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The 10 of the Most Romantic Movies From the ’60s


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With the rise of television during the ’50s and ’60s, movies faced startling new competition. Cinema adapted by pushing into new territory and highlighting social themes and circumstances that had never been addressed in movies before. The 1960s, therefore, is an era of movie history that is looked back on fondly for its timeless classics containing modern social problems. Legendary stars like Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn also took center stage, giving romance movies more star power and sex appeal.

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There is something about the romance movies of the 1960s that still appeals to audiences today. It is that middle ground between the stiff Hayes Code and the freeing nature of the new Hollywood scene coming into its own. With the sexual revolution happening, these romances were able to go to places the romances of previous decades could not. They set new standards and brazed new exciting paths. These romances are great for any time of the year, from a nice weekend inside cuddled up with a blanket and a warm drink to a potential date movie to watch with someone at home. Here are the ten best romance films from the 1960s.

Update January 3, 2023: This article has been updated to include even more great romances from the 1960s, including where each title is streaming.

10 The Music Man (1962)

The Music Man

The Music Man

Release Date
June 19, 1962

Director
Morton DaCosta

Cast
Robert Preston , Shirley Jones , Buddy Hackett , Hermione Gingold , Paul Ford , Pert Kelton

Rating
G

An adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, 1962’s The Music Man tells the story of Harold Hill (Robert Preston), a con artist who travels to the fictional Iowa town of River City to pull off an elaborate scheme. Despite possessing no musical abilities, his plan involves setting up a marching band to keep the town’s youth out of trouble. He then intends on fleeing town once he has swindled the townspeople’s money. What Hill doesn’t bank on, however, is falling in love with the local librarian and piano teacher, Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones), who feels the same way about him. A big hit when it was released in theaters, The Music Man went on to be nominated for a total of six Academy Awards.

What Makes It Great

As is the case with most good romances, the film’s two main characters start off as enemies who rub each other the wrong way, before gradually falling for one another. In the case of The Music Man, this classic setup leads to a hilarious battle of wits between the pair, as well as some brilliantly original dialogue. Romance films succeed or fail depending largely on the strength of the chemistry between the two leads and, when it comes to Preston and Jones, they have it in bags full. Aside from the romance itself, The Music Man offers elaborate dance numbers, creative sound production, and catchy tunes, all of which help to make it a fun and feel-good romantic musical extravaganza. Stream on Tubi

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park
Hal Wallis Productions

An adaptation of Neil Simon’s 1963 play of the same name, Barefoot in the Park is, in many ways, an anti-romance film. After all, the main plot involves a newlywed couple watching their marriage quickly crumble in front of their eyes. Robert Redford plays an uptight and high-achieving lawyer named Paul, who has recently married the far more kooky and free-spirited Corie (played by Jane Fonda). Upon moving into their new fifth-floor apartment in New York, the couple’s juxtaposing personalities begin to show, with Corie citing Paul’s refusal to go barefoot in the park as one of the many things that make them different. Over the course of the film, the pair’s relationship breaks down more and more in increasingly hilarious and over the top ways.

What Makes It Great

Barefoot in the Park picked up both an Oscar and a BAFTA nominations in 1968, and was generally well received by most critics. Its unique premise separates it from most romance films of the time, with the “relationship break-down” providing some very funny moments. Essentially, it’s a film about the ridiculous side of marriage and learning to accept a partner’s different ways of doing things, and it presents these themes in a fun and joy-filled, rather than cynical, way. While some aspects of the film may feel dated to modern audiences, and despite aspects of the plot feeling overly contrived, Barefoot in the Park is a well-written and deftly performed sixties romcom that stands out from the crowd. Stream on Paramount+

8 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Few films defined 1960s glamour more than Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Screen icon Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York socialite looking for a rich man to settle down with. Fate has other ideas, however, and when a handsome stranger (George Peppard) moves in next door, so begins a fun and light-hearted romp about the choice between love and wealth. As well as being nominated for five Academy Awards, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is still highly regarded today and has been referenced and parodied a number of times in popular culture.

