The 40 Best Romantic Movies on Netflix

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The 40 Best Romantic Movies on Netflix

Ahhh…romance. There are few things more hard-wired in all of us than the desire to find a soulmate, and few more common motivating principles in movies. We’ve dug through all 649 of the romantic movies on Netflix to find the best, including rom-com classics, tear-jerkers, Netflix originals, Bollywood romances, LGBTQ+ love stories and more.

Here are the 40 best romantic movies streaming on Netflix:

1. She’s Gotta Have It

shes-gotta-have-it-poster.jpg Year: 1986
Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Tracy Camila Johns, Spike Lee, John Canada Terrell, Tommy Redmond Hicks
Rating: R
Runtime: 85 minutes

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An explosively frank feature debut that immediately announced Lee’s brave, fresh new voice in American cinema, She’s Gotta Have It, shot like a documentary, is a levelheaded exploration of a young black woman named Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns) trying to decide between her three male lovers, while also flirting with her apparent bisexuality, in order to, first and foremost, figure out what makes her happy. What’s refreshing about the film is that Lee always brings up the possibility that “none of the above” is a perfectly viable answer for both Nola and for single women—a game changer in 1986. The DIY indie grainy black-and-white cinematography boosts the film’s in-your-face realism. —Oktay Ege Kozak


2. When Harry Met Sally

when-harry.jpg
Year: 1989
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Rating: R

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Easily the most beloved romantic comedy of its decade, the story of Harry (Billy Crystal), Sally (Meg Ryan) and their 12-year journey to couple-hood boasts a solid script by Nora Ephron that feeds and feeds off of the unexpected chemistry between its leads. (And with each new generation of lovers watching the diner scene for the first time, another woman laughs and another man sits silently, wondering what’s so funny.) —Michael Burgin


3. Phantom Thread

phantom-thread-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Rating: R

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Phantom Thread is a movie that is so wonderfully made, so meticulous in its construction, so deeply felt in execution, that you can almost overlook how prickly and scabrous it is. This has to be the most luscious-to-watch film, ever, that is in large part about how self-centered and inflexible the world of relationships can be, how we can only give up so much of ourselves and it’s up to our partner to figure out how to deal with that, if they want to at all. This is an uncompromising movie about two uncompromising people who try to live with one another without losing too large a part of themselves, and the sometimes extreme lengths they will go to get their way. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a world-famous dressmaker who clothes celebrities, royalty and, sometimes to his chagrin, déclassé wealthy vulgarians. Almost everything that doesn’t meet his exacting standards is vulgarian, until one day while in the English countryside, Reynolds comes across a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) who both meets Reynolds’ physical requirements (specifically so he can make dresses for her) and has a certain pluck that he instantly finds fascinating. Both of the principals of Phantom Thread are absurd and insane in their own ways, and one of the many thrills of the film is watching them bounce off each other, and then collide again. It’s the oddest little love story, so odd that I’m not even sure it’s about love at all. My colleague Tim Grierson said this first, but it’s too good an observation to ignore: This movie is in large part about the absolute unknowability of other people’s relationships. From the outside, it makes no sense that Reynolds and Alma would have this sort of connection with each other; it’s difficult to tell what either person is getting out of it. But what’s unfathomable about it is also what makes it so powerful. —Will Leitch


4. Her

her-2013-poster.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Spike Jonze’s colossal talent was far too great to remain trapped in MTV’s orbit; that became immediately clear when his breakout feature-length debut, Being John Malkovich, earned him an Oscar nod for Best Director. Following that minor postmodern masterpiece, he and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman continued their journey into solipsism with the hilariously unhinged Adaptation. As challenging, yet fun and accessible as Kaufman’s screenplays are, Jonze’s Her answers any lingering questions of whether those two movies’ (well-deserved) acclaim sprang solely from the power of Kaufman’s words. Retaining the sweetest bits of the empathetically quirky characters, psycho-sexuality and hard-wrung pathos of Malkovich, Her successfully realizes a tremendously difficult stunt in filmmaking: a beautifully mature, penetrating romance dressed in sci-fi clothes. Eye-popping sets and cinematography, as well as clever dialogue delivered by a subtly powerful Joaquin Phoenix, make Jonze’s latest feature one of the best films of 2013. It also serves as confirmation that—much like Her—the director is the complete package. —Scott Wold


5. Atlantics

atlantics.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Mati Diop
Stars: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Nicole Sougou, Aminate Kane
Rating: NR

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Atlantics is quite the announcement for writer-drector Mati Diop. She takes the magic realism of a peer like Alice Rohrwacher and carries it to the world’s margins, examining class struggle in a Senegalese city by the Atlantic. Through the gritty, blustery opening images shot as artful document of the Dakar shore (outstanding work by cinematographer Claire Mathon) and the hypnotic electronic score by Fatima Al Qadiri, Diop is able to evoke an incomparable mood and sense of place. That it might look and sound so alien to an American watching this film on Netflix is perhaps a sharp enough indictment of the ways in which we intellectually seclude ourselves from realities beyond our own. Atlantics is about that and it’s about the breaking of that. It’s about the mystery of identity and how one can find identity by taking on the identity of something other, or can find it when looking in a mirror—not for the physical self but for the spirit. Congruously, it’s also about losing the identities that are culturally prescribed, that we may have been born with, nurtured and/or limited by. Love, the film posits, is a catalyst; love helps reform identities in transgressive and transcendent ways. And the film is at its best when it avoids being programmatic, lets its visuals pulse before you. It is yet another sad ghost story amongst many, but where it differs is finely drawing the distinction that sometimes the things that haunt the living most are not the things that were but the things that should have been. The film’s protagonist embraces that haunting as a form of hope; she loses something important and fills the hole by expanding her own self with the self that was touched by others. Though Atlantics feels elliptical in many ways, Diop has the bravery to end her film with a pretty resounding period. It’s a statement, both for itself and for its creator, and it’s a convincing one. —Chad Betz


6. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Susan Johnson
Stars: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the teen scene’s newest runaway hit, is a flat-out excellent film. It is not excellent “for a teen flick.” It is not excellent “for a romantic comedy.” It is excellent for a film. TATBILB fully inverts the 80/20 ratio: Within the first 20 minutes, all five of the deeply private love letters our daydreamy, emotionally buttoned-up protagonist Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has written to her childhood crushes over the years have been stolen and mailed out—including the one to her neighbor and best friend, Josh (Israel Broussard), who just happens to also be her older sister’s just barely ex-boyfriend. This swift puncturing of any protracted emotional dishonesty Lara Jean might have hoped to indulge in, well, forever, leaves the film’s final eighty minutes free for her to embrace some really radical emotional honesty. That TATBILB allows Lara Jean to accomplish this not in spite of but through the fanfic-favorite trope of “fake dating” another, less-risky letter recipient (Noah Centineo’s ridiculously charming Peter Kavinsky) is a story strength. Of course, all the emotional honesty in the world wouldn’t matter if TATBILB’s leads didn’t burn with chemistry. Fortunately, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo can get it. Condor and Centineo are undeniably the stars of the show, but TATBILB doesn’t rest on their charismatic laurels: Mahoro as Lucas is a foxy ball of friendliness; Madeleine Arthur as Lara Jean’s best (girl) friend, Chris, is just the wide-eyed punk weirdo she needs to be; Janel Parrish plays against type as the sweet and steel-spined Margot; Anna Cathcart steals every scene as Lara Jean’s meddling little sis, Kitty; and John Corbett plays the healthily engaged version of Kat Stratford’s single OBGYN dad with a discernible glee. The importance of Lara Jean and her sisters being half-Korean, and the majority of the cast (along with Mahoro) non-white, is hard to overstate, but it isn’t the most impressive thing about the cast by a long shot. In a genre that can so often see its characters lean too far into caricature, Lara Jean’s world is instead populated with teens—and through them, love—you can believe in. —Alexis Gunderson


7. Top Gun

top-gun.jpg Year: 1986
Director: Tony Scott
Stars: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt
Rating: PG
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Aviator shades, fast airplanes and a touch of beach volleyball make up one of the best action films of the ’80s. This film has it all: Tom Cruise in a star-making role; an exhilarating soundtrack courtesy of Kenny Logins; character names like Iceman and Maverick; and finally, perhaps one of the greatest subversive plots in movie history. At the end of the day it is simply impossible to deny the need for speed that lies in all of us.—Brian Tremml


8. The Half of It

half-of-it.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Alice Wu
Stars: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire
Rating: NR

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Netflix’s The Half of It begins somewhat deceptively, with a highly stylized animated retelling of an old Greek myth in which the four-armed, four-legged, two-headed humans of ancient times are sundered by the gods and wander about forever in search of the other half of their single heart. It ends with a scene between a boy and a girl, something that normally would come right out of a dopey rom-com, but in a way that subverts the trope on every level, from the inversion of its meaning to the quiet, intimate naturalism with which it is filmed. It’s a fitting juxtaposition because the film sandwiched between the two moments is about the fallacies that drive our neat and tidy narratives about love. Love is messy is the point, one called out aloud by main character Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) in Alice Wu’s short little film about a Chinese-American high schooler whose incredible writing skills find her hired to help her classmate, the kindhearted but far less charming Paul (Daniel Diemer), woo another girl. Paul does not realize that Ellie shares his unrequited desire for Aster (Alexxis Lemire), and that every sweet late-night text and smoldering note passed in class is tearing Ellie apart. If the story borrows its central conceit from Cyrano de Bergerac, it at least puts a few interesting spins on it: Ellie is an outsider in unique ways. She is the only Asian student at her school, an immigrant whose underemployed and linguistically challenged father struggles to run her household. She is the student who is so good at writing that she runs a side hustle writing papers for her entire class. And then there’s the other little matter of her feeling same-sex attraction in a stiflingly small, overwhelmingly Christian town. It’s a unique twist on a familiar story in a film that universalizes feelings of otherness for the audience, whether they come from being the runt of the litter or the child of an immigrant struggling to make it in America. —Kenneth Lowe


9. Love Actually

love-actually.jpg Year: 2003
Director: Richard Curtis
Stars: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer
Rating: PG
Runtime: 86 minutes

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When it comes to portraying love confessions of all varieties, very few can beat the kind on display in Richard Curtis’ epic romantic comedy Love Actually. In one of the many romantic threads, Juliet (Keira Knightley), a recently married woman, has just discovered that her husband’s best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) has been nursing a secret crush on her. One night, he arrives at their front door and silently delivers his long repressed feelings via hand-drawn cue cards. While certainly sweet and heart-warming, the inherent sadness that pervades this scenario—such a relationship can never work out between the two—prevents the exchange from being overly saccharine. —Mark Rozeman


10. Always Be My Maybe

always-be-my-maybe-210.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Stars: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Keanu Reeves, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Karan Soni
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 102 minutes

