VALENTINE’S ALERT: 14 Movies For Every Stage of Romance
It’s a little late to make a reservation for Valentine’s Day, so why not stay in, maybe cook up a little dinner with your sweetheart and put on a movie? Here are 14 romantic flicks that show love in all of its many facets: young, charming, forbidden, fleeting, broken and happily-ever-after.
1. Amelie (2001) Audrey Tatou plays a quirky waitress working in a Montmartre cafe who intervenes in the lives of those around her to make them happy, but comes to realize that she, too, deserves love and summons the courage to pursue her soulmate. This whimsical charmer has a magical quality to it that goes down as easy as a macaron from Ladurée.
2. Amour (2012) This movie about life and love in the facing of certain death is only for the brave at heart. Beautifully acted by octogenarians Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, Michael Haneke’s riveting film won an Oscar and Golden Globe for best foreign film as well as Cannes’s prestigious Palme d’Or. The story follows an elderly Parisian couple as the wife becomes ill and her husband valiantly struggles to care for her. We watch as their formerly-vibrant union deteriorates inexorably.
3. Before Sunrise (1995) This is the first in a beguiling trilogy of films by Richard Linklater that follows a young couple who meet on a train headed to Vienna. The couple (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) is thwarted by circumstances that separate them — he lives in the U.S. and she in France — yet their connection is undeniably potent. They fall in love while spending eight hours strolling the city before sunrise talking about love, music, existence, etc. The next morning they say farewell and promise to meet again in six months.
4. Beyond the Lights (2014) A superstar singer, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, struggles to assert her identity and find her voice in the high stakes world of the music industry as her mother (the brilliantly brittle Minnie Driver) ruthlessly orchestrates her career. A policeman assigned to protect the singer helps her find her true self and, in doing so, their love. It’s a super corny plot, but is surprisingly enjoyable and moving.
5. Blue Valentine (2010) This tenderly poignant film, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, shows the devolution of love, despite best intentions. We see, in flashbacks, how the couple charmingly met, fell in love and then out of it. It’s ruefully romantic with touching performances by Gosling and Williams.
6. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) This is the Queen Mother of funny chick flicks that gives hope to all those singletons still searching for love. Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is a hot-mess who takes charge of her sloppy life and thinks she’s in love with her incorrigible, flirty boss (Hugh Grant) before seeing the truth. It is in fact the awkward lawyer (Colin Firth) who is her true match.
7. Brokeback Mountain (2005) This movie is intimate, epic, passionate, and devastating. It resonates with gays and straights alike who contemplate the awfulness of being forever denied your true love. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger star as the cowboys whose forbidden love is doomed in this beautiful and critically acclaimed film by Ang Lee.
8. Hero (2002) This movie, set in ancient China, is visually stunning and unfolds with a series of clever narrative surprises. Passions are writ on the grandest of scales in this tale about love and revenge that blends magic and martial arts together. Starring Jet Li, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, and Maggie Cheung, this movie’s epic sweep is dazzling.
9. Le Week-End (2013) A British couple (Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent) celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary returns to Paris and throughout the holiday weekend churns up a lifetime’s worth of love, pain, complaints, expectations, and yearning. This charming study on love dares to show it in equal doses of wit, regret and truth.
10. Lost in Translation (2003) Sofia Coppola’s story of two people making an undeniable and unlikely connection stars Bill Murray as an actor past his prime and Scarlett Johansson as a recent college grad. Smart and adrift, they meet at a Tokyo hotel lounge, hit it off and spend a few days together talking, drinking, singing karaoke and enjoying the sparks of their attraction.
11. People Places Things (2015) This wry, insightful film muses on the mercurial nature of love and touches a subject— post love and co-parenting — usually avoided. Flight of the Conchords actor Jemaine Clement plays a bewildered husband whose wife abruptly leaves him for an off-Broadway monologist. As a man struggling to make sense of his broken marriage and master the new demands of co-parenting, he delivers a marvelous performance.
12. A Room With a View (1985) This Edwardian Merchant-Ivory costume classic is filmed with the producer-director duo’s trademark lavish beauty and finesse. Helena Bonham Carter is Lucy Honeychurch, a young woman chaperoned by her spinster relation (Maggie Smith) on a visit to Tuscany. There she meets the dashing George Emerson (Julian Sands), but is whisked away after he steals a kiss. Back in England, Lucy’s independent spirit triumphantly leads her back to George, requiring her to break off her engagement to fussy fiancé Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis).
13. The Sound of Music (1965) The Oscar-winning Rodgers and Hammerstein musical set in Nazi-Austria is iconic cinema at its unabashedly most romantic. Maria the governess (Julie Andrews) falls in love with her employer (Christopher Plummer) and wins the hearts of his entire brood of children. There’s so much to love about this film loaded with unforgettable moments: Liesel and Rolf dancing in the gazebo, the fabulous Eleanor Parker as the worldly-wise Baroness gamely trying to play ball with the children, Maria and Captain von Trapp dancing on the patio.
14. Wings of Desire (1987) Stylish, thoughtful and sleek, this Wim Wenders movie set in Berlin follows Damiel, an angel willing to give up eternal life in exchange for being able to meet Marion, a lonely trapeze artist he’s fallen for. When they finally meet at a club (where Nick Cave is performing) they know that they’ve met their soulmates.