The date night movie can be surprisingly tricky if you think about it. Depending on what phase of the relationship you’re in with your partner, the perfect vibe can totally vary. Maybe you’re in it for the Netflix and chill of it all (in which case, bring on all the hot movies!). Maybe you have v different movie tastes and can’t agree on a genre that’ll work for you both (raises hand sheepishly). Maybe you just wanna reconnect after an exhausting week (universally relatable, TBH). But, no matter what your tastes are or whether you’re on a first date or 500th, I’m here for you.
Also worth noting? I assume you already know about the typical classic rom-coms you could bust out for such an occasion. Obviously, you could go with OTT sweeping romantic movies—but you’ve already watched The Notebook a whole bunch, and maybe, just maybe, your partner doesn’t want to want to watch Pretty in Pink again. When Harry Met Sally? Crazy Rich Asians? Been there, done that. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? A fave, but also, you know you’ve already watched all three movies. So here I come with the ~surprise~ date night picks. Some of these are romance-adjacent (or have sneaky lil side romances that you prob missed when you watched it the first time), and some of them are more about love in the abstract, non-romantic sense. But all of them are just great, popcorn-watching films in their own right so that no matter how the night goes, you’ve watched something fabulous.
Been So Long
I’m a Michaela Coel superfan, people, so if you like I May Destroy You or Chewing Gum, right this way to experience this musical(!) romance set in London. And if you don’t know of Coel or this movie, be prepared to fall head over heels for her.
Groundhog Day + romance = this movie! Two strangers who meet (and hook up, naturally) at a wedding get stuck reliving the same day over and over. They have very different ways of handling the situation, but they also have really off-the-charts chemistry. If you liked About Time, you’ll like this.
Oh wow, this movie is great, and not just because LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae are stunning (separately and together). It’s actually about intergenerational love stories, all the more gorgeous for what isn’t said as the couples quietly fall for each other. IYKYK.
I’m Your Man
A lonely singleton is quasi-forced into participating in an experiment where she’s paired with a robot partner. But also, said robot looks and talks like Dan Stevens (yes, cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey). So. Yeah.
Romance doesn’t just have to be between humans! This is the story of a literal trash robot falling in love with a shiny, beautiful future robot. Insert standard Pixar caveat here: This will make you cry. Prob more than once. Watch it anyways—it’s still not as emotionally devastating as Up.
This movie makes Melissa McCarthy appropriately hot and talented—which, like, why doesn’t every movie do this?—and once she proves she’s actually good at her job, everybody wants her. It’s the dream. (Come for the fights, stay for her incredible chemistry with Jason Statham.)
Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce
This might not be about romantic love, per se, but who doesn’t love Beyonce and Beychella?? (If you don’t, this movie will convince you.) This concert film is about love for Black music, culture, education—and it’s visually stunning. You and your S.O. should watch open-mouthed together, especially if you’re both into live music.
This very hot erotic thriller is about sex and sadism, but it’s also a kind of sweet love story between two women?? It’s a super twisty film that’ll have you questioning what’s true and what an illusion, which is half the fun.
Out of Sight
This is such a sultry movie about a con and the cop chasing him, and it’s old enough that it’ll be new to a whole new audience. If you only know George Clooney from the Ocean’s movies, and you only know J.Lo from Hustlers, um, stream this rn. RN.
If Beale Street Could Talk
I won’t lie to you: This film is pretty devastating—which, tbh, is part of the reason you should watch. But it’s also just a beautiful love story between two people up against excruciating circumstances. And it’s just gorge.
If you don’t absolutely love Tessa Thompson, first of all, why, but second of all, watch this movie, and you will be convinced. Also, this is just a good old-fashioned love story that spans years to follow two people destined to be together.
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) get drawn into a game night that turns into an actual murder mystery. This movie is even better than the premise, thanks to great writing, but at the center are two perfectly matched people trying to figure their sh*t out.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Yes, I know it’s an overused word, but this movie is a *masterpiece*. An artist is hired to paint a wealthy woman so her portrait can be sent to her potential husband. The two women fall into a brief but absolutely steamy love affair.
Wes Anderson’s early film has all the seeds of his later movies: A quirky, lovable main character. Unexpected plotlines. Offbeat humor. A superprecise world. Bill Murray. A student falls in love with a teacher and goes to war with a fully grown adult to win her heart. Strange, yet weirdly enjoyable!
Only Lovers Left Alive
A lot of people haven’t watched this, even though it’s often considered one of the best films of the 20th century. Two centuries-old vampires are still in love but exhausted (relatable), and have to choose their fate in the modern world.
A woman seduces her neighbor, an ex-con, and the two conspire to rob her gangster boyfriend. The Wachowski sisters wrote a v sexy movie that was way ahead of its time—no spoilers, but they clearly had a ton of love for the two women.