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A film written by and starring Ali Wong and Randall Park was always guaranteed to be a home run, but the endlessly funny and charming Always Be My Maybe truly exceeds all romcom expectations. The duo (who penned the script with Michael Golamco) play childhood friends who lose touch after an impulsive teenage romance ends badly. From there, Wong’s Sasha becomes a celebrity chef as Park’s Marcus continues to live at home and work for his father’s blue collar business after his mother’s tragic passing. They each have things to learn from one another, sure, but Always Be My Maybe doesn’t just end when romance blossoms; it leans into the complications of two adults with independent lives choosing to be together and figuring out how to make it all work. Part of that, crucially, includes both Marcus and Sasha playing supportive roles in one another’s careers rather than compromising and giving up their passions to be together. Director Nahnatchka Khan keeps the stylish film moving at a pleasant comedic clip throughout, and there’s a killer cameo appearance you will not want spoiled before you see the movie. Seriously, you should watch it right now. —Allison Keene


11. Omar

omar.jpg Year: 2014
Director:Hany Abu-Assad
Stars: Adam Bakri, Leem Lubany, Waleed Zuaiter
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 98 minutes

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More trenchant as a political allegory than a character drama, Omar is more interested in the ideas within this slow-burn thriller than in plot machinations. To writer-director Hany Abu-Assad, maniacal twists and cunning action set pieces would simply get in the way—better that we spend our time thinking about why the characters find themselves in this situation at all. Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Omar stars Adam Bakri as the titular young Palestinian, who must daily scale the imposingly tall security wall that separates him from his girlfriend, Nadia (Leem Lubany). Though very much in love, they haven’t yet revealed their relationship to her brother (and Omar’s good friend) Tarek (Eyad Hourani), who is planning with Omar and another close pal, Amjad (Samer Bisharat), to kill an Israeli soldier. The three friends’ mission is a success—it’s Amjad who pulls the trigger—but soon after, Omar is snagged by Israeli forces, led by Agent Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter). Threatening Omar with imprisonment, Rami promises him freedom if he’ll deliver Tarek, the group’s leader, to them in exchange. What’s most resonant in Omar is that, just as we can’t always gauge the characters, they’re, too, concealing parts of themselves from each other, a byproduct of living in a part of the world where distrust is commonplace and secrecy a necessity. Which is why Omar’s startling ending is both somewhat mystifying and also oddly perfect—we don’t see it coming, and yet deep down, we’re not surprised at all that it happened. —Tim Grierson


12. The Mask of Zorro

mask-of-zorro.jpg Year: 1998
Director: Martin Campbell
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 147 minutes

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The Mask of Zorro has aged even better than its stars, who are all still running around doing must-see work. The film begins in California in 1821 as Mexico casts off the Spanish government, and director Martin Campbell wisely decides to begin it in the most swashbuckling way imaginable, with a public execution of innocent peasants as the regional governor Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson, delivering a sneering baddie who is not without nuance) tries to draw out his nemesis, Zorro. He does draw him out, of course, and it goes about as well for him as you’d expect. Anthony Hopkins’ masked vigilante comes swinging into action, winning with a combination of swordplay, acrobatics, help from the sympathetic crowd, and the poor marksmanship and slow reloading time of his enemies. After freeing the oppressed and humiliating Montero one final time, Zorro sheds his mask and returns home to his life as Don Diego de la Vega, husband and father to the wife and newborn daughter, he now hopes to be able to retire to. That wouldn’t be much of a movie, so Montero barges in, reveals de la Vega to be Zorro, and accidentally kills his wife in the ensuing skirmish. This whole setup is top-notch, expositing with deft economy everything the audience needs to know about the conflict at the heart of this melodrama in five tight little minutes, before showing us the story on display: That of Antonio Banderas’ next-generation Zorro. A common criminal whose brother is killed by a sadistic U.S. Army captain, Banderas’ Alejandro Murrieta is one of the two boys who gave Zorro a hand during the opening action sequence and was rewarded with a bit of finery that the elder Zorro recognizes once he breaks out of the hellish prison where he’s been rotting for 20 years. Zorro is a character even older than some may realize: creator Johnston McCulley’s first Zorro story was 1919’s The Curse of Capistrano. Rooted in the pulp fiction trends of the turn of the century, with its gentleman criminals and Gilded Age rabblerousing rage, memorable to most elderly filmgoers chiefly due to Disney’s hokey live action series from the ’50s, the Zorro mythos was utterly anachronistic in 1998. Yet, The Mask of Zorro manages to tell a story that freshens up the character while acknowledging and honoring his roots—including the swashbuckling action everybody wanted to see. —Kenneth Lowe


13. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

eurovision_netflix.jpg Year: 2020
Director: David Dobkins
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is—let’s be honest here—a bit on the thin side, and a little confusing. It’s got just enough sincerity to undermine its own satirical impulses and just enough pandering snark to undermine its own sincerity. It runs long, and it leans on a trope, Ferrell’s master trope and the common denominator in most of his best performances—the lovable but fundamentally clueless and self-absorbed man-baby who can’t get out of his own way. It’s a trope that, thanks to Ferrell himself, we have mined pretty thoroughly in comedy over the last few decades. And yet, even as Eurovision Song Contest makes a number of perplexing moves in its two-hour-plus runtime, you kind of can’t help rooting for it, and for its principal characters, because its refusal to be cynical operates as a vital, oxygenating escape hatch right now.—Amy Glynn


