43 Best Romantic Independent Films Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
Bittersweet like Belgian chocolate, this is a coming-home movie. It will leave you raw and empty as well as full of life, and it will most certainly have you appreciate the mournfulness of bluegrass music. Based on a play co-written by Johan Heldenbergh, who also stars as Didier, the male lead, this is intricately written, thoughtfully directed, viscerally acted cinema. Bluegrass enthusiast and band leader Didier falls passionately in love with Elise, a spirited tattoo artist. They sing together, start a life together. But when their little girl falls gravely ill, everything changes. Because this gem of a film by director Felix van Groeningen excels at creating intimacy and empathy between us viewers and this beautiful family's fate, you will feel everything you see. Incredibly well-made and gut-wrenching drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Bert Huysentruyt, Blanka Heirman, Geert Van Rampelberg, Jan Bijvoet, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse, Nils De Caster, Robbie Cleiren, Veerle Baetens

Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Rating: Not Rated

You might call Francis Lee's spellbinding debut a Call me By Your Name without the privilege and pretentiousness, and we think it's a better movie because of it. God's Own Country tells the story of Johnny Saxby (Josh O'Connor), a farmer's son who is trapped working on the family farm, who dulls his frustration and misery with binging at the pub and aggressive sex with strange men—his true desire is not so much repressed by society's rampant homophobia here, but by his family's emotional callousness. When his strict and icy father suffers a stroke, things get worse for him still. Then, during lambing season, help arrives in the shape of watchful, radiant, and strikingly handsome Romanian seasonal worker, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), whose warmth of character and professional competence feels threatening to Johnny at first. But when they withdraw to the hills to repair a stone wall, Johnny's aggression gives way to passion as Gheorghe helps him to feel, to love, and to see beauty in the country around him. God's own country. A beautiful, stirring, and passionate debut!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alec Secareanu, Alexander Suvandjiev, Gemma Jones, Harry Lister Smith, Ian Hart, John McCrea, Josh O'Connor, Josh O'Connor, Liam Thomas, Melanie Kilburn, Moey Hassan, Naveed Choudhry, Patsy Ferran, Sarah White, Stefan Dermendjiev

Director: Francis Lee

Rating: Not Rated

Being an intimate, black-and-white portrayal of just two people, it is worth mentioning the two leads in the very first sentence: Blue Jay stars the incredibly versatile Sarah Paulson, who most of you will know from her depiction of Marcia Clark in The People vs. O.J., and Mark Duplass from Creep. In this incredibly intricate dialogue-driven drama, he is of course named Jim, a regular guy with some issues, who runs into his high-school sweetheart Amanda at the grocery store. She is only in town briefly because her sister is having a baby. Amanda agrees to have coffee with him, later they get beer and jellybeans, and find themselves recreating silly tapes at his late mother's house that they use to make when they were still at school. This could quickly become a soppy affair if it wasn't for the heart-felt realness of the acting, for lack of a better term, and all the fine details that the two leads bring to the screen. The chemistry between them is something to behold!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Lehmann, Clu Gulager, James Andrews, Mark Duplass, Sarah Paulson

Director: Alex Lehmann, Alexandre Lehmann

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

Told through a series of flashbacks and personal archival footage, Beginners gives us the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a 38-year-old graphic designer from Los Angeles, and his two parents across three timeframes. Oliver has never had a meaningful relationship. Six months after his mother dies, his father, Hal, played by the amazing, Academy Award-winning, and, sadly, late Christopher Plummer, comes out to Oliver. He lives the last days of his life in liberation and, well, gaiety, before protracting terminal cancer. Some months later, Oliver meets Anna at a party, a young French actress (Mélanie Laurent) who is beautiful and warm-hearted, and they start an affair. Through this all, there's Arthur, a Parson Jack Russell. But don't worry. He doesn't talk. Beginners is a beautiful and intricate film about finding love and happiness. It's funny, warm, and sincere. A beautiful movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: AlgeRita Wynn, Algerita Wynn Lewis, Amanda Payton, Bambadjan Bamba, Bruce French, Catherine McGoohan, China Shavers, Christopher Plummer, Cosmo, Ewan McGregor, Goran Visnjic, Jennifer Hasty, Joanna Trzepiecinska, Jodi Long, Jose Yenque, Kai Lennox, Keegan Boos, Lana Young, Lou Taylor Pucci, Luke Diliberto, Mélanie Laurent, Maria Semotiuk, Mary Page Keller, Mélanie Laurent, Melissa Tang, Michael Chieffo, Patrick Birkett, Patryk Wisniewski, Rafael J. Noble, Reynaldo Pacheco, Rodney Saulsberry, Terry Walters, Tymon Tymanski

