However you feel about Valentine’s Day, it’s the perfect time to indulge in some cinematic romance. We have picked 10 of the very best films to watch this Valentine’s Day. This list includes romcoms, romantic dramas, romantic horrors and a few films that will push our ideas of what romance is.
La La Land
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is all about love. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone light up the screen in this modern musical classic as two lovers who must face the price of success. Gosling’s aspiring jazz musician meets Stone’s aspiring actress, and they fall in and out of love a stone’s throw away from Hollywood. Like Babylon, La La Land combines Chazelle’s love of Hollywood and jazz, but the director also shows love stories don’t always need happy endings to be worth our while. As so often in Chazelle’s films, dreams do come true, but at what cost?
Crazy Rich Asians
2018’s Crazy Rich Asians was not only a huge step forward in terms of representation but a cracking good film. Constance Wu’s Rachel is in for the surprise of her life after being whisked away by her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) for a family wedding. Turns out, he’s the most eligible (or richest) bachelor in Singapore, but his mother (Michelle Yeoh, nominated for an Oscar this year) doesn’t approve of Rachel. The love story at the heart of it may be old-fashioned. Still, it was made anew with a great cast and clever exploration of class differences and the complexities of family relationships.
The Before Trilogy
It was simply too difficult to pick just one film from Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. All three films follow Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s romance through several years. The films manage to portray what it really means to have that deep connection with someone, but they also explore how love changes and changes us as the years go by.
The ending to Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring might be controversial, but it’s also hopelessly romantic. Lou Taylor Pucci’s Evan encounters a mysterious woman, Louise, on his travels and discovers she is an ancient beast who mutates every 20 years unless something, or someone, was to keep that from happening. Spring explores love and meaning through body horror in the most delicious way.
A Star Is Born
There are several adaptations of this classic story, but, dare we say, Bradley Cooper’s 2018 version is the supreme one. Cooper plays an ageing rocker Jackson Maine who falls in love with struggling singer Ally, who becomes the titular star, but their love is tested by Ally’s success and Jackson’s addiction. Lady Gaga proves she’s a talented actress with her heartbreaking performance as Ally.
The Shape of Water
Another quirky romance. Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2018, beating out much more conventional films. The love story here is between a mute woman and a strange amphibian man, who form a close bond and, ultimately, a love affair. It’s another film that uses fantasy and, at times, horror to explore a deep connection that defies the norms of our society.
Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Technically, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande isn’t a romance. Leo Grande and Emma Thompson’s Nancy don’t fall in love, but Nancy certainly finds love for herself after years of shame. Widowed Nancy hires the titular Leo Grande, a sex worker, to finally have a great sexual experience, but is held back by her internalised hate towards her own body. Sex doesn’t have to be a big part of Valentine’s, but Leo Grande’s empowering message of self-love is perfect for this day.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive might be ultraviolent, but it’s also ultraromantic. Look past the crushing of skulls and heads blown off by shotguns, and the film really boils down to the unspoken love between Gosling’s near-wordless Driver and Carey Mulligan’s Irene. Much of it is communicated just through longing gazes, but it’s never unclear how they feel about each other.
The Big Sick
We had to get a true story on this list, and it doesn’t get much better than The Big Sick. Based on the very real love story between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the film chronicles the rocky start their relationship had. After a hot and heavy start, the couple break up due to pressure from Kumail’s parents to marry a nice Pakistani girl. Emily, suffering from Still’s disease, falls ill and is put into a medically induced coma, leaving Kumail to deal with her parents and his own conflicted feelings. Nanjiani and Gordon’s love story gives us all hope that if they can make it, so can we.
Is any Valentine’s Day film list any good if it doesn’t include James Cameron’s classic Titanic? Celebrating its 25th anniversary back in cinemas this year, Titanic remains one of the biggest blockbuster classics. The love story between Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater is one for the ages and certainly the reason the film remains unsinkable all these years later.