The Best Romance Films to Watch This Valentine's Day
Even if you're single this Valentine's Day, there's still no reason why you can't indulge in some wonderful romance movies! Aside from action, science fiction, and fantasy, romance movies are probably my favorite -- bonus points if the movie is an action-science-fantasy with romance. Like The Fifth Element.
This list of movies, however, is going to focus on films that are mostly or solely romance. So movies with fantasy elements -- for example, The Mummy -- are going to take a backseat.
Naturally, 1997's Titanic is at the top of my list.
Titanic is an epic romance slash disaster film written, directed, and produced by James Cameron. Amazing to think that he could create something so beautiful while also being responsible for catastrophes like Avatar.
Titanic is a Romeo and Juliet-esque type story about a man and a woman from two different social statuses (rich and poor) falling in love. The romance ends in tragedy, but the fact that it stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet should be enough to get your ass in front of a screen.
Do I really need to say more? Everyone and their mother knows about this twenty-year-old film. You either love it or hate it. For people who love it, it's the perfect film to watch for Valentine's Day.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Yes, another Kate Winslet film. I find it hilarious that Jim Carrey called Kate Winslet fat back in Bruce Almighty and then wound up doing a film with her later. Kate isn't fat, though. She's gorgeous. I'm sure she didn't give a shit.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a romantic comedy written by Charlie Kaufman -- and, technically, it's science fiction. The science element comes from the fact that estranged couple Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) have gone through a breakup, and to make it eternal, they have both decided on a procedure that will erase their memories of each other.
The technology sounds iffy, but they do it.
Joel and Clementine are practically stereotypes in the way that Joel is the typical Depressed Man Trope while Clementine is almost a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but their touching romance makes up for it.
They aren't perfect people. They have flaws. They make mistakes. They indirectly hurt each other -- but they don't abuse each other. And they don't abuse each other because they actually love each other. And it isn't until they have erased each other from their minds that they realize they can't be apart.
It's a truly beautiful film, and as a Jim Carrey fan, I feel it's one of the best films he ever did. I really need to watch it again this week and write an article about it. Even thinking about it now makes me happy.
As someone who used to have blue hair and who struggled with self-love for years, I identify deeply with Clementine.
Romancing the Bride (2005)
Romancing the Bride is a very obscure TV movie about a woman named Melissa (Laura Prepon) who wakes up a day before her wedding only to discover she has married a complete stranger (Matt Cedeño).
It also stars Carrie Fisher as Melissa's racist mother, Edwina.
It's a pretty hilarious and heartwarming film. Prepon, of That 70's Show fame, is as funny as ever, and Cedeño has great comedic chemistry with her.
I must've seen the film a billion times, but given how obscure it is, not many people know what I'm talking about when I talk about it. Just trust me: it's worth looking at for anyone who loves romance.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Bet you weren't expecting to see this on the list, huh?
Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 romantic drama starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead characters, Jack and Enis. It has widely become known as "the gay cowboy film" while there have been many sexist jokes about how it would have been better with lesbians -- because I guess there's not enough demeaning lez p*rn on the internet?
People who make these foul jokes are missing the point. The story is about homophobia and how it destroys people's lives. Enis and Jack both marry women and start families to hide what they are because living openly as gay men would mean their deaths. This isn't just detrimental to Enis and Jack's mental health -- it also screws up the lives of the women they married and the children they have.
Enis winds up hurting his wife, Alma (Michelle Williams), pretty badly when she finds out the truth. She divorces him after wasting years of her life with a man who could never desire her sexually, and his daughters lose their father.
Enis even abuses Alma by insisting on "backdoor" intimacy so that he can think of Jack while sleeping with her. It's pretty terrible what Alma goes through as a result of homophobia -- and Enis' inability to cope with it.
Meanwhile, Jack is tired of starving and knocks up a wealthy girl in order to survive. His death -- heavily implied to have been a hate crime after his years of openly sleeping around with men -- shatters his wife, Lureen (Anne Hathaway), when she comes to realize that her marriage had been a lie the entire time and that she had been used.
All of this sounds really tragic and messed up, and it probably makes you wonder why in hell you'd want to look at it on Valentine's Day. You should look at it because the love between Jack and Enis is beautiful, even if it does end in tragedy.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Romeo + Juliet is a 1996 film directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCarpio and Claire Danes as Romeo and Juliet.
You are probably wondering why I keep suggesting that you watch so many tragic films. Romeo and Juliet is the love story to top all love stories, given that its ultimate message is that love triumphs over hate.
