From funny to serious, lighthearted to heavy, here are the films that filled our hearts this year
Whether you’re hopeful or hopeless, romance movies remain a tried and true genre for the connection they’re able to make to the viewer. Relatable struggles abound, and 2022 had no lack of great romance movies that ripped our hearts wide open and made us swoon.
Many of these movies are available to stream, though some also had theatrical releases like “Ticket to Paradise” and “Bros.” The range of leading ladies — from JLo to Lili Reinhart to Zoey Deutch — is impressive, as are their platonic-to-romantic partners Owen Wilson, Danny Ramirez and Kendrick Sampson (to name a few). Michelle Buteau appears in multiple movies on this list in small, but meaningful roles.
Here are the 15 best romance movies of 2022:
Love can sometimes be felt the most through loss. The dimension grief can add to romance proves sharp, but Josephine Decker’s film adaptation of Jandy Nelson’s novel “The Sky Is Everywhere” combines these emotions in a colorful way. Lennie Walker (Grace Kaufman) juggles grief, new love and loss in the wake of the unexpected death of her sister Bailey (Havana Rose Liu). Lennie finds herself drawn toward new kid Joe Fontaine (Jacques Colimon), who shares musical affinity with her, but the shared mourning of her sister also inexplicably connects her with Toby Shaw (Pico Alexander) to the point where a tense love triangle forms. The layers of coming-of-age, coping with the loss of a loved one and blooming into her own relationship provide a kaleidoscope of fun and feelings in AppleTV+’s “The Sky Is Everywhere.” – Dessi Gomez
Jennifer Lopez returns to the rom-com genre alongside Owen Wilson in a love story that, in hindsight, kinda-sorta reflects her personal life and rekindled romance with Ben Affleck. Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez), popular music artist, plans to have a performance wedding in front of her 20 million followers. But when she discovers her fiancé Bastian (Maluma) has been cheating on her, she picks out a random concert-goer, Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), to marry onstage instead. The story that follows is quite charming. Sarah Silverman plays comedic sidekick to Wilson as his co-worker counselor at their school, Parker Debbs. Chloe Coleman plays Lou Gilbert, Charlie’s daughter with his ex-wife. John Bradley plays sympathetic manager to Kat Valdez, and Michelle Buteau keeps it real as her sassy publicist. Jimmy Fallon and Hoda Kotb appear as themselves in the brutal media cycle that is constantly following Kat Valdez, and Utkarsh Ambudkar plays Coach Manny. – Dessi Gomez
Lana Condor fought hard for how her character develops in “Moonshot” starring Cole Sprouse and Mason Gooding as her love triangle cohorts. Condor’s character Sophie, a smartypants who is finishing up school and her impressive thesis on Earth, wants nothing more than to go to Mars where her longterm and long distance boyfriend Calvin Riggins (Gooding) is. Enter Walt (Sprouse), who also dreams of leaving Earth, and who has applied to the Mars launch program 37 times with 37 rejections. Walt challenges Sophie’s conviction to change her life for a boy, and his stowaway plan on the shuttle that takes them both to Mars ends up having lasting effects for the pair. A fun supporting cast including Zach Braff, Michelle Buteau and Cameron Esposito adds some welcome comedic elements, but it’s a shame the HBO Max original was pulled from the streaming service. – Dessi Gomez
Queer girlpower abounds in this adorable Young Adult rom-com starring Rowan Blanchard, Auli’i Cravalho and Isabella Ferreira. Paige Evans (Blanchard) has already come out, and she has had a crush on Gabby (Ferreira) for as long as she can remember. Paige is also a blossoming artist, and in a combined spur-of-the-moment decision to save herself from suspension (their high school has a graffiti artist known as King Pun) and also to impress Gabby, Paige decides to try out for the track team and participate in sports for P.E. credit. Here, she doesn’t train under Gabby but Gabby’s twin bisexual sister AJ (Cravalho), and the two strike up what could be more than friendship. King Pun’s artwork makes for a fun throughline, as do supporting actors Teala Dunn, Tyler Alvarez, Aasif Mandvi, Megan Mullally and Michelle Buteau (there she is again!). – Dessi Gomez