Isn’t It Romantic
It’s a rom-com parody that still gives you all the feels! Natalie (Rebel Wilson), who’s totally jaded about love and rom-coms, bangs her head and wakes up in her very own movie-worthy romance. It plays with all the tropes and still gets to embrace them; Also, Liam Hemsworth is surprisingly funny in this in addition to being…super handsome.
Yes, God, Yes
The situation might be recognizable: A teen, who’s experiencing normal sexual urges, is coming up against the strict religious norms of her friends and family. It’s an exploration of what healthy sexuality looks like—and it’s as sweet as it is sexy.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
Of all the Judd Apatow movies you could put on this list, this movie really nails the innocence of feeling, like, wow is this whole romance thing just never going to happen for me? And then it does, and it’s amazing—perfect for the date night where you’re both falling in love.
Who knew that old-timey romantic shenanigans could be so hot?? (If you like Pride and Prejudice, stream this right the heck now.) This newer adaptation of the classic Jane Austen film really dials up how horny the characters are for each other. I’ve said it before, but worth mentioning again: You see Johnny Flynn’s butt!!
This surreal, twisty movie is about an actor coming across a woman with amnesia—a woman who might be on the run from some powerful people. Or is it?? You have to watch, I’m not gonna spoil it for you.
Sweet & Sour
One of our most romantic movies of 2021 picks, this South Korean rom-com is a smart look at what happens to relationships over time and stress—and how couples have to choose each other over and over again. Plus, it’s got quite a twist—no spoilers!!
Obv, this movie is about two BFFs who go on one epic night of partying to make up for four years of studying (it’s like The Hangover without the amnesia). But it’s also got two rlly cute romantic plotlines—blink and you’ll miss ’em, but they really dial up the sweet awkwardness of HS love.
Love & Basketball
If you’ve watched this classic film, honestly just go watch it again. But if you haven’t, you are missing out so so much. This epic movie covers almost 20 years of two childhood sweethearts who love basketball—and each other—with the same wild intensity.
Below Her Mouth
Um, this is basically p*rn in movie form, but it’s great (directed by a woman for the female gaze). Jasmine’s engaged to a man, but then she meets Dallas—and starts to question whether she is, in fact, happy with her life. Sexy shenanigans ensue.
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Brittany wants to change her life and makes the seemingly impossible decision that the way to do so is by running a marathon. It’s actually a really sweet story, but the best part might be that along the way she meets someone who cares about her and her goals too.
Yes, yes, this is a “criminals band together to rob Vegas casinos” story. But the movie is also just an excuse for George Clooney and Julia Roberts to flirt wildly with each other, and the sparks are blinding.
Is this a ~realistic~ dance movie? Absolutely not. Is this the movie that made you want to be a dancer stuck in a love triangle between two extremely hot men, where you literally dance it out? Yup.
A Secret Love
Two women fall in love in the 1940s and keep their relationship secret for nearly 70 years before coming out to friends and family. If you enjoyed Carol, this is like that—but even sweeter, because it’s real life.
The Harder They Fall
Again, yes, this is primarily an (incredible) Black Western film featuring some of the hottest actors known to Hollywood. But you should see the ~intense~ chemistry between Zazie Beetz (Stagecoach Mary) and Nat Love (Jonathan Majors). Their relationship didn’t happen in real life, but the movie will make you wish it did.
Single All the Way
Two platonic BFFs go home for Christmas, one gets set up on a random blind date—and the two friends might have feelings for each other after all. If you like all things Hallmark, give this film a try. Yes, I do know this is a Christmas film, but it’s perfect for every time of year; Case in point, it made it onto our best Valentine’s Day movies list.
Edge of Tomorrow
Something’s Gotta Give
Movies don’t always give people older than 30 much romantic attention, but thank goodness this film exists because that can be amazing too! Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson are totally wrong for each other…until they’re not. Bonus: Keanu Reeves with a thing for talented women in their 50s.
In the Mood for Love
Erotic movies don’t necessarily have to have lots of sex; see also this movie. It explores the gorgeous chemistry between two lonely people who bond in every way, except sexually.
A journalist (Seth Rogan) realizes his former babysitter Charlotte (Charlize Theron) is now a politician running for president. Fred can be (a bit problematically) crass, but the extremely profesh Charlotte hires him anyways. So, it’s kind of a flip-flopped rom-com, which—refreshing!
The Thomas Crown Affair
Fun fact: This is a ~deeply~ sensual movie and is a favorite date night movie in this household. Pierce Brosnan’s a smooth art thief wooing the pants off (sometimes quite literally) the woman tasked with bringing him down (Rene Russo). It’s a recipe for sexiness.
Okay, yes, this is a satire about pageant life and features a never-been-funnier Jennifer Aniston, but it’s also got a subplot about Texan teen Dumplin’ (Danielle Macdonald) and the guy who respects, appreciates, and likes her—for exactly who she is, even when she’s not feeling confident. Bless!
