Another year, another lovey-dovey dalliance from writer Nicholas Sparks. His stories fulfill a serviceable but valid niche in the romantic drama film market, but as we spend more time within a globalized connected world, the stories we seek and tell have greatly diversified. With that in mind, here are 24 Certified Fresh romantic dramas from the last 24 years, some with rather unique perspectives. The Choice:
Critics Consensus: Shaped by Todd Haynes’ deft direction and powered by a strong cast led by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol lives up to its groundbreaking source material.
Beyond the Lights
Critics Consensus: Thanks to smart direction and a powerhouse performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights transcends its formulaic storyline to deliver thoroughly entertaining drama.
Critics Consensus: Skillfully weaving multiple delicate tonal strands into a quietly affecting whole, Lilting serves as a thoroughly compelling calling card for writer-director Hong Khaou.
Blue is the Warmest Color
Critics Consensus: Raw, honest, powerfully acted, and deliciously intense, Blue Is the Warmest Color offers some of modern cinema’s most elegantly composed, emotionally absorbing drama.
Critics Consensus: Sweet, soulful, and smart, Spike Jonze’s Her uses its just-barely-sci-fi scenario to impart wryly funny wisdom about the state of modern human relationships.
Chicken With Plums
Critics Consensus: Whimsical and melancholy, Chicken With Plums is visually striking and dreamily compelling despite its occasional narrative missteps.
Critics Consensus: Norwegian Wood is a poetic adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel that uses rapturous visuals to draw viewers in its exploration of young love and lasting death.
Critics Consensus: It may be a chamber piece but Weekend‘s revelations on modern sexuality expand far beyond the modest setting.
Critics Consensus: Though potentially too slowly paced for some, Cairo Time lingers long after the closing credits, largely due to a wonderful performance by Patricia Clarkson.
Critics Consensus: Jane Campion’s direction is as refined as her screenplay, and she gets the most out of her cast — especially Abbie Cornish — in this understated period drama.
Critics Consensus: A beautiful, epic Western, Brokeback Mountain‘s love story is imbued with heartbreaking universality thanks to moving performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Critics Consensus: A raw, provocative drama about star-crossed love and the lives of immigrants caught between the traditional and modern.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman’s smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry’s equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.
Last Life in the Universe
Critics Consensus: Strange and languid but with purpose, Last Life in the Universe sees two memorably quirky characters navigate love and violence across multiple movie genres.
A Very Long Engagement
Critics Consensus: A well-crafted and visually arresting drama with a touch of whimsy.
Talk To Her
Critics Consensus: Another masterful, compassionate work from Pedro Almodovar.
Critics Consensus: Odd, touching, and unique, Punch-Drunk Love is also delightfully funny, utilizing Adam Sandler’s comic persona to explore the life of a lonely guy who finds love.
In the Mood for Love
Critics Consensus: This understated romance, featuring good performances by its leads, is both visually beautiful and emotionally moving.
The House of Mirth
Critics Consensus: Despite being a period piece, The House of Mirth‘s depiction of social cruelty still feels chilling and relevant for today.
Love & Basketball
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Show Me Love
Critics Consensus: A naturalistic depiction of teenage life, Show Me Love has a charming, authentic feel.
Critics Consensus: A mostly unqualified triumph for James Cameron, who offers a dizzying blend of spectacular visuals and old-fashioned melodrama.
The English Patient
Critics Consensus: Though it suffers from excessive length and ambition, director Minghella’s adaptation of the Michael Ondaatje novel is complex, powerful, and moving.
Critics Consensus: Thought-provoking and beautifully filmed, Before Sunrise is an intelligent, unabashedly romantic look at modern love, led by marvelously natural performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.