The 51 best love songs of all time, ranked

Adele is number six on our list, with her single ‘Make You Feel My Love.’ Gareth Cattermole/ Getty Images
  • From Beyoncé and Adele to Etta James and Otis Redding, we ranked the best romantic songs ever made.
  • The list starts off with “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey.
  • “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston is our pick for top love song of all time.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

From modern music magicians like Frank Ocean to classic groups including the Bee Gees and Earth, Wind, and Fire, there are many songs every music aficionado should listen to in their lifetime. But let’s focus on the romantic side of musical storytelling. We’re here to rank the best love songs ever penned in history.

Keep reading for a look at the greatest love songs of all time.

51. “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey (2005)

Mariah Carey is a pop ballad queen, and this is among her best work. YouTube/MariahCareyVEVO

Since we’re including love songs about devotion and pining (but trying to avoid wholesale break-up ballads), “We Belong Together” is the perfect place to start. Mariah Carey’s hit single from “The Emancipation of Mimi” remains is a classic modern love song with a fantastic pop diva music video to match.

Listen to “We Belong Together” here.

50. “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional (2002)

‘My hopes are so high/That your kiss might kill me/So won’t you kill me/So I die happy.’ Scott Gries/Getty Images

This essential emo/alt-rock love song was Dashboard Confessional’s first Billboard Top 10 hit, and rightfully so. “Hands Down” captures the youthful crush stage of love and lust with lyrics perfectly suited for an AIM away message.

Listen to “Hands Down” here.

49. “Hold You in My Arms” by Ray LaMontagne (2004)

Ray LaMontagne performing in New York City in 2005. Scott Gries/Getty Images

This ballad is a simple, sweet ode to lazy afternoons spent in the company of a loved one. “Hold You in My Arms” was one of Ray LaMontagne’s first breakout singles, and remains a staple heard at wedding venues around the country.

Listen to “Hold You in My Arms” here.

48. “Love On Top” by Beyoncé (2011)

Beyoncé performing ‘Love On Top’ at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. AP

Beyoncé is one of the greatest artists of our generation, with unrivalled vocal talent and a constantly evolving sound and style. “Love On Top” is Beyoncé at her most joyous, belting out lyrics in a way that lets you hear her smile through the words.

Go watch “Homecoming” on Netflix, and I dare you not to grin like maniac when “Love On Top” enters the set.

Listen to “Love On Top” here.

47. “Crazy for You” by Madonna (1985)

Madonna is the queen of pop, and this is her best love song. Vevo/Madonna

You probably don’t think much about “Vision Quest,” the movie for which this song was made, but “Crazy for You” is one of Madonna’s best love songs. It also earned Madonna her first of many Grammy Award nominations.

Listen to “Crazy For You” here.

46. “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees (1977)

From left to right, brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. Sydney O’Meara/Getty Images

When you think Bee Gees, you probably think dance and disco. But along with “Emotions” (a fantastic break-up song), “How Deep is Your Love” is evidence of the Bee Gees’ ability to cut to the heart of a soulful connection between two people.

Listen to “How Deep is Your Love” here.

45. “Love Story” by Taylor Swift (2008)

Taylor Swift performing in 2007. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Taylor Swift cemented her role in pop culture with her heartfelt guitar ballads, and “Love Story” bridges the gap between her country roots and modern pop music. The song epitomizes the blissfully ignorant days of idyllic young love.

Listen to “Love Story” here.

44. “When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss (1995)

This song was originally performed by Keith Whitley, but Alison Krauss made it her own. Vevo/Alison Krauss

This simple love ballad was sung gorgeously by country star Allison Krauss. “When You Say Nothing at All” captures the comfort and unspoken love language shared between partners with a timeless message of devotion.

Listen to “When You Say Nothing At All” here.

43. “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes (2005)

Conor Oberst performing in 2004. Scott Gries/Getty Images

Simple, slightly sad, emotionally resonant. “First Day of My Life” is an emo/indie staple for a reason – Connor Oberst’s voice beautifully communicates the ache associated with finally meeting someone who makes you feel as if your world has just changed.

Listen to “First Day of My Life” here.

42. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler (1983)

Bonnie Tyler in the unforgettable music video for ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart.’ Bonnie Tyler/Vevo

It would be a list of love songs without a serious dose of ’80s melodrama, and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is everything we could want in a glam rock ballad that fits into our “pining but still a love song” category.

Listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” here.

