At their core, so many of the romance movies from the 1950s were very similar to the romantic films made today. They typically feature an unlikely couple that overcomes adversity to realize that they’re meant to be together, and to actually be able to be together. Also like today, the romance movies from the ’50s were usually romantic comedies; however, back then, many more of them were also musicals. That was common during the 1950s—part of the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood—but it has certainly fallen out of favor over the ensuing decades.
Take a look at our roundup of 10 of the best-known, most beloved romance movies from the 1950s. Admittedly, many excellent ones didn’t make the list, because we have to draw the line somewhere. But every fan of love stories and ’50s cinema should certainly make sure they’ve seen all these classics. And if it’s been a while, maybe it’s time to re-watch them!
Top ’50s Romance Films
- Cinderella – 1950; directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske; starring Ilene Woods, James MacDonald, and Eleanor Audley. It may be an animated feature, but this landmark Disney film is one of the classic romance stories in American cinema.
- Singin’ in the Rain – 1952; directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly; starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. This iconic musical comedy depicts the trials and tribulations of a silent film company transitioning to making movies with sound, with the story revolving around fiction and real romances.
- The Quiet Man – 1952; directed by John Ford; starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Barry Fitzgerald. A retired American boxer goes back to his birthplace in Ireland, where he falls in love with a local woman, much to the despair of her brother.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – 1953; directed by Howard Hawks; starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, and Charles Coburn. This famous musical romantic comedy is about two showgirls who go to Paris, tailed by a private detective hired by one of their fiance’s fathers, and who end up finding the men they truly want to marry.
- How to Marry a Millionaire – 1953; directed by Jean Negulesco; starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall. Three gold-digging women set out to find millionaires to marry, but unexpectedly end up finding true love.
- Roman Holiday – 1953; directed by William Wyler; starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, and Eddie Albert. A classic romantic comedy about a bored princess who gets away from her guards, explores Rome by herself, and falls in love with an American.
- To Catch a Thief – 1955; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, and John Williams. In this romantic thriller, a reformed jewel thief endeavors to find the guilty party when he’s accused of lapsing back into his old habits, and he encounters a new love interest in the process.
- An Affair to Remember – 1957; directed by Leo McCarey; starring Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Denning. A man and woman meet on a transatlantic ocean liner voyage and agree to meet again at the Empire State Building 6 months later if they each end their current relationship and launch a new career.
- Love in the Afternoon – 1957; directed by Billy Wilder; starring Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Maurice Chevalier. A playboy falls for the daughter of a private detective who’s been hired to entrap him into having an affair with the wife of a client.
- Pillow Talk – 1959; directed by Michael Gordon; starring Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall. A man and woman get into a feud over their shared party line telephone service in this classic romantic comedy, and—you guessed it—end up falling in love.