10 movies to fall in love with this Valentine's Day

12:16 pm on 12 February 2024
Romantic movies collage for Valentine's Day 2024

Photo: Lucy Corry / RNZ

Has it ever occurred to you that many of the best-known romantic movies are about doomed, tragic or failed love?

In Baz Luhrman's 1996 classic Romeo + Juliet, the two lovers don't even make it to the end alive. In Celine Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, society contrives to keep the two lovers apart just as they have discovered their bliss. In Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County, a passionate four-day affair rekindles a love of life for Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood but they cannot stay together.

So while living happily ever after might only be for fairytales, for this list of Valentine's Day-appropriate movies, I've tried to find films with happy endings, or at least where the protagonists end up together. Here's what to watch to get you in the mood for love.


This 2001 film launched the career of the great Audrey Tautou and the poster was a staple of student flats for years. Amélie is the whimsical story of a young woman dedicated to secretly helping other people until she falls in love and realises that - like they say in the airline safety videos - you need to attend to your own oxygen first before you can look after others.

Available from Apple or AroVision

Your Name.

There's a whole sub-genre of movies known as 'Interdimensional Romance' that features impossible love stories like Wings of Desire, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Heaven Can Wait. In the wonderful 2016 anime Your Name., two teenagers experience a seemingly random body swap phenomenon and after learning to actually be another person for a while, they find themselves falling for - and saving the lives of - each other at the same time.

Available from Apple or AroVision

Ever After

A big hit in 1998, Ever After strips the magic out of the Cinderella story and places it in the very real milieu of the French Renaissance. Drew Barrymore plays Danielle, benighted orphan and scullery maid, who falls for Henry, Prince of France (and he for her), but much mistaken identity palaver is required before they can be together.

Available on Disney+

When Harry Met Sally

There are so many great Nora Ephron options (Sleepless in Seattle, Heartburn, You've Got Mail) but 1989's When Harry Met Sally - scripted by Ephron and directed by Spinal Tap's Rob Reiner - gets the nod for almost single-handedly reinventing the romantic comedy. Wonderful chemistry between the two leads, Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, is the foundation but the supporting turns from Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby provide great assistance.

Available on TVNZ+

50 Shades of Grey

No one is ever going to claim that this 2015 film is a great movie - or that the book it is based on was great literature - but I felt like this list needed something with a little bit of spice in it. Dakota Johnson is literature student Anastasia who interviews a local billionaire (Jamie Dornan) for the university newspaper. They are clearly attracted to each other but he has a thing for bondage and she... does not. What a predicament!

Available on Prime Video

Pride and Prejudice

Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility (1995) ticks the Jane Austen AND Hugh Grant boxes, but I've gone for this 2005 version of Pride and Pred, which features Matthew McFadyen as Mr Darcy. The whole cast is like a 'who's who' of British film of the 21st century: Oscar-nominated Keira Knightley, Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan.

Available on Prime Video

Bright Star

A great romantic movie could do worse than start with one of the great romantic poets. Ben Whishaw plays John Keats but Jane Campion's 2009 film is less about him than the woman who loved him, Fannie Brawne (Abbie Cornish). While she inspires some of the greatest poetry ever composed in English, their love is destined to be cut tragically short.

Available on Apple

His Girl Friday

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell spar superbly in this 1940 film that's reputed to have the fastest wisecracking dialogue of all time. They play a divorced couple - he is a newspaper editor and she's his star reporter but they clearly can't live together and work together. She brings her new fiancée (decent but ordinary Ralph Bellamy) to the office to say she's quitting for a white picket fence life in the country. Grant determines to break them up - so he can keep his star reporter, at least that's what he tells himself.

Available on Prime Video


After being hard to find for decades, this 1987 film is now so popular that it always seems to be on at least one of the streaming services, even if it moves about a lot. Cher plays a widow engaged to Danny Aiello. While he's in Sicily attending to his dying mother, she falls for his younger brother (played by Nicolas Cage in a star-making performance). I've never known this film to let anyone down.

Available on Prime Video

Past Lives

Oscar-nominated Past Lives is a strong contender for being the most romantic film of 2023. Nora (Greta Lee) leaves Korea for the US as a child, leaving behind her best friend Hae Sung (Teo Loo). Years later, thanks to social media, he reaches out across the world and rekindles their relationship, leaving them both wondering whether a different road would have made them happier together.

Available on Apple/AroVision/Neon

The Half of It

Most Netflix-branded romcoms aren't fit to be seen on a list like this, but this one deserves watching. The Half of It is like Cyrano de Bergerac crossed with a modern high school lesbian coming-of-age story. It's hardly likely to jump out at you on Netflix (2020 is like the Stone Age for the algorithm), but this movie is utterly charming, wholesome, intelligent, witty and romantic. Goofy football jock Munsky (Daniel Diemer) commissions nerdy Asian girl Ellie (Leah Lewis) to write love letters to their classically pretty classmate Aster (Alexxis Lemire) not realising that Aster is also Ellie's crush.

Available on Netflix