20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy Everett Collection; Columbia/Courtesy Everett Collection
En español | As Marlene Dietrich once sang in the movies: “Falling in love again ...” Because let's face it: Love springs eternal, and date nights never fall out of fashion.
Ready for a romantic sofa session with your longtime love? Or are you looking for a flirty flick to take in with a new special someone? Our critics are here to the (emotional) rescue, with 17 fabulous affairs to remember — tearjerkers, romantic comedies, star-driven blockbusters and seductive indies — all available to stream whenever you're in the mood.
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For when you know they're the one: An Affair to Remember (1957)
The American Film Institute anointed the tearjerker by writer-director Leo McCarey as one of Hollywood's most romantic films. While on a luxury cruise, swoony Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr fall madly, deeply in love despite being engaged to others. When the ship docks, they part, setting a future day and time to meet at the Empire State Building. What happens next is so memorable that it inspired the ending of Sleepless in Seattle.
For love and laughter: Moonstruck (1987)
The fact that Cher (now 74) and Nicolas Cage (now 56) make no sense as a couple — and yet we root for their lips to meet in a kiss — is one of the many pleasures of the spaghetti romance between a Brooklyn bookkeeper and an opera-loving baker, from director Norman Jewison (now 94). The marriage may not last — but what a honeymoon!
For turning up the heat: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Nothing says I'm leaving my wife for my costar more than Brad Pitt (now 56) and Angelina Jolie (now 45) playing married assassins trying to kill each other. Director Doug Liman's 2005 espionage action-thriller generates so much sexual heat, it's no wonder that then-wife and Friends star Jennifer Aniston (now 51) couldn't keep up — and, ultimately, Brad couldn't either.
For turning up the heat some more: Love & Basketball (2000)
Omar Epps (now 48) and Sanaa Lathan (now 47) take a shot at love as two basketball players who share a love of the game — and each other. Can their affection and ambitions survive and thrive from the playground to the big leagues? This delightful, award-winning and sexy indie came from writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (now 51), whose supernatural actioner starring Charlize Theron, The Old Guard, is currently a major hit on Netflix.
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For wild romantics: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Last year's biggest Oscar snub was ignoring writer-director Céline Sciamma's lushly romantic, dazzlingly rendered meditation on love, passion and art. The French period piece pairs portrait painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her beautiful subject, reluctant bride Héloise (Adèle Haenele), on a remote French island in 1770. As Marianne captures Héloise on canvas, her subject in turn captures the artist's heart. Their union is a masterpiece in miniature, with big performances from both actresses and seductive filmmaking from Sciamma.
For hopeless romantics: Before Sunrise (1995)
In the “your regiment leaves at dawn” tradition of urgent romance, this talky 1995 drama from writer-director Richard Linklater (now 59) pairs writer Jesse (Ethan Hawke, nearly 50) and grad student Céline (Julie Delpy, now 50). After meeting cute on a European train, they disembark in Vienna and spend the next 24 hours falling for each other. Will their passion endure? For the answer, rent the sequels Before Sunset and Before Midnight.
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For brazen romantics: In the Mood for Love (2000)
The title reflects the main thrust of writer-director Wong Kar-wai's lyrical love story: It puts audiences in a mad loving mood. In 1960s Hong Kong (those dresses! That hair!), illicit lovers played by Tony Leung (now 58) and Maggie Cheung (now 55) dispense with all reticence and begin a passionate affair once they realize that their respective spouses have already been seeing each other romantically. Both gorgeous and stirring.
For self-proclaimed sentimental fools: Love Actually (2003)
London at the holidays is the setting for this feel-good ensemble comedy from writer-director Richard Curtis (now 63). Hugh Grant (now 59) is at his most disarmingly charming, alongside Emma Thompson (now 61). Laura Linney (now 56), Bill Nighy (now 70), Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson (now 68), Colin Firth (now 59) and Rowan Atkinson (now 65) — a veritable herd of talent in this romantic evergreen about the ups and downs of romantic entanglements. Can you ever have too much cheese at Christmas (or any time of year, for that matter)?
RELATED: Love a Hallmark movie romance? We hear you. Which is why we tapped our Hallmark Movies experts to name the best romances to stream on everyone's favorite sentimental channel. Get the full list — and get out your hankies — here: 11 Hallmark Movies That Will Make You Believe in Romance Again
For that “opposites attract” special someone: Say Anything (1989)
Cameron Crowe (now 63), casts John Cusack (now 54) and Ione Skye (nearly 50) as a high school slacker and a valedictorian who become smitten — much to her father John Mahoney's disapproval. The beloved opposites-attract romantic comedy came out in 1989.
For optimists: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (now 45) fall together in this charming Oscar-bait from writer-director David O. Russell (now 61). While they're often at odds — he's just out of the mental ward and she's a wackadoodle widow — they become one when he signs on as her competitive dancing partner. Smart, joyful and hopeful, this dramedy was nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture, and it scored a statue for Lawrence for best actress.
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For longtime couples (plus those who want to be): Penny Serenade (1941)
My go-to vintage cry film from director George Stevens follows a perfect couple — Cary Grant (nominated for an Oscar for best actor for this role) and Irene Dunne — who reach a marital impasse, look back over their married life together and then decide to…. Well, you have to watch the movie unfold to see whether they stay together or split.
For when you're trying to go from friends to something more: When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Meg Ryan (now 58) and Billy Crystal (now 72) are pitch-perfect in this chemistry lesson of a rom-com from director Rob Reiner (now 73) and writer Nora Ephron. The stars play Manhattan besties Harry and Sally, whose friend-zone relationship becomes threatened by the specter of romantic love.
For cool kids (at any age): 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
The high school-set romantic smash stars Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Larisa Oleynik. Loosely based on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things never fails to charm as opposites attract and true loves unite after a reasonable amount of comic friction.
For seducing your nerdy crush: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Geek love gets a witty hero in teen Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera). The nerdy charmer must vanquish all seven of his dream-girl's villainous exes in order to gain the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in writer-director Edgar Wright's award-winning action comedy.
For making believers out of romantic cynics: Hitch (2005)
Suave New York matchmaker Will Smith (now 51) doubles down on love in this 2005 romantic comedy from director Andy Tennant (now 65) of Sweet Home Alabama fame. He woos Eva Mendes’ sexy tabloid reporter character while giving an assist to shy bachelor Kevin James (now 55), in his pursuit of Amber Valletta's nearly unreachable heiress.
RELATED: Ready for some more Will Smith in your life right now? Who isn't? Check out our critics’ high-wattage ranking of the superstar's best films, cue up your own Will Smith marathon, and see if our number 1 pick lines up with yours, here: The Best Will Smith Movies (So Far), Ranked
For dreamers: Lost in Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola (now 49) directed this sophisticated, bittersweet romance that coupled recently married Scarlett Johansson and fading movie star Bill Murray (now 69). The strangers meet chicly in a Tokyo luxury hotel and then drift toward, and away from, a meaningful intimate relationship. Coppola won an Oscar for best original screenplay.
For feeling good about your quarantine date-night options: Date Night (2010)
If your date night seems to be too much work, check out Steve Carell (now 57) and Tina Fey (now 50) as a married suburban couple who plan a big adult evening away from the kids — and end up having a much wilder night in Manhattan than they ever expected.