Director: Mike Mills

Rating: N/A, R

In a world where mortality has been overcome, people watch in awe as the as the 118-year-old Nemo Nobody, the last mortal on Earth, nears his end. He is interviewed about his life, recounting it at three points in time: as a 9-year-old after his parents divorced, when he first fell in love at 15, and as an adult at 34. The three stories seemingly contradict each other. Utilizing non-linear cinematography, Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael presents each of these branching pathways as a version of what could have been. The result is a complex, entangled narrative. That and the movie's ensemble cast, featuring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, and Diane Kruger, have turned Mr. Nobody into a cult classic. The soundtrack, featuring several of the beautifully restrained music by Eric Satie, is also considered a masterpiece. While it is surely not for everybody, this is trippy, intimate, and existential sci-fi at its best.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Aaron Landt, Alice van Dormael, Allan Corduner, Andrew Simms, Audrey Giacomini, Ben Mansfield, Carlo Mestroni, Catherine Demaiffe, Christelle Cornil, Christophe Beaucarne, Clare Stone, Daniel Brochu, Daniel Mays, David Kennedy, David Schaal, Diane Kruger, Dominique Warnier, Harold Manning, Harry Cleven, Hugo Harold-Harrison, Jack Proudlove, Jan Hammenecker, Jared Leto, Jenna Wheeler-Hughes, John Churchill, Juliette Van Dormael, Juno Temple, Laura Brumagne, Laurent Capelluto, Leni Parker, Linh Dan Pham, Lola Pauwels, Manfred Andrae, Marc Zinga, Marie-Ève Beauregard, Martin Swabey, Natasha Little, Nicholas Beveney, Noa De Costanzo, Olivier Bony, Pascal Duquenne, Philippe Godeau, Philippe Lévy, Pierre Chaves, Renaud Alcalde, Rhys Ifans, Roline Skehan, Sandrine Laroche, Sarah Gravel, Sarah Polley, Serge Larivière, Stéphane Taillasson, Sylvie Olivé, Tanya Trombetta, Tedd Dillon, Thomas Byrne, Toby Regbo, Vincent Dupont, Virginie Bordes, Vito DeFilippo

Director: Jaco Van Dormael

Rating: R

You know you're in for a treat when you see Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini heading the cast of a sweet and slightly goofy comedy. Steadily going beyond his persona in The Sopranos, you see James Gandolfini playing a role that his fans have probably always imagined him playing: a nice, funny guy with an endearing personality. Directed by Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said almost has a sit-com feel to it: a divorced single parent and masseuse, Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), is looked up by a guy, she briefly met at a party, Albert (Gandolfini). Upon finding out they have much in common, the two start dating. At the same time, she meets Marianne (Catherine Keener), who she becomes friends with and who cannot stop talking ill of her apparently awful ex-husband. You guessed it: it's her new, promising date, Albert. Things get muddy and very funny as she starts to doubt, whether she has made a big mistake. Hilarious, romantic, and smart, it's very much like we expected: a real treat.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amy Landecker, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Barry Jenner, Ben Falcone, Catherine Keener, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Eve Hewson, James Gandolfini, Jessica St. Clair, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Lennie Loftin, Luke Grakal, Michaela Watkins, Phillip Brock, Rebecca Drysdale, Rick Irwin, Rob Mayes, Rob Steiner, Sarah Burns, Tavi Gevinson, Toby Huss, Toni Collette, Tracey Fairaway

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Rating: PG-13

More simply called La Vie d'Adèle in its native language, this French coming-of-age movie was hugely successful when it came out and was probably one of the most talked-about films of the time. On the one hand, the usual puritans came to the fore, criticizing the lengthy and graphic sex scenes. On the other hand, Julie Maroh, who wrote the source material that inspired the script, denounced Franco-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche for directing with his d*ck, if you don't mind me saying so, while also being an on-set tyrant. Whatever you make of this in hindsight, the only way to know is to watch this powerfully acted drama about the titular Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and her infatuation with Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, played by Léa Seydoux. The film beautifully and realistically portrays Adele's evolution from a teenage high-school girl to a grown, confident woman. As their relationship matures, so does Adèle, and she slowly begins to outgrow her sexual and philosophical mentor. Whatever your final verdict on the controversial sex scene, Blue Is the Warmest Color is without doubt an outstanding film as are the performances from Exarchopoulos and Séydoux.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Alain Duclos, Alika Del Sol, Alma Jodorowsky, Anne Loiret, Aurélien Recoing, Aurelie Lemanceau, Aurélien Recoing, Baya Rehaz, Benjamin Siksou, Benoît Pilot, Benoît Pilot, Bouraouïa Marzouk, Camille Rutherford, Catherine Salée, Catherine Salée, Éric Paul, Fanny Maurin, Halima Slimani, Jérémie Laheurte, Jérémie Laheurte, Judith Hoersch, Justine Nissart, Karim Saidi, Klaim Nivaux, Léa Seydoux, Maelys Cabezon, Maud Wyler, Mona Walravens, Quentin Médrinal, Salim Kechiouche, Samir Bella, Sandor Funtek

