Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about the big flashy date, or the flowers and chocolate. Sometimes it can just be about spending time together, doing what you love – watching Netflix.
Valentine’s Day is approaching and you’re no doubt down to the wire trying to figure out what you and bae* will be doing for the big Hallmark-sponsored love fest.
Some will want to up the romance and make it an event. For others – we’re assuming many, many others – Valentine’s Day is just another day, so it’s kept far more low-key, or even ignored.
For those who fall in between these two disparate groups – those who want to acknowledge the day with a little romance, but without the pomp and circumstance – we’ve combed Netflix for some of the best romantic movies you can stream right now.
From romantic comedies to movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age, these are some great romances you can watch with your special someone** this Valentine’s weekend.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a guaranteed recipe for Netflix and chill.
*Bae can be pizza.
**Your special someone can be you.
Rom-coms and teen movies
Clueless is the classic teen rom-com. Eminently quotable – à la Mean Girls or 10 Things I Hate About You – Clueless gave Alicia Silverstone and a young Paul Rudd starring roles in this Cali-set romance loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma. The very epitome of a 90s teen movie, it somehow still has cross-generational appeal, perhaps due to its light-hearted sweetness. Don’t let the trailer fool you. Very much worth a watch.
You simply can’t have a list of teen romance movies without including at least one John Hughes movie, and Say Anything is ours. A classic coming-of-age/summer romance flick, it follows John Cusack and Ione Skye as they fall in love the summer after graduation. You may have never seen the movie, but you’ll recognise the sight of Cusack standing outside Skye’s bedroom window, blasting Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes. Oft repeated, arguably never bettered.
Chasing Amy is a cult classic, but then with Kevin Smith (Clerks, etc) scripting and directing, it was bound to be. It tells the story of an almost-convoluted love triangle, confronting issues of sexuality, friendship and relationships. A melancholy ending lends an extra layer of realism to the movie. Starring Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee and the iconic Jay and Silent Bob.
Starter for 10
Based on the novel Starter for Ten, by David Nicholls, Starter for 10 follows University Challenge obsessive Brian Jackson (James McAvoy) as he pursues love and quiz fame. If this accurate (if slightly poor quality) trailer isn’t selling you on the romance of this classic love triangle, try the US version, which ups the rom-com and pretends University Challenge doesn’t exist. Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall and Dominic Cooper also star.
Adventureland is the first movie Kristen Stewart did after Twilight (but before all the sequels), and it almost makes up for that mess of a franchise – she certainly fits better here. The indie rom-com will resonate with 20-somethings who dreamed big but then came crashing down to earth. It follows James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) as he takes on a summer job at the titular Adventureland to pay for grad school. It is here that he meets romantic lead Em Lewin (Stewart). Plus, Ryan Reynolds.
While calling Legally Blonde a rom-com might be a bit of a stretch – I’ve always considered it more of a legal comedy that happens to have romance in it – it certainly fits the bill for Valentine’s Day fodder. Following sorority president Elle Woods as she follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in an effort to win him back, then kicks his ass, it’s all about empowerment, friendship and being yourself. Plus, it offers a good plot, budding relationships, and laughs for the whole family. A solid choice.
Starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, this is one of those small, quiet indie flicks that, in its simplest form, just tells a story about people. None of the traditional rom-com comic misunderstandings or mad dashes to the airport – just two people who find each other at the right time, have a connection and spend some time together. The ending could seem anti-climactic to some, but works here. Musical numbers lend the movie a certain sweetness.
One of the last movies I actually enjoyed Johnny Depp in, Chocolat pairs Depp with Juliette Binoche and uses beautifully-shot chocolate as a central character in their romance, and a central plot in the movie. Based on the novel of the same name by Joanne Harris, Chocolat takes place in a small, sleepy French town, and tells the story of how the relatively hedonistic Binoche shakes things up, and falls in love with Depp’s bewilderingly Irish-sounding river rat, Roux. God-awful trailer aside, this is a near-perfect romance.
Blue is the Warmest Color
This one will take a little work for you. A French movie – originally named La Vie d’Adèle – Blue is the Warmest Color is still in French, with English subtitles. If you’re happy to read your movies, though, this drama is worth the effort. Critically acclaimed and award-winning, it is a coming-of-age romantic drama revolving around Adèle and her fledgling, life-altering romance with art student Emma.
