The 21st century has a great deal of classic romantic films. Some of them are even greater than the classics of 20th century, especially when it comes to style. Technology has made it easier to depict human emotions which weren’t as possible in older days.
This list has tried to collect the best romantic films of the 21st century from all over the world. You may find some films ineligible or inappropriate on this list but that is your opinion. If your best and favorite romantic films aren’t on this list, then leave a comment with your favorites.
1. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
Wong Kar-wai is a godfather of romantic films. His masterpiece “In the Mood for Love” is surely the best romantic film of this century. It is highly stylistic, immensely beautiful and very touching. Christopher Doyle’s cinematography and Maggie Cheung’s beauty are the most talked about elements of this film.
Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung end up falling in love with each other after they find out that their spouses are seeing each other. Then they start to talk about the probability of what are they doing at that moment, and they start to meet frequently. One interesting thing about their love is that they have rented a room in the same house which will become a problem in 1960s China. They have a platonic relationship and can’t express their love openly, but love each other regardless.
2. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
Its style can be compared to Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour” somehow. This film is immensely romantic, stunningly beautiful and poignant. Miguel Gomes is one of the most important directors of the latest era. He has already given us this masterpiece, which will have a great future.
It has three parts: the prologue, the 1st part (named Paradise Lost) and the 2nd part (named Paradise). The prologue gives you a hint that it is about a unsuccessful platonic love.
The 1st part mainly shows a woman who talks about strange things, which sound so unfamiliar and insane to her friend and servant. They think she is insane, or at least that her insanity is due to her old age. Audiences also remain baffled as to what all this might be.
The 2nd part clears up our confusion, revealing the truth about that woman. It turns out that during her married life, she had secretly fallen in love with a singer. That love wasn’t successful, which is the main cause of her insane behavior. She obsessed about that lover her entire life.
3. Birth (Jonathon Glazer, 2004)
This film is all about love. Director Jonathan Glazer used a very weird, absurd and unconventional story to show the importance of love in life. This film is highly under-appreciated and underrated. But after Glazer’s masterpiece “Under the Skin” became famous, people started to revaluate “Birth” and it is slowly gaining rave reviews.
A 10-year old boy intrudes into a family, meets with a woman (Nicole Kidman) and tells her that he is her (deceased) husband. Her husband died 10 years prior and his name is also Sean, just like the boy’s. At this moment, she is in a relationship with another man and they have decided to marry. So, she will be in a big trap, especially because that boy gives enough proof that he is her husband.
What does she do? She really believes that he is her deceased husband. Why does she believe? Because she still loves her husband and she still likes to live with him. So many twists come in this mysterious film.
4. 5 Centimeters Per Second (Makoto Shinkai, 2004)
Generally hailed as “The New Miyazaki”, Makoto Shinkai is very brilliant at making anime movies. This film is his masterpiece, which deals with mainly love and its complexities. Shinkai’s style is unprecedented in anime as well as in film history. He has depicted loneliness, love, complex relations, emotions and the psychology of the characters in a uniquely brilliant style. This film has such a depth that it will remind you of your serious love during your school or college life.
It has three parts, which show the character’s psychology and emotions during the three different stages of their life.
The first part shows the love life of a boy and a girl who love each other while in elementary school, but can’t fully express it. They have to be separated due to the migration of their families.
The second part is set during high school. Another girl falls in love with the same boy, who is unaware of her love. He is still in a deep obsession with his first love. This part is mainly about unrequited love.
And the third part? Watch it. You’ll be overwhelmed by Shinkai’s idiosyncratic style.
5. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Seeing the most famous horror film of 21st century on this romantic list may be very weird for many cinephiles, but it actually isn’t just a horror film but also a romantic one. Of course, it is a very terrifying and shocking film since it deals with the life of vampire. But if you take the vampire concept simply and watch this film multiple times, then you’ll start to see the romantic elements more than the horror elements. Actually, this film is about the love between a vampire and a boy.
If the vampire had wanted to kill the boy, it could, but it never does that due to love. Instead, it saves him and kills many other men. Now how does this unprecedented love go? Does the boy also love the vampire? Can he? What about his family and society?
