Happy Valentine’s Day weekend, Polygon readers! We got you something special this year. Don’t worry about getting us something, too — we’re just happy you’re here.
The Polygon staff got together and picked our favorite romance movies available on streaming, just for you. Whether you’re looking for a light-hearted romantic comedy, a moving romance filled with meaning, a genre movie fused with romance, or something in between, we have something for you. There’s just one rule for our selections: the romance in it has to be real and tangible, no matter the genre it technically falls under. That includes options on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and even some available on free platforms that don’t require a subscription at all.
So sit back, grab a tub of popcorn, and enjoy some of these choice selections from the Polygon crew. Got some other favorites of your own? Let us know in the comments.
10 Things I Hate About You
Of all the “teen movie adaptations of classic literature” out there, 10 Things I Hate About You is probably the most romantic. It is a very loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew: popular girl Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is not allowed to date until her headstrong older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does, so Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the new kid with a big crush on Bianca, pays bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger) to woo Kat. It is the sort of romantic comedy where much of the tension comes from the leads butting heads and realizing they’re not so different after all — with an extra dose of two vastly different sisters learning to understand each other. Kat and Patrick definitely take center stage here, but Cameron and Bianca’s romance isn’t half-bad either. —Petrana Radulovic
10 Things I Hate About You is available to stream on Disney Plus.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
This is a vampire movie and a romance, but probably not in any of the ways one might expect. Far from the lurid vampires of Dracula or the timid abstinence of Twilight, director Ana Lily Amirpour describes her movie as the “first Iranian vampire spaghetti western.” The movie follows a young man named Arash who lives in a semi-abandoned ghost town called Bad City, where he meets a nameless skateboarding vampire girl. The two quickly bond as misfits in Bad City, starting a tender and (mostly) quiet love story. —Austen Goslin
The Before trilogy
To tell the truth, the Before Trilogy feels like nothing short of a miracle. Had the story of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse’s (Ethan Hawke) whirlwind Vienna romance simply concluded with Before Sunrise’s bittersweet ending, it alone would have easily endured as one of the greatest romantic dramas of its era. But when joined with 2004’s Before Sunset and 2013’s Before Midnight however, Richard Linklater’s decade-spanning romance culminates into something even more transcendent: a meditation on the peculiar tenacity and tenuousness of love under the strain of time and circumstance. To watch the Before Trilogy is to experience something life-changing; I sincerely recommend sharing it with a loved one. —Toussaint Egan
The moment Carol was released it enshrined itself into the annals of WLW cinema. A lushly drawn, beautifully shot period romance about a rich near-divorcee and a shy salesgirl falling deeply in love — and one where they are not in the end forced apart by historical circumstances. The outfits! The across the room gay-zes! Loosely inspired by actual events! Cate Blanchett has a gun! —Susana Polo
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Johnnie To is one of our great modern directors, equally adept in hard-boiled triad crime dramas and light-hearted romantic comedies alike. 2011’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart falls in the latter category, and is one of the many high marks of the Hong Kong director’s legendary career. Fresh off the end of a long-term relationship, Chi-yan (Gao Yuanyuan) is an analyst for an investment bank who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle. On one side, there’s Sean (Louis Koo), a CEO who works across the street from Chi-yan and yearns for her through the tall corporate glass windows that separate them. On the other, there’s Kevin (the always-dreamy Daniel Wu), an alcoholic former architect who helps Chi-Yan move on and is inspired by her to start creating again. What follows is a sincere, funny, and truly charming romantic time. —Pete Volk
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is available to stream on Netflix.
Hiroshima Mon Amour
I hesitate to recommend Hiroshima mon amour for roughly a trillion reasons. Number one, it’s a hard hang, beginning with an extended montage that includes real-world atrocities. When we finally meet the central couple, Elle and Lui, they keep comparing their seemingly tedious lives with the bombing of Hiroshima. The pair’s love story, which takes even longer to jumpstart, is non-linear and laced with flashbacks that range from minutes to milliseconds, like sparks of traumatic memories that the characters hurriedly extinguish before they burn out of control. It’s the least pleasurable film on this list.
