In an article about unpredictable romance movies, a couple touches foreheads and gazes into each other's eyes as a red heart loops between them.

Five Must-See Unpredictable Romance Movies

These romantic dramas don’t end the way you’d expect.
August 18, 2023
8 mins read

The 2000s was the age of the rom-com. Since then, however, another sub-genre has captured the hearts of romance fans everywhere: the romantic drama. Swapping laughs for tears and laments, romantic dramas combine tales of love with raw emotional reality to reveal poignant truths. These stories are often richer and contain more thoughtfully developed plots than their light-hearted counterparts. 

It can be hard to encounter films that aren’t complete tragedies with resolutions that keep you on your toes until the very end. Regardless of whether a film’s conclusion is happy or sad, the perfect mixture exists somewhere in between, leaving room for interpretation and reflection. A solid romantic drama will leave you feeling fulfilled and satisfied. These five romantic dramas will offer that and more.

1. “The Last Letter From Your Lover

Shailene Woodley stars opposite Callum Turner as Jennifer and Anthony, lovers in a romance that must be kept a secret. Why? That’s precisely what modern-day journalist, Ellie, played by Felicity Jones, sets out to uncover. She discovers their written exchanges and makes it her mission to track down the owners of the letters. In her efforts, she just might strike up a romance of her own. 

This 2021 romantic drama interweaves the love stories of two couples, one past and one present. The present day pair connects through their investigation of the letters between the lovers in the past. While time has passed, the letters are just the beginning of a new chapter for Jennifer and Anthony.  

The Last Letter From Your Lover” has just the right amount of hold-your-breath moments that will have you pleading for a resolution. If you’re new to the romantic drama game, this light-hearted film is a good place to start.

2. “Endings, Beginnings

Not all the movies on this list star Shailene Woodley in the lead female role, but this one, which also features Sebastian Stan and Jamie Dornan, is impossible to miss. 

Woodley’s character begins the film suffering from a major heartbreak. During her recovery, she identifies ways to bounce back. Ultimately, she is capable of falling in love once (or twice) more. What masks itself as a love triangle results in so much more than just which guy she’ll choose in the end.

This 2019 romantic drama gets the messiness of modern dating right. A film has never portrayed the decision of whether to stay exclusive or not more accurately. It’s impossible for Woodley’s character to leave one of her relationships behind and sacrifice the other. In a perfect world, she could have both as wrong as that may seem. The film skillfully blurs the line between right and wrong and boils messy issues of the heart down to each character’s innermost feelings. At its core, “Endings, Beginnings” is a beautiful story of hope and self-discovery that provides the sultry benefits of a standard romance.      

3. “The Dressmaker

Fans of the unconventional love story, this one’s for you. Everything about this movie is slightly unsettling. Rather than depict a perfect world of wealth, beauty and relative simplicity, “The Dressmaker” strays from the plots, conflicts and settings typical of most romances. The film places the makings of a modern-day fashionista in a world before her time: the Australian Outback in 1926. 

Kate Winslet’s character moves back to her small one-horse town after making a name for herself in clothing design. She clearly does not fit in, but her singularity is nothing new to the community. Throughout the film, the real reason behind the return of Winslet’s character remains somewhat of a mystery. As the truth about her past slowly surfaces, the young woman develops an unforeseen romance with a man portrayed by none other than Liam Hemsworth. This romantic drama is hopeful and devastating all at once. Not to mention strange but in a good way.    

4. “The Words

I can’t be the only sucker for a tale of two knitted love stories. If you loved option one, you’re in luck. Another exploration of the power of the written word, this star-studded 2012 romance takes place across three different time periods. Dennis Quaid portrays the main character of the present time period, author Clayton Hammond, as he gives a reading of his latest novel. Olivia Wilde plays a curious admirer, Daniella, almost half his age. Over the course of Clayton and Daniella’s night together, viewers hear the narrative of Clayton’s book: the tale of a young couple, Rory and Dora, whom Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana play. Coincidentally, Rory and Dora’s love undergoes a significant challenge when Rory claims to be the author of a handwritten manuscript that he discovered by accident in a briefcase. Comprising the earliest time period in the film, the misplaced pieces of paper recount the tragic narrative of a love lost in more ways than one. 

All three stories are complex in their own right and as a whole, so viewers don’t quite know what is happening or who is who until the very end of the film. An intriguing examination of how greed poisons relationships, “The Words” will absorb your attention as you attempt to figure out how each love story connects and plays out.   

5. “The Worst Person in the World” 

Joachim Trier directs this absolutely breathtaking 2021 Norwegian romance. The female lead is decidedly unsure of what to do in life, in love and in being. Beneath the protagonist’s winding path from relationship to relationship lies a journey of self-exploration. At its core, this film is about figuring out who you are and what you want in life, especially as a modern woman who struggles to make consequential decisions. 

Although “The Worst Person in the World” brims with uncertainty, its ending is exquisite and bittersweet. A must-watch for any young woman who doesn’t have a set plan for her life, the film is nothing less than a pure work of art. 

This list, while not exhaustive, establishes an excellent foundation on which to build your romantic drama obsession. If you love any of these films, you will undoubtedly find more stories in the romantic drama game that warm and break your heart. So bundle up, grab some tissues and enjoy your perfect accounts of adversity in love.

Sarah Deavers, University of Virginia

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Sarah Deavers

University of Virginia
Media Studies

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