5 Must-Watch Movies About Mail Order Brides

Zandy’s Bride (1974) 

Mail order brides have been a part of US culture and history for centuries. So, it should come as no surprise that there are dozens if not more movies about the complicated yet often beautiful relationships between such brides and their spouses. If you too are fascinated by the concept, here are the 5 must-watch movies about mail order brides we’d recommend.

1. The Harvey Girls (1946)

We’ll kick things off with one of the oldest classics in the genre: 1946’s The Harvey Girls. Judy Garland and Roy Bolger starred in this musical classic long before the existence of mail order bride websites, when such affairs were arranged over newspaper ads and the actual mail.

Not only that, but The Harvey Girls even grabbed an Oscar for the Best Original Song with the catchy “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.”

As for the plot itself, it follows Garland’s character who is on her way to meet the man she’s been writing with over his “lonely hearts ad.” On the way, Susan meets the “Harvey Girls” – several waitresses from Harvey House restaurant. 

Things don’t go as expected with Susan’s mail order darling, however, as it turns out the man was writing all his letters in jest. A lot of drama and shenanigans ensue and tell a story for the ages.

2. Mail Order Wife (2004)

If you want a perfectly-balanced film that looks at the funny, dark, and beautiful side of mail order bride marriages, look no further than Doug Liman’s 2004 movie Mail Order Wife.

The film follows a NYC filmmaker Andrew who gets hired to follow and film the relationship between the doorman Adrian and his East Asian mail order bride Lichi.

As Andrew films his documentary, however, he realizes that Adrian isn’t “the greatest” husband and is outright horrible to his new wife. Unable to stomach watching Lichi go through everything Adrian puts her through, Andrew quits.

Yet, there is a twist we won’t spoil! Suffice it to say that Mail Order Wife is a special kind of movie, as it exposes the incredible risk mail order brides expose themselves to while also showing the beauty that can come out of an unexpected international relationship.  

3. Flower Drum Song (1961)

Next is a critically acclaimed musical comedy. Henry Koster’s charming 1961 hit Flower Drum Song was based on a 1957 novel and a 1958 Broadway musical, and it received five Academy Award nominations. 

The movie follows the story of Mei Li, a young mail order bride who has just arrived to San Francisco’s Chinatown from Honk Kong with the goal of becoming the mail order wife to a nightclub owner.

Of course, things don’t go as expected, and Mei Li’s husband-to-be happens to be in love with someone else. Not only that, but the two can’t really stand each other, and Mei Li soon discovers someone else she’s more interested in. 

More drama soon follows and we obviously won’t spoil the ending. All in all, Flower Drum Song is both a cautionary tale of the risks and troubles of mail order bride marriages, a funny and heartfelt comedy, as well as a beautiful story of how great an international relationship can be once the right people find each other.

Nowadays, such arranged long-distance relationships are done much more easily and reliably through legit mail order bride websites. Places such as BridesUniverse give both parties much more time and opportunities to get to know each other well before moving in together, which avoids any “dramedies” such as the scenario in Flower Drum Song. 

4. Zandy’s Bride (1974) 

Exactly half a century ago, Gene Hackman starred in Zandy’s Bride. The movie didn’t exactly win over the movie critics at the time, but it stood the test of time and is surprisingly relevant today, given how popular mail order bride websites continue to be.

As you’d guess, the movie follows the tumultuous relationship of Zandy and his bride. The former is a Californian rancher who’d remained a virgin until he was 38 and the latter is Hannah – a woman who had posted a newspaper ad about looking for a husband.

The two started encountering some trouble when it turned out Hannah wasn’t exactly who she had said she was, nor was as young as she had claimed to be. At the same time, Zandy was anything but an exemplary husband either and treated Hannah quite poorly throughout most of the film.

As it sometimes happens in life too, however, with time the two learned to appreciate each other, as well as to treat one another with care and even love. All in all, Zandy’s Bride isn’t just an excellent opportunity to watch a young Gene Hackman display his brilliance, it’s also an excellent tale about the ups and downs of mail order marriages and all the work that needs to be put in them.   

5. Westward the Women (1951) 

Dating, meeting, and marrying mail order brides can be tricky even today – planes are expensive, not all mail order bride websites are reliable, and fostering a healthy relationship with a stranger from the other end of the world takes time.

However, just imagine how much harder all that was centuries ago when there were neither planes nor the internet.

The 1951 masterpiece Westward the Women showcases how much trouble a cross-country trip used to be. The film follows a group of 140 women who all travel west to California together, each of them going to a future-husband she hasn’t met and only has a picture of. 

Helped by trail leader Buck Wyatt and Roy Whitman. The 140 women go through a long and grueling journey westward, encounter numerous difficulties, change, learn, and grow, until they eventually reach their destination and meet their future spouses for the very first time.

Westward the Women was not only one of the first mail order brides movies to come out, but it’s also one of the earliest and best truly feminist masterpieces to grace the big screen.


Of course, there are many other movies in this niche that are also worth a watch if you’ve got the time. Flicks such as Sweet Land (2005), Russian Doll (2001), Picture Bride (1995), Heartland (1979), and Brides (2004) also offer a fascinating look into the international relationships between foreign brides and domestic spouses.