It’s Valentine’s Day, and it may not be for you. It isn’t for most people, but chances are you’re going to be goaded into watching something, and you’re going to want to be the one who makes the suggestion. In that case, this list is for you. Whether you’re the rose-petals-on-the-floor type, socks-in-a-box sort, or always end up grabbing half-dead flowers on the way home—we’ve got you covered.
You Hate Valentine’s Day
You already know the truth. Love means pain, lonely nights, breakups, heartache, and late night text messages devoid of all dignity. This isn’t your day and the films on this list don’t treat it like a day either.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Darren Aronofsky’s sick ride goes something like this: guy and girlfriend have a drug of choice. She’s into cocaine, he’s into heroin, and they get high. Life is beautiful. Guy has an aging mother who wishes to be thin, who looks to diet pills to fit into a red dress. Things go bad. It’s the same drug-addicted nightmare about Coney Island kids making Coney Island decisions (I assume). One look at this and you see the truth. Love isn’t the most powerful drug on Earth. Heroin is.
Boogie Nights (1997)
In a Paul Thomas Anderson-directed story about the rising porn industry in the 70s, you’re getting a two-and-a-half hour celebration of sex as driven by Mark Wahlberg. What’s love got to do with this?
Basic Instinct (1992)
The scene: A man and woman lay in bed doing the nasty. Her blonde strands cover her face as she straddles our giddy subject. His hands are fastened to a headboard with white silk. Class. Cut to the woman now holding an ice pick. Her arms slam down over and over until blood covers the sheets. Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is a mesmerizing killer alright, but the detectives tasked with the job—particularly Nick Curran (Michael Douglas)—can’t control their dicks long enough to not fuck it all up. They kind of fuck it up.
Under the Skin (2013)
The plot? A woman who looks like Scarlett Johansson, played by Scarlett Johansson, drifts through Scotland in a cargo van seeking men. She’s no normal human of course, she’s an alien with the looks of Scarlett Johansson, and she’s hungry—a fact that’s not fair for most men. But that’s the beauty of this Jonathan Glazer-directed film. It questions our own lack of logic in the face of lust and gives us a truth; most of us are getting in that damn van.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Who’s the black caped sith who once loved, and gave birth to the baddest Jedi in the galaxy? Vader! Ya damn right! Who’s the man who killed Jedis, and Padawans for his wife Padmé... who still died? Darth Vader! Can you dig it? They say this Vader is a bad mother... SHUT YOUR MOUTH! I’m only talkin’ bout Vader. THEN WE CAN DIG IT!.....*cough* A top ten villain was created over love. Fuck love.
You're Cynical About Valentine’s Day
Just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you're about to suck on cupid’s commercialistic dart disguised as a day of romance. You know love is more complicated than a Hallmark card, but you also have a partner with expectations. You’ll eat the bullshit if it means surviving the week because that’s the kind of relationship you’re in.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
I assume you’ve been to a school and seen the play, so you know what time it is. Two star-crossed lovers—Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes)—from two warring families (Montagues and Capulets), fall in love... in a Verona Beach setting. Gangs fire guns at each other, choppers fire bullets and shit, and the Montagues rock Hawaiian shirts, while Romeo’s best bud is a black, cross-dressing man named Mercutio. Doesn’t sound familiar? Well, they still die in the end.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
I know what you’re thinking with this cover. You spot two lovers sharing a gaze on some ice, so maybe your emotions are safe. WRONG. Unless you’re into some unapologetically twisty romance, this isn’t the place for you. Replace the ice with a road and The Notebook is a better bet. For the rest of us, this film is mostly about what’s going on in Joel Barish’s (Jim Carrey) mind. Apparently, his relationship with Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) goes sour, and the two go through a procedure to erase the other from their memories. Now, I wouldn’t mind Thanos snapping a few exes from my own memory, but maybe it’s those bitter flaws in all of us that make relationships worth having. Love without flaws is terrible.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Director Derek Cianfrance gives us a couple (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) in many different phases. If it’s anything like real marriage—which it is—you’re here for the fights, make-ups, and the sheer pain of growing with someone else.
In the wrong hands, sex can be a weapon of total mass destruction. It’s one of the beautiful lessons you’ll learn from this flick about two couples at war with themselves. A segment when husband Larry (Clive Owen) asks Anna (Julia Roberts) about the taste of her lover’s semen, to which she says, “It tastes like yours, only sweeter,” tells you everything that you need to know.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
It’s two attractive men (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) coming to grips with their sexuality and the forbidden message that it carries. It’s a cynical movie because it’s the furthest thing from sunshine and rainbows. There’s real regret and heartbreak here, and that’s about as real as it may get for some of us.
This is on this list for just about the same reason I couldn’t get “Let It Go” out of my head: I heard it in department stores, the radio, the aisle with the kid that wouldn’t stop humming that tune—it was never-ending. Frozen does away from the standard prince charming stereotype, and tells a story of two sisters finding their happy ending through each other. We don’t always need romance in a Disney movie.
You Accept Valentines Day
It’s that day and you get it. Maybe you’d rather watch Dunkirk, but fuck, it’s Valentine’s Day, the one day of the year when you’ll let romance into your life, just not at Titanic levels.
