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The Best Romance Movies of 2023, Ranked


In the cinematic landscape of 2023, it has been an absolute delight to see the romance genre bloom with new life and nuanced perspectives across major studio productions, intimate indies, and many different streaming services. For as long as we can remember, we’ve sought escapism through colorful love stories that transport us past the real world to a place where compassion and kindness endure. Several great directors have delivered films filled with nostalgia for lost loves or different perspectives on contemporary ones, while other have progressively pushed the boundaries of love, romance, and desire.


As fellow appreciators of cinema’s power to celebrate love even in the darkest hours, we have rounded up this list of 15 titles from the year to exemplify why (and how) the romance genre retains relevance. But rather than just fleeting fluff, here’s how we’re choosing the films:

Our selection embraces complex tales of connection. These are movies that engage in stories of fully-fleshed, often flawed characters who navigate life’s curveballs together in the most tender, astonishing, or heartbreaking ways.

So, whether epic or intimate, these movies take you on a cinematic journey that celebrates love. Cue, 2023’s greatest romances!


15 No Hard Feelings

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A feel-good sex comedy, No Hard Feelings follows a 30-something Maddie working as an Uber driver and bartender in Montauk, NY. With bills piling up and the risk of losing her childhood home growing more each day, she’s desperate to find a way out. So she accepts an unusual offer from a wealthy couple – to date Percy, their 19-year-old socially awkward teenage son, and bring him out of his bubble in exchange for a car. What follows is a series of misadventures which leads to Percy falling in love with Maddie.

J. Law’s Outrageous Comeback

We love it when Jennifer Lawrence does that. Disappear for a couple of years and make a bangin’ comeback in what can only be defined as one of the raunchiest romantic comedies of the year. Right from the start, the film sets its tone as a saucy, charming, lighthearted summer flick, and carries it throughout. Whether it’s Lawrence taking her frustration out on a customer, or Andrew Barth Feldman playing “Maneater” in front of a restaurant full of people, there is a consistency to Gene Stupnitsky’s storytelling that makes No Hard Feelings equally sweet and sensitive.

14 Red, White & Royal Blue

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Based on the novel of the same name by Casey McQuiston, Red, White & Royal Blue tells the story of how the first son of the United States falls head-over-heels for the spare heir to the British throne. Alex Claremont-Diaz and young Prince Harry hate each others’ guts. But when a public mishap forces them to spend time together and smooth out their high-profile lives, they develop a steamy romance.

A Saucy Romance That Redefines Stereotypes

Taking the beloved enemies-to-lovers trope and turning it on its own head, this recent LGBTQ+ romantic comedy by director Matthew Lopez became an astronomical success as soon as it premiered. The reason? Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine share an electric chemistry and an even better sense of humor, which anchors the story to legendary status. Uma Thurman’s charisma and likability is off the charts. Moreover, the movie explores the intricacies of love beyond social and cultural notions. It breaks down stereotypes and paves the way for a beautiful and powerful celebration of the one thing that binds us all together – love.

13 Love at First Sight

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Hayley and Oliver are two strangers who accidentally meet on a flight from New York to London after Hayley misses her original flight and her phone dies, and she’s forced to spend some time in the airport lounge. They get to talking and fall in love with each other. However, once their flight lands, they lose touch at customs. Hayley proceeds to attend her dad’s wedding, and Oliver heads to his mother’s Shakespeare-themed memorial. But because destiny is funny, they meet again.

More Like, Love at First Flight?

Director Vanessa Caswil adapts this movie from a book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, and like the source material, the film talks a lot about the statistics of suddenly meeting the person you’d want to spend your life with. Ben Hardy and Haley Lu Richardson make two instantly relatable characters, dealing with their struggles but not willing to dismiss the idea of romance. The jump scares from Jameela Jamil’s narrator may seem strange, but overall, Love at First Sight is a cheesy but smart and comforting rom-com.

