Well, I mean, I haven't exactly seen every movie ever made...but you know, that aside...
Though I am a twenty-something straight man, I love romantic films. I'll rush out and see anything that tastes of romance - no, not Valentine's Day or Bounty Hunter or insert-wacky-rom-com here (although I did watch He's Just Not That Into You on a plane, and it only held up this assertion), because those aren't romantic movies, they're deeply greedy ones, made purely to prey on a demographic and take all the money they can from them. Like much of our irony-clad generation, such films are scared to actually feel anything.
Genuinely romantic movies are hard to find, but when I do, I just fall for them so totally and purely, it's quite unlike anything else. So while most men shudder at the thought of admitting they're touched by romance, I want to take this moment to loudly proclaim how wonderful romantic movies are, because these movies made me feel something totally different and so much more rewarding than the majority of cinema.
These are films oozing romance in the best way, the films about falling in love, which is different than being in love or certainly the idea of love itself. These are about that spark, that joy, that ecstasy of meeting somebody and being absolutely certain they're the one for you. It's the feeling Valentine's Day is based on (the day, not the movie), so hey, look at how timely I am.
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002) If, after Boogie Nights and Magnolia, you told me Anderson understood romance this well, I'd have punched you in the face (this would also require me to be a much more violent person). Of course, he does it very much his own way - the numerous neuroses and anger issues bestowed upon our protagonist, Barry Egan, feels like they must have come from the Coens' Serious Man process of "just how much can we make this guy's life suck?" - but this film is as delightfully swooning as Jon Brion's score and as electrifying and joyful as that light that comes on in the pay phone Barry uses in Hawaii. Simply, there is no other film that makes love so sweet.
THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy, 1967) Not only a better film than his more highly-regarded The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but so much more romantic as well. Just as Anderson used music and lighting to craft the romance of Punch-Drunk Love, Demy uses camera movement, blocking, and choreography. And songs...oh, what songs. This really is the most musical of all musicals, as the song/story dichotomy is much less jarring than a typical musical, with singing and dancing breaking out at seemingly random, but reflectively perfect instances in what could otherwise be a totally mundane shot. This is quite possibly the happiest movie ever made, and Lord do I love it for that.
JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (John Patrick Shanley, 1990) Yes sir, I'm one of those. Joe Versus the Volcano is one of my favorite movies, period, for its refusal to accept that life could ever be anything other than an adventure. And has there ever been a more literal, practical romantic line than, "Nobody knows anything, Joe. We'll take this leap, and we'll see. We'll jump, and we'll see. That's life, right?" What else is life but going halfway around the world to find love?
TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932) For my money, the sexiest film ever made. The Lubitsch Touch was never so totally refined and perfected as it is here, which means it's nonstop sex, jokes, wit, charm, and totally superficial romance, and the unrepressed joy that goes along with all of it.
BEFORE SUNRISE/BEFORE SUNSET (Richard Linklater, 1995 and 2004) Yada yada yada, voice of a generation, yada yada, ethereal, yada, the trouble of romance in the modern world, yada, the fleeting nature of a night's worth of feelings, yada. Not much left to say about these films, other than I fervently believe they're equally romantic, but by different means, and that I've yet to meet anyone who didn't fall for their charms. Not that I doubt those people exist, and I'm sure with the Internet I could find them, but...romance is the most subjective of genres, and I feel no strong need to tear down the way these make me feel.