As the old saying goes, there’s something about a man—or woman!—in uniform. And that statement is certainly true in the military romance movies on this list.
Whether they’re set hundreds years ago or in the modern day, the stories at the heart of these movies can reflect reality for many people who have loved ones in the armed forces. From Hollywood classics to modern epics, here are some military romance movies to sweep you off your feet.
In 1941, childhood best friends Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) both enlist as pilots before the US even enters World War II. While training, Rafe strikes up a relationship with nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) and he joins an elite group of American pilots sent to aid British forces overseas. After Rafe is shot down over the English channel, Evelyn and Danny bond over their shared grief. But their romance is interrupted when Rafe shows up at the base having survived.
The very next day, their base at Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. As Rafe and Danny are sent away to prepare for a daring and dangerous mission, Evelyn will have to choose between the two men.
From Here to Eternity
A classic romance (and a classic novel), From Here to Eternity is a tale of interpersonal drama between US Army soldiers on the island of Oahu during the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
When boxing champion Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) refuses to join the regiment’s boxing team after swearing off fighting, his superior Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) resolves to make his life miserable. Holmes doles out Prewitt’s punishments through orders to First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster). Unbeknownst to Holmes, his unhappy wife Karen (Deborah Kerr) has begun an affair with Warden.
An Officer and a Gentleman
Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) grew up in a Navy family, and now is training to be an Aviation Officer for the Navy despite his father’s disapproval. Soon after reporting to training in Puget Sound, Zack’s bad attitude puts him in conflict with his drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.).
As more and more men drop out of the grueling program, Zack forms a connection with local factory worker Paula Pokrifiki (Debra Winger). He and his fellow candidates were already warned about the local girls who would do anything to marry a Navy man and trap him in Puget Sound, but it doesn’t bother him.
But when Zack’s friend seems to have gotten his own girlfriend pregnant, Zack and Paula’s relationship will be put to the test.
Closing the Ring
During World War II, Ethel Ann (Mischa Barton) got engaged to the love of her life, Teddy Gordon (Stephen Amell). After exchanging unofficial vows, Teddy shipped out with his two best friends only to die in a plane crash in Ireland. Nearly 50 years later, Ethel Ann (Shirley MacLaine) is now the widow of one of Teddy’s best friends, Chuck.
Confused as to why her mother is not grieving, Ethel Ann’s daughter pieces together the story of what happened back in the 1940s with the help of Teddy and Ethel’s only living friend Jack (Christopher Plummer).
Meanwhile, a young Irishman discovers a ring at an old plane crash site inscribed with “Ethel & Teddy,” and at the behest of a town elder who saw the crash during the war, sets out to return the ring to its true owner.
What’s a list of romance movies without a Nicholas Sparks adaptation? In Dear John, Special Army Forces Staff Sergeant John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is on leave in Charleston, South Carolina when he meets college student Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), who is spending her spring break building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Over the course of the next several weeks, the two fall in love and agree to stay together after John goes back to the army, keeping in contact through letters. As they write, they begin to plan what their life will be like once John is discharged, but in the wake of the September 11 attacks, John decides to reenlist.
While John is deployed in Afghanistan, Savannah begins to build a life of her own working with autistic children. They continue to write to one another, but as the months of separation turn into years, their relationship continues to be tested.
The Christmas Card
Since military romance movies have been a beloved genre for decades, it’s really no surprise that it’s gotten the Hallmark Christmas movie treatment! In The Christmas Card, soldier Cody Cullen (John Newton) keeps a Christmas card with him throughout his tour of duty in Afghanistan. When the soldier who originally gave Cody the card dies, he goes to his hometown while on leave to visit his widow. While there, he also meets Faith Spelman (Alice Evans), the woman who wrote the card.
Cody stays in town for the Christmas season, and he and Faith grow close after he saves her father from being hit by a car. Faith is incredibly close to her family, but her boyfriend Paul (Ben Webber) wants her to move away from them to be with him. But a little Christmas magic just might be enough to show Faith and Cody what’s truly meant to be.