Related: Netflix’s Love at First Sight: Most Heartwarming Moments, Ranked

12 Rye Lane

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Following two 20-somethings who bond over their respective traumatic break-ups, Rye Lane is a movie that proves just how much wittier British rom-coms are. Yas finds Dom having a moment (i.e. weeping loudly in a public restroom), and thus begins their walk across Rye Lane Market. They engage in a conversation and immediately form a connection when Dom reveals the truth about his breakup with his long-term girlfriend Gia, who cheated on him with his best friend. Before you know it, Yas and Dom are cruising through South London, having an unforgettable day together.

A Colorful London Adventure

Through trippy wide-angle shots and fancy karaoke jitters, Rye Lane emerges as one of those stylish and beautiful directorial debuts that don’t go unnoticed. Raine Allen-Miller sure knows how to make the most of her setting, because the backdrops are just as colorful, energetic, and funny as the characters. Speaking of which, David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah are absolutely stunning as Dom and Yas, two young adults who are very communicative and charming. To sum up, Rye Lane is the London version of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise.

11 Soulmate

A coming-of-age romance directed by Min Yong-geun, Soulmate chronicles the friendship between Ahn Mi-so and Go Ha-eun, two girls born in 1988. They met when they were only 11, when Mi-so moved from Seoul to Jeju island, when her mother abandoned her and she began sharing a home with Ha-eun. Their promise to never separate runs dry when Ha-eun falls in love with a guy from her class.

A Moving Tale of Love and Friendship

Soulmate begins as a tender story about childhood friendships. Even though Mi-so and Ha-eun share an astronomically intimate time, their bond is pure. But the way the movie depicts growing up is very authentic. We watch as the conversations between the characters become more distant and unhappy. Kim Da-mi and Jeon So-nee are incredible at showcasing the poignancy of adult life, displaying that even after 15 years, when life’s ripples are too agonizing, their love is just as striking.

10 Passages

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Starring Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw, and Adèle Exarchopoulos in a love triangle of intense proportions, Passages tells the intimate story of a gay couple whose marriage goes through a rough patch when one of them begins an affair with a woman. Tomas is a filmmaker who isn’t afraid of expressing his sexuality. Martin, on the other hand, is much more reserved. When Tomas meets Agathe at a party and ends up sleeping with her, it forms a crack in their relationship and things snowball towards a passionate and suffocating end.

A Beautiful and Chaotic Journey of Love and Loss

Walking the same path as Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World but with more sexuality and positive representation, Passages is a fantastic reminder that there is nothing sadder in life than watching those you love walk away. Ben Whishaw is gorgeous as Martin, and Rogowski stuns as the unapologetically honest and incredibly sexy Tomas. From showing up in a mesh crop top to meet Agathe’s parents to falling down on his knees in her school corridor, we see him portray Tomas’ every emotion in full glory.

Related: Passages Writer-Director Ira Sachs on His Gripping New Love-Triangle Drama

9 Fair Play

Fair Play

Fair Play

Release Date
October 6, 2023

Director
Chloe Domont

Rating
R

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Starting off unassumingly, Fair Play introduces us to Luke and Emily, a newly engaged couple who cannot seem to get enough of each other. Working at the same competitive hedge fund, they hide their relationship so as not to break company policy, especially while Luke is anticipating a promotion, which would ease things for the two of them. When Emily gets the same coveted position and the power dynamics shift dramatically, their relationship turns to something more sinister and unnerving.

Fair Play Is Delightfully Tense and Entertaining

Writer-director Chloe Domont crafts a confident story that isn’t afraid of cruising the very disturbing heights of power play. With both characters vying for control and dominations, it is fascinating to see just how increasingly repulsed they are by one another as success and failure fluctuate. Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich are fabulous in their roles. The tonal precision and tense pacing feels like a forever-tightening noose, leading up to the satisfying final scene, which truly is as wonderful as it is sharp.

8 Joyland

Directed by Saim Sadiq, Joyland helps you experience and understand a traditional Pakistani family through the eyes of Haider, the youngest son. After being unemployed for several years, he finally lands a job as a backup dancer in a burlesque, hiding the news from everyone except his wife. In the meantime, he also finds himself drawn to Biba, the strong-willed transgender person leading the team.

