So, it’s another Valentine’s Day. It’s amazing how these yearly holidays seem to pop up once a year, isn’t it? Now, many of you may be in relationships, and I know many of you also are not. It’s okay either way.
A popular activity on Valentine’s Day is watching a movie. Sometimes, one member of the party isn’t particularly enthused by the choice of movie, especially if it is a “romantic” film.
You can get your pure romance lists anywhere. Here are 10 (relatively recent) Valentine’s Day movies to watch that both members of a couple can enjoy – they contain both romance and something else.
Admittedly, Baby Driver probably leans heavier on the something else than the romantic aspect, although the romance at its core is good and drives a lot of the actions the characters take. And, yes, it’s characters; there are two main romances, not just the main one, which is dictated almost exclusively by the protagonist. In it, the protagonist, who is a getaway driver for a crime boss, falls for a waitress. It’s sweet, in the way that watching two young twentysomethings fall in love even though they barely know each other is sweet.
The other romance, the one that we don’t talk about as much even though it might be better is the one between two criminals, Buddy and Darling, whose relationship is legitimatized much more through their actions than the main one in the film.
Of course, the movie isn’t about the romance; even though it plays a big role. It’s about the stylish action, the car chases, and the way it’s all synchronized to the soundtrack. It’s got a ton to like.
Starting in 1995 with Before Sunrise, director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have gotten together to make a Before movie every nine years. Nine years pass in the movie world, two, as we follow these two characters we’ve gotten to know very well at this point and how their lives have changed over that time. They’re very sweet, very funny, and feel very real.
The first, Before Sunrise, is likely the best of the batch, largely because it’s a fresh premise. But I’m recommending the whole trilogy because of the way that the films do change things up enough, and their insight into people and relationships makes them very worthwhile. Plus, they’re just very entertaining.
The Big Sick
The Big Sick is a romantic comedy which sees one of its participants in a coma for about half of its running time. Most of the comedy doesn’t come from traditional rom-com situations; it instead comes from its protagonist simply being a funny person. It’s based on a real story and written and performed by the main participant, Kumail Nanjiani, and it’s both insanely sweet and hilarious. It’s one of the funniest movies of 2017, perhaps one of the best romantic comedies of all time, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have a good time with it.
I’m sure they exist; I just haven’t met them.
Most James Bond movies don’t give its protagonist a very good shot at romance. After all, Bond is a misogynist at heart and uses women for his pleasure before disposing of them or having the plot remove them for him. Casino Royale looked to somewhat reinvent its protagonist, and gave him a romantic partner who could go toe-to-toe with him – especially in a battle of wits.
He falls deeply in love with her and that plays a major role in its second half and in the next film; that’s how much she impacts his life.
Of course, you also get a tense thriller with great action and what might be the best Bond ever (up there with Connery, as far as I’m concerned).
Getaway drivers are playing a larger-than-expected role on this list so far. Drive is about another one of them, who I don’t even think gets a name in this film. He works as a stunt driver in Hollywood and a mechanic during the day and at night operates as a getaway driver with very specific rules. So you get a few car chases and some surprisingly brutal action scenes in that aspect of the plot.
You also get a budding romance between the driver and his new neighbor. Their relationship is … different from most movie romances, especially because of how outwardly emotionally stunted the protagonist seems to be. But it works, and it’s worth watching.
Her sees a man fall in love with an operating system. Somehow, this allows it to have more insight into normal human-to-human relationships than most movies do. Weird how that works, isn’t it? That a (current) sci-fi premise can bring light into something that happens in the present? It’s almost like that’s one of the main reasons the genre became success.
Her is also very funny, gorgeously shot, wonderfully acted, and has such a precise vision of the future that even the background details make it worth checking out.
Like Crazy has a very honest love story. It takes most of the glamour right out of it; we believe these are real people existing in our world. They have flaws and strengths. It was filmed without much of a script, meaning the actors had to become these characters and act how they think they’d act, not how a screenplay dictated. It’s emotionally involving, it’s very funny, and the acting is great. It almost, at times, feel like a documentary just following these people around.
Moonlight has a romance that pays off in its final third, but it’s more about the identity and struggles of its protagonist, a young gay black man who grows up in an impoverished neighborhood.
It’s heartbreaking and insightful. It follows this man through three stages of his life – child, teenager, twentysomething adult – as he deals with abuse, poverty, and coming to terms with who he is. And also he falls in love.
It’s made by its acting, by its story, and by its direction. Barry Jenkins did a fantastic job adapting an unpublished play into this movie.
Moving from the slightly depression Moonlight to some more fun things, Mr. Right is about a girl who falls in love with a hitman who kills the people who hire him as some sort of moral crusade to teach other people that “murder is wrong.” And if that’s the kind of zany comedy you want in your life, Mr. Right is the movie for you. Its romance is offbeat, its action scenes are weird but effective, the comedy is great, and the whole thing is a blast.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
We opened with an Edgar Wright film, so let’s close with an Edgar Wright film. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World follows a twentysomething who meets a girl and has to fight – like, literally fight – her seven exes in order to have the opportunity to be with her. So you have a protagonist so in love that he’s willing to put his life on the line in order to be with the girl – and then you get stylish action scenes directed by Edgar Wright, which aim to mimic the aesthetics of fighting video games.
You also get a solid amount of comedy, some deeper themes, and a couple of good songs. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the total package.