Ah, l'amour. Who among us hasn't fallen a little bit in love while watching movie couples go through every possible permutation of epic romance?
"The best movie romances have unique and unforgettable characters and a truly challenging obstacle that they have to overcome in order to fulfill their true love story," Turner Classic Movies host Dave Karger tells TODAY.
The list that fits that description is pretty long, so we've whittled them down to a few of the greatest. Here are 25 classic romantic dramas and rom-coms to watch on Valentine's Day — or whenever you long for a jolt of love.
'West Side Story' (2021, 1961)
Whether it's the 20th or 21st century versions of this classic "Romeo and Juliet" riff, "West Side Story" will make you want to dance in the streets — and then cry. As you watch Maria and Tony try to make their star-crossed love affair, you may long for a different ending, despite knowing the conclusion in advance.
'Roman Holiday' (1953)
Ann (Audrey Hepburn) feels like a normal girl — but she's not. Ann is a princess. And for one weekend, in Rome, with the help of a dashing reporter (Gregory Peck), she lives like a civilian. "Roman Holiday" is a rom-com about falling in love with another person, and also with life's possibilities.
'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' (2002)
Unlike many rom-coms, Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) don't experience conflict with each other. Rather, their relationship is complicated by Toula's ever-intervening Greek family, who are surprised to find that their daughter found love with someone outside the community. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is the highest-grossing rom-com of all time, with its one-liners, relatable cultural conflict and lovable couple resonating with audiences.
'Dan in Real Life' (2011)
Can you fall in love in three days? Single dad Dan Burns (Steve Carrell) is an advice columnist and tends to be rational and careful. But when he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) he finds himself instantly enamored. Then, he finds out Marie is his brother's new girlfriend.
'If Beale Street Could Talk' (2018)
Based on a novel by James Baldwin, this aching film — directed by Barry Jenkins — follows a couple whose love story should have been seamless. But when Fonny (Stephan) is wrongfully charged with committing a crime, he and Tish (KiKi Layne) become caught in the criminal justice system. Their love is tried, even as it sustains them.
'It Happened One Night' (1934)
Those who only know Clark Gable from his "Gone With the Wind" role will be happy to see him being a romantic renegade in the 20th century for once. Sure, the picture's many decades old, but the repartee between Gable and his co-star Claudette Colbert remains spicy and on point even today. Gable plays a reporter tracking a runaway heiress, hoping to land a big story. But the pair are left stranded when the bus they're traveling on leaves them behind, and ... well, hijinks ensue.
'Everything Everywhere All at Once' (2022)
Part sci-fi epic, part mother-daughter saga, "Everything Everywhere All at Once" defies categories. Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn, a woman who is tapped to save the world by accessing versions of herself in other dimensions. Running through the multi-dimensional movie is her bond with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), which shifts as Evelyn does.
'Call Me By Your Name' (2017)
In this tender coming-of-age story, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a bookish teenager living in Italy in 1983 with his parents, has his first romance with a twentysomething graduate student. Oliver (Armie Hammer) joins the family for a summer to help Elio's dad with paperwork. As the sun-soaked days blur together in a haz of swimming and lounging, Elio and Oliver cultivate a natural chemistry. Their first romance is as impossible as it is inevitable. You'd have to be made of stone not to want to see these two lovely guys find some happiness together.
'A Star Is Born' (2018)
One artist on the rise meets another on the decline. And for a brief, caught-breath moment they can exist on the same plane, becoming each other's muse and lover. That's the story told again and again in "A Star Is Born" (other versions have been released in 1937, 1954 and 1976) but few are quite as raw and poignant as the pairing of the luminous Ally (Lady Gaga, a revelation and an Oscar nominee) and tragic Jackson (director Bradley Cooper, also Oscar nominated). Sometimes, the greatest love stories are the ones that don't last a lifetime, but instead burn brightly at both ends.
'La La Land' (2016)
In "La La Land," Amelia and Sebastian (Emma Thompson and Ryan Gosling) are two struggling artists trying to make it in the world of acting and jazz, respectively. Their romance grows through the soaring, old-fashioned love songs they sing to one another, but it becomes apparent that they're starting to grow in different directions. An extended sequence that imagines what might have been if they'd made it as a couple adds additional poignancy to the romance, which suggests that timing has a lot more to do with couples' success stories than we tend to think.
'Pride & Prejudice' (2005)
Jane Austen's novels have a lot to say about class differences and the struggle of women in the 1800s, but what most people come for when enjoying an Austen film adaptation is the romance — and the sheer effort it takes to make romance happen. In "Pride and Prejudice," the strong-willed Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden), a man who acts as if he's above passions of the flesh. It takes quite a few missed encounters and humbling moments to even see if they might have a chance. Fortunately, gorgeous cinematography and a light touch with the humor (Elizabeth is one of five sisters, all of whom have their own drama), this "Pride" is well worth falling for.
