Romance Movies were an incredibly popular genre in the 1980s. Some of these films featured romance as a major theme, while others used romance as a sub-plot to drive the film’s plot forward. There were also some romantic comedies that were released during this time period, but are not included on this list.
This list is restricted to films that can be considered “romantic” and not “suspenseful” or “action-driven”. Some of these films may have more than one romantic story line, but they are still listed as one title on the list.
The best part about this decade is that many of these movies have been remade or rehashed in other movies from the 2000s and 2010s. Some of these movies even spawned TV series – for example, Dirty Dancing, Pretty in Pink and When Harry Met Sally are all based on books that were published in the 1980s.
Here are the greatest 1980s Romance Movies:
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
This is a wonderful romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal set in New York City during Christmas time 1989. It was directed by Rob Reiner who also directed The Princess Bride and This is Spinal Tap. Two strangers meet on a flight from Chicago to New York and spend the next two days wandering around Manhattan and discussing sex, relationships and how men and women can never be friends. It has a wonderful soundtrack, is a great laugh and has one of the best romantic scenes ever filmed.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
This is one of the most popular romantic movies from the 1980s. It stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey and is an adaptation of a 1987 novel by screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein. The film is set in the summer of 1963 at a resort in the Catskills mountains. The story follows 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) who falls in love with the summer camp dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze).
Pretty in Pink (1986)
This romantic comedy stars Molly Ringwald as Andie and Andrew McCarthy as Blane, two high school students who fall in love while at an exclusive high school in Chicago. This movie was first written as a television pilot, but was later re-written as a screenplay for the big screen. It also stars Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer and Annie Potts and was directed by John Hughes who also directed Sixteen Candles.
Vision Quest (1985)
This sports-themed romantic movie starred Matthew Modine as Louden Swain, who was on his way to becoming an All-American wrestler for his college team. It also starred Linda Fiorentino as Louden’s love interest, Terry Kiser as his wrestling coach and Ronny Cox as his father. This movie was also directed by a popular director from this era – it was directed by Academy Award winner, Harold Becker (The Onion Field).
Pretty Woman (1990)
This romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was one of the highest grossing films of 1990. It is also one of the most popular romantic films from the 1980s. In fact, it is listed on AFI’s list as one of the best romance movies ever made. This film is about a prostitute who gets a makeover from her client and she begins to fall in love with him. She then turns her life around and becomes an assistant to his business while he tries to find out who she really is.
The Princess Bride (1987)
This is a wonderful romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner and combines elements of fantasy, adventure, romance and comedy. It is an adaptation of a book by William Goldman that was first published in 1973. This film stars Cary Elwes as Westley, Robin Wright as Buttercup, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya and Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. The film also includes appearances by Peter Falk, Peter Cook and Carol Kane.
Ruthless People (1986)
This is another great romantic comedy from the 1980s that starred Danny DeVito and Bette Midler. It was directed by Jim Abrahams (Hot Shots, Hot Shots! Part Deux) and is about a businessman named Martin who is kidnapped by his ex-wife Barbara. She also kidnaps his girlfriend, Daphne, to make him pay for all the money he owes her. Martin ends up falling in love with Daphne and tries to get rid of Barbara.
This romantic comedy starred Andrew McCarthy as Jonathan Switcher and Kim Cattrall as Sarah Bracknell. It was a sequel to the 1987 film One Magic Christmas and is about a man who falls in love with a mannequin that he saw at a department store. The mannequin becomes alive and the two spend their time falling in love. This movie was directed by (the now deceased) Michael Gottlieb who also directed Ruthless People.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
This romantic comedy was a remake of a 1964 movie of the same name. It starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine as con artists who compete with each other to swindle an heiress out of her money. She falls in love with the more charming of the two men, but it always turns out to be the wrong one. This film was directed by Frank Oz who also directed Little Shop of Horrors, What About Bob? and Little Shop of Horrors (again).
Say Anything… (1989)
This romantic drama-comedy is set in Sacramento, California and stars John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler, Ione Skye as Diane Court and John Mahoney as Frank Court. It is about a high school valedictorian who falls in love with his girlfriend’s sister. It also stars Lili Taylor and Joan Cusack and was directed by Cameron Crowe who also directed Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky.