parent’s disapproval of Noah cast a dark shadow over their future. As World War II commences, the love birds are separated seemingly forever. Years later, Allie finds herself engaged to another man, yet her heart still yearns for Noah. A chance encounter rekindles the lost romance she once had, and now she must make a life-altering decision – to follow the security of her planned future or surrender herself to her undeniable passion.
Before Sunset (2004)
The second instalment in Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy, Before Sunset, masterfully captures the bittersweet joy of a rekindled flame.
Set nine years after the first film, Jesse, now a published author, is touring Europe to promote his new book when Celine, now an environmentalist, stumbles upon one of his readings and renews their lost flame.
With Jessie’s flight looming in just a few hours, he invites Celine for a walk through the streets of Paris, where they revisit memories, share missed opportunities and regrets, the lingering “what ifs” of their brief connection, and the enduring influence they’ve had on each other’s lives.
As their time together concludes, they are left with a question: should they succumb to the passionate pull of their undeniable love for each other or remain established in their lives?
Vicky, Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Woody Allen’s eccentric love story is a sun-drenched exploration of love, desire and artistic temperament set in the vibrant city of Barcelona.
The film follows two American friends, Vicky and Cristina, who embark on a summer vacation in Barcelona. They soon meet Juan Antonio, a charismatic and bohemian painter haunted by his fiery ex-wife, Maria Elena.
Vicky is immediately captivated by Juan’s intensity and passionate nature but is also troubled by the fact that she is actually engaged to someone else back home. Cristina, on the other hand, is navigating the treacherous waters of Juan and his ex-wife and is unsure where her own desires lie.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is a middle-aged suburban dad who seemingly has his life in order: he has a beautiful wife, two adorable kids, and a comfortable life. But everything is not as it seems, as his marriage is crumbling. When his wife decides to throw him out one day, he encounters Jacob Palmer, a smooth-talking playboy (Ryan Gosling) who introduces him to the bachelor life – bars, one-night stands, and questionable fashion choices.
Meanwhile, Cal’s teenage son Robbie is facing his own romantic dilemma: he is hopelessly in love with Hannah, the babysitter, who is, in turn, in love with Cal himself. This tangled web of mess, desires and comedic mishaps forms the backbone of the film.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s romantic comedy expertly blends laughs with poignant observations about love, relationships and second chances.
La La Land (2016)
Bagging 14 nominations and six wins at the 2018 Academy Awards, Damien Chazelle’s musical cemented its place as an all-time classic.
The film is a simple love story between Sebastian, a jazz pianist, and Mia, an aspiring actress, who meet and fall in love while pursuing their dreams in Los Angeles. Bolstered by incredible leading performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, coupled with brilliant choreography and memorable songs, the film is sure to stay with you long after you’ve seen it.
Abbas has been covering tech for more than two decades- before phones became smart or clouds stored data. He brought publications like CNET, TechRadar and IGN to the Middle East.