What Makes It Great

Stylish, witty, and full of charm, both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and its leading actress embody a world and lifestyle that is enviable to the average viewer. It may not come with the most complex of plots or the most sophisticated of stories, but the film’s simplicity is part of what makes it work. That, and an utterly delightful performance by Hepburn, who brings a sweetness and naïveté to the character of Holly that makes her an incredibly interesting character to watch. Though parts of the film haven’t aged very well – most notably Mickey Rooney’s offensive portrayal of an Asian man – there are more than enough pros here to outweigh the cons. From the iconic image of the little black dress to the memorable soundtrack to the witty dialogue, Breakfast At Tiffany’s is a satisfying romcom that’s perfect for comfort viewing. Stream on Paramount+

Related: Best Classic Comedy Movies of the 1960s, Ranked

7 Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet
BHE Films

Over the years, there have been numerous big screen adaptations of William Shakespeare’s tragic love story. For many, the best-known one is Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version, simply titled Romeo and Juliet. Like in the original play, the film tells the story of Romeo Montague (Leonard Whiting) and Juliet Capulet (Olivia Hussey), a pair of young lovers from warring families who are forbidden from being together. Their love for one another and their desire to be as one ultimately has fateful consequences for both of them. As well as being a financial success, the film managed to win over critics, and was nominated for four Academy Awards in total.

What Makes It Great

Romeo and Juliet is one of the best-looking adaptations of the famous work, with gorgeous cinematography and stunning production design ensuring the film is never anything less than a treat for the eyes. Nevertheless, it’s not a case of all style and no substance; the film’s solid script, clever direction, and strong performances mean there’s enough depth here to warrant the striking visuals. It’s an incredibly well-thought-out and delicately crafted piece that has, unfortunately, been slightly overshadowed by more recent adaptations. Which is a shame because Zeffirelli’s version conveys the couple’s naive optimism and tragic downfall just as well, if not better, than any other iteration of literature’s most famous love story. Stream on Hoopla

6 The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate

The Graduate

Release Date
December 21, 1967

Cast
Anne Bancroft , Dustin Hoffman , Katharine Ross , William Daniels , Murray Hamilton , Elizabeth Wilson

Rating
PG

College is a time of exploration and experimentation, but where do you go when you are done? This is the exact dilemma Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) faces in Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. After graduating from college with little-to-no plan for his future, he sets out on some intense soul-searching and soon starts an affair with the much older Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). However, things become complicated when Ben starts to develop feelings for Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). The drama continues to escalate into a tangled mess of secrecy, rebellion, and steamy romance.

What Makes It Great

Ever since it first hit theater screens way back in 1967, The Graduate has been highly regarded. As well as being a critical and commercial success, the film received an impressive seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (for Hoffman). Almost every aspect of this film is iconic, from the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack to Hoffman’s performance to the thought-provoking (and ever so harrowing) final scene, the film is filled with memorable moments. Overall, The Graduate is a cleverly written and fantastically performed forbidden love story. Stream on The Criterion Channel

Related: 10 Films That Defined the Golden Age of Romantic Comedies

5 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Colombia Pictures

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner tells a groundbreaking tale of interracial romance that has mostly managed to stand the test of time. When Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) brings home her new fiancé, a doctor named John (Sidney Poitier), she couldn’t be more excited for her parents to meet the man she loves. However, upon realizing that John is a black man, Joey’s folks, Matt (Spencer Drayton) and Christina (Katharine Hepburn), are far from enthusiastic. Over the course of the evening, however, the older couple grapple with their own biases and slowly come to accept their daughter’s new lover. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the film made a big impression when it was first released in theaters.

What Makes It Great

Despite being released 57 years ago, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner feels just as relevant as ever. This is partly due to the fact that racism still, sadly, exists in today’s society, and partly because the film itself was so forward-thinking and well-made, that it has a timeless quality to it. Set in one location over the course of a single evening, the film is extremely dialogue-heavy. Thankfully, it’s excellent dialogue courtesy of screenwriter William Rose, who rightly won an Oscar for his work here. Sensitively told, magnificently performed, and brimming with more pathos and nuance than most films today, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a romantic comedy-drama that’ll get you thinking. Rent on AppleTV+

4 West Side Story (1961)

Natalie Wood and Richard Beamer share an iconic scene in West Side Story
United Artists 

Before there was Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake, there was the 1961 original. A modern twist on Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story tells the age-old tale of star-crossed lovers separated by warring families. In this case, the lovers are Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer), and the families are a pair of rival gangs known as the Jets and the Sharks. Based on the Bernstein and Sondheim Broadway musical of the same name, West Side Story was a massive hit when it was released and went on to be the highest-grossing film of 1961. It also won a whopping ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins).

