We’ve all been there: curled up on the couch, watching a romantic movie, and swooning and sighing about how we wish something so amazing would happen to us. That’s the magic of movies—they draw us into worlds that didn’t exist before. However, that can be a major bummer when all you want is a boyfriend that looks like Ryan Reynolds.
But fear not! There’s nothing better to restore your faith in the magic of romance than these movies based on true stories. Whether it’s an epic historical court battle, or the modest beginnings of some of America’s most notable figures, these flicks are all rooted in happily-ever-after romances that really happened.
And who knows? Maybe your love story will be the next Hollywood blockbuster.
This 2016 film is based on the Nancy Buirski documentary The Loving Story, which chronicled Mildred and Richard Loving’s personal journey through their . Mildred and Richard were an interracial couple in Virginia during a time in which mixed-race marriages were against the law. In 1958, Mildred discovered that she was pregnant, and the pair drove to Washington D.C. where it was legal for them to tie the knot. Unfortunately, the Loving’s marriage license was not considered valid in the state of Virginia, and both of them were taken under arrest.
Loving stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as the titular couple, who do everything they can to stay together in a time that is doing everything to pull them apart. Capturing the affection of their home life and the dogged oppression of the legal system, this romantic drama follows the Lovings up through the historic verdict of 1967, which brought an end to anti-miscegenation laws.
In 1993, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter—married for only two months—were in a tragic car accident. When Kim woke up from her coma, she had no recollection of marrying Krickitt. In fact, having lost a year and a half’s worth of memories, Kim couldn’t even remember meeting her husband. That didn’t completely derail their love story though, as they fought to help Kim regain her memories, and when that didn’t work, they became determined to create new and better memories.
The 2012 film The Vow stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams as Leo and Paige Collins, the couple based off of the Carpenters. Scenes from the Collins’ happy life before the accident are expertly combined with the frustrating and devastating struggles of Paige’s memory loss. Torn between the old life that she can remember and the strange new present she’s supposed to be a part of, Paige goes not only on a journey to rediscover love, but herself as well.
British author Nick Hornby wrote an autobiographical essay——in 1992, which connected a series of notable football matches (soccer, for any non-Europeans) to important moments in his life. In 1997, the essay was adapted into a British film starring Colin Firth. Eight years later in 2005, Hornby’s story was adapted once again for American audiences to become the Fever Pitch many of us know.
Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) has been a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan since he was a little boy. His new workaholic girlfriend, Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) may not understand his obsession, but it’s not a hindrance. That is, until baseball season starts and Ben’s every waking moment is planned around the Red Sox games. In this romantic comedy, the couple has to figure out if baseball is going to be the thing that ultimately tears them apart or brings them together.
The Big Sick
This 2017 romantic comedy is actually based on the married screenwriters who co-wrote the film—Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon. To take things a step further, Kumail even stars as his younger self, while Zoe Kazan stars as the renamed love interest Emily Gardner. The film opens on Kumail’s start as a standup comedian in Los Angeles, where one night a woman heckles him from the audience, only for the pair to eventually hit it off. Despite falling hard and fast for one another, Kumail keeps their relationship a secret from his family to avoid cultural tensions.
When Emily contracts a serious illness and is sent to the hospital to be put in an induced coma, Kumail’s entire world is shaken. The movie evolves from a simple romance into a beautiful and touching story about family, pain, loss, growth, and love for love’s sake.
At First Sight
In 1995, neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote the essay for The New Yorker magazine. That essay contained the incredible story of Shirl Jennings, a man who had lost his sight from retinitis pigmentosa as a child, and then regained the sense following surgery as an adult. Shirl’s girlfriend Barbara remained at his side throughout the highs and lows of his sensory experience, including the ultimate loss of his sight again a year after his surgery.
At First Sight stars Val Kilmer as Virgil Adamson, a blind man who meets Amy Benic—portrayed by Mira Sorvino—at the spa resort where he works as a masseur. When the two of them strike up a romantic relationship, Amy convinces Virgil to try an operation to restore his loss of vision. While the operation is successful, it leads to a disorienting collection of sensory input, which not only dredges up frustration and anger inside of Virgil, but old pains from his past.
Southside With You
It’s a classic story—boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy becomes 44th President of the United States. You heard me right. Southside With You is based on the first date between Barack and Michelle Obama.
Starring Parker Sawyers as Barack, a young Chicago law firm associate, and Tika Sumpter as Michelle Robinson, his mentor, this film takes place in the summer of 1989. Barack is determined to win Michelle’s affections, but Michelle is resistant to the idea, thinking it’s tacky and cliche to date “the first cute black guy who walks through the firm’s doors.” As the two spend time together, the film unveils not only the foundations of their relationship, but an interesting and captivating insight into the personas behind the political front of Barack and Michelle Obama.
Walk the Line
Johnny Cash is one of the most notable singer-songwriters in American history. Much of his work is centered around a dark and sorrowful theme, likely because of the continued hard times throughout his youth. However, one of the brightest spots in his life was his romance with fellow singer-songwriter June Carter.
This 2005 film is based on two separate autobiographies— and . Audiences get a bleak insight into Cash’s life on a cotton farm and in the Air Force, and his eventual marriage to Vivian Liberto. However, when Cash meets Carter while they’re on tour, even the life he’s built for himself can’t stop him from falling for her. Through heartbreak, addiction, and the spotlight of rising success, Cash never sways from his determination to win the heart of the woman he knows is the love of his life.
It Could Happen to You
In 1984, New York cop Robert Cunningham walked into Sal’s Restaurant for lunch. Jokingly, Robert turned to his waitress, Phyllis Penzo, and offered to split a lottery ticket with her instead of the usual tip. In agreement, both of them picked three lotto numbers, and then—in some incredible and bizarre twist of fate—they actually won. While Robert and Phyllis have remained strictly friends throughout the years of their annual jackpot payout, the 1994 flick It Could Happen to You gives their story a romantic twist.
Nicolas Cage plays Queens cop Charlie Lang, while Bridget Fonda stars opposite him as the waitress Yvonne Biasi. Both of them are trapped in bad marriages; Charlie with the materialistic hair stylist Muriel (Rosie Perez) and Yvonne with the deadbeat Eddie (Stanley Tucci). When Charlie can’t afford to pay Yvonne’s tip, he offers to come back the next day with either double or the winnings from his lottery ticket. When the winnings for that lottery ticket amount to four million dollars, Charlie and Yvonne become overnight sensations, constantly thrown together and unable to resist the pull of attraction.
Featured photo of "The Vow" via Spyglass Entertainment.