A True Cinematic Masterpiece

There is so much more to Joyland than what meets the eye. With the help of its many characters, the film depicts the inner turmoil of the members of a family forced to conform to unspoken rules. Whether it is masculinity or femininity, its expression is forbidden. Ali Junejo may be the protagonist of the film, but as it progresses, Joyland shifts its focus to Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Salman Peer’s characters, because they too are struggling with autonomy and identity. Overall brave and mesmerizing, the movie is a must-watch arthouse drama.

7 Afire

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From the mind of German director Christian Petzold, who found a place on the map with films like Barbara and Phoenix, Afire is a recent romantic drama that sees two friends, Felix and Leon, traveling all the way to the former’s holiday home by the Baltic Sea to spend some time working on their portfolio and novel respectively. Once there, they realize they have company. A gorgeous young woman named Nadja, who is already living there and has no plans of leaving, soon grows close to Leon. With an ever-encroaching forest fire threatening their lives, they must navigate old friendships and new.

Subtle Situational Comedy with Heavy Notes of Romance

In his internationally acclaimed films, Petzold’s muse was in actress Nina Hoss. Afire blesses him with two mesmerizing new leads, Paula Beer and Thomas Schubert, whose characters are more expressive and almost dreamlike than you’d imagine. As two mysterious and desperate people, it is fascinating to see how close they become. Moreover, with the contemporary setting and shooting style, it is impossible not to lose yourself in a story that doesn’t dare to be tidy or direct.

Related: Exclusive: Afire Director Christian Petzold on His New Forest Fire-Laced Drama

6 Shortcomings

Shortcomings

Shortcomings

Randall Park is making his directorial debut with Roadside Attractions and Imminent Collision’s collaboration Shortcomings, based on Adrian Tomine’s acclaimed graphic novel.

Release Date
January 22, 2023

Rating
R

Shortcomings is actor Randall Park’s directorial debut, and despite being branded as a romantic comedy, it is nothing like you’d expect. It centers around Ben, a strongly opinionated Berkeley arthouse movie theater manager, who is beginning to see cracks in his six-year-long relationship with his girlfriend, Miko. When Miko moves from California to New York for three months to “take some time off,” Ben navigates life as a bachelor and comes to terms with his insufferable self.

A Movie That Wants You to Hate Its Protagonist

We’ve seen movies about unlikeable protagonists, met our fair share of “Bens,” and yet, watching Justin H. Min as the overly cynical, bitter, and self-centered boyfriend feels baffling. Paired with Ally Maki’s Miko and Sherry Cola’s Alice, Ben’s best friend, one can really see just how much Ben needs to change. Shortcomings takes the road-seldom-traveled approach by being a movie that’s not focused on giving its characters a happily ever after, but rather studying a deeply flawed person with the hopes that he becomes a little more self-aware. The film is ultimately light despite its grumpy lead and its subtle commentary on race and sex, and a treat to watch (especially with its really gorgeous actors).

5 Memory

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Less cynical than his other films, Memory is Michel Franco’s recent romantic drama that stars Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard. Chastain plays Sylvia, a smart and sensitive social worker who notices a man following her home from her high school reunion. Skeptical at first, she approaches the man, finds out his name is Saul, and the fact that he basically has no memory. Saul’s teenage daughter insists Sylvia take care of him by spending time with him, which only leads to Sylvia fleshing out painful memories about her own past.

Peter Sarsgaard Will Break Your Heart

Franco proves just how brilliant he is when it comes to observational dramas. He allows Chastain and Sarsgaard a lot of room to make some quiet and other bold decisions, leading to outstanding performances of two broken people learning to get past their pain and embracing life. The film is beautifully crafted. From occasional silences to intense gut punches, its essence lies in the fact that it is a gorgeous love story of two people who find comfort in company and healing through their shared loneliness. Moreover, the open-ended finale sits right with the moody and melancholic tone of the film.

4 The Blue Caftan

An Arabic-language drama film directed by Maryam Touzani, The Blue Caftan centers around Halim, who has been married to Mina. Together, they run a traditional caftan in the old town of Salé, Morocco. The business is good, and with Mina’s illness, it gets increasingly difficult for the couple to manage the place by themselves. So they hire a new apprentice, and soon, faint traces of Halim’s closeted homosexuality begin to surface, causing cracks in their perfect relationship.

