Tyrone Power passionately embraces Alice Faye in the 1938 film Alexander's Ragtime Band.

Romance films or romance movies are romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theaters and on TV that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters and the journey that their love takes them through dating, courtship or marriage. Romance films make the romantic love story or the search for strong and pure love and romance the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family that threaten to break their union of love. As in all quite strong, deep, and close romantic relationships, tensions of day-to-day life, temptations (of infidelity), and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.[1]

Romantic films often explore the essential themes of love at first sight, young with older love, unrequited romantic love, obsessive love, sentimental love, spiritual love, forbidden love, platonic love, sexual and passionate love, sacrificial love, explosive and destructive love, and tragic love. Romantic films serve as great escapes and fantasies for viewers, especially if the two people finally overcome their difficulties, declare their love, and experience life "happily ever after", implied by a reunion and final kiss. In romantic television series, the development of such romantic relationships may play out over many episodes or different characters may become intertwined in different romantic arcs.

Screenwriter and scholar Eric R. Williams identifies Romance Films as one of eleven super-genres in his screenwriters’ taxonomy, claiming that all feature length narrative films can be classified by these super-genres. The other ten super-genres are action, crime, fantasy, horror, science fiction, slice of life, sports, thriller, war, and western.[2]


Poster for Gone With the Wind (1939).
Poster for Gone With the Wind (1939).

Historical romance

Main article: Historical romance

Also known as Epic romance, this is a romantic story with a historical period setting, normally with a turbulent backdrop of war, revolution or tragedy. This includes films such as Titanic, Gone with the Wind, Reds, Doctor Zhivago and Cold War (Zimna wojna).

Romantic drama

Romantic dramas usually revolve around an obstacle which prevents deep and true love between two people. Music is often employed to indicate the emotional mood, creating an atmosphere of greater insulation for the couple. The conclusion of a romantic drama typically does not indicate whether a final romantic union between the two main characters will occur. Some examples of romantic drama films are Casablanca, Before Midnight, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire, Up in the Air, Gloria Bell, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Shakespeare in Love, The Bridges of Madison County, The English Patient, María Candelaria, Daughters of the Dust, Sommersby, Coming Home, Big Night, Memoirs of a Geisha, Last Tango in Paris, Water for Elephants, On the Waterfront, Love Story, Man's Way with Women, Like Water for Chocolate and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Same-sex romantic dramas, which tackle LGBT issues include Brokeback Mountain, Blue Is the Warmest Colour and Call Me by Your Name.[3]

Chick flick

Main article: Chick flick

Chick flick is a term often associated with romance films as many are targeted to a female audience.[4][5] Although many romance films may be targeted at women, this is not a defining characteristic of a romance film and a chick flick does not necessarily have a romance as a central theme, revolve around the romantic involvement of characters or even contain a romantic relationship. As such, the terms cannot be used interchangeably. Films of this genre include Gilda, The Lost Weekend, The Red Shoes (1948 film), Sense and Sensibility (film), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dirty Dancing, The Notebook, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, and Romeo + Juliet.

Bromantic comedy

Main article: Bromantic comedy

A bromantic comedy is a comedy film genre that takes the formula of the typical “romantic comedy” but focuses on close male friendships.[6] The word “bromance” is a close but non-sexual relationship between two or more men.[7] Notable bromantic comedy films are Shaun of the Dead, Superbad, I Love You, Man, Step Brothers, Bull Durham, and About a Boy (film).[8] Popular and common elements or themes of bromantic comedies include; male bonding, bromance, and conflicts with heterosexual bonding, with the addition of humour.[9] Aspects of bromantic comedies, including male camaraderie, were first seen in Barry Levinson's 1982 film Diner.[10]

Romantic comedy

Main article: Romantic comedy

Romantic comedies are films with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles. Humour in such films tends to be of a verbal, low-key variety or situational, as opposed to slapstick.[11] Films within this genre include City Lights, A Night at the Opera, It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, Intolerable Cruelty, Roman Holiday, The Big Sick, Enough Said, Lost In Translation, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Dave (film), Say Anything..., Moonstruck, As Good as It Gets, Something's Gotta Give, When Harry Met Sally..., Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Apartment and Pablo and Carolina.

Romantic action

Romantic action is a film that blend romance and action. Examples include Foreign Correspondent, The Best Years of Our Lives , The Adventures of Robin Hood, From Here to Eternity, The Quiet Man, The Torch (film), The Town, Killers, Knight and Day, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, This Means War and The Bounty Hunter.

Romantic thriller

Main article: Romantic thriller

Romantic thriller is a genre of film which has a storyline combining elements of the romance film and the thriller genre. Some examples of romantic thriller films are To Catch a Thief, Vertigo (film), The Adjustment Bureau, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, The Tourist, The Crying Game, Unfaithful, The Bodyguard, and Wicker Park.[12]

Gothic romance

Main article: Gothic romance film

Gothic romance is a film genre which includes gothic elements and affirms feminine experiences, perceptions and interpretations of their “fear, anger, and distrust of patriarchal order”.[13] A key feature of gothic romance films is the “Bluebeard motif”. This typically refers to secrets or forbidden rooms or areas in a house, which represent female protagonists’ repressions. This common characteristic is based on a variation of the Bluebeard folktale of a wealthy man who forbids his new wife from entering his castle's underground chamber, to which she finds the corpses of his many former wives. Some examples of gothic romance films include Crimson Peak, Rebecca, Suspicion and Gaslight.

