When reading a book, we often imagine the characters and towns coming to life, quirks and all. But what’s better than watching the author’s vision come to life on the silver screen? Over the years, countless bestsellers have been adapted into movies and TV shows.
Many romance movies based on books reaffirm the undeniable power of hope, love, and trust, while others leave a bittersweet imprint on the heart. Whatever the end, love stories are meant to be relived repeatedly, and there’s no way better than to experience them over and over again by reading the book or watching the best romantic movies based on novels.
Updated on October 2, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
There’s no shortage of upcoming movies based on bestselling books, with highly-anticipated flicks like Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Poor Things (December 8) keeping fans eagerly waiting for their favorite characters to come to life on the big screen. That said, viewers looking for existing beloved romantic book-to-movie adaptations also have an excellent selection to choose from.
20 ‘The Kissing Booth’ (2018)
Coming to fame from Wattpad, Beth Reekles‘ The Kissing Booth is a well-received story that was adapted into a film series by Netflix after garnering a wide fan base in 2018. The story follows teenager Elle Evans (Joey King), falling in love with her childhood crush, Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi).
Despite the critics having mixed opinions on how to exactly categorize the film, no one can deny that it was a romantic comedy that audiences absolutely adored. If its quick rise to popularity through Netflix is any indication, it’s a must-watch if one is interested in light humor along with an ideal representation of the coming-of-age experience.
19 ‘Twilight’ (2008)
Based on the 2006 novel by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight is one of the most binge-watched romance movie series of all time. Considered the leading movie in the coming-of-age and vampire romance genres, it is centered around Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a teenage girl who meets a reclusive family of vampires, the Cullens. She soon falls for the brooding yet charming vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
Although critics express mixed opinions on a few aspects of the plotline being ignored in favor of establishing a ‘falling in love with a vampire’ dynamic, it still retains its position as one of the most iconic and highest-grossing romance movies ever made.
18 ‘Paper Towns’ (2015)
Based on the bestselling novel by John Green, Paper Towns is a fantastic coming-of-age and romance movie that follows the escapades of Margo Roth (Cara Delevingne), trying to explore her true personality away from the clutches of her dysfunctional family. Her neighbor Quentin (Nat Wolff), who is in love with her, enlists the help of his friends to track Margo with the clues she left behind when she mysteriously disappears.
With well-executed themes such as man-vs-society and soul-searching, the film manages to show wisps of teenage love coupled with light comedy. Although many claim that the on-screen adaption does not reflect the emotions within the book, the movie displays outstanding screenwriting by Scott Neustadter and Micheal H. Weber, who bring the best aspects of the coming-of-age novel to life.
17 ‘Safe Haven’ (2013)
The sudden arrival of a young woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) raises suspicions among the residents of the quiet, small town of Southport, North Carolina. But what’s even stranger is her reluctance to form personal relationships with other citizens. But Katie’s resolve withers away when she is drawn into reluctant relationships with Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widowed dad and store owner, and her neighbor, Jo (Cobie Smulders). As her past continues to haunt her, Katie must make the tough choice between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards.
Nicholas Sparks is the king of adaptations, and Safe Haven adds another badge to his honor belt full of romance books turned into movies. Despite being more formulaic and lacking the emotional depth of Sparks’ past works, the chemistry between the stars, Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, plus the film’s lovely North Carolina setting make it worth seeing.
16 ‘Emma’ (2020)
Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor Joy) is a headstrong, level-headed woman living in Regency-era England with her wealthy father. When her governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan), marries and becomes Mrs. Weston, she decides to look for another companion. Emma finally settles on Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), an unclaimed child whose education has been provided for. Despite her promise not to, Emma meddles in Harriet’s life, giving her advice she sees wise.
Emma is based on Jane Austen‘s novel of the same name and features the protagonist’s attempts at matchmaking and meddling in the romantic lives of those closest to her. It’s known for its fantastic performances, notably that of Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character, as well as its creative directing and faithfulness to the source material. The film’s humor, charm, and historical realism will appeal to viewers. Emma was a critical and financial hit, praised for being an enjoyable and sophisticated adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel.
15 ‘Me Before You’ (2016)
Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), an ordinary 26-year-old, takes the job as a caretaker for William Traynor (Sam Claflin), a bitter 35-year-old who lost his motor ability due to an incident. Louisa becomes enamored with William’s adventurist side, eventually helping him come to terms with the reality of his situation and falling in love along the way.
Journey through a myriad of emotions in Thea Sharrock‘s adaption of the 2012 novel by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, which has a splendid blend of light-hearted comedy and moving moments revolving around two people from completely different worlds finding solace in one another. A masterpiece in terms of raw emotion!