Romeo and Juliet didn't die because they were dumb teenagers. They died because they were sacrificed by God (referred to in the film as Fate) in order to restore peace to Verona's streets. Their love was the only way to end the hate, and circumstances were purposely manipulated by the hand of God in order to bring about their deaths and end the fighting between their families.
The opening lines of the original play pretty much state it point-blank.
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffick of our stage;
Luhrmann's version of the play -- while an inaccurate translation in some places -- is pretty beautiful (with its riot of color) and also fun to watch. All the actors and actresses are superb, and the shy love between Romeo and Juliet is very sweet. One of the best parts of the film is when they first meet at the party: they are both looking into the fish tank on opposite sides and glance up and happen to notice each other.
I owned this film on DVD for quite a while and scratched it up looking at it. The tragedy at the end somehow serves to make the story better. I can't explain it. I just know I'll be watching this film come Valentine's Day.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
A Walk to Remember is a 2002 film based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. It stars Shane West and Mandy Moore as the lead characters, Landon and Jamie.
I don't know why exactly, but from the 90's to the 2000's, a lot of romance films were coming out! Every time I think of a favorite romance film of mine, it came out in the 90's or the 2000's.
Anyway, A Walk to Remember is a pretty touching story about two teenagers who fall in love. To be honest, it's a bit cliche with its "bad boy falls for good girl" theme, on top of the fact that it's yet another story where a man growing up and becoming a good person depends entirely on the motherly patience of a woman -- this time the motherly lover being Mandy Moore's character, Jamie.
Women do not exist to be therapy for men.
Those flaws aside, it's actually a wonderful film about love that -- sadly -- ends in tragedy. I'm starting to see a pattern here . .. Can't romances just have a happy ending? Damn.
But perhaps it's the tragedy that makes the romance so beautiful. These two people only have so much time, and so they don't waste a single second of it. They fall in love, and they fall in love hard.
It is beautiful to watch.
West Side Story (1961)
Staring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in the lead roles as Tony and Maria, West Side Story was the modern Romeo and Juliet of its time.
I was hesitant to add it to this list because of all the problematic racist undertones in the film. I mean, should I be supporting a film that misrepresents Puerto Ricans in this offensive way? But I support people looking at Gone with the Wind in the privacy of their homes -- rather than showing it to a huge audience of people who can't think critically about racism and will perpetuate it after seeing the film. So why can't I encourage people to watch West Side Story in the privacy of their homes?
I love musicals, and some of the songs in this are the best. I also love ballet, so the fact that the actors and actresses are ballet dancers is pretty great -- especially in the opening when the two gangs are fighting. I wish I had ever seen this live on stage.
The only thing I don't like about West Side Story (aside from the racism) is the fact that Maria doesn't die in the end. Instead, she watches Tony die, threatens to kill the one who shot him, and then walks away in a depressed stupor. It would have been more true to the original story had she shot herself.
That always bothered me.
Aside from that, watch this film in the comfort of your home this Valentine's Day. The songs are upbeat and uplifting. Your feet won't stay still.
Ever After (1998)
1998's Ever After is probably my favorite version of Cinderella ever to exist. I'm ashamed of all the times I've seen this film. It stars Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott as Danielle de Barbarac ("Cinderella") and her "Prince Charming," Prince Henry.
It's basically a realistic take on the fairy tale and is supposed to be the "real" version of events that inspired the fantasy version. It is funny, tragic, heartbreaking, and heartwarming -- and the best part? It has a happy ending!
Deliver Us From Eva (2003)
Deliver Us From Eva is a romantic comedy starring LL Cool J and Gabrielle Union in the lead roles. It is a modern spin on the Shakespearean play Taming the Shrew, in which an abrasive woman is softened by the influence of a man.
It's basically the flip reverse of the standard story where a woman helps a man become a better person -- except it's not offensive because it's not prevalent in fiction, implying that men exist for emotional labor.
Eva (Gabrielle Union) is very controlling and bossy, watching over her sisters a little too much, like some kind of rabid mother bear. Her sisters' husbands soon grow weary of their sister-in-law trying to control their lives. They illicit the help of Ray Adams (LL Cool J), who moves in to seduce Eva in exchange for cash but ultimately winds up falling in love with her.
I haven't seen this film in years (about to change that soon), but from what I recall, it's pretty great.
And that's it for now -- unless I think of another romance film that I find worth watching this Valentine's Day.
Nope, I didn't include the likes of Pretty Woman or You've Got Mail, mostly because I can't stand those films.
Just being honest.
Now, time for me to pop popcorn, scarf down chocolate, and watch some mushy, silly, fun romance.
Happy Valentine's Day.
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