That’s purposeful. Director Alain Resnais antagonizes the audience, continually undercutting his breathtaking photography and poetic editing with documentary-like reminders of the cruelty of humans as a whole and the pettiness of humans as individuals, unable to comprehend the pain of others without centering themselves. But it’s this ugliness, and how it’s shared with the audience, that I find unforgettable. Elle and Lui, little more than strangers, will sit in a bar or walk through empty streets and casually expose their own damage to one another. Elle in particular behaves like a star in her own movie, wanting love so spectacular that it will erase everything that preceded it. We learn how war (and some historically bad romantic decisions) obliterated her life and sent her across the world looking for someone or something resembling a fresh start. Of course, we can’t erase the past, something Elle can’t see despite literally being in Hiroshima.
So why watch this? Because we don’t get many romantic films that depict people as the selfish, complicated, passionate, despicable, lovable people they actually are. The best comparison I can muster is Linklater’s Before trilogy, where we both love and despise the couple for their egocentrism. But Resnais’ work goes much further in its 90-minutes, reminding us that it’s a miracle we can communicate, let alone find love, when each person is already a walking ball of contradictions and inner-conflict. —Chris Plante
Hiroshima Mon Amour is available to stream on the Criterion Channel.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to the Oscar-winning Moonlight is this tender adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel. Set in Harlem in the early 1970s, the film follows young Black couple Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephen James) who are simply trying to live their lives: apartment hunting, dealing with squabbling families with a child on the way, and looking towards the future. When Fonny is arrested for a crime he could not have possibly committed, their lives are thrown into turmoil. Featuring terrific supporting performances from an all-star cast including Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Aunjanue Ellis and Brian Tyree Henry, Beale Street is an instant masterpiece with a transcendent score to match. —PV
If Beale Street Could Talk is available to stream on Hulu.
In the Mood for Love
When someone sees one Wong Kar-wai film, they often immediately want to see all of them, but not at once: they’re movies best enjoyed as chance encounters, beguiling strangers one spends two hours with at a bar or on a train before continuing on their way. The movie is about neighbors Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-shen (Maggie Cheung) who begin to suspect their spouses are having an affair with each other, and slowly start to develop a relationship of their own. It’s an achingly beautiful movie, full of deep reds and tight, lonely spaces, one of those stories where nothing and everything happens all at once. Which is kind of how it goes, when two people begin to understand what they want only when they realize what they lack. —Joshua Rivera
For the sheer number of pulp adventure movies in which the hero wins the girl at the end, there are very few where the romance feels like a tangible part of the story, as present in the memory as the monster or the MacGuffin. Harrison Ford and Karen Allen might have electric chemistry, but the whole “Indiana Jones and Marian Ravenwood first dated when she was underage” makes enjoying it a little tough to sit back and enjoy.
Not so for The Mummy, which commits itself as much to the juicy tropes of an Opposites Attract-style romcom as to the juicy tropes of booby-trapped Egyptian tombs. The slow burn between hardened adventurer-with-a-heart-of-gold Rick O’Connell and buttoned-up-librarian-who-blossoms-under-the-call-of-destiny Evelyn Carnahan is the core stuff of romance novels.
It doesn’t hurt that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz are two of the hottest people Hollywood has ever produced. There’s a reason that loving The Mummy, which contains no openly queer characters, is a memetic trope in the bisexual community. There’s something here for every romantic. —SP
The Mummy is available to stream on HBO Max.