14. You’ve Got Mail

youve-got-mail.jpg Year: 1998
Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear
Rating: PG
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Some films are just pure testaments to the power of relatable characters and believable screen chemistry, and Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail is a prime example. Dramatically unsurprising and artistically unremarkable, it still pulls you in with its Jane Austen-esque lover-rival dynamic and general good-naturedness. The third rom-com collaboration between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (and Ryan’s most unaffected performance of the trio) is the story of the unlikely (yet inevitable) coupling between an independent bookstore owner and the mogul at the helm of the mega-bookstore that’s threatening to put her out of business. In real life they can’t stand each other—but in an anonymous chat room, they get along and then some. Sailing along on the sheer likability of its protagonists, and the actors who portray them—Ryan’s at her best in a grounded, just-plain-happy performance and Hanks’s kind of limitless plasticity is in full flow—You’ve Got Mail trades in “cute.” If that makes you itch, you’re in for a bit of scratching, but there is a genuine heart to this movie that will reel in even avowed cynics. —Amy Glynn


15. Loving

loving-poster.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Marton Csokas
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 123 minutes

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How well you like Jeff Nichols’ Loving will partially depend on what you look for in courtroom dramas. If you prefer judicial sagas made with potboiling slickness and little else, you’ll probably like Loving less than Nichols likes filming landmark legal proceedings. His film isn’t about the case of Loving v. Virginia as much as its two plaintiffs, Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Jeter Loving (Ruth Negga), the married couple at the center of the 1967 civil rights victory over the United States’ anti-miscegenation laws. As an effect of Nichols’ focal point, the movie speaks little to no lawyer jargon and takes place almost entirely outside of the court rather than within. So if you’re sick to death of courtroom dramas that insist on pantomime, and if you think those kinds of stories demand more restraint, then you’ll probably dig on Loving. It so studiously avoids the clichés of its genre that it feels fresh, original, a completely new idea based on a very old, very formulaic one. It’s a disciplined, handsome, unfailingly serious screen reproduction of an important real-life moment in the nation’s ongoing fight for civil rights; it’s hitting theaters at a time when we’re still having cultural arguments about who gets to marry; and it’s directed by one of the critical darlings of contemporary cinema. This is the kind of anti-prestige movie critics yearn for, a product stripped away of non-artistic pretensions and ambitions, leaving only the art. —Andy Crump


16. I Lost My Body

i-lost-my-body.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Jérémy Clapin
Stars: Hakim Faris Hamza, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 81 minutes

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While we’re on board, at least passively, for however many sequels Pixar wants to give Toy Story, patient for however long another one takes, I Lost My Body is a singular animated film, increasingly of the kind that, frankly, don’t get made anymore. Partly because hand-drawn features made by small studios are rarer than ever, but mostly because it’s a defiantly adult animated film, wreathed in oblique storytelling and steeped in grief. Ostensibly about an anthropomorphic hand climbing and skittering its way across the city to find the person to whom it was once attached—the story of its severing slowly coming to light—the beauty of director Jérémy Clapin’s images, often limned in filth and decay, is in how revelatory they can be when tied so irrevocably to the perspective of a small hand navigating both its nascent life in the treacherous urban underground and the traumatic memories of its host body’s past. I Lost My Body is an unassuming, quietly heartbreaking achievement, one the Academy needs to prioritize now more than ever over expectedly competent big studio fare. —Dom Sinacola


17. Silver Linings Playbook

silver-linings-playbook.jpg Year: 2012
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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With leads as winning as Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, aas well as David O. Russell’s signature mix of clever and sincere dialogue, the hook is set. Every single detail doesn’t gel—Chris Tucker’s role as Danny, Pat Jr’s escape-prone friend from the treatment facility, seems a bit extraneous—but it doesn’t need to. By the end of the dance competition finale (yeah, there’s that), the audience, actors and director are on exactly the same page in Russell’s playbook. —Michael Burgin


18. Lagaan

lagaan.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Stars: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley
Rating: PG
Runtime: 223 minutes

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You may have heard of Lagaan, one of the most easy entryways into Bollywood. The film famously received India’s third-ever Academy Award nomination in 2001 and is rooted in a rich entanglement of a high-stakes sports game and a forbidden romance. An epic sports drama based in colonial India, Lagaan is the story of a group of Indian villagers who challenge their British colonizers to a game of cricket in exchange for the removal of their increasing burden of taxes. We get recruiting and training montages, drama amongst teammates, an intercultural flirtation, and a bangin’ soundtrack from the legend A.R. Rahman. It has everything and has been rightfully hailed as one of India’s most entertaining and thoughtful productions that seems to only get better with age. —Radhika Menon


19. A Whisker Away

a-whisker-away-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama
Stars: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi, Koichi Yamadera,Minako Kotobuki
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

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There have been creepier things done in movies than magically turning into a cat in order to get closer to your crush, but those are few and far between. It’s not exactly standing outside a window with a boombox. But in directors Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama’s A Whisker Away, even this bonkers premise yields beauty and touching romance. Mari Okada’s script deftly leaps the anime through some emotional loops, running it through crinkly toy tunnels, ultimately landing its silly premise—replete with a troupe of angsty, depressed middle schoolers—in emotional honesty. A dash of otherworldly magic from the canon of Miyazaki (a corpulent face-dealing cat and an entire invisible cat-world) mixes well with some honest dives into the mental health issues of its characters (not quite as deeply and darkly as Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with a similarly stylish flair). While the characters are a little annoying when you meet them—they’re middle schoolers, after all—the truth behind the writing manages to shine through, all the while impressing us with its realistic animal animation and stunning depictions of smaller-town Tokoname life.—Jacob Oller


20. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

zindagi.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Stars: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 154 minutes