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Rating: NC-17

Everybody loves a good coming-of-age movie, but they have their trappings. Their youthful characters are often cartoonish, or perfect, or insanely inept. This is where The Spectacular Now achieves something that is indeed spectacular: it feels incredibly real. The film features Miles Teller (from Whiplash) as a charming, but slightly lost, heavily partying high-school senior named Sutter Keely. After waking up on a strange lawn after a long night, he is awoken by Aimee, played by Shailene Woodley, whose performance is as spectacular as the depth of this movie's characters. What starts as a rebound fling for Keely eventually goes deeper and deeper, while his problems become more and more apparent to us, the viewers, to Aimee, and to his caring teacher, played by the incredible Andre Royo, who some of you might recognize as the iconic Bubbles from The Wire. If this premise sounds corny to you, think again, because this film has a deep respect for its characters and the journeys they must take. A sensitive drama with incredibly life-like performances.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex D'Lerma, Andre Royo, Bob Odenkirk, Brie Larson, Christopher Nathan, Dayo Okeniyi, Dina Sherman, Doug Haley, E. Roger Mitchell, Gary Weeks, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kaitlyn Dever, Karen Strassman, Keith Silverstein, Kyle Chandler, Levi Miller, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Masam Holden, Mike Hickman, Miles Teller, Nico Ford, Shailene Woodley, Valerie Payton, Whitney Christopher, Whitney Goin

Director: James Ponsoldt

Rating: R

With Howards End, the magic trio of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala converted yet another turn-of-the-19th-century EM Forster novel into exquisite cinematic form. Ravishingly shot and performed to career-best heights by many of its cast, Howards End loses nothing of the elegance we expect from a period drama, and yet it also feels thoroughly modern. The film charts the tragic entwining of three families: the progressive and intellectual middle-class Schlegel sisters, the much more traditionally minded and wealthier Wilcox family, and the Basts, a down-on-their-luck working-class couple. It’s the liberally minded Schlegels who cross the class divide of 1910 London to bring these two distant social circles so close to each other, but it’s the old-world values of the Wilcoxes that make that meeting a tragic one. Simmering with rich emotion and crackling with class politics, Howards End is the crowning glory of the Merchant Ivory powerhouse and the rare perfect period drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Ross Magenty, Allie Byrne, Anne Lambton, Anthony Hopkins, Barbara Hicks, Brian Lipson, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Emma Thompson, Gerald Paris, Helena Bonham Carter, James Ivory, James Wilby, Jemma Redgrave, Jo Kendall, Joseph Bennett, Margery Mason, Mark Payton, Mark Tandy, Mary McWilliams, Nicola Duffett, Patricia Lawrence, Peter Cellier, Prunella Scales, Sally Geoghegan, Samuel West, Simon Callow, Susie Lindeman, Vanessa Redgrave

Director: James Ivory

Rating: PG

A period comedy set in New York in the summer of 1994, the Wackness is a coming of age story about Luke Shapiro (Joshua Peck), as he deals with family trauma, love, and economic hardship while selling pot to his strange psychologist. Rescued from a somewhat typical bildungsroman plot by sharp character acting, a firm directorial hand and an absolutely fitting soundtrack that evokes the golden age of rap music.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Yoo, Alexander Flores, Ben Kingsley, Bob Dishy, David Wohl, Famke Janssen, Jane Adams, Joanna Merlin, Josh Peck, Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man, Olivia Thirlby, Roy Milton Davis, Shannon Briggs, Talia Balsam