John Carney’s romantic musical recognizes the power of intimacy and a pair of dulcet vocals. Shot on a shoestring budget around Ireland, the film tracks the whirlwind weekend of an Irish busker (Actual Folk Guitarist Glen Hansard) and a Czech flower seller (Actual Singer-Songwriter Markéta Irglová). When “Guy” discovers that “Girl” is as musically talented and emotionally torn as himself, his impulsive, whimsical self takes over, imagining what they could do together in a recording studio. The pair lay down a number of tracks, and with each soft melody, each lyrical profession, the two grow closer together and closer to understanding their greater romantic foibles. Carney, Hansard, and Irglová worked together to create Once’s playlist of original songs, and each one feels as important as any bit of dialogue or scene setting in the script. Real sparks fly as the musical swells. —Matt Patches
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
I wish I could watch this movie again for the first time, but I’ll settle for watching it over and over. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is absolutely exquisite, gorgeous, and cheeky — telling the tale of a woman hired to paint the portrait of another, for the sake of sending to a potential suitor. Of course, the two fall for each other — over the course of thorny portrait sessions, coastal walks, discussions of Eurydice and the nature of art and memory. The quiet longing! The marvel of seeing desire fulfilled! Finally, a period piece about queer women that is firmly rooted in the female gaze, and one that does not fixate on the tragedy of separation but in the joy of passion, intimacy, and companionship. The placement of that mirror! (If you know, you know.) The filmmaking is crisp, considered, and full of life — the slow burn made me consider both the nature of seeing and being seen; and what it means to make intentional choices about how that impression of love is preserved, even as memory erodes all. —Nicole Clark
The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride has it all: swashbucklers, epic adventures, incredibly quotable humor, Cary Elwes, and a lovely romance that ties it all together. It’s a fairytale fantasy that plays with familiar tropes and breathes new life into them, a parody born out of love. The amount of pop culture references and quotes birthed from this movie is frankly inconceivable. (Haha.)
Yes, it is funny, but the heart of The Princess Bride is the swoon-worthy romance between Buttercup and Wesley. The loyalty, the dedication, the reconnection, the devotion — as you wish, indeed. Witty, funny, and deeply romantic, The Princess Bride is a fun fantasy romp with a very sweet framing device of a grandfather reading his grandson a bedtime story, which preserves the narrative of the William Goldman book a little better than a straightforward adaptation. —PR
The Princess Bride is available to stream on Disney Plus.
What’s great about Someone Great is that it’s not a love story per se, but rather a story about how people grow through the act of love. Gina Rodriguez stars as Jenny, a music journalist working in New York City whose longtime boyfriend Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) breaks up with her after she lands her dream job in San Francisco. Torn up by the end of her nine-year-long relationship, Jenny ventures out with her best friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) for one last night on the town before she moves, all the while reflecting on her time with Nate and the events that led to their break up. It’s a surprisingly deep and genuinely funny romantic comedy about letting go of fear and regret, making peace with the past, and embracing all that love has to offer in the present. —TE
Someone Great is available to stream on Netflix.
The Thomas Crown Affair
They don’t make heist movies hotter than this. John McTiernan’s remake of the 1968 Steve McQueen/Faye Dunaway classic is a steamy romp, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo at their sexiest. Brosnan plays Thomas Crown, an arrogant playboy billionaire who is also the world’s greatest art thief in his spare time (in many ways, this is Brosnan’s Batman movie). Russo is Catherine Banning, an insurance investigator tasked with solving and recovering Crown’s most recent daring theft. The two fall for each other over the course of a delicious cat-and-mouse game, culminating in an unforgettable, intricately choreographed sequence set to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” —PV
Weathering With You
While not quite as popular as director Makoto Shinkai’s previous movie, Your Name, Weathering With You is an anime follow-up with just as much romance, beauty, and tragic longing as its predecessor. Weathering With You follows Hodaka Morishima, a boy who lives an isolated life in a rainy Tokyo. One day Hodaka meets Hina Amano, a girl who can control the weather, and the two slowly fall in love, all as the rain in Tokyo continues to pour. The movie’s gorgeous animation and achingly sweet plot help tell a beautiful story about choosing love, even when knowing how it ends. — AG