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Top Ten Underrated Romance Movies

by Released : 2023-09-22

1. Love and Death (1975)

Love and Death

Although a solid box office success making 20 million to an only 3 million budget and considered by Allen to be his funniest film up to that point. The film is not talked about today as Allens other 70s films Manhattan and Annie hall. However, it’s one of his best films and one of his biggest (in terms of scale). The film has solid costumes, great humor, and of course great chemistry between its leads. However, what makes the film truly stand out is the epic battle sequences, which are on rival with scenes from waterloo. Shows allen’s excellent directing ability and his ability to direct large projects and bigger scenes. Some truly awesome battle scenes that would feel fit for any historical epic. Although they may feel jarring when happened truly adds to the films epicness and scope, because it has riveting comedic scenes. But actually takes the battle scenes seriously which leads to an authenticity in the film. A mix of highbrown Bergman homages and Marx Brothers slapstick

2. The Purple Rose of Cario (1985) 

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) - IMDb

One of Woody Allen's most underrated films. This along with Radio Days two years later both flopped at the box office and did not feature Allen in an acting role like his earlier popular films had. Although most people remember hannah and her sisters which was wedged between the release of that film. This is the superior allen romance film. Really see Allen’s love of filmography shine through here. The film follows Jeff Daniels (as a character) who falls in love with a women during the depression that keeps coming to rewatch the same film over and over again. HIs character literally walks off the screen disrupting the picture and shocking the audience. Woody Allen has made a number of period pieces- along with fun costumes the film also does a great job of capturing the hopelessness of that era and the escape that films provided. Truly is a magical place. The film is rounded out by frequent Allen contributions. Danny Aiello is great as the obnoxious husband, Mia Farrow is as sweet as ever, and Dianne West is hysterical as a ditsy hooker with a heart of gold. Nominated for an oscar and 4 golden globes, despite the prolific director the film is largely unknown in the director’s filmography or rarely discussed. However, woody allen himself considers it one of his best films up their with: Match point and Husband and wives. Whimsical like Allen’s earlier films, but the film has a heart wheres it emotions proudly. Feels like an old school romance from the 30s or an old adventure movie. Hijinks ensue once he leaps off screen and the actor who plays him goes to chase after the character.

3. Somwehre in Time (1980) 

Somewhere in Time

The only film on this list with poor reviews (sitting at a 52% on rotten tomatoes) Somewhere in Time was a box office disappointment and critical flop when released due to the film coming out the same weekend as The Blue Brothers. The film was also not supported by the studio, they tried to cancel the film during production because they thought it would not be commercial enough, which resulted in the film being slashed from 8 million to 4. The French director coming off a huge box office success with Jaws 2 was able to use that as leverage for the studio to continue the film. The chemistry between Reeves and Semour is some of the best put to screen, with Semour confirming in a recent TCM interview that she and Reeves were madly in love during filming, with their relationship cut short due to Reeves ex gf having a kid. Similar to the film, a doomed romance only adds to the emotional scenes in the film. Movies like this make me sad that Reeves did not have a larger career outside of Superman. He always had an affinity for period pieces, starting in the Bostains a few years later (another underrated romantic period piece). Reeves is truly amazing in this movie, just with facial expressions he is able to emote so much. He gleams up on the silver screen and gives arguably his best performance outside of superman Jane Seymour is stunning as ever making any man want to travel back in time for her. Some of the best chemistry ever put to screen and although the film is often criticized for being overly sentimental or having a rushed romance; true love happens in an instant!. 

4. The Man in The Moon (1991) 

The Man in the Moon

The first film of Reese Withersppon’s career and an amazing debt performance. The man in the moon is one of the most underrated teen romances films ever. Newcomers Jason London and Emily Warifield, who sadly neither had a huge career after this film, both give passionate performances. The ever reliable Sam waterston and Tess Harper are also great here. Classic film director Robert Mulligan who directed to Kill a Mockingbird takes the same small town themes to this film, and he also directed the great teen film Summer of 42, which is also similar to this film in tone. Sadly due to the box office failure of this film he never directed another film. Set in 1950s louisiana although a box office bomb this teen love film made Reese Witerspoon a rising star was loved by critics and was one of roger ebert's ten favorite films of 1991

