For as long as movies have been around, People of Color were shut out of romance films, as if their love stories were any less beautiful or complicated or worth telling. While Hollywood still hasn’t fully corrected the imbalance, there are some wonderful romantic films starring People of Color if you know where to look.
These films aren’t just worthy romances with diverse leads; many of them are directed by women and People of Color. Representation is essential so that there’s something for everyone, but love is such a universal theme that these movies are suitable for anyone.
Where To Stream ‘Moonlight’: FuboTV, AMC+, Directv, Sling
Barry Jenkinsgorgeous movie moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar back in 2017, and it was very well deserved. It tells the nuanced, heartbreaking story of Chiron as a child (portrayed by Alex Hibbert), an adolescent (Ashton Sanders), and a young man (Trevante Rhodes). He and his friend Kevin explore sexuality and intimacy while navigating the complicated landscape of Liberty City, an impoverished and historically Black housing project in Miami.
While Kevin hides his sexuality under the guise of heterosexual relationships, Chiron uses masculinity to wall himself up to avoid abuse and homophobia. The film’s triptych structure mimics Chiron’s fragmented personality, highlighting the dismantling of his identity to survive. Kevin and Chiron’s romance is bittersweet at best, but Jenkins’ collaboration with cinematographer James Laxton and colorist Alex Bickel results in a dreamy, nocturnal atmosphere. The film’s romance may be doomed, but its talented cast, including Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodesand Naomie Harrisoffers some groundbreaking performances.
Where To Stream ‘The Big Sick’: Amazon Prime Video
In this “awkward true story,” Kumail Nanjiani stars as himself, an amateur comedian/Uber driver, and Zoe Kazan as his love interest, graduate student Emily. One confrontational meet-cute and a postcoital cringe later, the two are dating, secretly on Kumail’s part since his parents expect to select a suitable Pakistani woman for an arranged marriage. When Emily finds out, they break up, and before Kumail can do anything to get her back, she falls into an inconvenient coma. And stays there. Despite a cold shoulder from Emily’s parents and the threat of being disowned by his own, Kumail remains by Emily’s side, hoping for a second chance.
The Big Sick is as sweet as it is funny. Emily V. Gordon and real-life husband Kumail Nanjiani wrote the true-ish story of their unconventional romance, becoming a guidebook on the clashing of cultures. This movie finds a new corner of the genre to explore, and its clever script delivers both laughter and tears.
Where To Stream ‘The Photograph’: Max Go, Freevee
When respected photographer Christina Eames dies suddenly, estranged daughter Mae (Issa Rae) worries she’s lost the chance to ever really know her mother. Following a mysterious photograph in a safe-deposit box, Mae investigates her mother’s early life and her last great romance. While doing so, she accidentally ignites one of her own with journalist Michael (LaKeith Stanfield).
The Photograph offers two love stories for the price of one. Both are realistically burdened by obstacles as old as time. Chante Adams and Y’lan Noel illustrate the chemistry born from the old photograph, while the ensemble is made up purely of talented people, including Kelvin Harrison Jr., Teyonah Parris, Lil Rel Howery, Jasmine Cephas Jonesand Courtney B. Vance.
Where To Stream ‘The Incredible Jessica James’: Netflix
Jessica James (Jessica Williams) is incredibly incredible, but her heartbreak has dimmed her incredibility a little bit. She’s pining over ex Damon (LaKeith Stanfield), but because she’s a playwright, she’s also fantasizing about scenes of either his death or his repentance. Meanwhile, she started dating a recently divorced man (Chris O’Dowd) who is also not about his ex.
Jessica Williams owns the screen, making an excellent case for starring in absolutely everything. The character knows its worth and isn’t about to be diminished by a man. The Incredible Jessica James is refreshing, not least of all, because she doesn’t forget herself — her dreams, her female friendships — whether there’s a man involved or not. This romantic comedy reminds viewers that there are more loves than just the romantic kind, and they’re all worth pursuing.
Where To Stream ‘The Handmaiden’: Amazon Prime Video
A con man posing as a Count (Ha Jung-woo) hires pickpocket Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ric) straight out of a den of thieves to pose as Lady Hideko’s handmaiden and help him trick her into eloping with him so he can steal her fortune and stash her in an asylum. hideko (Kim Min-hee), raised in the isolation of her uncle’s erotic library, is not quite as expected.