What Makes It Great

With an enchanting soundtrack made up of some of the best songs in western cinema, such as “America” and “Somewhere”, an ensemble cast of talented performers, and some neat direction, West Side Story is the movie musical that has it all. Furthermore, beneath the bright colors and catchy tunes lies a tragic love story that, although familiar, is told here in a fresh and wildly imaginative way. The production design is stunning, the script is sophisticated, and the choreography is immense. All of which adds up to a truly electrifying cinematic masterpiece. Stream on Paramount+

3 The Sound of Music (1965)

Another iconic romantic musical of the 60s, The Sound of Music displays the full genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Taking place just before Germany invades Austria during WWII, the film centers on a free-spirited nun, Maria (Julie Andrews), who is hired by Baron von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) to be the governess to his seven children. Over the course of her time with the family, Maria teaches the children how to sing, which softens the emotionally closed-off Baron and allows him to connect with his offspring for the first time since their mother’s death. After initially coming into conflict with one another, Maria and the Baron soon fall in love.

What Makes It Great

The Sound of Music is often considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. And with good reason. Not only did it win five Academy Awards, but it also became the highest-grossing film of all time when it was released in the spring of 1965. The film’s success isn’t without good reason, though. With a dozen catchy songs, a stunning setting, and a beautifully epic story at its center, The Sound of Music is a fantastically captivating and wonderfully feel-good watch that’s delightful from beginning to end. The best part of the film, however, is undoubtedly the love story between Maria and the Baron, with the scenes between Andrews and Plumber being simply magical. Stream on Disney+

2 The Apartment (1960)

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment
The Mirisch Company

Billy Wilder’s 1960 romantic comedy-drama, The Apartment, is an often overlooked masterpiece. It tells the story of an office clerk named C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), who lets his coworkers use his Upper West Side apartment to conduct extramarital affairs. However, he starts to develop a crush on elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), who, unbeknownst to him, also happens to be his boss’s mistress. The film was conceived by Wilder after watching Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter, which features a couple using a friend’s apartment to have an affair. A hit with audiences and critics, The Apartment won five awards from eight nominations at the 33rd Academy Awards ceremony.

What Makes It Great

As previously mentioned, the success of a romantic film is dictated by the strength of the performances by the two leads and the onscreen chemistry they share. Fortunately, in the case of The Apartment, both Lemmon and MacLaine not only shine individually but also make a perfect pairing. While he is utterly delightful as the naive and hapless Baxter, whose innocence is a source of great humor, she excels as the capable yet emotionally confused Fran, who finds it difficult to let anyone in. With an equal balance of humor and heart, and a fiendishly clever script, The Apartment is not only one of Wilder’s best films, but one of the greatest love stories of the era. Stream on Fubo

Related: Romance Movies That Should Be Remade

1 My Fair Lady (1964)

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady

Release Date
October 21, 1964

Director
George Cukor

Cast
Audrey Hepburn , Rex Harrison , Stanley Holloway , Wilfrid Hyde-White , Gladys Cooper , Jeremy Brett

Rating
G

In 1964’s My Fair Lady, Rex Harrison plays Henry Higgins, a linguist who believes that he can alter a person’s social status by changing the way they speak. Audrey Hepburn, meanwhile, stars as Eliza Doolittle, a working-class cockney flower girl living on the streets of London, who volunteers to put Higgins’ theory to the test. The pair’s contrasting personalities and lifestyles leads to some comical misunderstandings and, ultimately, an undeniable attraction between them. An adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s classic stage play, Pygmalion, the film co-stars Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper, and Jeremy Brett, and was nominated for a total of 12 Academy Awards.

What Makes It The Best

My Fair Lady is the ultimate “opposites attract” tale. Cheery, colorful, and full of charm, it’s the perfect antidote to dreary and tragic love stories, with its unashamedly joyous tone making it a great pick-me-up of a film. That being said, the film isn’t lacking in depth and contrasts its light tone with well-observed social commentary and three-dimensional characters. It’s the performances of the two leads that make it the masterpiece that it is, though, with Hepburn, in particular, oozing charisma and star quality. Furthermore, a moving score, some rousing musical numbers, and a witty script, make this movie a must-watch classic, and one of the prettiest, most enjoyable romance films of the 1960s. Stream on Paramount+

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