Adapted from the best-selling book by Sarah Dessen, “Along for the Ride” set the cinematic summer scene for the Amazon Prime Video series adaptation of Jenny Han’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” trilogy. The May Netflix release stars Emma Pasarow as Auden, a young girl who feels she has never quite fit in anywhere between her divorced parents and her more mature outlook on life, and Belmont Cameli is enigma Eli, a nocturnal boy who, much like Auden, keeps to himself lone-wolf style. Auden meets Eli when she decides to spend the summer with her father (Dermot Mulroney) and his new wife Heidi (Kate Bosworth) in Colby, a small seaside town where they have settled down. She and Eli form a broody, edgy bond that blossoms into more as they embark on a quest, daring each other to confront parts of themselves they’d rather leave in the past. Complete with a secret diner nook that serves great pie and a prom scene that ties the film together, “Along for the Ride” successfully brought Dessen’s vision to life. – Dessi Gomez
A grounded Talia Ryder and a happy-go-lucky Jordan Fisher unite to create an authentic young adult love story set in between senior year of high school and freshman year of college. Ethan (Fisher) meets Claire (Ryder) at a party right before their last year of high school is set to begin, and though Claire hesitates to act on their spark because she has moved around a lot, and her high school sweetheart parents didn’t make it in marriage, Ethan keeps pursuing her until she relents. Fisher contributed an original song to this adaptation of Jennifer E. Smith’s popular novel. The ambiguous ending reflects the reality of life and romantic relationships. – Dessi Gomez
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is the gift that keeps on giving – and Hulu’s “Fire Island” gave. “Pride and Prejudice” gets a queer, 21st century makeover in Joel Kim Booster’s take on the classic tale of social mores and enemies-turned-lovers. Booster and Bowen Yang star as best friends Noah and Howie, who along with their chosen family take an annual trip to queer haven Fire Island. There, a run-in with an uppercrust clique invites old insecurities and the possibility of new love, putting Noah and Howie’s friendship to the test. Margaret Cho, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos, and Torian Miller lead a lively ensemble with Andrew Ahn’s direction. Like the best Austen adaptations, “Fire Island” uses its source material as a roadmap with which to explore fresh themes — in this case, the intersectional dynamics of the Fire Island community from a gay Asian male perspective. It also has heart, humor and a banging soundtrack. You’ll want to add this to your rom-com rotation ASAP. – Harper Lambert
Loosely based on the book “Love & Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch, the film adaptation of this romance story hit Netflix on June 22. Lina (Susannah Skaggs) makes a promise to her mom that she will visit Rome. Lina is an ambitious girl who is about to embark on her college experience. In Italy, she meets Lorenzo, “Ren” (Tobia De Angelis) and senses a spark with him. She also falls in love with the country, the food and more, discovering things about her past and future. A tasty delight. – Dessi Gomez
Director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum’s Netflix film starring Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine explores the coming together of a couple who each have very different backgrounds. The enemies-to-lovers trope takes on a whole new meaning when polarized political views become involved. Luke (Galitzine) is training as a marine, about to deploy, when Cassie (Carson) proposes marriage to his friend Frankie (Chosen Jacobs) because she’s in a tight situation with medical insurance — she has diabetes and her dire need for insulin can’t be met by her current policy. Luke, whose father is a retired military policeman, offers to marry Cassie, who clashes with him immediately because she skews more liberal while he leans conservative, so that he can reap the benefits of a stipend to pay off a drug dealer who he owes a lot of money. Cassie gets better health benefits out of the deal, and while Luke gets deployed, her music starts to take off because she has found a theme she really connects to — the love and the sacrifice of military families. – Dessi Gomez
If not for the split dual timelines involving a baby or no baby, this film should be watched for its amazing animation. Natalie Bennett (Lili Reinhart) sleeps with her good college friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez) in a spur-of-the-moment decision on one of their last nights of college before graduation. Later on at their last party during the actual eve of graduation, Natalie’s narrative branches into two possibilities: one in which she gets pregnant with Gabe’s child and one in which she doesn’t. From there, the film splits into two universes that sometimes parallel each other in certain areas. Exploring the themes of career and motherhood as well as soulmates and true love, Natalie ultimately still gets to pursue her passion for art, animation and drawing in both realities. She learns different life lessons with and without daughter Rosie in this sliding doors take on romance. – Dessi Gomez