Romantic fantasy

Main article: Romantic fantasy

Romantic fantasies describe fantasy stories using many of the elements and conventions of the romance genre. Some examples include The Lady Eve, Top Hat, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg), Singin' in the Rain, Groundhog Day (film), Enchanted, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast (2017 film), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Midnight in Paris, and Her.[14]

Paranormal romance

Paranormal romance is a popular genre of film which features romantic relationships between humans and supernatural creatures.[15] Popular tropes include vampirism, time-travel, ghosts and psychic or telekinetic abilities – i.e. things that cannot be explained by science.[16] The genre originated in literature and moved on to the screen in the early 2000s, following the success of the Twilight Saga adaptations from Stephanie Meyer’s books.[17] By 2007–8, film studios were producing various paranormal romance films, many adapted from novels.[17]  Examples of paranormal romance films include The Shape of Water, Warm Bodies, The Twilight Saga, Emerald Green, Vampire Academy, I Am Dragon and The Exterminating Angel.[citation needed]

Musical romance

Musical romance is a genre of film which features romantic relationships and who's story is partially explained through song and/or dance numbers. This genre originated on Broadway and moved to the silver screen thanks in part to the popularity of the Rogers and Hammerstein productions. Some examples include Sunshine on Leith, Grease, South Pacific and the Mamma Mia! franchise.

Film types, macro genres and the filmmaker's voice

The screenwriters taxonomy creates additional categories beyond "subgenre" when discussing films, making the argument that all narrative Hollywood films can be delineated into comedies or dramas (identified as a "film type").[18] The taxonomy also identifies fifty "macro genres", which can be paired with the romance super genre.[19] Using this approach, films like Gone With the Wind (noted above) would be classified as a dramatic (type) historical/family (macro genres) romance (genre) rather than simply a historical romance; while The Notebook would be identified at dramatic (type) disease (macro genre) romance (genre) rather than simply a romantic drama.[20]

Similarly, musicals are categorized as one option for a filmmaker’s "voice" because the artistic choice to have the characters sing does not affect the story or the characters – it simply alters how the story and characters are conveyed.[21]  Therefore, a romance film like Grease would be categorized as a dramatic (type), romance (super genre), high school / coming of age (macro genres), musical (voice) – rather than simply as a "musical romance".[22]

See also


  1. ^ "Romance films". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  2. ^ Williams, Eric R. (2017). The screenwriters taxonomy : a roadmap to collaborative storytelling. New York, NY: Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice. ISBN 978-1-315-10864-3. OCLC 993983488. P. 21
  3. ^ Dixon, Wheeler W. (2000), Film genre 2000: new critical essays, The SUNY series, cultural studies in cinema/video, SUNY Press, p. 238, ISBN 0-7914-4514-3
  4. ^ Simpson, John, ed. (2009). Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, on CD-ROM Version 4.0. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956383-8.
  5. ^ Stevenson, Angus; Lindberg, Christine A., eds. (2010). New Oxford American Dictionary, Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-19-539288-3.
  6. ^ "Patterson, John Edward, (died 4 April 1919), littérateur", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u201429
  7. ^ "Reading the bromance: homosocial relationships in film and television". Choice Reviews Online. 52 (2): 52–0739-52-0739. 22 September 2014. doi:10.5860/choice.52-0739. ISSN 0009-4978.
  8. ^ "Best "Bro" Movies (Bromance)". IMDb. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  9. ^ Moss, Chris (1 February 2016). "A fine bromance: the 12 rules of male friendship". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 2022-01-11. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  10. ^ Macdougall, John (18 January 2014). "The New Yorker & Me: Barry Levinson's "Diner": Kael vs. Wolcott". The New Yorker & Me. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  11. ^ "Romantic Comedy". AllRovi. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Wicker Park (2004)". AllRovi. Archived from the original on 27 October 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  13. ^ Waldman, Diane (1984). ""At Last I Can Tell It to Someone!": Feminine Point of View and Subjectivity in the Gothic Romance Film of the 1940s". Cinema Journal. 23 (2): 29–40. doi:10.2307/1225123. JSTOR 1225123.
  14. ^ William C. Robinson (October 2004). "A Few Thoughts on the Fantasy Genre". University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  15. ^ Panse, S.; Rothermel, D. (24 April 2014). A Critique of Judgment in Film and Television. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-01418-4.
  16. ^ Tobin-McClain, Lee (2000). "Paranormal Romance: Secretsof the Female Fantastic". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. 11 (3 (43)): 294–306. ISSN 0897-0521. JSTOR 43308461.
  17. ^ a b Crawford, Joseph. (2014). The twilight of the Gothic. Vampire fiction and the rise of the paranormal romance. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-1-78316-064-8. OCLC 894201495.
  18. ^ Williams, Eric R. (2019). "Episode #3: Comedy and Tragedy: Age Does Not Protect You." In Falling in Love with Romance Movies. Audible Original.
  19. ^ Williams, Eric R. "Macro Genres and Micro Genres." In The Screenwriters Taxonomy: A Roadmap to Collaborative Storytelling. New York, NY: Routledge, 2018. p. 47–55.
  20. ^ Williams, Eric R. (2019). "Episode #9: Other Genres: Where There is Love." In Falling in Love with Romance Movies. Audible Original.
  21. ^ Williams, Eric R. (2018). "Episode #24: Filmmaker's Voice and Audience Choice". In How to View and Appreciate Great Movies. The Great Courses / Audible.
  22. ^ Williams, Eric R. (2019). "Episode #6: Voices: Though the Stars Walk Backward." In Falling in Love with Romance Movies. Audible Original.