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Cashing in on quarter-life anxiety and existential crises, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is Bollywood’s Euro Trip, except with more heart and fewer dick jokes. Three childhood friends go on a transformational bachelor party/road trip in Spain where they immediately butt heads over the lives they’ve separately built. Arjun (Hrithik Roshan) is a workaholic who can’t chill, Imran (Farhan Akhtar) is a copywriter who had an affair with Arjun’s ex-girlfriend, and Kabir (Abhay Deol) is a groom-to-be second-guessing his decisions. The three reconnect over a series of extreme events—ranging from skydiving to a run with the bulls in Pamplona—and they ultimately return to their old lives completely changed. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara literally means “You won’t get this life again,” aptly infusing a feeling of urgency into an otherwise standard coming-of-age story. Through humor and drama alike, Akhtar’s film will make you want to call your friends and plan your own life-altering getaway. —Radhika Menon


21. Crazy, Stupid, Love

crazy-stupid.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Stars: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton
Rating: PG-13

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More than a decade since it first hit theaters, Crazy, Stupid, Love. endures as a romantic comedy done exactly right, an exemplar of its genre that presents its heart in its hands and a few tricks up its sleeve. At once disarmingly sincere and scintillatingly clever, sentimental but rarely schmaltzy, and populated by characters whose optimistic quests for love are both amusingly relatable and raw with feeling. Crazy, Stupid, Love. opens at a high-end restaurant, where various couples out to dinner are playing footsie under the table, legs sliding coyly forward as body language does all the talking. The camera comes to rest on Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), whose legs stay so rigidly planted to their respective sides they’re like oak trees growing in adjacent lots. When Emily tells Cal that she wants a divorce—and, what’s more, that she’s already set this in motion by sleeping with a coworker (Kevin Bacon)—the news doesn’t seem to shock him, though his eyes well with tears on the drive home. Thrown reluctantly back into the dating scene even as he struggles to accept the end of his marriage, Cal drowns his sorrows at the local upscale lounge. There, between watered-down vodka cranberries, Cal meets resident lothario Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who decides to make him over into a better man—or at least one slick enough to ditch the pleated khakis and land a new lover (or nine, as it were). Meanwhile, Jacob finds himself drawn to aspiring lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone), the only bar regular who’s capable of resisting his normally bulletproof pickup lines—though she can’t quite hide her smile as he tries his luck, nor her curiosity about what would happen if she did go home with the hot guy from the bar. As the film follows these hopeless romances in parallel, Crazy, Stupid, Love. weaves between its characters in order to offer each storyline some breathing room, to imbue each player with real personality and realistic imperfections. Like the best romantic comedies, it’s a sweet nothing that means just about everything. —Isaac Feldberg


22. Summerland

summerland-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Jessica Swale
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Penelope Wilton, Tom Courtenay, Lucas Bond, Dixie Egerickx
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Taking a boy shepherded out of London during the Blitz into one’s home is a daunting ask posed to Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton) in Jessica Swale’s feature debut, Summerland. Swale wraps a framing device around elder Alice (Penelope Wilton), introduced during a writing session so taxing on her concentration that she doesn’t hesitate thundering rude dismissals at neighborhood youths knocking on her door. Fun as it is to watch Wilton be a dick to children, Swale transitions immediately to Alice tapping away at the same old typewriter decades prior, similarly disinclined toward kids and yet helplessly, hopelessly entrusted with caring for Frank (Lucas Bond). His mom works for the ministry. His dad flies war planes. Being as the lad has nowhere else to go as the Nazis turn London to ash, Alice is given temporary custody, which suits neither her nor her fellow townsfolk. Alice, a loner by choice, has a reputation as something of a witch. Summerland’s title shimmers with an implied warmth, so of course Frank thaws out Alice’s frozen heart over the course of the picture. Flashbacks to happier times in Alice’s life reveal that she had a forbidden romance with a woman, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a love doomed by divergence in their opinions on motherhood. Vera wanted children. Alice didn’t. So it goes. Alice, isolated in Summerland’s present by choice, resents children right down to the very fact of their existence, and rejects parenthood as a calling that she, and for that matter anybody else, must answer. Yes, Frank endears himself to Alice in short order—he’s a sweetheart born with the gifts of a good head on his shoulders and a kind soul—but Summerland treats their inevitable bond as the result of a sacrifice Alice shouldn’t have to make, and moral responsibility aside, that’s what looking after Frank is: a sacrifice. —Andy Crump


23. Lust Stories

lust-stories.jpg Year: 2018
Directors: Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar
Stars: Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, Radhika Apte
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 120 minutes

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An anthology film from four of India’s most prominent directors, Lust Stories explores the themes of sex and attraction in its many forms, and places them in modern-day India where these types of conversations don’t normally occur so openly. Each director’s short film focuses on a stigma—whether it’s a possessive relationship between a teacher and student, a forbidden tryst between members of two different social classes, an adulterous marriage, or an exploration of sexual satisfaction—and dives deep into the various perspectives at play. The format makes Lust Stories easily digestible, and the films themselves are excellent slices of progression within the industry and culture at large. That it premiered as a Netflix original is just another hat tip to the dynamism of the decade’s art. —Radhika Menon


24. Blue Jay

BEST-ROMANTIC-MOVIES-NETFLIX-blue-jay.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Alex Lehmann
Stars: Sarah Paulson, Mark Duplass, Clu Gulager
Rating: NR
Runtime: 85 minutes