Delicate and Understated Gem About Acceptance

2023 has been all about exploring international stories and cultures, which has been made possible with films like The Blue Caftan. Just like its title, the film falls tenderly on your skin, with its soft edges feeling like they were made to comfort you. In its full glory, it is more than just a romance. The movie is the definition of multifaceted; it’s funny in its look at relationships, sad in its examination of death as a slow and painful process, and hopeful (and sensual) as it defines sexuality as a celebration of love rather than loneliness or hedonism. The moments shared by the characters, despite being complicated, are full of acceptance. Maryam Touzani is a true master of expression and intimacy, and it shows.

3 Fallen Leaves

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An oddly charming romantic comedy directed by Aki Kaurismäki, Fallen Leaves follows Ansa, a lonely supermarket worker living with a street dog (one she adopts somewhere in the movie) in Helsinki. After her shift, she sorts recyclable waste and heads back home to watch television. One night, she meets Holappa, an equally lonely alcoholic. Regardless of their own misunderstandings, they try to make something out of the tension present in the air every time they meet.

Rom-Coms Are Back

Starting off on an adorable and humorous note, where the guy first sees the girl from across the room, then loses the girl’s number and has no way to call her back, and then misses her by a fraction of a second several times, Fallen Leaves escalates in both melancholy and joy as it progresses. There are moments in the film that are humorous – like the fact that they’re watching a zombie flick on their first date, or that Ansa names her dog “dog” – that set an atmosphere of unseriousness. And yet, the very pronounced feeling of hopefulness the characters feel when they’re together, in contrast with their otherwise forlorn gazes, is what makes Kaurismäki’s vision so endearing.

2 Past Lives

Past Lives

Past Lives

Release Date
August 31, 2023

Director
Celine Song

Rating
PG-13

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, Past Lives is Celine Song’s stunning feature directorial debut. It centers around Na Young and Hae Sung, two 12-year-old best friends living a carefree life in Seoul until they are torn apart when Na Young’s family decides to immigrate to Toronto and Na Young changes her name to Nora Moon. Over a decade later, they discover each other on Facebook and begin talking. They lose touch once again, and it’s not until much later, when Nora is already married, that Hae Sung visits the U.S. and spends a week with her and her husband.

Past Lives Is a Careful Dissection Of In-Yun

Past Lives delicately, humorously, and beautifully ponders over the nature of Nora and Hae Sung’s relationship. Are they friends? Lovers? Childhood sweethearts? Exes? Is their future doomed? We don’t know. What we do know is that they’re bound by In-yun, which is a Korean word that translates to ‘providence’ or ‘fate.’ Song’s exploration of life’s simplest questions makes you feel things viscerally. It’s a philosophical and almost spiritual film without ever being too stuffy or intellectual, and perhaps leads to one of the greatest love triangles in film history.

Related: Past Lives: Breaking Down How the K-Drama Reinvents the Rules of Romantic Movies

1 The Eternal Memory

A Chilean documentary film directed by Maite Alberdi, The Eternal Memory tells the story of Augusto and Paulina, who have been together for 25 years. They were both integral, as citizens, to the cultural upheaval that occurred due to the atrocities of the Pinochet dictatorship. Eight years before the documentary was filmed, Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. While the symptoms were still manageable in the initial stage, we witness just how crippling it becomes when Augusto begins to lose his grasp on self-identity. Day after day, Paulina cares for him, wholly and tenderly.

The Eternal Memory Is Heartbreaking and Kind From Start to Finish

This film contains some of the most kind, wholesome, and compassionate displays of unconditional love to ever be put on screen. Suffering from Alzheimer’s is difficult, but experiencing it second-hand is just as emotionally devastating, helpless to watch your loved one succumb. The Eternal Memory is a powerful film. What Paulina and Augusto share is rare, and it’s so obvious and visible in their eyes and their smiles that they’ve come this far with each other, for each other. Director Maite Alberdi covers the glorious and the scary in equal parts, making you understand the full aspect of the disease. There’s a quote from Augusto’s book, which Paulina reads from towards the end of the documentary, that says, “Without memory, there is no identity,” and that pretty much sums it all up. This is a film you’ll never forget.



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