20 of the Most Romantic British Films of the Last 20 Years

In some cases, we earn commissions from affiliate links in our posts.

Last Updated on March 31, 2024 by Stefanie Hutson

The UK may not be known for romance (“lie back and think of England”, anyone?), but clearly someone has figured it out, given that new baby Brits are born on a fairly regular basis. 

More seriously, romantic British films have it all – gorgeous scenery, dashing but aloof male leads, and of course, the accents. Most of them, anyway. We've yet to see a great, sweep-you-off-your-feet British romance with a thick-accented Scouser in the leading male role (but we'd absolutely watch that if someone made it). 

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

This 1950s period drama was Daniel Day-Lewis' final film before retiring, and it follows Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dressmaker whose meticulous life is disrupted by Alma (Vicky Krieps), a strong-willed waitress who becomes his muse and lover. After designing a gown for a prominent client, he visits a country restaurant near his home and meets her, then invites her to dinner. The relationship grows in time, but they struggle as his desire for strict routine clashes with her imperfect attempts to show her love for him.

Mum and Magpie Murders fans will be delighted to see Lesley Manville playing Woodcock's sister Cyril.


Love Again (2023)

Sam Heughan (Outlander) and Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) star in this film about two people brought together by a phone number. Two years after seeing the man she loved killed right in front of her, Mira (Chopra) is still grieving the loss. Rob (Heughan), on the other hand, is jaded about love after being left a week before his wedding. Both are seeing their careers fall apart due to the way they view the world in light of their losses. 

In her grief, Mira has continued texting her dead lover's phone. Rob happens to be the new owner of that number. You can see where this is going, right? It may be predictable, but that's half the fun with a movie like this.

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything (2014)

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star as acclaimed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane Wilde. Adapted from her memoirs, it focuses on his life at the University of Cambridge, their marriage, and their path of their relationship and family life.

The film is more than just a simple romance, it's a story of triumph against adversity set against the backdrop of a love story. Interestingly, Stephen Hawking provided his own computerised voice for the film. 

A Romantic Kingdom

A United Kingdom

This 1940s historical drama is based on the true story of the forbidden love between Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), heir to the throne of a tribe in Botswana, and a white British clerk, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). After WWII, Seretse moved to London to study law. While there, he met the lovely Ruth, and the two would go on to be married in 1948.

Both families are strongly opposed to the union, but even worse, there's opposition from the British and South African governments, who fear the marriage of a prominent African to a white British woman will lead to unrest. 



This 2007 film has a little bit of everything – adventure, action, fantasy, and romance. The story begins when Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), a young man from the village of Wall, promises to retrieve a fallen star for his beloved, Victoria Forester (Sienna Miller), in a bid to win her heart. However, upon finding the star, Tristan discovers that it is not a piece of meteorite but a celestial being named Yvaine (Claire Danes), who has taken on human form upon falling to Earth.

It gets even more complicated when we learn Tristan isn't the only one after the fallen star. Along his journey, he'll encounter witches, princes, and even a flamboyant sky pilot (played by Robert De Niro). The film blends the beautiful British countryside with the entirely fictional landscapes of Stormhold, making it the perfect choice if you're looking for a romantic film that's a bit less traditional. 

The Republic of Love

The Republic of Love

Emilia Fox and Bruce Greenwood star in this 2003 film about a talk show host who falls in love too easily and an academic whose expectations are too high. Though technically a Canadian film, British TV fans will know Emilia Fox from shows like Silent Witness and Signora Volpe. Her father, Edward Fox, also appears.

Fox plays Fay McLeod, who, despite her professional success, has had a series of failed relationships, each one leaving her more disillusioned about the idea of lasting love. Greenwood's character, Tom Avery, is an academic specializing in maritime history, whose scholarly approach to life extends to his expectations of love. Tom's logical and analytical mindset leaves little room for the messiness of emotions, resulting in high standards that seem almost impossible for any partner to meet.

The overall theme is one of learning to understand and accept the flaws of both oneself and another – the only real way two people can successfully build a life together. 

Vita & Virginia

Vita & Virginia (2018)

Gemma Arterton, Elizabeth Debicki, and Isabella Rossellini star in this period romance about the love affair between poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West and author Virginia Woolf. The film is based on the letters exchanged between Woolf and Sackville-West, and it's set against the backdrop of high society London in the 1920s. 


Ophelia (2018)

This interesting 2019 film re-imagines Hamlet from the perspective of Ophelia. Directed by Claire McCarthy and released in 2018, Daisy Ridley stars in the titular role, offering a fresh and feminist take on the classic tragedy. Set in the opulent but corrupt Danish court, the film brings depth to her character, transforming her from a weak and passive female into a resilient and intelligent woman who navigates the intrigues and dangers of palace life.

About Time

About Time – A British Time Travel Romance (2013)

Richard Curtis may be best known for films like Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones's Diary, and Love Actually, but he also made this lovely little 2013 romantic time travel movie. The film follows Tim Lake, (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers at the age of 21 that he can travel in time, a secret ability shared by the men in his family. He decides to use his unique gift to improve his love life and win the heart of Mary, portrayed by Rachel McAdams. 