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Sarah Paulson is one of the most vital actors working today, and at this particular moment she’s damn close to ubiquitous; here she shows up as one of two leads in newcomer Alex Lehmann’s lovely romantic comedy Blue Jay, a compact and unassuming film about big, life-changing things that’s presented in a beautiful monochrome package. Think of it as a palate cleanser for Paulson after a year spent maneuvering productions of grander scope and ambition. But scale and quality exist in two separate zip codes, and what Blue Jay lacks in import it makes up for with effervescence and melancholy. As though to put Paulson’s luminous talents to the test, Lehmann has cast her alongside Mark Duplass, a man primarily known for making tons of low-fi mutter-fests and whose range allows him comfortably to play himself. Paulson and Duplass make such a great pair that the film’s relative nothingness is pleasurable rather than painful. Blue Jay only clocks in at about an hour and twenty minutes (less, counting the credits scrawl), so it should breeze along by its very nature, but it feels like it only runs about half as long as that. It’s well crafted, well mannered and very well acted, though you may decide for yourself if all credit should go to Paulson. She draws out Duplass’ best merits as an actor, much as Amanda draws out the best in Jim: The more the film progresses, the brighter and more enthusiastic Duplass becomes, relishing every second he gets to be on screen with her. Their chemistry is palpable. —Andy Crump


25. Dil Chahta Hai

dil-chahta.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Stars: Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 184 minutes

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A story of youngsters finding themselves, Dil Chahta Hai set the stage for many contemporary Bollywood films when it premiered at the start of the decade. The film is an exploration of mid-20s angst and unrest, of following unconventional desires, of finding happiness amidst the madness. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) chases a girl out of his league; Siddharth (Akshaye Khanna) lusts after an older divorcee; Akash (Aamir Khan) tries to reconnect with someone from his past. Their decisions test each other and themselves, and cause rifts in their seemingly unbreakable friendship. Dil Chahta Hai is about the bonds of friendship, and just how far they can be stretched. —Radhika Menon


26. Forrest Gump

forrest.jpg Year: 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, Rebecca Williams
Rating: PG-13

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Few films infiltrate the collective American psyche quite the way Forrest Gump managed. You’ve undoubtedly heard someone make reference to this 1994 classic—whether it was a classmate sarcastically yelling “Run, Forrest, run!” as you hustled to catch the bus, or someone busting out their best drawl to deliver, “Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates.” The entire film is full of dialogue that’s both moving and funny (my personal favorites include “But Lt. Dan, you ain’t got no legs” and “I’m sorry I had a fight at your Black Panther party”). Forrest may be a simple man, but his story is our nation’s story, and we all are run through the emotional gauntlet as we watch him hang with Elvis and John Lennon, fight in Vietnam and encounter many a civic protest—all while in pursuit of his true love, Jenny. Tom Hanks delivers an Oscar-winning performance, and Gary Sinise is heartbreaking as Lt. Dan. —Bonnie Stiernberg


27. Win It All

win-it-all.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Joe Swanberg
Stars: Jake Johnson, Aislinn Derbez, Joe Lo Truglio, Keegan-Michael Key, Nicky Excitement
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Joe Swanberg, bless his unfailing tenacity, appears to get behind the camera and hope everything works out for the best. His style is chancy, but it’s hard not to admire his unabashed love of spontaneity. This is especially true when it does work out for the best, as it does in Win it All. Swanberg co-wrote the film with your underachieving dream boyfriend, New Girl’s Jake Johnson, ostensibly a direct result of their actor-director collaborations in Drinking Buddies and Digging for Fire; Johnson, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the star here, too, playing that aforementioned scruffy gambler, Eddie, a career loser who takes any wager-earning gig he can get by day before flinging his earnings down the crapper playing games of chance at incalculably grimy casinos by night. There is, in grand Swanberg tradition, a looseness to Win it All that remains for the duration of the film, hanging off of Johnson’s central performance. Whether because of his contributions on the page or on the screen, Johnson feels like a key component to Win it All’s success as a narrative: The story hangs off of him, off of his work, his emoting, the physical quality to his self-presentation before a lens. It means a lot that Swanberg and Johnson both care on a profoundly human level for Eddie. Who couldn’t? You probably have an Eddie figure in your life, whether you know it or not: The gregarious, amiable rascal, the kind of dude who just can’t slam the brakes when he’s careening toward trouble, and knows it. He’s a lovable schmuck, his own worst enemy. The people in his life care about him, his creators care about him, and so of course we care about him, too, even at his worst, even as he invites troubles and hazards into his life against all fair warnings given him by his support system. Win it All, in other words, is a Joe Swanberg movie, a domestically-focused tale about a slacker in conflict with his demons washed in the texture of 1960s and 1970s cinema. —Andy Crump.


28. Memoirs of a Geisha

memoirs-geisha.jpg Year: 2005
Director: Rob Marshall
Stars: Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 145 minutes

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Zhang Ziyi plays the complex role of Sayuri, a young Japanese girl who first loathes, then covets the idea of being geisha. As she fulfills her dreams, every victory is laced with sadness, and the troubling, yet beautiful tale of her life is juxtaposed against Japan’s entry into World War II. At the end of the film, the voice of Sayuri reminds us that not all love stories have uncomplicated, fairy tale endings: “After all these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen…these are memoirs of another kind.” —Shannon M. Houston


29. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

forgetting-sm.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Stars: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand
Rating: R

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Following one of the standard romantic comedy tropes, a man (in this case played by Jason Segel) is tempted to chase the wrong girl (Kristen Bell), ignoring the soulmate (Mila Kunis) right in front him. But while we’d seen the set-up before, we’d seen nothing like Segal’s character Peter getting dumped while naked, Russell Brand as the lead singer for Infant Sorrow or Peter’s A Taste For Love Dracula-themed puppet-comedy-rock-opera. Everyone you’d expect (Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader) co-stars. —Josh Jackson


30. My Fair Lady

my-fair.jpg Year: 1964
Director: George Cukor
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper, Wilfrid Hyde-White
Rating: G
Runtime: 173 minutes