While not strictly a straight romance, Cinema Paradiso somehow still finds a lot of room to be romantic. Another subtitled film, it tells the story of Salvatore and Alfredo, a pair who strike up an unlikely friendship based on their love of cinema. Told largely in flashback, Cinema Paradiso shows the pair’s bond and a few side romances, and ends with an ode to love.
His Girl Friday
Starring Rosalind Russell and Hollywood legend Cary Grant on top comic form, His Girl Friday is one of the original and best rom-coms. What starts as a typical rom-com plot – which sees Grant attempt to win back his ex-wife before she marries someone else – soon takes a turn, and this is a Golden Age classic that will keep you laughing throughout.
Harold and Maude
In this incredibly cross-generational romance, a 20-year-old obsessed with death meets an eccentric 80-year-old, befriends her and, gradually, falls in love. Along the way, she teaches him how to make the most of life. The dark comedy achieved a cult following after initial failure, and now enjoys widespread acclaim.
Directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot), The Apartment reunities Wilder with Jack Lemmon for a comedy romp. The movie sees Lemmon’s CC Baxter attempting to climb to the top at work by loaning out his Upper West Side apartment to company managers, facilitating their various extramarital affairs. Things take a turn when Baxter falls in love with one of the women (Shirley MacLaine).
A New Leaf
Walter Matthau, pictured with Sophia Loren (who’s not in A New Leaf). Image via Featureflash/Shutterstock
A New Leaf features comedy great Walter Matthau – a reason in itself to watch. A wealthy playboy who blew through his inheritance, Henry Graham (Matthau) finds himself incapable of providing for himself, so devises a plan that will see him finding a wealthy woman, marrying her, and then bumping her off.
The Purple Rose of Cairo
This could easily have gone with the other classic movies, but something about The Purple Rose of Cairo positively screams ‘out-there’. It tells the story of a woman (Mia Farrow) who, as an escape from her unhappy marriage, spends all her time at the cinema watching her favourite movie. Things get a little weird, though, when the movie’s main character steps out of the screen and into her life.
Starring Rachel McAdams and our own Domhnall Gleeson, About Time is a bit out-there for one single reason: time travel. Time travel runs along the male line of Tim Lake’s (Gleeson) family. Gleeson uses this gift to improve his love life and, eventually, the lives of his family and friends. Oddly not McAdams first foray into romantic time travel – she also starred in the movie adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife – About Time offers some nice moments as well as a twist on the classic rom-com tale.
If you’ll forgive the obvious pun – and the overuse of the word obvious – this is not your obvious rom-com. It’s not even your obvious rom-com-dram. (It’s definitely not even a little bit a rom-zom-com, sorry). Obvious Child follows Donna (Jenny Slate) and Max (Jake Lacy) after a one-night stand leads to an unexpected pregnancy.
You can’t get much more out-there than a romance movie where one of the romantic leads is a literal ghost, the film is described as a ‘romantic fantasy thriller’ (thanks, Wikipedia), and the ghost saves his still-living wife with the help of a reformed fake psychic. Oh, the ’90s. That ridiculousness aside, Ghost is actually a really good movie, with comedy and romance aplenty.
In Your Eyes
The day Joss Whedon makes an utterly normal project will be an utterly strange day. This one is stranger than most, telling the story of Rebecca Porter (Zoe Kazan) and Dylan Kershaw (Michael Stahl-David), who have been connected – at times experiencing everything the other experiences – since childhood. Eventually, they discover that they can communicate and, from there, a romance unfolds. In Your Eyes premiered at Tribeca, and was then self-distributed online. It’s now made it’s way to Netflix, and should definitely be added to your queue.
The One I Love
Perhaps the most bizarre entry on this list – just beating In Your Eyes to the punch – The One I Love stars Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass as a couple whose marriage is disintegrating. After visiting marriage counselor Ted Danson, they follow his advice and visit a mysterious house in the countryside where things, quite simply, get hella weird. Funny, dark and twisty, The One I Love keeps you laughing and on tenterhooks throughout.
Updated at 5.30pm on 11 February when it was pointed out to me that Pride and Prejudice is, in actual fact, a six-part BBC series, not a movie. It has been replaced on this list by Legally Blonde, which is less of a literary classic, but certainly a modern-day one.
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