14 ‘P.S. I Love You’ (2007)
Holly Kennedy (Hilary Swank) couldn’t live without her husband Gerry (Gerard Butler)…until she had to. Inseparable since high school, the couple was everything to each other, but after Jerry succumbed to an illness and passed away, Holly wasn’t sure she would survive. That’s when she received the first of many letters from Gerry, ones he wrote to help her through the pain and grief before his death.
Inspired by Cecelia Ahern‘s novel of the same name, P.S. I Love You is a story of holding on, letting go, and learning to love again. Despite feeling too sappy and manipulative at times, the film about love and grief is worth seeing for its performances, especially Hilary Swank’s, and its handling of sensitive material.
13 ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (2018)
Instead of admitting her feelings to all her crushes, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has a letter for every one of them, a letter she never sent. One night, her little sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) sneaks into her room and posts all of them, except one of the crushes is her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh (Israel Broussard). So Lara and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) strike a deal. They decide to pretend to date until Josh leaves her alone and Peter gets his ex back. But how long can they resist before it’s not fake anymore?
An adaptation of Jenny Han‘s novel of the same name, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, is followed by two sequels, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and To All the Boys: Always and Forever. The first film’s numerous strengths include its strong performances, especially those of Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, and its delightful and amusing portrayal of adolescent love. It has a pleasant and charming tone and deals with themes of friendship, family, and self-discovery.
12 ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (2018)
New York native Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is living her best life as an economics professor at New York University. With her boyfriend, Nicholas Young (Henry Golding), she plans to visit Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Only when they board the plane does Rachel realize Nick is one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors, and his family is stupid rich. With their status differences, she might as well be carrying a target on her back.
An impeccable depiction of the clashes in the poor guy-rich girl trope, Crazy Rich Asians, is based on Kevin Kwan‘s book of the same name. Aside from its portrayal of diverse Asian and Asian-American characters, the film is notable for its luxurious setting and themes of family, identity, and culture. Crazy Rich Asians was a critical and commercial success, and it has since become a popular romantic comedy movie for numerous fans.
11 ‘One Day’ (2011)
One Day, based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls, is a heartfelt romance that spans two decades, centered around the lives of Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess). The film begins on the day of their graduation in 1988 and revisits them on the same date each year, depicting how their initially “platonic” relationship slowly begins to change.
The 2011 film is remembered for its unique and ambitious narrative structure that makes it exciting to follow the movie’s love story. Anne Hathaway’s underrated performance as Emma also makes the film’s powerful story of self-discovery (and its unforgettable ending) more relatable. While its uneven pacing may throw some viewers off, it’s still worth watching for the one-of-a-kind way it tells its romantic plot.
10 ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ (2022)
A recent film based on the eponymous 2018 novel by Delia Owens, director Olivia Newman‘s Where the Crawdads Sing combines mystery, drama, and romance to weave an absorbing story. It follows Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a spirited girl left alone to raise herself in a North Carolina marshland. She’s soon known as the “marsh girl” when she reveals herself to the townspeople. Inspired by potential romance, Kya’s story takes a dark turn when she’s blamed for a recent murder.
While the film mostly focuses on the mystery/drama aspect of Kya’s story, there’s a central romance plot that focuses on Kya’s attraction to the charming Tate (Taylor John Smith) and connection with the devious Chase (Harris Dickinson). This connection will haunt her and make her question her decision to ever leave the marshland, adding a thrilling element to the 2022 movie.
9 ‘Five Feet Apart’ (2019)
Adapted from the eponymous 2018 novel by Rachael Lippincott, Five Feet Apart is the embodiment of angst-filled love between two teenagers who are prisoners in their own lives. The rewatchable teen drama movie depicts a budding romance between Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), who meet in a hospital during their treatment for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).
Having to stay six feet away from each other due to vulnerability to infection, the two find a way to make the most of what they have or the time they have left together. Stella tries to make the experience more lively for a cynical Will, so they can have a chance to enjoy their teens to the fullest. A true devastator of the heart!
8 ‘Carol’ (2015)
Carol tells a captivating tale of forbidden love set against the backdrop of the 1950s, based on Patricia Highsmith‘s 1952 novel The Price of Salt (which was later republished as Carol in 1990). Directed by Todd Haynes, the 2015 period drama depicts the chance encounter between Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young aspiring photographer, and Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), an older, sophisticated woman trapped in a loveless marriage.
Carol is a beautiful film, with its exquisite cinematography, meticulously crafted period details, and haunting score creating an immersive environment that draws viewers into the complicated romance it portrays. Of course, it’s the undeniable chemistry and fantastic performances from Mara and Blanchett that have earned the movie its reputation as a masterclass in LGBTQ+ cinema.
7 ‘Love, Simon’ (2018)
16-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a fairly simple guy. He wants no drama and no one to know he’s gay except Blue, the boy he’s been emailing. But when one of those emails falls into the hands of class clown Martin (Logan Miller), his sexual orientation and the real identity of Blue are at risk of being compromised. Now, change-averse Simon has to do everything he’s afraid of doing if he wants a shot at happiness.
A remarkable adaptation of Becky Albertalli‘s Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda,Love, Simon is a heartfelt coming-of-age tale of teenage queer love and the struggle it can accompany. The film’s wit, charm, and heart will resonate with viewers, as will its themes of acceptance, love, and self-discovery. A modern teen romance destined to become a classic, Love, Simon is a touching and realistic depiction of adolescent life.
6 ‘Stardust’ (2007)
A whimsical odyssey based on Neil Gaiman‘s eponymous 1999 novel, Stardust is a wonderful fantasy adventure centered on Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox). The young protagonist embarks on a thrilling quest into the mystical world of Stormhold to find and retrieve a fallen star. Soon, he meets the mesmerizing Yvaine (Claire Danes).
With a remarkable cast – that includes Robert De Niro playing Captain Shakespeare and Michelle Pfeiffer as the malevolent Lamia – and visuals ahead of its time, Stardust has gone on to become a niche yet beloved romantic fantasy film that has held up incredibly well.
5 ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (2012)
Despite the medical miracle that bought her a few years of life, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) has been nothing but terminal. The 16-year-old cancer patient’s life is a blur of the same events each day until a gorgeous plot twist by the name of Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) appears at her Cancer Kid Support Group. And just like that, the story of these two beautiful, broken teenagers is about to be rewritten.
Based on John Green’s bestseller, The Fault In Our Stars, is one of the most popular romantic movies based on novels. Its performances, notably those of its protagonists, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, as well as its handling of sensitive material, are outstanding. It may seem too sentimental at times and be less emotionally effective than the source material, but it’s worth watching considering it’s among the most heart-wrenching romance movies in recent memory.
4 ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy-drama film directed by David O. Russell that stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two individuals who build a relationship while dealing with their own mental health issues. Cooper and Lawrence, along with a solid supporting cast, deliver outstanding performances in the frantic, often tear-jerking film.
Based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel The Silver Linings Playbook, the film’s portrayal of mental health conditions is more divisive, but that hasn’t stopped it from being nominated for and winning multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress for Lawrence. A romance movie that’s not cringe-worthy, Silver Linings Playbook is regarded as a clever, amusing, and moving depiction of love, friendship, and the inner workings of human emotion.
3 ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (2005)
Directed by Joe Wright, the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s cherished novel is largely considered to be among the best. Set in 19th-century England, Pride & Prejudice depicts the complex web of romance and societal expectations its spirited characters have to navigate, including Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley). When she crosses paths with Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), things get complicated.
An enchanting viewing experience, Pride & Prejudice transports viewers to a setting where every little detail seems meticulously planned and placed. The chemistry between the film’s leads is at the center of it all, with their unique story bringing the book’s social commentary, energy, and wit to life.
2 ‘Call Me by Your Name’ (2017)
It’s the summer of 1983, and 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is living with his parents in rural Northern Italy. Elio’s father, an archaeology professor, invites a 24-year-old American graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer), to help him with his academic paperwork. It’s a beautiful summer, and Elio and Oliver have nothing in common until a storm of emotions takes them by the collars and shakes them enough to turn their lives upside down.
Based on André Aciman‘s book of the same name, Call Me by Your Name is an unforgettable tale of human passion, and among the best romance novels turned into movies. The groundbreaking and rewatchable LGBTQ+ film was commended for its performances, direction, cinematography, and script. The film’s stars, Chalamet and Hammer, have undeniable chemistry, set against a magnificent Italian backdrop. Overall, the film is an enchanting and touching look at first love.
1 ‘The Notebook’ (2004)
Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) has just returned from the Second World War and is mending a plantation home to its once-coveted glory. But he is haunted by the images of Allie (Rachel McAdams), the beautiful girl he met fourteen years ago and hasn’t forgotten since. He’s unable to find her, but he’s willing to live with just her memories … until she comes back in search of him. But their love story isn’t as simple as they might wish it were.
Nicholas Sparks is one of the most prolific romance writers of the century, and his work has been adapted 11 times in total, The Notebook being one of them. With such a great love story, it deserves all the popularity and love it gets from fans, and has become part of many annual viewing traditions.