For better or worse (at least where the box office is concerned), “Bros” wore its title as the first major studio rom-com featuring an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast proudly on its sleeve. Writer-star Billy Eichner channels his “Billy On The Street” persona as Bobby Lieber, a podcast host and romance cynic. A chance encounter with Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) blooms into something resembling a relationship, throwing Bobby’s comfortably unattached lifestyle for a loop. An anti-“When Harry Met Sally”, “Bros” asks whether or not two people who are attracted to each other can overcome their avoidant natures for a chance at love. If you’re already an Eichner fan, this is Billy at his most Billy-ish, but Macfarlane and the chemistry between them steal the show. Pair it with “Fire Island” for a Bowen Yang double feature, or one of director Nicholas Stoller’s other films (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” perhaps) if you’re on a rom-com kick. – Harper Lambert
Based on the book by Bethan Roberts, “My Policeman” marks another cinematic project for former One Direction member Harry Styles, who plays policeman Tom in the Michael Grandage-directed film. Marion (Emma Corrin) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) complete the love triangle around which the story evolves. Viewers first meet the trio in 1950s Britain, but the story also jumps forward to the 1990s with older versions of Tom (Linus Roache), Marion (Gina McKee) and Patrick (Rupert Everett). As with any love story, this one has its bright spots and hurtful moments. – Dessi Gomez
The re-teaming of Julia Roberts and George Clooney is reason enough to check out “Ticket to Paradise.” Add in Kaitlyn Dever as their daughter and Lucas Bravo (“Emily in Paris”) as the comedic French side piece of Roberts’ character Georgia Cotton and viewers are set. David (Clooney) and Georgia Cotton got married right out of college, but they divorced five years later with their daughter Lily (Dever) in tow. Georgia curates art galleries while David, an architect, supervises construction, and they hate each other for a host of reasons, but nothing unites them swifter than their daughter’s announcement that she’s going to marry Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a seaweed farmer she meets two months after graduating college, studying to be lawyer, on her post-grad trip to Bali. In the process of secretly sabotaging their daughter’s engagement, Daniel and Georgia ironically rekindle their own relationship. Sweet rom-com delights ensue – Dessi Gomez
Adapted from Gabrielle Zevin’s intertextual novel, “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” combines elements for young ’uns and adults alike. Fikry (Kunal Nayyar) reflects a bit of Ebenezer Scrooge, with his grumpy ways. He has a right, though, because his wife passed away awhile ago, and all that’s left to remember her by is their bookstore, Island Books, above which Fikry wiles away his lonely days and nights drinking heavily. This all changes when Maya is left on his doorstep. The orphaned girl, whose mother left a note to the owner of the bookstore to take care of her and surround her with good books, wins AJ’s grinch-like heart over, and he adopts her. Raising her re-centers his universe, and he allows himself to fall in love all over again with Amelia (Lucy Hale), a publishing rep. – Dessi Gomez
Christmas and New York combine in perfect harmony in this Hello Sunshine romantic comedy production. Rachel (Zoey Deutch) personifies the joyful optimist, having patience for everyone including her lousy boyfriend Gary (Ray Nicholson) who is always late and not super thoughtful. Rachel runs a bakery with business partner and best friend Terri Blake (Jojo T. Gibbs), who steals the spotlight with her comedic timing. When Ethan Greene (Kendrick Sampson) and Gary both decide to shop at Tiffany and Co. for their significant others, things take quite a turn. Ethan plans to propose to his girlfriend Vanessa (Shay Mitchell), while Gary asks the jeweler for any basic piece of jewelry, but Gary gets hit by a car and drops his bag. Ethan of course makes sure Gary is OK, and the heightened premise of the bag swap changes everything. Ethan meets Rachel at the hospital when his daughter Daisy (Leah Jeffries) demands to check on Gary, and sparks immediately fly. Rachel imparts some baking wisdom in well thought-out lines, and Ethan shares her creative side because he is a creative writing professor who wants to take another shot at writing a book. If the line “she’s my cornetto,” doesn’t charm you then surely one of these other ingredients will. – Dessi Gomez
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