We’re going to assume you’ve already heard of romantic movies like Casablanca, Love Actually and The Notebook. And if you just cringed while reading those titles, fear not: We’ve got 15 alternative Valentine’s Day movies that should do the trick just as well. They come from Hollywood’s more daring directors, as well as the indie and foreign films. Sweet, sticky, naughty, nice, heartbreaking, inspiring: You’ll feel all the feels with this extra romantic collection of the best movies of all time.
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15 unusual Valentine’s Day movies
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.
Combining vintage ’70s loners and ’80s neon flash, Nicolas Winding Refn’s retro thriller about a stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver confirms that the Danish director is a major talent. In between the chase scenes comes the wooing of neighbor Carey Mulligan.
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.
Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than watching Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trade tart witticisms in the sexiest of screwball comedies? Unless your name is Ralph Bellamy, the answer is no. Howard Hawks’s use of overlapping dialogue and 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, replete with neck-high floral-print dresses, languorous camera moves and the silken voice of Nat King Cole.
We’re still floored by wunderkind 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.”
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.
Compared with 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.