41. “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson (1967)

We’d groove to this song every day if we could. Amazon/X5 Music Group

We dare you not to start tapping your foot and grinning upon hearing Jackie Wilson’s number one R&B hit song “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” which has rightfully earned a place on any list of the happiest and catchiest love tunes.

Listen to “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” here.

40. “Best of My Love” by The Emotions (1977)

This disco era love song is perfection. SBME/Amazon

Keeping in our uptempo, groovy streak, “Best of My Love” is a classic found on movie and TV soundtracks across the decades for good reason. You’ll be humming “Oh-o-oho, you’ve got the best of my love” all day after revisiting this track.

Listen to “Best of My Love” here.

39. “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding (1967)

Otis Redding in 1967. AP

Sliding into the category of “love advice,” this Otis Redding track needs no introduction. It was already considered a classic, and was solidified in pop culture history when Donkey belted it out in “Shrek” and then sampled for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Otis.”

Listen to “Try A Little Tenderness” here.

38. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen (1980)

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, in 1982. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Queen’s discography is chock-full of classic hits, but none fits best on the “love song” category than this tune. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is an uptempo, genre-bending single that stands the test of time.

Listen to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” here.

37. “If You’re Not the One” by Daniel Bedingfield (2002)

Daniel Bedingfield performing in 2003. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

We know this veers more into heartache territory, but Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not the One” is the dance/electro-pop ballad we never knew we needed until it was 2002 and you couldn’t turn on a radio station without hearing it.

Listen to “If You’re Not the One” here.

36. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley (1961)

Elvis Presley sings during a 1973 concert. Hulton Archive/Getty

Elvis Presley’s original will always remain the most beloved among many cover versions, from UB40 to Ingrid Michaelson and more.

Listen to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” here.

35. “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner (1984)

Foreigner captured peak ’80s rock love ballad. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Live Nation

“I want you to show me!” is about as direct a plea for affection as one can find. Foreigner’s biggest hit is also one of the greatest love songs of all time thanks to its eager rock ballad groove.

Listen to “I Want to Know What Love Is” here.

36. “The Best” by Tina Turner (1989)

Tina Turner is the goddess of ballads. AP Photo / Michael Euler

You might now associate Tina Turner’s “The Best” with Pepsi or Applebee’s thanks to its commercial appeal, but this song is the ultimate statement of devotion and deserves to be remembered as such.

Listen to “The Best” here.

33. “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo (1997)

K-Ci and JoJo attend the BET Walk of Fame award show in 2002. Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images

K-Ci & JoJo probably didn’t realise they were recording a song that would soon become a school dance staple, providing the soundtrack to awkwardly adorable PG slow dances everywhere. “All My Life” is the ultimate mix-CD track, movie score pick, and karaoke jam, and it’s more than earned its spot on this list.

Listen to “All My Life” here.

32. “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin (1986)

Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun.’ Paramount Pictures

Both “Top Gun” and the world of pop love songs wouldn’t be the same without “Take My Breath Away.” We loved Jessica Simpson’s faithful cover version, but nothing can touch the original ballad.

Listen to “Take My Breath Away” here.

31. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles

The Beatles’ legacy of songwriting will live on for centuries to come. AP

The simple pleasures of finding love are perfectly expressed in this Beatles song. To be able to just reach out and hold the hand of a person you love is really all one needs, right?

Listen to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” here.

30. “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince (19847)

Prince performing at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida. Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images

Prince’s greatest hits are peppered with a joyous and infectious sense of love, but perhaps none more than the devoted single “I Would Die 4 U.” The extra inflection Prince added for the line “darlin’ if you want me to” is pure starlight energy.

Listen to “I Would Die 4 U” here.

29. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths (1986)

Morrissey, the frontman of The Smiths, is a rock music god. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Like others on our list, The Smiths are music legends. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a beloved bittersweet song that stands the test of time thanks to the before-its-time emo message delivered with an English rock vibe.

Listen to “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” here.

28. “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

‘If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, time after time.’ Portrait

Yet another ’80s classic to grace our list, “Time After Time” is the sweetly nostalgia-driven pop song that’s a karaoke classic (even for “The Office’s” Kelly Kapoor).

Listen to “Time After Time” here.

27. “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder (1967)

The song was originally written and released in the earlier ’60s as a slow ballad, but Stevie Wonder’s version is a great and timeless improvement. Reuters

Let’s face it – a dozen Stevie Wonder songs could be on this list. But the joyous tempo and simple romantic message of “For Once in My Life” helps put it over the edge of other Stevie classics.