This erotic thriller is sexy as it is nail biting: The Handmaiden is a Park Chan-wook movie. Park’s movies, including Old Boy, Lady Vengeanceand Thirstare ultra-violent with bloodthirsty plots, so don’t go into thinking The Handmaiden as a straightforward romance. It isn’t.
Where To Stream ‘Beyond The Lights’: Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, Tubi, Kanopy
noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a popstar on the brink of superstardom, having just won a Billboard Music Award before her first album is even released. But things aren’t always what they seem; after the awards show, Noni takes a plunge off her hotel balcony. Luckily Officer Kaz (Nate Parker) has some quick reflexes, and he saves her life.
with major bodyguard vibes, Beyond The Lights has Noni falling in love with her protector, but director Gina Prince Bythewood serves audiences more than just beautiful leads and a misleading fantasy. The romance is coupled with a hard look at how the music industry treats Black women: how their bodies are sexualized, their mental health ignored, and their talent exploited to line other people’s pockets.
Where To Stream ‘Everbody Loves Somebody’: FuboTV, Roku
Clara (Karla Souza) is a successful Los Angeles OB-GYN who provides unsolicited love advice on the side. When her wildly-in-love parents finally decide to get married after 40 years together, Clara can’t face being at the singles’ table, so she enlists new coworker Asher (Ben O’Toole) to pose as her boyfriend. It wouldn’t be a rom-com if her toxic but charming ex-boyfriend Daniel (Jose Maria Yazpik) didn’t show up and ruin her budding romance.
Everybody Loves Somebody follows a familiar rom-com trope, but Clara’s gregarious family is endearing, the jokes land well, and the performances are a lot of fun. Writer Director Catalina Aquilar Mastretta injects a bit of hope into even the most cynical hearts, suggesting that there is indeed someone for everyone.
Where To Stream ‘Sylvie’s Love’: Amazon Prime Video
In this sensual period romance set in 1950s Harlem, the brilliant Tessa Thompson plays Sylvie, who’s supposed to be marrying Lacy after they were caught fooling around, but with him deployed overseas, and a sexy saxophonist named Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) working in her father’s record shop, a single spark quickly ignites into a fire that transcends time and place.
A talented ensemble including Eva Longoria, Rege-Jean Pageand Lance Reddick makes this film hard to resist. There’s real heat between Thompson and Asomugha, and even if their romance is waylaid by life and shifting priorities, their star-crossed journey will at least be beautiful.
Where To Stream ‘Always Be My Maybe’: Netflix
sasha (Ali Wong) and Mark (Randall Park) were childhood friends who everyone predicted would end up together but didn’t. After a falling out, they each went their separate ways fifteen years ago and have just now reconnected because Sasha has recently returned to San Francisco as a celebrity chef to open a restaurant in her hometown.
Ali Wong is an absolute boss, and it’s a pleasure to see her bring her brand to a movie where she flaunts it. She and Park have insane chemistry, but this film shifts the traditional romance dynamics, with a female protagonist who doesn’t need rescuing and never takes off her trademark glasses. Sasha is successful, rich, and famous. She dates legit heartthrobs (Keanu Reeves!). She could date anyone. It’s refreshing to see a female romantic lead who doesn’t bend to the pressure to make herself more palatable to men. Sasha and Marcus are incredibly shippable.
Where To Stream ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’: FuboTV, AMC+, Directv, Sling
fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (Kiki Layne) are still teenage sweethearts when their lives get ripped apart by a false accusation of rape. Fonny is Black, and the cop is racist: Fonny is subsequently sent directly to jail. Pregnant Tish relies heavily on her Harlem roots as she navigates the justice system and tries to keep their love alive.
Adapted from the book of the same name by James Baldwin, this love story has an authentic and lived-in feel specific to the African-American experience in the ’70s. The film explores many themes, including resilience in the face of systemic racism: the talented cast, including Regina King, Colman DomingoTeyonah Parris, Michael Beachand Brian Tyree Henryis what makes the movie and themes come to life.
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