Don’t miss this beautiful and chilling romantic horror film.
6. My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004)
Only after Pawlikowski’s “Ida” became famous did people start taking his films seriously. His masterpiece is “My Summer of Love”, which is about the lesbian relationship between two adolescent girls. You’ll be overwhelmed mainly by its beauty. And Pawlikowski has touched on subjects like religion, philosophy, music and relationships, like he generally does in his all films.
A girl (whose brother is a sanctimonious Christian) falls in love with a very beautiful, mysterious and sexy girl who knows at least something about philosophy and music. She is openly an atheist who doesn’t hesitate to prove the emptiness of religious life, even in front of the first girl’s brother. This tension creates a very intriguing story. Both have troubling relationships in their family. Both like to be free of all these familial and societal norms, or at least they are tired of these things.
7. The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel, 2004)
Many readers may express surprise seeing this film on a romantic list, arguing that it isn’t even a romantic film. But it is and it deals with the very complex relationship, the sexuality and the deep obsession about these things.
Martel has meticulously shown the psychology and behavior of the film’s characters. One recurring experience while watching Martel’s films is that if you can catch and comprehend her films from the beginning, then you’ll feel like it is a masterpiece. If you can’t, then you’ll find it boring, confusing and difficult to comprehend.
Its story becomes fascinating when a doctor tries to take advantage of a girl rubbing his penis on her ass, during the concert, when there are many people but no one knows about it except them. This girl is so holy that she tries to rescue the doctor from his “sexually obscene activities and thoughts”. But she can’t remain holy, as she becomes infatuated with that doctor. In other words, she falls in love with him, at least sexually. But that doctor is a schizoid and very effeminate. He can’t accept her desires. The story creates tension when the girl’s mother and that doctor start to have an affair.
8. Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
Another film by a female director, where Jane Campion has taken care with very little things that can tremendously affect human relationships. This beautiful film is about the love story of romantic poet John Keats, but it isn’t shown from his viewpoints. The whole film revolves around his lover who was madly in love with him.
At first meeting, this beautiful and fashionable girl wasn’t very impressed with Keats. She comes home, buys his book and reads his poems just to know that whether he is an idiot or not. Boy, she falls in love with his poems even though she can’t comprehend them completely. Then she meets with him, asks him to teach her to read and comprehend poems. Keats agrees and finally they both fall in love with each other.
Keats is very poor and is sponsored by his friend, so he has to live and migrate here and there. Even worse, he has poor health. But love and emotions are shown from the perspective of the girl. Showing the girl’s love in the film, which was made by a woman, in this exquisite and brilliant style is very powerful.
9. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004)
Another film on this list by Wong, it is a loose sequel of his previous films “Days of Being Wild” and “In the Mood for Love”, of which the latter’s style can be clearly seen here. If you’ve seen these two films, then you can get a complete taste of “2046”, but not necessarily. After Tony Leung couldn’t get Maggie Cheung in “Love”, he goes through the painful stages. To recover his pain, anguish and emptiness, he gets involved in romantic relationships with many beautiful women played by Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Faye Wong, and others.
The film has many plots concerning Leung’s relationships with many women. Writing even briefly about it may take many sentences. So, just take this suggestion – watch this highly stylistic romantic film. In many scenes, Wong has overcome his style that he had brilliantly and masterfully used in “Love”.
10. Four Nights With Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski, 2008)
Skolimowski, who directed such classics like “Deep End” and “Le Depart”, has given us another classic after a 17-year hiatus in his career and that is “Four Nights With Anna.” This film is about the one-sided love of a very introverted and effeminate man who can’t express his love. “A Short Film About Love” and “Chungking Express” meets here.
A man falls in love with Anna but he can never speak with her. Their rooms are near each other. He goes to her room secretly in the night, spending the time watching her sleeping, polishing her nails, trying to touch her body, decorating the room. He spends four nights that way.
You have to watch it to see whether she finds out. How does this love go? Does it have a happy or sad ending?