5. REDS (1981)


Betty’s magnum opus and passion project. He first discovered the story of John Reed in the mid 60s and had developed the film since then, even shooting interviews with the “witnesses” (intercut throughout the film) as far back as 1971. Betty was not able to get the financing to make the film and a controversial subject dealing with (communists the film released during the cold war) however, after the huge success of Heaven Can Wait. Betty was able to get the financing to make this film. Despite huge star power Betty and Jack reteaming (after the critical and commercial flop the Fortune (1975) due to its communist subplots and lack of marketing by Betty flopped at the box office. The film was still a huge critical success, being nominated for 12 oscars. Betty, notorious for being a perfectionist, took two years to finish the film and Paramount spent the equivalent of 80 million in 2007 (roughly 32 back then). Gene Hackman, friends with Betty, worked with him after Bonnie and Clyde only appears in two scenes in the movie, but is perfectly cast in the role. Character actor Paul Sorvino is also great here. Diane Keaton and Betty had a famous off screen romance during this time. However, due to strain of the production and the difficulty of scenes between Betty and Keaton put strain on their relationship in real life. By the time editing was done they were broken up. AFI in a 2008 list had it as a top ten historical epic ever.

6. Carnal Knoweldge (1971) 

Carnal Knowledge

Probably Mike Nichols best film after the graduate- after being the straight man half of the comedic duo with Elan May in the 1950s. Ahead of its time when released because of its sexual frankness, aspects of the film some have accused today of not aging well or being from the male gaze. However, I believe it remains an accurate depiction of how men talk about women while alone with each other behind closed doors. Simon Garfunkel (yes the half of the famed musical duo) is the co lead in this film and was even nominated for the golden globe, however he never really acted after this and returned to music. Which is a shame because he's great here. Candiance Bergan is also great here. The film tracks friends from college and the women in their life up until the 1970s. A great examination of human relationships and the mind of men. A must watch for nicholson fans. Ann margaret was nominated for the oscar for best supporting actress. 

7. A New Leaf  (1971) 

A New Leaf

May was better known as part of a comedic duo with Mike Nicholes before this film. She’s excellent here, an incredibly talented writer, director, and actress decades ahead of her time. It's a shame after the 70s she did not have a huge career. Before her popular 70s romance heartbreak kid. The film failed to light up the box office, In what was a theme for May the film had a troubled production intended for only a 1.4 million budget the budget ballooned to 4 million due to May taking over 40 extra days to shoot it and her long editing process. The same thing happened to her film Mickey and Nicky (the peter falk crime film which was also altered by studio however that film had a great director's cut released by criterion collection and has since gained a small cult following). Godfather producer Robert Evans took the film from May and even tried to get her replaced during production of the film, only because of a clause in her contract did she not. Unlike Mickey and Nickey which had the same issue and a director cut was later released) May’s original version of this film was lost including two murders and an extra hour of footage. May sued paramount but no one was on her side. Even the star of the film Walter Matheu preferred the studio edit which he thought was funnier and moved better and thought May had bit off more than she could chew with production, writing, directing, and starring in it. Would love to see May’s intended version. However, as Matheu and Roger Ebert both mentioned, this cut was hysterical and great. A very very rare example where a studio cut up a film especially as much as this one with a full hour and multiple subplots being gone that produced a good movie.  A miracle considering Mickey and Nicky theatrical cut being a disaster later getting critical praise with its director cut being released years laters. Paramount thought the film would be a huge success,  but due to bad press from the multiple lawsuits, and May going over budget the film did not even break even. Gene Siskel  had it number 2 on his best films of 1971. The film was nominated for two golden globes, but despite positive reviews the troubled production plagued the rest of May's careers. Hopefully we one day get a director's cut.