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We love the opulent, two-story library in which Audrey Hepburn learned to lose that pesky Cockney accent, modeled after the Château de Groussay library in France. All the singing just makes it that much better. Directed by the legendary George Cukor and shot by 17-time Oscar nominated (and two-time winner) Harry Stradling, the recently restored 1964 musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play is a marvel to behold (and to hear). —Staff


31. Jodhaa Akbar

jodhaa-akbar.jpg Year: 2008
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Stars: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonu Sood
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 213 minutes

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Bollywood loves forbidden unions, be it religious, cultural, class or otherwise. An epic period drama based on a regal (and controversial) Hindu-Muslim union, Akbar (Hrithik Roshan), a Mughal king, is betrothed to Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai), a Rajput princess, as an alliance between the two regions. But as their marriage becomes real, so does their love—despite external forces trying to break them apart. Jodhaa Akbar excels in its opulent visuals, rich costume design and original soundtrack borrowing its sound from Qawwali spiritual style. It’s a portrait of a loving relationship in a trying, war-stricken time, and paints a picture of 16th century India that can scratch any historical itch. —Radhika Menon


32. The Incredible Jessica James

incredible jessica james movie poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Jim Strouse
Stars: Jessica Williams, LaKeith Stanfield, Noël Wells, Taliyah Whitaker
Rating: NR
Runtime: 85 minutes

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Jessica Williams plays Jessica James, a twenty-something theatre fanatic who’s trying to get one of her plays produced while simultaneously dealing with a breakup. The ex? Damon, played by the equally wonderful Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Short Term 12), who can’t manage to stay out of Jessica’s dreams. When she meets a new fling, played by the comically refreshing Chris O’Dowd, she begins to re-evaluate her love life while clinging to her life goals. When do you know you’ve made it? As lighthearted as the film can be, it’s rooted in an exploration of the deeper questions that any artist, or person for that matter, grapples with. Williams is hilarious, which we all know from her time on The Daily Show. She’s also incredibly powerful, showcasing a feminine strength that’s so crucial to this generation and a passion for her craft that’s the opposite of the indifference often associated with millennials. The film is perfect for a popcorn and beer night with the gals and guys. —Meredith Alloway


33. Cloudburst

cloudburst.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Thom Fitzgerald
Stars: Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Ryan Doucette
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 93 minutes

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In the oddly raunchy and thoroughly satisfying septuagenarian lesbian road film Cloudburst, Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker star as Stella and Dot, a lesbian couple who have spent the last 30 years living the classically Sapphic good life on the rugged coast of Maine. After Dot gets put into a nursing home by her uptight granddaughter, her lover breaks her out and instead takes her on a road trip, promising, “We’ll drive to Canada and then we can get legally married and no one can separate us.” The film suffers moments of significant clumsiness, including distractingly sitcomy one-liners. But the open road serves as a brilliant palette for writer-director Thom Fitzgerald to take scenic advantage of rolling hills and ocean. Nature itself becomes a key character in the film. The titular cloudburst, which drenches Stella and Dot in a moment of deep love and devotion to one another, serves as a sort of simultaneous protagonist and antagonist, celebrating and troubling the lovers at the same time. At its best, the film provides a venue for two revered talents to thoroughly buck the stereotypical roles available for older actresses and showcase the nuance and verve of their craft. —Nick Mattos


34. Someone Great

someone-great-210.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, DeWanda Wise
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Netflix’s Someone Great plays out like the visual version of Lorde’s “Supercut.” The song, which is also cleverly placed in the film and promptly re-entered the U.S. iTunes charts last weekend following its release, recounts a magical relationship after the breakup. But instead of surveying the wreckage, Lorde presses play on the good times. “All the moments I play in the dark / Wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart,” she sings. Someone Great’s Jenny (played by Gina Rodriguez, world’s most likeable actress) finds herself in a similar situation. After landing her dream music writing job with Rolling Stone, she and her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (acted by a very hunky LaKeith Stanfield), call it quits, fearing they won’t survive a long-distance relationship split between New York City and Jenny’s future home, San Francisco. The pulsing pop tune from Lorde’s 2017 album Melodrama plays while a literal “Supercut” of Jenny’s and Nate’s relationship flashes before our eyes—Instagram posts, Facebook messages, texts, emails and exchanges with Jenny’s two best friends, Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) serve as an intro to a film about reminiscing, reconnecting with friends and, ultimately, moving forward on your own. Rodriguez is, as always, loveable as hell. Wise gives an endearing performance as the romantically hesitant Erin, and the two women, along with Snow, master a refreshing version of the romantic comedy in which female friendship, not just love interests, serves as a plot centerpiece. And as much as I enjoyed watching an R-rated New York City spree complete with foul language, bathroom sex, fierce friendship and joints the size of baseball bats, Someone Great is most memorable for its music. A mixtape of indie stalwarts, pop bliss and Big Freedia, the soundtrack is heaps of fun, deeply meaningful and the most realistic aspect of the film—except maybe the girls’ struggle to get spots on the guest list. That battle is all too real. —Ellen Johnson


35. Main Hoon Na

main-hoon-na.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Farah Khan
Stars: Shah Rukh Khan, Sunil Shetty, Sushmita Sen
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 171 minutes

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Situated in contemporary India-Pakistan tensions, Major Ram Prasad Sharma (Shah Rukh Khan) is assigned to “Project Milaap,” a top-secret mission that would release captured civilians from both countries in an effort to drive peace in the region. As part of this assignment, Sharma must go undercover at a school to protect his boss’s daughter, who has become a target of Project Milaap’s foe. On his father’s deathbed, Sharma finds out he has a half-brother—of course, another student at the same school—which further colors the mission for him. Though he makes some hilarious missteps, Sharma ultimately wins the two over until they find out the secrets he’s hiding. Main Hoon Na is a politically inclined action comedy, and a heartwarming look at love and family under the threat of warfare. —Radhika Menon


