Romantic movies on the big screen tend to be overwhelmingly white, but that doesn’t mean diverse stories aren’t out there.
Love and Basketball (2000)
A cult classic for a reason, this debut from African-American filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood follows the tangled romance of childhood rivals Monica and Quincy. With both harbouring dreams of playing in the NBA, it’s basketball – and their love of it – that continually brings them together and pulls them apart. Kicking off the careers of Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan in earnest, Love and Basketball was one of those rare movies that broke through the film festival circuit and into the mainstream with MTV Movie and Teen Choice award nominations.
Period pieces are a staple of the romance genre yet so rarely do they get populated with people of colour: Belle, thankfully, is the exception to that. Based on the true story of the mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who’s raised in upper-class English society in the eighteenth century, filmmaker Amma Asante enthuses the story with everything you could ever possible want from a movie of this type: exquisite costumes, a moving emotional core, breathtaking set pieces, a sweeping romance and a refreshing dose of social-political justice.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
It’s important to note majority of the diverse romantic films on this list are not only made by women, but women of colour. It takes creators outside of the stereotypical white, heterosexual, male Hollywood perspective to offer an alternative and important view. Bend It Like Beckham nailed that back in 2002, with Guriner Chadha writing, directing and producing this story of a young Indian woman who rebels against her traditional family upbringing to embrace her love of soccer… and just so happens to fall in love with a fine slice in the process (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers).
Beyond The Lights (2014)
The second Gina Prince-Bythewood movie to make this list, there’s a reason for that. Throughout her 20-year career she has mastered the ability to tell beautiful, modern love stories that also happen to be universal in their specificity. Think The Bodyguard for millennials, Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as a pop star suffocating under the expectations of her stardom who crosses paths with a local cop, Kaz, who helps her realise what she wants from both life, love and her career.
2 Days In New York (2012)
Written, directed and starring Julie Delpy, this follow up to 2007’s 2 Days In Paris follows an interracial New York couple (Delpy and Chris Rock) with children from previous relationships as they try to keep their life afloat during a visit from their in-laws. A contemporary look at the nature of long-term love and the family unit, it’s a funny and touching film. Rock’s own directorial project Top Five – which he also stars in and is set in New York – came out just two years later in 2014 and is an exquisite companion piece.
Written and directed by Ruba Nadda, the title character Sabah goes on an intense journey as she falls in love and begins an affair with the wrong man. She’s Muslim, he’s not. Hiding her affections from her family, this theme of colliding cultures and romances is something that has been repeated throughout Nadda’s prolific career. See also her 2009 feature Cairo Time which follows Patricia Clarkson as a Canadian tourist who follows in love with a local Egyptian man, Tareq, as they explore the city together.
Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)
An interracial couple struggle to find their footing as they go through the heartbreaking process of divorce, simultaneously letting go and hanging on to the lives and memories they built together. Co-written, starring and executive produced by Rashida Jones it might look at the aftermath of love yet there’s something still surprisingly beautiful and whimsical about it.