A timid French girl, who’s hopelessly in love with a man she’s never met, tries to improve the lives of her family, friends, and coworkers. Is it basically meddling? Yea, totally, but the whimsical OTT vibe of the film helps you see it as a fantastical world. You’re totally rooting for her to keep at it and just, like, talk to the guy already.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
This is a very specific kind of movie making fun of middle-age ladies who wear culottes and go on resort vacations. But also that’s what makes it incredible. Also, if you’ve already watched, you’ll know there’s an amazingly awkward ~sex scene~ that’ll have you pause and rewind just so you can laugh at it again.
The American President
The precursor to The West Wing is Aaron Sorkin’s first take on a charismatic, lovable commander-in chief. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) falls in love with do-good lawyer Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening), and the mix of personal and political is…quite a turn-on, TBH.
The Old Guard
Come for Charlize Theron kicking all kinds of ass as a warrior who’s thousands of years old, stay for the really cute romance between two immortal men who started out on opposing sides in battle—and ended up eternal life partners. BRB, crying!
David Byrne’s American Utopia
Again, this concert film is more love in the ~abstract~ sense. Iconic musician David Byrne records his Broadway show for HBO (directed by Spike Lee), which is a love letter to music and performance while also including monologues about important topics. It’s stunning.
Bend It Like Beckham
It made our list of top movies ever for a reason, people. If Center Stage made us all want to be ballet dancers, Bend It made us all want to be professional soccer players and fall in love with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Super attainable!
Never Goin’ Back
Two girls who are BFFs (and a bit more) want to go to Galveston and party at the beach. That’s it! That’s the whole movie. But also, it’s deeply funny and gross and highly inappropriate and also kind of adorbs.
I hear what you’re saying: In no way is this a romance, unless you count Mark Watney’s love-hate relationship with Mars. But you would be wrong—there’s a sneaky lil subplot featuring two of the astronauts that’ll make you say awwwwww.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
You owe it to yourself to watch this brilliantly funny take on a Dickens classic. The romance is a bait and switch: David thinks he’s in love with someone, but it’s just a fakeout for the true love of his life (no spoilers).
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
This film doesn’t fall into any particular genre—it’s like comedy plus video game plus band movie plus comedy again. But it is definitely about Scott Pilgrim’s increasingly complicated quest to date the candy-colored-hair girl of his dreams.
Always Be My Maybe
It made our list of best rom-coms for a reason, people: Ali Wong and Randall Park have off-the-charts chemistry as the childhood buddies who secretly want to date. Also, this is the second time where Keanu Reeves is in a movie and somehow not the main romantic lead (!?!?).
There’s romantical and hook-up shenanigans in this amazing comedy (grapefruiting? grapefruiting!) but it’s also about the changing bonds four women have as they reconnect after college. There’s a lotta love, is my point.
About Last Night
The film constantly and hilariously contrasts two couples, one fighting 24/7 and one falling superdeep in love. But believe it or not, the film’s not headed in the direction you expect, and that’s kind of the fun.
It’s a beautiful thing when a queer couple is represented on film, even more so when it’s as lovely as these two lesbians running to Canada to get married after a decades-long relationship. Fair warning: It gets sad, and doesn’t stray too far from some LGBTQ+ stereotypes. But wow is it beautiful.
Believe it or not, at the center of the Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly silliness in this film is another romance about two people in midlife: professionally successful, totally into each other, with two (ridiculous) adult sons.
Shaun of the Dead
Shaun (Simon Pegg) isn’t great at this whole *adult* thing, which is why his GF Liz (Kate Ashfield) dumps him. But then the zombies come and he basically turns into an action hero/her knight in shining armor. Goals!
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This film is wayyyyy better than people thought it was gonna be, but the funniest/most awkward/sweetest part might be the budding romance between teens Martha and Spencer, stuck in Jumanji in their avatar bodies (Morgan Turner/Karen Gillan and Alex Wolff/The Rock). Featuring one of the most hilarious kisses in movie history!
Ah, young Nicolas Cage (open-mouthed emoji plus a million heart emojis). He and Holly Hunter have incredible chemistry, and the plot goes from sad—they can’t have babies—to wacky—oh they’re just going to steal one??—in seconds.
This is a story about a love triangle, but the two people who love each other the most are the two girl besties. This has incredible dialogue and really taps into how much you really, truly, dramatically loved your BFFs growing up.
In the Heights
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play, brought to the screen by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, is gorge, full stop. Also no spoilers if you have watched the musical but not the film but, uh, it takes one important relationship to new commitment heights (pun totally intended).
Sleeping With Other People
It’s a pre-Ted Lasso Jason Sudeikis—who is just as hot with a lil more snark in this. Two pals who are basically emotional trainwrecks decide to be buddies who don’t have sex with each other, and you already know how that’s gonna go.
Thank you, director Greta Gerwig, for doing the one thing I thought was impossible in this classic story: make me care about Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) and Amy (Florence Pugh) and not make it seem like she’s stealing him away from her sister Jo (Saoirse Ronan). Like, I was rooting for them by the end! A miracle!
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributing editor at Marie Claire online who covers celebrity, fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle—from “The Bachelor” to Everlane to Meghan Markle.
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