Let the Right One In (2008)
It’s cute, in the friend-being-a-sociopathic-vampire-willing-to-fuck-up-all-your-bullies sort of way. Cue in the series of mysterious murders as our young Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) who tries to figure out what young Eli (Lina Leandersson) is. In between the blood and death, Eli may be supernatural, but she’ll do anything to protect Oskar, which director Tomas Alfredson exhibits in the most honest ways.
The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
It’s another movie about people with terminal illnesses falling in love—so yes, someone will probably die and you’ll probably end up in tears. But there’s enough heartbreak, humor, and genuine feels between Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) with his deceitfully lesser issues to call it a love story without the floatiness.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Our thirty-something Brit girl (Renée Zellweger) is trying to kick her addictions to cigarettes, booze, food, and relationships to improve her self-esteem. She's kind of like journalists in 2019, cha-ching! *cough*...anyway this is good fun for the bruised romantics who haven’t completely given up on love, and can still accept this V-day for what it is.
Two Lovers (2008)
I ask that you look at Joaquin Phoenix’s face, look at the scar that connects his nose to his top lip, the soft eyes that can go from brooding to deranged in a second. The bags under his eyes that make you want to sympathize. For the same reasons that he’ll make a great Joker, Phoenix has a knack for playing characters that move between two halves. The idea of him playing a bachelor torn between one woman (Vinessa Shaw) and over the next (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a Phoenix move through and through. And this movie is not a happy one.
A Star Is Born (2018)
We’ve seen this before, and I mean literally as there are three other versions of this thing—one star flies as the other burns. The different here is in how much director/protagonist Bradley Cooper transformed this drama into a slow burn of highs and lows to fill this film with scrappy, raw, and lived-in feels. This romance featuring a surprisingly good acting Lady Gaga is where it’s at.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
I said much of what I needed to say about If Beale Street Could Talk last year. Largely adapted from James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a Harlem-based romance between lovers; one wrongly accused of a crime and the other pregnant by his baby. There’s a perfect blend of ugly and beauty in a film largely about the power of love in the most cruel of times.
You Love Valentine’s Day
You want all the sap, cheese, feels, and goodness of this day. You buy flowers in bunches and Hallmark knows you by name.
The Notebook (2004)
Would you date Noah if he looked like Michael Cera? Probably not because in one scene, main hunk Noah (Ryan Gosling) has an idea for picking up main grab, Allie (Rachel McAdams) that amounts to threatening to kill himself. In another, he finds it romantic to lay down on the road, waiting to be run over. I’m not crazy about Allie’s freakish decisions either, but stop thinking. It’s two beautiful as fuck-ass people going through the regular fiascos of a summer fling. Sit back and watch them exchange lips in the rain and feel lovely again.
Love and Basketball (2000)
Gina Prince-Bythewood made one of the blackest rom-dram’s on this list, even if it hits all the same conventions out there; basketball hero falls for the tomboyish friend who’s perfect for him, fucks it up, dates the common folk, ends up on rock bottom until it takes the love of the tomboyish friend to save him. The classic story of best friends falling in love is still an easy dart to the heart. It’s the same feels all over.
Love Jones (1997)
This wasn’t just a drama, it was a love letter to black culture, to music, Chicago, movies, sex, and more specifically, words. This story about an aspiring spoken word artist and writer, Darius (Larenz Tate), and Nina the photographer (Nia Long) begins in a smoke-filled poetry lounge, and ends in a fiery romance. Just ask any spoken word artist if they’ve seen Love Jones, and they’ll give you a “yes.”
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
It’s your classic pretty-damn-good teen romance about Lara Jean Song Covey with problems involving boys, love letters, and a beautiful relationship with the hottest heartthrob on this side of 2018 (Noah Centineo). You’ll feel things.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
It’s probably half the reason why kids paid attention to Shakespeare in the late 90s. It’s about the popular girl who can’t date until her more standoffish sister begins dating. It included banger lines like, “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” and featured the late great, Heath Ledger, and Julia Stiles before Save the Last Dance taught her how to dance. It’s memorable, cute, and worth a watch.
Sleepless in Seattle/You’ve Got Mail (1993/1998)
In one movie, Annie (Meg Ryan) stalks the man (Tom Hanks) with a nice radio voice and hires a private investigator to show up outside of his house to get even closer to him. The fuck right? But it’s Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks doing the same Meg and Tom 90s shit. They’re excused. You’ve Got Mail is slightly more acceptable—if catfishing was wasn’t less terrible—when a hatred between the two neighbors turns into an anonymous online romance. Both movies created a formula for the rom-com that would last well into the 2000s making them ideal V-day watchers.
You may think you’re tough, but listen to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, and you’ll crumble and overlook Rose leaving my guy Jack to die in some water. That raft was plenty big, but Dion won’t let you ruin this. Titanic was, and still is the perfect infomercial for love-at-first-sight beliefs. It convinced whole generations to base their ideas and concepts of finding partners on this film. Sure, it may have been bullshit, but wrapped in a real-life emotional tragedy, it sold the idea better than most of its kind.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
It’s run-of-the-mill here: A woman without a ton of money (Constance Wu) falls in love with a partner (Henry Golding) who’s more wealthy then he leads on. Marriage is in the works, but of course the mother doesn’t like her because she isn’t cut from the same cloth. Mother tries to ruin it all, but things eventually work out, they get married and they live happily ever after (I assume). You’re not here for some out-of-world concept, you’re here for an old story told with a refreshing Singaporean take.
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