Another oldie but a goodie, Waterloo Bridge tells the story of a World War I romance. Just before he is due to ship out, Captain Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) meets ballerina Myra Lester (Vivien Leigh) on Waterloo Bridge in London as they take shelter during an air raid. After seeing her perform in the ballet and going out together afterward, Roy proposes to her, saying they will marry when he returns from the front. When the leader of her ballet troupe learns of Myra’s romance with Roy, she dismisses her from the company.
Although Roy promised his upper-class Scottish family would take care of Myra while he was away, she struggles to make ends meet. But before Myra can ingratiate herself to Roy’s mother, he goes missing in action.
There's no doubt in our minds that Top Gun is a military romance. The only question is which romance you prefer for Tom Cruise's Maverick: Is it the instructor-turned-love-interest represented by Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (played by Kelly McGillis) or the enemies-to-lovers subtext of Val Kilmer's Iceman?
What list of military romance movies would be complete without the 1942 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture? Casablanca was set and filmed during World War II and showcases the wide-ranging effects of such terrible conflict. The film starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid takes place in a town called (you guessed it) Casablanca in modern-day Morocco. In 1942, however, it was still under control of the French State (or Vichy France).
Rick, played by Bogart, does his best to appear that he is neutral in all matters. In his café, he serves fighters on both sides of the war. However, when his former flame Ilsa (Bergman) reappears in his life, Rick throws caution to the wind and dives into danger for the woman he still loves.
The English Patient
Another Academy Award Winner, The English Patient is considered not just one of the best romance movies of all time but one of the best movies ever made. The American Film Institute listed the film, which stars Ralph Fiennes as the eponymous protagonist and Juliette Binoche as French-Canadian combat nurse Hana. When a British plane is shot down by German gunners during World War II, it marks the start of not only a great romance that sweeps across continents, but a great mystery as well.
Testament of Youth
Based on a memoir of the same name, Testament of Youth follows Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) as she experiences love and loss as a nurse during World War I. Growing up, Vera had aspirations beyond what was expected of British women and eventually manages to get into Oxford University. She spends her days discussing literature and writing with her brother’s friend Roland Leighton (Kit Harington), and the two soon fall in love. When WWI breaks out, Vera’s younger brother Edward (Taron Egerton), Roland, and their friend Victor Richardson (Colin Morgan) all abandon their studies to enlist in the army.
Soon after, Vera begins to feel useless at Oxford and volunteers as a nurse at a military hospital. As the war rages on, Roland and Vera continue their romance and hope to marry once he returns. But as the months turn into years and as the body count rises, all are forced to question why they are fighting in the first place.
The Lucky One
Another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Lucky One tells the story of US Marine Logan Thibault (Zac Efron). While serving in Iraq, Logan comes across a picture of a woman before nearly dying in a mortar attack. When he doesn't find the photo’s owner, he decides to keep it with him and eventually comes to see it as his own good luck charm as he continues to survive attacks. Once he’s back in the US, Logan is suffering from PTSD and decides to track down the woman in the photo.
Logan finds the woman, single mother Beth Green (Taylor Schilling) in Louisiana, but struggles to explain why he’s there. Beth is skeptical of Logan, and would rather focus on raising her son, who has had no positive male figure in his life since Beth’s brother Drake died. Still, as Logan takes up work doing odd jobs for Beth’s grandmother, he grows close with both Beth and her son. But when his secret comes to light, everything Logan has built threatens to fall apart.
In 1944, a town in Northern England is suddenly full of American soldiers—“Yanks,” as they call them—who are training for the upcoming Normandy invasion. Yanks follows two of those soldiers as they fall for local women. Technical Sergeant Matt Dyson is immediately attracted to Jean Moreton (Lisa Eichhorn), though she is engaged to an Englishman who is away fighting. Still, the two can’t deny the pull they feel to each other.
Matt’s friend John (William Devane) is already married, but that does not stop him from pursuing the wealthy Helen (Vanessa Redgrave), whose husband is also away fighting. As the invasion draws nearer, both couples will have to reckon with their cultural differences and if their romance can last beyond the Yanks’ brief stay in their town.
Featured image from "Waterloo Bridge" via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.