Ah, Valentine’s. It’s a wonderful day; a sappy day, a chance to show our nearest and dearest what they mean to us; a cynical, commercial rip-off designed to sell stupid cards and roses; a reminder that we should tell our significant others we love them; a reminder – nay, a pie in the face with a reminder written IN SHOUTY CAPS – that we don’t have a significant other and that everyone should just go away and stop being horrible.
It’s unlikely that all of the films here will hit the spot for you on this, the day of St Valentine, but with luck maybe one or two will.
I’m just a classic romantic …
Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn – in an Oscar-winning role – plays a princess who’s snuck away from her minders to see Rome on her own, free from all the pomp and tiresome security that defines her young life. Gregory Peck plays a reporter who pretends he doesn’t recognise her, so that he can get a scoop (or fall head over heels). Hijinks ensue. Vespas are ridden. Amore and romance are definitely in the air.
Some Like it Hot (1959)
Marilyn Monroe on top form? Yes. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as a hilarious double act? Yes. Cross-dressing? Yes. Love and romance? Yes, yes, yes. Billy Wilder’s crime comedy is a winner whenever you watch it, but the events that set the plot in motion happen on Valentine’s Day, so that’s an even better reason to watch it on 14 February.
I’m a naughty … sorry, noughties lover
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. And while plots involving a Lothario boss trying his damnedest to seduce his young employee are (rightfully) seen with a little more suspicion these days, there’s still plenty to love and laugh at in this love triangle between Bridget (Renée Zellweger ), Mark (Colin Firth) and Daniel (Hugh Grant).
The Notebook (2004)
Based on the 1996 novel of the same name, The Notebook tells the story of a young couple who fall in love in the 1940s (as relayed by an elderly man, played by James Garner in a nursing home in the present day). Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams steam up the scenery as the young couple face separation by miscommunication and war. You’ll see the twist coming about a year before it happens, but if honey-drenched romance is your thing, this one will make you sing!
Do you have anything less retro/ hetero?
Love, Simon (2018)
Closeted gay US teenager, Simon (played by Nick Robinson) has to ride the ups and downs of coming out to his family and friends (after being outed). Seen as a landmark rom-com in terms of LGBTQIA+ representation, this is a love story and coming-of-age story smooshed into one, with less schmaltz and more heartfelt authenticity than you might expect.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)
This multi-award winning French film follows Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), whose life is changed when she meets the older art student Emma (Léa Seydoux) in a lesbian bar, and with whom she forms a deep connection. Love is shown to be beautiful and monstrous in this intense romance, which has gathered legions of fans, detractors and people on the fence.
I want something a bit deeper than the usual romantic guff
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Two teenage cancer patients meet in a support group and fall in love, with funny and heartbreaking results. If you like your love stories with an emotional undertow that’s almost guaranteed to make you cry, this one’s for you. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort play the lovers.
I like my romance with a bit of sport
Love & Basketball (2000)
If the two nouns in the title bring joy to your heart, this is the film for you. Produced by Spike Lee and written/directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film follows Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), who play basketball together (and, yes, love each other) through many life challenges from childhood to adulthood as they aim to go pro. The relationship between the two leads is, as others have pointed out, a slam dunk.
I hate Valentine’s, I hate everything about it, I wish it would just go away
All Quiet on Western Front (2022)
If you can’t stand the myriad ways that everything from first dates to major conflicts are presented in heroic terms, then this Netflix adaptation of the 1929 novel of the same name might be a good choice. Set in the closing days of World War I, and directed by Edward Berger, it successfully walks the tightrope between being beautiful to look at (which it is, albeit in a morbid way, mostly) and ramming the truth down your throat about as hard as it can be rammed, that war is a horrible and a heartbreaking waste of human life. If nothing else you’ll come away feeling that Valentine’s Day, though not for everyone, is not the worst thing that can happen.