'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)
"Brokeback Mountain" is about two men (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) who desperately do not want to acknowledge a single truth: They are in love with each other. To do so would upend every bit of their identities, and make them pariahs in the cowboy community they reside in. Plus, they're both married to women. But as Jack (Gyllenhaal) tells Ennis (Ledger) after years of trying to play it straight, "I wish I knew how to quit you." But neither can, and that longing is what draws us in again, and again.
'The Notebook' (2004)
Lovers separated by war and disapproving parents are familiar tropes in any movie romance, but when you add in the sheer youthful longing of Ryan Gosling and Rachel MacAdams, playing a pair who find the strength to wade through all of the societal red tape back to each other's arms, it's a journey well worth taking. The movie's clever bookends elevate it to a place between between high romance and classic soap opera.
'The Princess Bride' (1987)
"The Princess Bride" has revenge, pirate swashbuckling, adventures, Rodents of Unusual Size and — ah, yes, a romance that transcends the laws of life and death. Funny and charming and sweet and full of lots of kissing that even your kids will decide they like, "Princess Bride" is a romantic fable we all are glad to see come true.
'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (1994)
Written by Richard Curtis, "Four and a Funeral Weddings" is about the romantic trials and tribulations of a group of friends who keep getting invited to one another's nuptials (and, sadly, one's funeral, with an elegy that will break your heart). Through it all, Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell's characters' will-they, won't-they dynamic continues until they actually get a chance to make it work — even if it's raining.
'The Shape of Water' (2017)
We get it: interspecies romance, particularly one with a guy who looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, is not for everyone. But let's briefly reframe this Oscar-winning romantic drama. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) has always felt like an outsider, and the movie is a tale of her finding someone like her, at last. Framed that way, "Shape of Water" is about seeing beyond a person's exterior to discover the parts of you that sing together, and — algae aside — make you a complete person.
You haven't watched "Moonstruck" yet? Snap out of it! This charming, eccentric tale of a woman (Cher, in an Oscar-winning role) engaged to one man (Danny Aiello) while falling in love with his brother (Nicolas Cage) is uplifting, hilarious and deeply romantic at its core. Plus, it's got one of the great character actor lineups of all time (including fellow Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis) and New York City as a perfect supporting character.
"Casablanca" is widely regarded as one of the greatest romances of all time, but the romance gets better upon multiple viewings. That's largely because the film is so famous, so enduring and so classic that its iconic lines may get in the way of fully enjoying the tormented affair between the wife of a resistance fighter in World War II (Ingrid Bergman) and the American cynic (Humphrey Bogart) who owns the bar she happens to walk into one day. Don't let the fact that it's shot in black-and-white deter you: It only adds to the mystery, glamour and sheer romance of the impossible situation the duo is in.
'Love Jones' (1997)
Darius (Larenz Tate) and Nina (Nia Long) are probably perfect for each other, but they keep getting in each other's way. Life for the poet and photographer pairing should be picture perfect, but she's still smarting from a breakup and he's not sure if he's ready to commit. You need a score sheet to see how often they come together and split apart, but some relationships are just like that. It doesn't make them less romantic, it makes them more real.
'When Harry Met Sally' (1989)
Sally (Meg Ryan) and Harry (Billy Crystal) communicate exclusively in rapid-fire banter, among the most charming and endearing dialogue you're going to get in any film, much less a romantic comedy. These two can't stand each other when they meet after college, but accidentally become friends (the kind that are unafraid to fake an orgasm in public, or sing show tunes while shopping). Their romance folds together as if it were meant to be all along.
Considering what happened to the Titanic, it's hard to believe that one of cinema's greatest love stories takes place aboard that ill-fated ship. Yet that's the beauty of the best picture winner: it draws us in with an upstairs-downstairs romance between Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), then makes us watch as nearly all hope sinks into the frigid Atlantic Ocean.
'Children of a Lesser God' (1986)
Communication can be hard in relationships — and it's the backbone of "Children of a Lesser God," a movie about two people finding a way to speak to each other. Marlee Matlin plays a deaf janitor and William Hurt is a new teacher at the school where she works. Matlin won an Oscar for her portrayal of the school's most stubborn former student, who may be deaf but opts to also remain mute. She and Hurt are magic together.
'Dirty Dancing' (1987)
Get ready to have the time of your life watching a teenage girl named Baby (Jennifer Grey) blossom after she meets Johnny (Patrick Swayze), a dance instructor at the family summer camp in the Catskills. From music and dancing to a forbidden romance, this one's got it all, wrapped up in a package straight from the 1960s.
Take two struggling musicians over the course of just a few days, bound them together with a song, and you get the irresistible, hard-to-define "Once." Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová play Guy and Girl, two strangers who bond over their shared love of music. Hansard and Irglová fell in love while filming the movie, a connection the camera captures with heartbreaking realism. It's not often you get to see real love bloom on camera. Don't miss the "Falling Slowly" scene — no surprise the song won an Oscar.
