Best Valentine’s Day movies
Meet your new boyfriend: German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder. One of the late director’s least cynical films, this devastating romance, about an elderly white woman who marries a young Arab man, is loosely based on Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (which also inspired Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven).
Gentle, sexy and—most refreshing of all—intelligently adult, Richard Linklater’s inspired follow-up to 1995’s Before Sunrise reteams Celine (Julie Delpy) with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) for a single pink-bathed Parisian dusk nine years after their previous encounter.
Heath Ledger utterly reinvented himself with this tremendously affecting portrait of a closeted gay cowboy who forges a dangerous bond with Jake Gyllenhaal’s wild rancher. The movie felt like an instant classic upon release—it’s still incredibly moving for all audiences, straight or gay.
Kevin Costner at the peak of his likability plays an aging ball player, clutching to memories of a 21-day stint in “the Show” while struggling to stay relevant as a leader in the single-A leagues. Annie (Susan Sarandon) is the superfan, luring fresh players to her bed while depositing wisdom.
Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven) is so consistently excellent, it’s almost freakish that he continues to one-up himself. Working for the first time with material developed by another screenwriter—Phyllis Nagy—he’s transformed an underappreciated 1952 novel about secret longing into a universal romance.
It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. In the meantime, this is a pretty good movie—one that will make you fall in love with the person you’re sitting next to and the whole of cinema.
A doctor’s awkward teenage daughter (Jennifer Grey) gets slinky with the dance teacher (Patrick Swayze) at a Catskills resort in the summer of 1963. Nobody puts Baby in the corner, and nobody gets between this romantic perennial and its obsessive fans, crazy for Swayze.
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s endlessly inventive romance follows Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet down a metaphysical rabbit hole of love and loss. On the surface, it’s a quirky story about getting one’s painful memories erased, but there’s a deep iceberg of longing under the surface.
Rarely can a Hollywood comedy be described as philosophically profound, but this tale of a smug, selfish weatherman (Bill Murray) forced to replay the same day until he gets it right owes as much to Nietzsche as to Second City. Ultimately, love is his salvation, via an incandescent Andie MacDowell.
He’s a bitter young man obsessed with offing himself. She’s a sweet old lady who gives him a picture of a sunflower. The songs of Cat Stevens waft through the air. Of course, they’re going to fall in love. If you haven’t revisited this cult flick from the ’70s in a while, now’s your chance.
Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than watching Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trade witticisms in the sexiest of screwball comedies? Unless your name is Ralph Bellamy, the answer is no. Howard Hawks’s use of lightning-fast banter was pioneering; the modern romantic comedy begins here.
Two married neighbors (Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung) living in a teeming apartment building in ’60s Hong Kong draw closer after discovering their spouses are having an affair. Director Wong Kar-wai develops their bruised affinity into a swoon that’s hard to shake, scored to the silken croon of Nat King Cole.
A completely original musical vibrating with the spirit of France’s Jacques Demy (yet alive with the dreams of today’s Angelenos), Damien Chazelle's swirling romantic masterpiece gave us career-best performances from Emma Stone (heartbreaking in every shot) and the underrated Ryan Gosling.
It’s either unbearable schmaltz or a heart-warmer, depending on who you ask. We say the latter. Love is certainly all around in this ensemble drama set during the holiday season. Comic standouts include Bill Nighy as an aging rock legend who’s reduced to competing in the race to land Britain’s coveted Christmas No. 1.
Wes Anderson, the dapper auteur behind such idiosyncratic movies as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel, wrote and directed this continuously surprising and delightful adolescent romance, set in 1965. Young campers in love on the trail: hard to resist.
Cher won the Oscar, but Nicolas Cage’s manic, stingingly romantic performance as her bitter one-handed suitor (“I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride! You want me to take my heartache, put it away and forget?”) is what sticks in memory.
Sure, Nicholas Sparks is responsible for a lot of Hollywood schlock. But there’s something so earnest about the way this star-crossed teen romance hits its marks, the film itself takes on the purity of first love. Magical casting, too: Here’s where the world’s love affair with Ryan Gosling started.
Julia Roberts is the hooker with a heart of gold; Richard Gere is the wealthy businessman who will slug you for insulting her. See it and despair at the fact that they don’t make rom-coms like they used to—certainly not as custom-fitted for stars as luminous as Roberts was in her prime.
We’re still floored by director Joe Wright’s dazzling, intelligent adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, starring Keira Knightley in an unlikely triumph. Why don’t you make a film like that at age 33? And take out the trash once in a while. No, I’m not “nagging.”
Woody Allen’s most optimistic film is the fantasy of a Depression-era housewife (Mia Farrow) whose world comes alive when the pith-helmeted hero of her favorite movie (Jeff Daniels) steps down from the screen and sweeps her off her feet. The result is both a giddy celebration of impossible love and a quietly crafty investigation into the effect cinema can have on its audience.
It’s the Bard in overdrive, with some folks named DiCaprio and Danes in the title roles and those frantic Baz Luhrmann shenanigans that would soon after distinguish Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby. We love this one for its crazy adolescent energy.
John Cusack has never been more Cusackian than in this intelligent and beguiling teen romance, in which an aspiring kickboxer aggressively woos the school overachiever (Ione Skye, who at first doesn’t seem remotely worthy of him but develops beautifully, courtesy of an impeccable script by Cameron Crowe).
Few films inspire as much passion as James Cameron’s epic romance. Following a troubled production, it became the biggest money-maker of all time, provoking an ocean of housewives’ tears and one of the heftiest Oscar hauls in history. Then the backlash hit like an iceberg. But who cares? Movies don’t come huger.
In Quentin Tarantino’s script, a comic store clerk and exploitation-movie nerd (hey, write what you know) meets a gorgeous, sweet-natured prostitute who immediately falls in love with him. They head off on the run from gangsters, all the while exchanging dynamic repartee and having great sex.
All of the dialogue is sung in Jacques Demy’s bleak, candy-colored musical, generally considered to be the director’s masterpiece. If you’re a fan of the original Cool Girl, France’s Catherine Deneuve, you can’t do any better than this. See it if you were knocked out by La La Land, which was directly inspired by it.
Salute the dearly departed David Bowie with this creative fantasia about the glam-rock era, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a Bowie figure and Christian Bale (never this unguarded) as a young man drawn to sexual freedoms. The movie splits opinion, but it’s undeniably romantic.
Our animated hero is WALL-E, an E.T.-ish trash compactor whose start-up chord suggests he’s a descendant of the Steve Jobs empire. Lonely in an empty future city, he collects tchotchkes of the human age. The arrival of a mysterious robot named Eve triggers intergalactic courtship.
Female orgasms had always been a no-no in the movies. Screenwriter Nora Ephron ingeniously dodged the problem by taking the climax out of the bedroom, and putting it in Katz’s. And without her masterpiece of script—stuffed with one-liners and heartfelt life lessons—we’d have no Knocked Up.
Compared with David Lynch’s Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, this Palme d’Or winner is considered the runt of the director’s litter. But there are many surreal pleasures to be found in it, and the central romance between Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern burns a hole in the screen.