6 Epically Romantic Movies That Show What True Love Really Looks Like

The super-sappy, extravagant romance stories like The Notebook that tug at your heartstrings but will never, ever occur in real life, or the “realistic” ones that almost always end with the leads realizing not all love stories end happily, seem to be the two main categories of romantic movies. They are realistic and chock-full of lessons about love, loss, and discovering oneself. Both are excellent; I’m not here to “romance shame” any films, but there are times when you truly want to watch romantic comedies that depict real love and offer both optimism and realism.
Even if they’re a little tougher to come by, there are films that depict the reality of love without devolving into a romance fantasy. Maybe it’s because it may be so difficult to accurately capture the nuanced complexity of love. This is also the reason why, when done well, watching a movie can be such an intense experience. While there are times when all you need is a little Nicholas Sparks in your life or a good dose of Blue Valentine sobs, there is much to be said for simply wanting to see a realistic—and not completely heartbreaking—romance unfold on film. Here are some films that you should add to your must-see list because they depict true love as it actually is.
1. “Silver Linings Playbook”

Due to the loss of their ex-spouses, Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) are both troubled individuals. Both are behaving out destructively as a result of the scars left by these prior traumas, but as they get to know one another and get ready for a dance competition, things start to change. Finding real love isn’t about finding someone who is ideal for you, but rather about finding someone who is wonderfully imperfect for you, as this movie so brilliantly illustrates.

This exquisite love story is set in 1950s New York, when lesbianism was still very taboo (OMG the outfits!). In the movie, Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett) run into each other by coincidence at the department shop where Therese works. The fact that Carol is going through a contentious divorce in which her soon-to-be ex husband is threatening to use her sexuality to obtain full custody of their young daughter makes the immediate attraction complicated. It’s evidence of how love can triumph over all obstacles and give us the strength to be who we actually are in the face of adversity.
I don’t think I’ve ever sobbed more throughout a movie than when I watched Up. I wasn’t prepared. Even though Pixar movies are incredibly effective at making you cry, Up is on another level. This movie’s opening ten minutes might be the best love story ever presented. Yes, flying houses and talking dogs come next, but what will linger with you forever is the realistically bittersweet relationship between Ellie and Carl.
2004’s “Punch Drunk Love”

Since socially awkward weirdos would probably be my “type” if I had one, Punch Drunk Love is pretty much my perfect love story. In the movie, Adam Sandler plays Barry, a silent, lonely, and emotionally unstable man who is continuously subject to the control of his dominating sisters. He calls a phone-sex line to try to deal with the loneliness, only to be extorted by the operator. He meets Lena (Emily Watson), a friend of his sister’s who has a crush on him, which is not the best timing. From there, things only become more romantic and challenging. The main themes of this endearing but strange love story are overcoming loneliness and going to whatever extent to protect the love we find.
Five “Say Anything”
My favorite romantic comedies are largely from the 1980s. Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink aren’t exactly realistic, but I’ve seen them a dozen times each. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if Jake Ryan showed up on my birthday in his Porsche. However, Say Anything is the one romance from the 1980s that properly captures both the optimism of that time in love stories as well as the complexity and difficulty of a real relationship. In the movie, school valedictorian Diane (Ione Skye), who is about to embark on a new life in England, falls in love with Lloyd (John Cusack). Yes, this is the movie with the well-known boombox sequence. It’s also really romantic.
The trilogy “Before”
Since it’s technically three films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight), it can be considered a bit of a cheat, but this trilogy is unmatched when it comes to portraying an authentic tale about true love. The movies follow Jessie (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) over the course of 18 years. Sometimes it’s extremely romantic as the two travel over Europe and get to know one another, but it also shows how love can evolve and turn into a lot of effort over time. It’s realistic, like I stated, but also incredibly lovely.

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