8. Restortation (1995) 


Despite positive reviews the film was a huge flop with a pretty large 19 million dollar budget, only made 4 million at box office. RDJ did a series of Bombs in the 80s and 90s, but many of those films were great and overlooked. Before Iron Man, people forget how many good films RDJ made. Great cast Ian Mckellon- did this the same year as Richard the third (1995) made by the same production company, which RDJ also starred in. Great British actors- Sam Neill, Hugh Grant, David Thewis, Ian McDiarmid.  Meg Ryan at her peak popularity also has a small weird role in this film where she plays against type. The film was nominated for two Oscars and looks visually stunning. Roger Eberts- who was a fan of the film noted how good the street scenes look and they really do with hundreds of extra filling the streets the period really feels alive. Sam Neal is hysterical as the king and the extravagant court scenes are reminiscent of The Favorite (2018). RDJ a few years removed from an oscar nom- some accused the story of being overstuffed and although a lot happens in a short time (you really feel like you go on an adventure with this character). One of the best looking historical films ever, the sets, costumes, and RDJ layered performance make this one of the best historical films of the 1990s. 

9. Starting over (1979) 

Starting Over

Directed by the great Alan J. Paku directed such 70s classics as Klute, All the President's Men, and Parallax View. Fresh off oscar glory for presidents of men, Burt Reynolds was desperate to work with him and this was seen as a veer in the films he did in the time a more serious adult romance. Both female leads were nominated for an oscar, with Burt Reynolds hoping to get an oscar nomination and use this film as a transition to a more serious career. Sadly starting by the mid 80s his career went down the tubes, he was snubbed by the academy just like he was for deliverance. He’s great here and gives one of the most subtle performances of his career playing against type. The great Jill Claybough who had three oscar nominations in a row in the 70s sadly she would semi retire in the 80s which would derail her career. And the great Candice Bergan who would later reteam with Reynolds on stick (they had great chemistry here). Although a critical darling and commercial success when released. The film is rarely talked about today and not as well known as Reynolds other films. Reminiscent of adult romances like When Harry Met Sally (1989). The film follows a recently divorced Reynolds as he leaves his wife and strikes up new love, but still can't get over his wife. The film is also one of Kevin Bacon's first credited appearances. And frequent Reynolds collabart and his real life friend Charles Durning is also great here. A mature romance that is a must for Reynolds fans, couples, or fans of this genre. 

10.  The Pickup Artist/ Chances Are 

Chances AreThe Pick-up Artist

Heres a nice double feature featuring a young RDJ before he was nominated for an OSCAR- RDJ Secretly rivals the brat pack with a great run of teen films in the 1980s to start his career- must known for Less Than Zero and Weird Science, his first credited role is in the wildly underrated Baby it's you, back to school, turf turf, firstborn, johnny b goode. RDJ did a lot of these films before breaking out into more dramatic work. Sadly the times he was given a larger role or not playing a simple minded bully the films flopped. Controversial director James Toback was close friends and a frequent collaborator with RDJ until he turned his life around in the mid 2000s. Here he takes gangster qualities he would use in Bugsy and Fingers and combines it with elements of the teen movie. Harvey Kitel (whose American career floundered in the 180s before being revived in the 90s) and Dennis hopper in his own holywood exile because of 1971’s the Last movie) are both in this movie and great. As is danny aielo, and the great Tony Sirico from sopranos, besides Fingers this being one of his largest roles. The film has the darkness and mafia aspects of those gritty 1970s mob movies. But also a very funny tone. Molly RIngwald plays against type. A young Lorraine Branco before Goodfellas also has a small role. A large 15 million dollar budget plus the star power of Molly Ringwald, people thought it would be a hit but flopped hard making only 13 million. Tobakc’s lightest film after dark mob films like Fingers and Gambler. Originally he developed it with Warren Betty in mind, but Betty didn't want to play a character run by his obsession with women (although he was a real life womanizer and played a character like that in shampoo)- an early RDJ film that showed his star potential. In 1989 he did another underrated teen romance, Chances Are which was an even bigger bomb costing 16 million and only making 16 million. The film was also one of Ryan O'neal's last films and probably his best film of the 1980s. Christopher Mcdonald in a small role is also great here. Cybil Shepherd has amazing chemistry with the whole cast. And 80s icon Mary Stuart Masterson, known for Some kind of Wonderful is also great here. A fun double feature for fans of this genre and RDJ, both films took an interesting twist compared to most 1980s teen films at the time, sadly it did not help the box office.