Around every Valentine’s Day, moviemakers line up the brightest stars available in the hopes of creating the definitive movie date audiences everywhere will want to watch with their sweethearts.
But, who says you have to spend Valentine’s Day with a sweetheart? And who says your Valentine’s Day movie has to be a new release currently in theaters?
Here are nine films suited to whatever kind of Valentine’s Day you have planned, be it romantic or … less so. For watching with a sweetheart The Awful Truth
Long ago, back in the 1930s, Hollywood had a different name for the romantic comedy: the “screwball comedy.” Leo McCarey’s “The Awful Truth” might be the best example of the genre of its early years.
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play married lovers who suspect each other of marital infidelity, but they don’t just get a divorce. They get even.
Each of them suffers from the other’s hilarious efforts to undermine their new romantic prospects. This battle of wits, however, only leaves them falling more deeply in love with each other.
Gary Copeland, a professor in telecommunication and film, includes “The Awful Truth” in his curriculum for TCF 112.
“The chemistry between Irene Dunne and Cary Grant is great,” Copeland said. “The amazing thing is the way they play off of each other.”
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen’s best film in years is romantic not just on the grounds of its plot, but also because of its setting. It carries viewers straight into the heart of Barcelona’s bohemian arts and music scene.
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) come to Barcelona with contrasting concepts of love. Vicky is pragmatic and satisfied with the man she has married while Cristina, a hopeless romantic, constantly moves from relationship to relationship.
Then they both meet Barcelonan artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) as he tries to escape a turbulent relationship with fellow artist Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz). Calling what happens next a “love triangle” is an injustice — relationships twist in ways viewers will never see coming.
It might not have the happy ending of the typical romantic comedy, but that’s precisely because it’s more insightful and honest than the typical romantic comedy. It’s impossible not to walk away from this without having a stimulating conversation about what a relationship should be, and who better to have that conversation with than with your significant other?
Another black-and-white treat from cinema’s early days, “Ninotchka” stars Greta Garbo as the title character, an official in charge of making sure the Russian grand duchess’s jewels are sold as intended. In the process, “Ninotchka” catches the attention of Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas), who had been romantically involved with the duchess.
It’s an obscure title, one few students might be familiar with. But Billy Field, a filmmaking professor in the Honors College, said the 1939 film was worthwhile.
“It’s just a great romantic comedy about a woman who sees with blinders on,” Field said. “Then she falls in love and starts seeing a bigger world. She doesn’t want to fall in love with him, but she does.” For watching with friends Something’s Gotta Give
Nancy Meyers is one prolific lady.
She recently released “It’s Complicated,” which saw a fair amount of success at the Golden Globes. Much longer ago, she released “Father of the Bride,” which was commercially successful enough to breed a sequel. Somewhere in between, in 2003, she released “Something’s Gotta Give.”
Jack Nicholson plays Harry, a 63-year-old swinger whose game is brought to a screeching halt when he suffers a heart attack at the home of one of his much younger girlfriends, Marin (Amanda Peet). While recuperating, he falls in love with Marin’s mother (Diane Keaton)… but so does Harry’s doctor (Keanu Reeves).
This is a great romantic comedy to share across generations — something to watch with your parents or even a grandparent or two.
As the film’s tagline says, “Love actually is all around,” not just in the midst of romantic relationships in this Richard Curtis film, also released in 2003.
It follows the relationships of no less than eight major characters over the course of the five weeks before Christmas in London. Characters range from an aging rocker (Bill Nighy) to a British man desperate for sex (Colin Firth) to the British prime minister (Hugh Grant).
Casey Sloan, a senior majoring in English, said Love Actually was far from a cliché romantic comedy.
“’Love Actually’ is really every bit as hilarious as it is moving,” Sloan said. “It looks at all different kinds of love—romantic, parental relationships, and relationships between friends.”
One of Pixar’s most recent successes, “Wall-E” is many things at once — an environmental cautionary tale, a sci-fi epic, a return to the silent roots of animation — but more than anything, it is a love story.
The titular robot leads a lonely existence as the last of its kind to remain operational on Earth, until it crosses paths with the interplanetary probe, Eve. Wall-E joins Eve on a journey that will decide the fate of the human race, but the central romance never gets completely left behind.
“Wall-E” is great viewing with friends and family, and no one needs Valentine’s Day or any other pretext for pulling it out of the movie bin. It’s especially great for parents to watch with their young children. Who said you need a babysitter on Valentine’s Day? For watching alone.
Directed by Mark Palansky in 2006, “Penelope” is a modern-day fairy tale starring Cristina Ricci as the title character. Penelope must find true love with “one of her own kind” to break the family curse of having a nose like a pig. Can she find someone who loves her for who she is, rather than for her family’s estate?
Mollie Morris, a secondary English education major, said the artistic aesthetic of “Penelope” made it a favorite for her.
“It’s a very whimsical and different,” Morris said. “The love story is typical, I guess, but different.”
Morris said what sets “Penelope” apart is its emphasis on self-respect, making it perfect for those who find themselves alone on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s actually something an individual could watch because it’s actually about loving yourself and not needing someone else to accept you.”
Nothing cures Valentine’s Day loneliness like a good laugh from Will Smith.
This 2005 hit features Smith as Alex Hitchens, who makes his living giving romantically inept men advice to help them win the women of their dreams. Even helping the asthmatic, feckless Albert Brennaman (Kevin James) win over the mogul Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta).
No, what Hitch has trouble with is his own romantic life, when he meets Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) and finds himself unable to practice what he preaches.
The lonely might initially turn to “Hitch” for advice on how to reverse their own romantic misfortune. What they will learn instead is that it is often the truth about ourselves, not the fake “game” we bring to the dating scene, that makes a relationship happen.
“A Guide for the Married Man”
If “Penelope” and “Hitch” console those who find themselves alone on Valentine’s Day, “A Guide for the Married Man” helps them revel in their lack of attachments. Do not watch this 1967 classic with a significant other unless you want them to never, ever trust you again.
Walter Matthau stars as Paul who, despite being happily married to the beautiful Ruth (Inger Stevens), finds his eye roving toward other women. So his friend Ed (Robert Morse) gives him advice from the guide under the same title as the movie, which offers advice designed to help Paul cheat on Ruth without getting caught.
The precepts of the “Guide” are illustrated by a cavalcade of 1960s stars: Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Jayne Mansfield and Art Carney, just to name a few. Practically every man in this movie is a lecherous, devious, contemptible cad. Practically every woman in this movie is a voluptuous, sensuous, irresistible vixen.
Sure, it has no shame about pandering to its chauvinist audience, but that audience will laugh all the way through this movie. Catch it on a classic movie channel sometime.