Listen to “For Once In My Life” here.

26. “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men (1994)

Boyz II Men attend the 20th Anniversary celebration of BET in 2000. Chris Weeks/Getty Images

This follow-up hit to “End of the Road” is the perfect ode to doting upon a loved one. Blending the romantic and physical aspects of love, this sexy “Boyz II Men” ’90s jam belongs on every love playlist.

Listen to “I’ll Make Love To You” here.

25. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor (1990)

‘I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant, but nothing — I said nothing — can take away these blues.’ YouTube screencap

No, Sinead (and Prince), nothing compares to this song. Both versions are commendable and stunning in their own right, but Sinead O’Connor’s holds a special place in the legacy of heartache-fuelled artistry.

Listen to “Nothing Compares 2 U” here.

24. “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal (1994)

Need we say more? AP Photo

No one can belt out a great “baby!” like Seal. People of all ages can likely sing along to most of this romantic ballad thanks to its use in movies and TV across the decades.

Listen to “Kiss From A Rose” here.

23. “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure (1987)

‘Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick.’ Flickr / Taylor Ramos

No other song can sweep you up faster into daydreams about frenzied and absorbing love the way “Just Like Heaven” does. The Cure is ’80s alt-rock at its finest, and this song is one of their best.

Listen to “Just Like Heaven” here.

22. “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis (1996)

This track was from Lewis’ debut album. Vevo/Donna Lewis

When the beat kicks into “I Love You Always Forever,” you realise what a true bop this ’90s pop single truly is. Lewis seems to channel Cindy Lauper’s magic, just a decade later and with slightly more pizzazz.

Listen to “I Love You Always Forever” here.

21. “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams (1991)

‘Look into my eyes/You will see/What you mean to me.’ AP photo/Adrian Dennis

The art of parenthetical song titles has truly been lost. Candian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams crafted the love song to end all love songs with “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” and we’ll never forget him for it.

Listen to “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” here.

20. “My Love” by Justin Timberlake (2006)

This is one of Timberlake’s greatest songs. Vevo/Justin Timberlake

Pop icon Justin Timberlake broke the mould with “FutureSex/Lovesounds,” and “My Love” epitomized his blend of dance/R&B/pop/hip-hop with Timbaland’s unrivalled production talents and a smooth, memorable, catchy chorus.

Listen to “My Love” here.

19. “Come What May” by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (2001)

Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sold the heck out of this song. Twentieth Century Fox

Feel what you must about Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” – this narratively significant love song is one of the best ballads featured in a movie. Ever. And if you had dared to forget this fact, Canadian figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reminded the world of its magic at this past year’s Olympics.

Listen to “Come What May” here.

18. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Roberta Flack (1972)

Roberta Flack in 1972. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Roberta Flack’s hauntingly beautiful version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was slower and more sensual. This love song rightfully won Flack a Grammy in 1973, and a place in our top 20 list.

Listen to “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” here.

17. “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service (2003)

‘I am thinking it’s a sign/That the freckles in our eyes/Are mirror images/And when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.’ The Postal Service

This synth-based electro-pop single captures a special period of time in pop culture, and remains blissfully timeless despite the changing landscape of modern music over the last 15 years.

Listen to “Such Great Heights” here.

16. “Alive With the Glory of Love” by Say Anything (2004)

Say Anything lead singer Max Bemis performing in 2008. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

“Alive With the Glory of Love” is lusty and lovely and unexpectedly uplifting despite being about lead singer Max Bemis’ grandparents – both of whom were Holocaust survivors. “Alive With the Glory of Love” is the greatest pop-punk love song of all time.

Listen to “Alive With The Glory Of Love” here.

15. “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé and Jay-Z

‘Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh, no, no.’ YouTube/BeyonceVEVO

“Crazy in Love” remains one of the best pop songs of all time, iconic in both its beat and the unforgettable music video that went along with it. As Beyoncé continues dominating the world as the goddess of the arts, it’s hard to pick just one of her best hits but this has to be the contender for greatest love song.

Listen to “Crazy In Love” here.

14. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (1967)

Everyone knows and loves this song. AP Photo/Nancy Kaye

Beloved by all generations, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is easily the most recognisable and timeless love song to ever grace the music world.

Listen to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” here.

13. “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers (1965)

The Righteous Brothers, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. AP Photo/Ed Betz

Falling back into the “pining” category, The Righteous Brothers’ version of “Unchained Melody” became the most definitive and recognisable takes on this beautifully written ode to loving someone from afar.