Fans of Harry Potter and Pie in the Sky will also appreciate that the film was dedicated to Richard Griffiths. He appeared briefly, and it was his final performance. He died just a few months before it was released. 

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

where to watch the guernsey literary and potato peel society movie online
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 

Set in the aftermath of World War II, this film follows Juliet Ashton, a London-based writer played by Lily James, as she gets to know the residents of Guernsey Island. After receiving a letter from a member of the titular book club, she finds herself intrigued by their stories of resilience and community during the German occupation. On the island, she finds unexpected inspiration, love, and perhaps even a new direction for her life.

Man UP

Man Up (2015)

Lake Bell and Simon Pegg star in this 2015 rom-com about a serendipitous mix-up that turns into a whirlwind adventure of love. Nancy, played by Bell, is disillusioned with dating until she's mistaken by Jack (Pegg) as his blind date. Deciding to go along with the error, Nancy embarks on an unexpectedly pleasant adventure.

As a warning for those who care, this one is more of a “modern romance”, so there's more language and sex than in many of the others.



Set in the 1840s, this romantic period drama draws inspiration from the life of British paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and her possible relationship with Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan). Mary and her ailing mother run a small shop in Lyme Regis, but she spends her mornings on the beach looking for fossils at low tide. When geologist Roderick Murchison visits the shop with his wife Charlotte, it sets off a chain of events that ultimately sees Mary asked to care for Charlotte, becoming her close friend in the process. 

It's worth noting that the film's historical accuracy has been called into question because there's no evidence Mary Anning was a lesbian (though it's long been believed that many close female friendships in historical figures were likely at least somewhat romantic in nature).

The Exception

The Exception (2017)

Directed by David Leveaux, this gripping World War II drama explores a dangerous love affair amidst the tension of wartime. The story follows German soldier Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney), as he's sent to protect the exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer), in the Netherlands. The plot thickens when Brandt falls for a Jewish Dutch maid, Mieke (Lily James), leading to a conflict between duty and passion.

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (2017)

Elle Fanning stars in this period biopic about the life and work of Mary Shelley. It follows both her rocky relationship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth) and the societal challenges she faces as a young woman writer in the early 19th century. Ultimately, she goes on to defy social conventions, find her voice, and finish the iconic novel Frankenstein, her most famous work. 

Modern Life is Rubbish

Modern Life is Rubbish (2017)

This modern British rom-com is a must-watch for any music lover. Set against the backdrop of London's vibrant music scene, it focuses on Liam and Natalie, portrayed by Josh Whitehouse and Freya Mavor, whose relationship is bound by their shared passion for music. As their romance evolves over the years, so do their musical tastes, driving a wedge between them as they struggle to adapt to the challenges of building a normal adult life. When they decide to split up, they are forced to divide their prized music collection, leading to a reflective journey on what initially brought them together.

Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked (2018)

Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, this cute romantic comedy explores love, regret, and second chances. It primarily follows Annie (Rose Byrne), who's stuck in a stagnant long-term relationship with Duncan, an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When she impulsively posts a scathing review of Tucker's new demo album, “Juliet, Naked”, she unexpectedly catches the attention of the reclusive musician himself. This leads to an unlikely transatlantic friendship that ultimately brings the rocker to her doorstep.

Not Another Happy Ending

Not Another Happy Ending

This Glasgow-based 2013 film follows Jane Lockhart, a successful but emotionally guarded novelist (Karen Gillan), who struggles with writer's block after resolving some of her biggest personal issues. Her publisher, Tom Duvall (Stanley Weber), realizes that her unhappiness fuels her creativity and sets out to make her life miserable in a misguided attempt to cure her block. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), this doesn't quite work out as he expected. 

Been So Long

Been So Long (2018)

Set against the backdrop of London's Camden Town, this film stars Michaela Coel as Simone, a single mother whose life takes a turn when she meets Raymond, a charming stranger with a troubled past (Arinzé Kene). As they navigate their unexpected romance, Simone must reconcile her responsibilities with her desires.

Artfully filmed with a soundtrack full of pop, R&B, and soul music, it's very different from many other romantic British films – but well worth watching for that reason alone. 

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

We couldn't resist throwing in a bit of a wild card. This unusual 2013 Scottish film stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien who roams around Scotland seducing lonely men – and really, with those accents, who can blame her? As she interacts more with humanity, she experiences a complex awakening that challenges her understanding of herself and her mission.

Wild Mountain Thyme

Wild Mountain Thyme

This one's technically Irish, but since we like to be inclusive of the entire “British Isles” geographic region (and the film is a British-Irish-American co-production), we're throwing it in. Set against the lush backdrop of the Irish countryside, it revolves around Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) and Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan), who've grown up together on neighboring farms.

Rosemary is headstrong and deeply in love with Anthony, but he's oblivious to her affections and more concerned with his own life. The story unfolds as Anthony's father, Tony (Christopher Walken), threatens to sell the family farm to his American nephew, Adam (Jon Hamm), instead of leaving it to Anthony, due to doubts about his son's capability to marry and continue the family lineage.


Share it on Pinterest!

The Most Romantic British Films of the Last 20 Years


Similar Posts