Representation in Romantic Movies – From Modern Classics to Hidden Gems

Written by Malin Evita

Valentine’s day may have passed, but the love hasn’t. The romance genre (especially rom-coms) has for a long time been targeted towards white, straight, women, and has thus been, in the mainstream, focused on white, straight, love stories. But in recent years, we have seen a growth of authentically diverse love stories coming to the big screen. Here are a few of those, among them are some modern classics you have probably heard of by now, as well as a range of hidden gems – from feel-good comedies to complex emotional dramas. In order of most to least recent release…

Small Axe: Lovers Rock (2020) dir. Steve McQueen

BBC One: Michael Ward as Franklyn and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn as Martha in Lovers Rock.

Lovers Rock is a romantic one-hour movie, part of Steve McQueen’s anthology series, Small Axe. Franklyn and Martha meet one night at a reggae house party in West London in the ’80s. This night sparks a relationship that will intertwine with the romance, violence, and music in the background.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video or BBCiPlayer | Watch the trailer here.

The Half of It (2020) dir. Alice Wu

Netflix: Leah Lewis as Ellie and Alexxis Lemire as Aster in The Half of It.

The Half of It is a queer coming-of-age rom-com about how Ellie, a shy and introverted straight-A student, winds up helping a guy named Paul woo Aster – a girl she happens to also like. As Ellie texts Aster, posing as Paul, they connect over shared interests and struggles in life. Ellie and Aster begin to fall for each other, and a complicated relationship ensues.

Watch it now on Netflix | Watch the trailer here.

Sylvie’s Love (2020) dir. Eugene Ashe

Amazon Studios: Tessa Thompson as Sylvie and Nnamdi Asomugha as Robert in Sylvie’s Love.

Sylvie’s Love is a romantic drama about a summer fling and rekindling. Sylvie first met Robert, an aspiring saxophonist, one summer when he took a summer job at her dad’s record store in Harlem. At first, it was a summer romance. But years later, as their paths cross again, they find their feelings and harmony to be intact.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video | Watch the trailer here.

Always Be My Maybe (2019) dir. Nahnatchka Khan

Netflix: Ali Wong as Sasha and Randall Park as Marcus in Always Be My Maybe.

Always Be My Maybe is a Netflix romantic comedy written by the two leads, Ali Wong and Randall Park, with Michael Golamco. Sasha and Marcus are childhood friends who grew up next to each other. Over the years, they grew a close friendship, and everyone always thought they would end up together. But an incident would drive them apart. 15 years later, they reconnect and start to wonder if they are could be each other’s future maybe.

Watch it now on Netflix now | Watch the trailer here.

Dear Ex (2018) dir. Mag Hsu and Chih-Yen Hsu

Warner Bros.: Roy Chiu as Jay and Ying-Xuan Hsieh as San-lian in Dear Ex.

Dear Ex (誰先愛上他的) is a Taiwanese rom-com about a teenage son who gets trapped in a feud between his mother and his late dad’s insurance beneficiary – a free-spirited man his dad was in love with. Midst grief and new life changes, the mom and son grow further apart as they attempt to deal with their new circumstances. While this is a comedy, it provides complex emotions and a heart-warming portrayal of love.

Watch it now on Netflix | Watch the trailer here.

Rafiki (2018) dir. Wanuri Kahiu

Samantha Mugatsia as Kena and Sheila Munyiva as Ziki in Rafiki.

Rafiki is a Kenyan romantic drama, infamous for being banned in Kenya for its portrayal of same-sex love. It centres around lovers Kena and Ziki. The two live vastly different lives; Kena as her dad’s shop helper, and Ziki as a free-time dancer. But when their paths cross, their lives begin to entangle as their attraction and affection for each other grows. With a conservative neighbourhood keeping an eye on them, they will be faced to choose between happiness and safety.

Watch it now on BFIplayer or rent it on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 | Watch the trailer here.

To All the Boys I Have Loved Before (2018) dir. Susan Johnson

Netflix: Noah Centineo as Peter and Lana Condor as Lara in To All the Boys I Have Loved Before.

To All the Boys I Have Loved Before is a coming-of-age rom-com about how Lara Jean Covey’s life turns into quite the chaos. See, Lara writes letters. Letters to all the boys she has loved before – but these words are only meant for her. One day, all of her letters are sent out to the ones she wrote about, and her private, teenage girl daydreams become an out of control mess as her loves begin to confront her.

Watch it now on Netflix | Watch the trailer here.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) dir. Jon M. Chu

Warner Bros.: Constance Wu as Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians.

Crazy Rich Asians, the rom-com that was one of the first major Hollywood studio movies to have a majority Asian cast and is perhaps also the movie that brought back the genre as it broke the record for highest-grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s. Rachel Wu is a professor from New York who is excited to meet her boyfriend’s family in Singapore, if not a bit nervous. But all of her expectations get turned on the head when she finds out that his family is one of the richest in the country.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video | Watch the trailer here.

Love, Simon (2018) dir. Greg Berlanti

20th Century Fox: Nick Robinson as Simon kissing “Blue” in Love, Simon.

Love, Simon is a gay coming-of-age rom-com about Simon – a teenager in desire for love, but a desire he keeps secret from friends and family. In private, Simon has an anonymous romantic e-mail pen pal, “Blue”. But when a stranger gets a hold of his messages and starts to blackmail him, Simon is pushed onto a rollercoaster of emotions as he ventures on a journey to come to terms with his identity.

Watch it now on All 4 or rent it on Amazon Prime Video for £3.49 | Watch the trailer here.

The Big Sick (2017) dir. Michael Showalter

Amazon Studios: Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail and Zoe Kazan as Emily in The Big Sick.

Written by the real-life couple, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick is a rom-com based on their own relationship. Kumail is a Pakistan born comedian (and Uber driver) who falls in love with Emily, a grad student. As their cultural backgrounds clash, their relationship begins to struggle. But a sudden illness forces Emily to be put under a medically induced coma, and Kumail is faced with his true feelings and has to confront family values from his parents, and hers.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video | Watch the trailer here.

The Way He Looks (2014) dir. Daniel Ribeiro

Vitrine Films: Ghilherme Lobo as Leonardo and Fabio Audi as Gabriel in The Way He Looks.

The Way He Looks is a Brazilian romantic drama about a blind teenager named Leonardo, who is a pursuit of independence. But when Gabriel, a new student in town, arrives, everything changes – Leonardo’s future plans, daily life, friendship with his best friend – as he falls in love for the first time.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video for £0.99 | Watch the trailer here.


Written by Malin Evita

Evita is the co-host and producer of the podcast, Instagram curator, and a writer focused on script, cultural commentary, and film analysis. She is a Vocal grand prize winner and currently studies Professional Writing at college. Through storytelling, she aims to amplify empathy and human connectivity.

Website: malinevita.com | IG: @malinevita

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