Listen to “Unchained Melody” here.

12. “Your Song” by Elton John (1970)

‘I hope you don’t mind/That I put down in words/How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.’ Getty

Sir Elton John’s sweet tune was inducted to the Grammys Hall of Fame, and easily earns its place in our list of the best love songs. The pure poetry of the piano ballad will bring out the romantic in anyone.

Listen to “Your Song” here.

11. “We Found Love” by Rihanna and Calvin Harris (2010)

‘It’s the way I’m feeling I just can’t deny.’ Vevo/Rihanna

Most dance pop songs churned out by producers these days won’t stand the test of time, but there’s a magic in “We Found Love” that keeps people returning even a decade later. The gleeful build up and Rihanna’s vocals will put a lush and loving glow on any dance floor.

Listen to “We Found Love” here.

10. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel feat. Youssou N’Dour (1986)

We love everything about this piece of music. Peter Gabriel

Cracking our top 10 is Peter Gabriel’s ’80s rock song that was cemented in movie culture with the 1989 movie “Say Anything” (the same film that gave our earlier pick’s band name). “In Your Eyes” manages to transcend its cheesiness and strike a romantic chord in our hearts every time.

Listen to “In Your Eyes” here.

9. “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky (2003)

Michael James of Explosions in the Sky on stage in 2016. /Getty Images

Rock band Explosions in the Sky may not have any lyrics to accompany its early-2000s single “Your Hand in Mine,” but the emotional weight carried by the title and into the building crescendos gives us chills every time.

Listen to “Your Hand in Mine” here.

8. “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion (1993)

‘Cause I’m your laaaaady, and you are my man.’ Getty Images / Ethan Miller

“The Power of Love” is among the most heterosexual of all our love songs, and we love Celine for the sheer force she brings to this declaration of woman-on-man bonding (which was originally a 1984 Jennifer Rush song).

Listen to “The Power of Love” here.

7. “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys (1966)

The Beach Boys together in 1968. Central Press/Getty Images

“God Only Knows” finds itself at the top of most “best songs of all time” lists for good reason. Visionary Brian Wilson crafted some of his best work on the 1966 album “Pet Sounds,” and this heart-melting track is one of the record’s highlights.

Listen to “God Only Knows” here.

6. “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele (2008)

Adele performing in Washington, DC, in 2009. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Though picking one version of “Make You Feel My Love” is nearly impossible, Adele’s rendition on “19” is devastatingly beautiful (and once again falls into our “pining” category). Adele is serving up an emotional education to us all, and we’re here for the lesson.

Listen to “Make You Feel My Love” here.

5. “Thinkin’ Bout You” by Frank Ocean (2012)

‘Or do you not think so far ahead? ‘Cause I been thinkin bout forever.’ Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Frank Ocean is one of the most enigmatic creators working in music today. And while “Forrest Gump” and other singles delivery equally gorgeous tones of heartache and love, “Thinkin Bout You” sits on your brain with an uncanny warmth – even by Frank Ocean standards.

Listen to “Thinkin Bout You” here.

4. “At Last” by Etta James (1960)

Etta James performs at the Vine St. Bar & Grill in Hollywood, 1987. AP Photo/Alison Wise

Few other songs can captivate a room with just the first several notes, but “At Last” does just that. This Etta James beauty has remained an unmovable classic love song for the ages, and we hope the spell lasts forever.

Listen to “At Last” here.

3. “You Make Loving Fun” by Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ is a rare perfect album. Mike Segar/Reuters

Bringing us back to the uptempo rock genre of love songs, “You Make Loving Fun” is an easy, chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of classic. Sweet wonderful you, indeed.

Listen to “You Make Loving Fun” here.

2. “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

‘Do you remember the 21st night of September?’ Earth Wind and Fire

Funk group Earth, Wind, and Fire crafted one of the best songs of the century in “September,” and the bonus for us is that it’s a delightful love song to boot. Half the song is simple, joyful belting of “Ba de ya,” and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Listen to “September” here.

1. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992)

Whitney Houston lives on through her music. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Yet another ballad made iconic by a film, “I Will Always Love You” has transcended its meaning in “The Bodyguard” and become the root of Whitney Houston’s legacy. Her unrivalled vocal ability and intense emotional performance makes Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (which was originally a Dolly Parton hit) the greatest love song of all time.

Listen to “I Will Always Love You” here.