36. White Christmas

white-christmas.jpg Year: 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney
Rating: TV-G
Runtime: 120 minutes

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For generations, this movie has held a kind of Yuletide nostalgia rivaled maybe only by It’s a Wonderful Life. But the funny thing about this Bing Crosby musical is that the warm feelings it still evokes today are mirrored in its own narrative: The war is over, their commanding officer (a “four-star general unemployed”) can’t make a living at the ski lodge, because even snow doesn’t fall the way it used to. But when the stage doors open at the end to reveal the swirling flakes, all the soldiers salute, leaving even us southerners yearning for a snow-laden Christmas. —Mary Kate Varnau


37. Set It Up

set-it-up-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Claire Scanlon
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Pete Davidson, Tituss Burgess
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

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One can never have enough Zoey Deutch in their moviegoing diet. She’s a treasure, multi-layered, ever hilarious. Want her to throw snark at you? Want her to project confidence without haughtiness? Want her to pull off “awkward with a side of charming” without tipping the scale too much in one direction or the other? She can do all of that. If you have room for just one Deutch movie this month, go for The Year of Spectacular Men, but if your schedule’s open, fit in Claire Scanlon’s Set It Up, a delightful, zippy, corny-and-loving it rom-com about beleaguered office assistant Harper (Deutch) teaming up with as-beleaguered office assistant Charlie (Glen Powell) to get their horrible bosses (respectively, Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) into bed with one another. Maybe they’re horrible only because they’re undersexed; maybe they’re just horrible. Set It Up isn’t exactly a hard read in that regard (or any, really), but it’s a hoot all the way through, and Scanlon’s smart to hang the film on Deutch and Powell’s chemistry. —Andy Crump


38. Irreplaceable You

irreplaceable-you-poster.jpg
Year: 2018
Director: Stephanie Laing
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michiel Huisman, Christopher Walken
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Netflix has gifted us with two Gugu Mbatha-Raw movies in the same month. One of them is a creative disaster and a sign of bad things to come for the streaming giant’s philosophy on original releases. One of them is Irreplaceable You. Upfront, Irreplaceable You is aggressively mushy and cutesy as hell, but Mbatha-Raw is an effortless charmer, and director Stephanie Laing is clearly a wizard because she found a way to scrub Michiel Huisman of his typical stubbly hipster douchiness. He’s still a brooding hottie, but an awkward nerd brooding hottie, and he’s good at playing the part. He and Mbatha-Raw match up well as Sam and Abbie, childhood sweethearts newly engaged and also staring down her terminal cancer diagnosis. In medical terms, she’s a goner. So she does what any type-A person would do in her position and interviews candidates for her replacement after she dies. She loves Sam so much she can’t stand the idea of him being alone. If you’re diabetic this synopsis probably has you reaching for an insulin dose, but for all of its obvious manipulations, watching Irreplaceable You is the equivalent of downing a heart-shaped box of chocolates. You might go into sugar shock and you’ll need to brush your teeth when it’s over, but you won’t regret the indulgence all the same. —Andy Crump


39. Tramps

tramps.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Adam Leon
Stars: Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten, Michal Vondel, Mike Birbiglia
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 83 minutes

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For a guy who trades in intimate, small-scale narratives, Adam Leon sure does love working with distance. Wide shots pepper his films, his camera an eye in the heavens tracking the movements of his protagonists through busy open spaces. He can hover over an active street corner teeming with hubbub and still keep us focused on a pair of arguing teens. You don’t pull off that kind of stunt without caring, or without making your viewers care, and so we get down to what makes Leon special as a storyteller: He’s caring. He’s compassionate. Hell, he’s downright generous, a director who makes movies as gifts to his admirers and who gives gift after gift to his principals in the form of lucky breaks. Maybe, if you’re so inclined, you’d call that contrivance. Maybe you’d accuse Leon of making easy movies, of wrapping up his work with tidy little bows, instead of challenging himself, his leads, his audience. But the Netflix-backed Tramps is all about the tug between kindness and unkindness: Leon doesn’t pile ignominies on his characters more than he must because the world he constructs around them does that well enough on its own. Like his previous film, Gimme the Loot, Tramps is a love story-cum-fairytale set in a New York City summer about people living in the margins of society. The most profound similarity is its dual-thread approach to plotting, introducing Danny (Callum Turner) first, Ellie (Grace Van Patten) second, and setting them on a collision course with each other third. They’re both involved in the same small-time crime scheme, involving the swapping of a suitcase. Tramps is a minor effort loaded with small pleasures, but tallied together, those small pleasures add up to one great movie. —Andy Crump


40. Barfi!

barfi.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Anurag Basu
Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Ranbir Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 143 minutes

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Priyanka Chopra is now a household name across America, but in 2012, her clout extended only to those who were aware of Bollywood. One of her best turns of the decade came in Barfi! where she plays Jhilmil Chatterjee (Chopra), an autistic woman born to a wealthy family who falls in love with the titular Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), who happens to be deaf and mute. When Jhilmil is kidnapped and her fortune is threatened, Barfi is determined to do everything in his power to get her back. Part action thriller and part love story, Chopra and Kapoor deliver performances worthy of international attention. Even better, the story, which loosely resembles The Notebook, is sweet without being saccharine. —Radhika Menon