Director: Jonathan Levine

Rating: R

Adam Sandler, though currently imminently marketable, incredibly played out and boring, used to be a real actor. This is the film by which his legacy will be judged, where we see the funnyman drop the mask and actually show real feelings besides bumbling rage. Sandler's hurt and confused performance is beautifully vulnerable and true and is complimented by P.T. Anderson's incomparable direction (the man behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood), creating a true masterpiece of American cinema. This beauty also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adam Sandler, David H. Stevens, Don McManus, Emily Watson, Hazel Mailloux, Jason Andrews, Joji Yoshida, Jonathan Loughran, Karen Kilgariff, Larry Ring, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nathan Stevens, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rico Bueno, Robert Smigel, Shelley Waggener

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating: R

In what is only his second feature, Greek director Christos Nikou crafts a singular universe that is orderly and enticing. The dystopian premise that you can now scientifically test for love may be bizarre, but it answers to one of the biggest anxieties humans share. That said,  this particular world feels so close to ours today, that you want to dive right in it, weirdness and all. Even the topos of the love clinic, where couples get evaluated and take on exercises before they take the test is framed as a space for hope. There's no underlying cynicism in Nikou's film, which is perhaps the most surprising fact about it; on the contrary, longing—however painful it may be—abounds and seeps through the carefully composed images of shared doubt and suspect intimacy. Last, but not least, the chemistry shared by Buckley-Ahmed-White is nothing short of explosive.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Albert Chung, Amanda Arcuri, Annie Murphy, Ashleigh Rains, Avaah Blackwell, Clare McConnell, Heather Dicke, Jeremy Allen White, Jessie Buckley, Jim Armstrong, Jim Watson, Juno Rinaldi, Katy Breier, Luke Wilson, Mish Tam, Nina Kiri, Riz Ahmed, Tameka Griffiths, Tanchay Redvers, Varun Saranga

Director: Christos Nikou

Rating: R

, 2023

Just based off its title, Mutt is already a film that tackles a state of in-between, and perhaps what makes it already precious is how honest and personal it can get, while remaining a good fictional story. This striking debut took Chilean-Serbian filmmaker Vuk Lungulov-Klotz more than six years to make, at least from the initial stages of the script as he was working through his own transition, how that felt and how he dealt with it in life and art. That said, Mutt is a film that stands on its own feet, without the need for any such context: the script, the performances, the frantic pacing of it, they are all top-level stuff. A generous, open film that has its trans protagonist be who they are, whatever that may be, and gives as much insight as it allows for curiosity and empathy. If Mutt is educational in any way, it is through it's apt storytelling and truthfulness that bleeds through the screen; its significance for trans cinema cannot be overstated, but it is also once of the most accomplished debuts of 2023.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Cole Doman, Jari Jones, Jasai Chase-Owens, Lio Mehiel, MiMi Ryder, Sarah Herrman

Director: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz

Rating: NR

Set in the small town of Åmål, western Sweden, the debut feature by Lukas Moodysson (We Are the Best), is itself a metonymy for the bigger questions of life. It's playful and dead serious at the same time, in the way it portrays teenager Agnes, who, after two years of living in Åmål, still hasn't made any friends that would attend her birthday party. Instead, she spends her time typing away on her computer, poetic diaries and love confessions to a girl from school named Elin. She's the popular one and therefore, out of reach. The amount of tension and escalating ambivalence the film conjures with just a simple narrative decision—a bet, a kiss, an apology—is palpable throughout the 86 minutes of its runtime. A perfect capsule of lesbian desire and first love, Show Me Love is a gem of a movie; one that would make you think Close was a tad overrated. Oh, and don't forget to add the titular song by Swedish pop star Robyn to your Spotify favorites.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexandra Dahlström, Bo Lyckman, Erica Carlson, Jill Ung, Josefine Nyberg, Maria Hedborg, Mathias Rust, Ralph Carlsson, Rebecka Liljeberg, Stefan Horberg

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Rating: Not Rated

Margarita with a Straw is a bold and unflinching film that offers a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of disability, sexuality, and identity. The film follows the journey of a young woman with cerebral palsy as she navigates her way through life, love, and self-discovery. The film's honest portrayal of exploring sexuality, its rich and diverse cast of characters, and its raw and emotional story make it a deeply affecting watch. It's a triumph of representation and inclusivity, and a testament to the power of storytelling to challenge and change the way we see the world.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Andrew Hsu, Doug Plaut, Hussain Dalal, Jacob Berger, Kalki Koechlin, Kuljeet Singh, Malhar Khushu, Marco Torriani, Revathi, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, Shuchi Dwivedi, Tenzing Dalha, Vin Scialla, William Moseley

Director: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose

Rating: Not Rated