'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' (2004)
If you could permanently erase memories of a relationship in order to ease the pain of a breakup, would you? Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play two people who fall in love – and forget about it – again and again. Some things are meant to be. If only these two could remember that.
The 'Before' Trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)
The magic ingredient of director Richard Linklater's visionary films? Patience. Just take the trilogy that's become known as the "Before" pictures: "Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," and "Before Midnight," each starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. They begin the trilogy as strangers who meet on a train to Vienna, fall in love and promise to reunite, and end as a couple with children who still have to decide when to sacrifice dreams for love. This makes for a remarkable series of films, shot over an 18-year period, in which we get to see the characters, and their actors, mature before our eyes.
'Say Anything' (1987)
Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) is not everyone's cup of tea. In the years since he stood in front of Diane's (Ione Skye) bedroom holding a boombox playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," reexaminations have suggested he's closer to being a stalker than an amorous, persistent teenager. Watch and decide for yourself if his intentions toward school valedictorian Diane are nothing but earnest and true. He's not the guy her dad approves of, but he is the guy who'll stick around when things hit rock bottom. That's a Dobler kind of love.
'The Lunchbox' (2013)
Can a movie count as a romance if the two leads never spend any time together on screen? You bet. In this delightful, epistolary-based Indian film, young wife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) tries to win the attention of her husband back with elaborate lunches, but her parcel is delivered to the wrong office and ends up with Saajan (the late Irrfan Khan). The two strike up a correspondence that turns to a deep friendship in notes transported via the cooking dishes. Each is at a turning point in their lives. Will they take the leap and turn together? Watch, see and be enchanted.
'The Shop Around the Corner' (1940)
There are many ways for people to fall in love, and not all letters have to be hidden inside lunch tiffins (see above, "The Lunchbox"). Witness "The Shop Around the Corner," a classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as two gift shop workers who absolutely can't stand one another, and yet who fall in love via letter anyway (a caveat: neither knows who they're corresponding with). Yes, this movie was eventually turned into "You've Got Mail" with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
'Moulin Rouge!' (2001)
This mash-up of modern music and early 20th century Parisian culture is a feast for the eyes and heart alike. Nicole Kidman is Satine, the courtesan and star performer at the City of Lights' most legendary club; Ewan McGregor is an aspiring writer who falls in love with her while trying to get his play financed. Breathtaking in its visuals, "Moulin Rouge!" will also stop your heart with its inevitable conclusion.
'The Fault in Our Stars' (2014)
Two teenagers (Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley) fall in love while grappline with different stages of cancer. Their romance is brief but intense, as they know their time together might be limited. They dedicate themselves to as much "carpe diem" as possible.
'The Philadelphia Story' (1940)
You can try to find a better, funnier classic rom-com lineup than Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn, but you're going to be searching a long time. Hepburn plays Tracy, a divorced heiress about to get remarried to the most boring man on earth (John Howard), while her ex C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) lurks around looking for his second chance, and two tabloid reporters (Stewart and the luminous Ruth Hussey) threaten to take the antics of the rich public. Witty banter, drunken confessions and true love make this a perfect package. (Bonus: If you like this, give "High Society," with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly, plus music by Louis Armstrong, a whirl — it's the same story, but with songs!)
'The Big Sick' (2017)
A rom-com based on a real-life love story, written by the couple in questino and starring 1/2 of that couple (Kumail Nanjiani)? Sign us up! In "Sick," Nanjiani's character (named Kumail) begins dating Zoe Kazan's charcter (Emily), and they have a fun, combative repartee that's over pretty fast, in part due to their cultural conflicts. But when she falls ill and has to be put in a coma, he's the one who sits with her in the hospital and gets to know her family. Then ... she wakes up. To say more is to give too much away, except that it is both sweet without being saccharine and will make you want to squeeze your own sweetie tighter.
'Broadcast News' (1987)
On the one hand, "Broadcast News" is a sweet romantic comedy about a hard-driving news producer (Holly Hunter) whose best pal is a reporter who has a crush on her (Albert Brooks), but who is drawn to the new, fresh-faced, shallow recruit to the station (William Hurt). It's also a prequel of where TV news, and news in general, would head over the next three decades, which also makes it a tragedy. But watch it for the laughs, for Hunter's brilliant performance and the smart way the script tells its story without pandering. It may not end how you think it will, but the journey is very satisfying.
'Groundhog Day' (2013)
A movie that's so well done it's become a quick descriptor for an entire genre: What if you had to relive the same day over, and over again until you got it "right"? In the case of a callow weatherman (Bill Murray), this means finding a way to fall in love with Andie MacDowell's producer Rita, just as she falls in love with him. Along the way, he has enough time to learn languages, become a great dancer, discover that death is no exit in this weird looping world, and to really probably come to hate "I Got You, Babe" by Sonny and Cher.