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Your Valentine’s Day plans should look a little different this year. Instead of sitting down at a restaurant, heading to a spa, or grabbing drinks, date night is probably best spent in the safety of home. But you can make the best of it: With a little creativity and the right entertainment, this could be your very best holiday yet.
Romantic movies were practically made for Valentine’s Day 2024, since they’re both a distraction from the present and a throwback to when, you know, people could actually do things. Whether you’re looking for a true romcom (Crazy Rich Asians and Pretty Woman), a tearjerker drama (Love Story and The Notebook), or a brand-new romance to devour (The Photograph and The Way He Looks), there’s something here for everyone.
Combined with a home-cooked meal, a glass of wine, and a bit of chocolate, these films are just what you need for basically any February 14 plans, from cuddling with your spouse to planning a long-distance Galentine’s Day watch party. Read on to find the perfect match for you.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Under the Tuscan Sun is a little more radical than you remember; instead of focusing solely on romantic love, the gentle comedy invests in the love between a recently divorced Diane Lane and the friends she meets when she buys a crumbling Italian villa on a whim after a tough divorce. (But there are plenty swoon-worthy scenes, too.)
The Photograph (2020)
Stella Meghie’s latest feature only arrived in theaters a few weeks before lockdown, meaning it never got the love it deserved. The story takes its time, swirling around an unexpected romance between two of the most charming actors in Hollywood—and its killer soundtrack and lush photography are the cherries on top.
Before Sunrise (1995)
No movie better captures the dizzying obsession of young love better than Before Sunrise, which follows two strangers, Jesse and Céline, as they meet on a train and decide to spend one fleeting night together on the streets of Vienna. Do the star-crossed lovers stay together in the end? You’ll have to watch it (and its two equally charming sequels) to get the full picture.
Kena and Ziki, the daughters of rival politicians, begin to fall in love, they’re trapped between their blossoming feelings and a conservative society. Rafiki’s dreamy cinematography imbues even the most heart-wrenching scenes with a sense of wonder.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
The 80s were the era of the dance movie, and the best entry in the genre also happens to be its most romantic. On a family vacation in the Catskills, Baby learns to move—and, gasp, how to love—from her camp’s dancing instructor. You know you need to rewatch that iconic lift scene this Valentine’s Day.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Your favorite adaptation of the Bard’s most famous romance says a lot about you—and if it’s Baz Luhrmann’s gorgeous, unhinged Romeo + Juliet, you’re probably very cool. Even knowing that it’ll all end in tears can’t stifle the sparks between Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
Inspired by silent films and the French New Wave, Amélie is a romcom that’s just as sweet as it is mischievous. Its protagonist is a young woman who discovers her gift for helping the people around her—but when she gets her own chance at love, she might be too shy to take it for herself.
Lovers Rock (2020)
The pounding music, the sweaty walls, the giddy sing-alongs—if you met your beau at a party, you probably remember exactly what the room felt like when you first locked eyes. Lovers Rock recreates that atmosphere with stunning accuracy, an escapist love letter to both budding romance and pre-pandemic partying.
Away We Go (2009)
Chances are, you haven’t seen Away We Go—which, somehow, was directed by the same guy who did WWI drama 1917—a not-too-sweat road movie that stars Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski as two expectant parents trying to find their place in the world. This Valentine’s Day, let’s fix that!
The Notebook (2004)
The Nicholas Sparks adaptation to end all Nicholas Sparks adaptations, The Notebook is rightfully remembered as one of the most romantic movies of the 21st century. A young couple falls in love, is separated by chance, and is suddenly reunited years later. But can they end up together? (Make sure you have tissues nearby.)
Palm Springs (2020)
Palm Springs hit amid COVID-19 lockdowns, when every day became almost exactly the same. It’s not exactly the best environment for passion, but time loop romcom Palm Springs, set at a hotel where two unlucky souls live the same day over and over, proves that with the right attitude, even monotony can be romantic.
Saving Face (2004)
Saving Face is worth watching on its own merits, but it’s especially worth a visit because of how miraculous it is: It’s a goofy romcom about an Asian-American lesbian made by an Asian-American lesbian. When a mother and daughter both seek relationships that deviate from cultural expectations, they finally discover the joy in standing out.
Amy Heckerling’s modern-day take on Jane Austen’s Emma is one of the defining movies of its decade—the clothes, accents, and music cues all scream 1995 in the best way. (It doesn’t hurt that Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd are all the best they’ve ever been, either.) Clueless is such bubbly fun that you won’t even be grossed-out by who Cher ends up with.
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
Five intersecting stories play out against the backdrop of an arranged wedding in New Delhi, each exploring the intricacies of modern love and cultural boundaries. Monsoon Wedding is massive and heartfelt, with enough going on to keep even the most skeptical moviegoer reaching for more popcorn.
Maggie’s Plan (2016)
In real life, love isn’t the straight line that movies would let you think it is. Maggie’s Plan gets that; as its central trio (played by the perfectly cast Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, and Julianne Moore) weave in and out of marriage and love, it reveals how relationships ebb and flow over the years, all while being supremely funny.
Poetic Justice (1993)
Still reeling from the death of her boyfriend, hairdresser Justice searches for meaning through poetry—and kindles a romance with a postal worker doing the same through rap. Warm 90s romances don’t get much sweeter than Poetic Justice, especially with its legendary soundtrack.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Over 30 years later, the greatest romcom of all time is still When Harry Met Sally. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s chemistry (and wardrobe) is more than enough to make us forget just how weird it is that Billy Crystal is the movie’s male lead. They’ve both starred in other love stories, but this is the best, hands down.
Moonstruck works so well because it’s charmingly specific. Cher is a widow who accepts a marriage proposal from a man she doesn’t love. Nicolas Cage is her one-handed lover—and the younger brother of her fiancé. And her family, longtime residents of New York City’s Little Italy, are keeping secrets just as shocking as hers.
Love & Basketball (2000)
True to its title, Love & Basketball shows a young couple, played by Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, navigating both a blossoming relationship and a passion for the sport that pulls them in opposite directions. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood understands that romance can’t be all-consuming—relationships rely on doing your own thing, too.
Plus One (2019)
Plus One is a great entry in the new school of romantic comedies, ones that know that you know the rules. Starring a charming Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid (himself the offspring of genre veterans Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid), the movie follows a pair of best friends who agree to attend every summer wedding they’re invited to as each other’s plus-ones. Things get complicated, of course.
Chungking Express (1994)
Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love may be his most acclaimed romance, but for our money, we’re watching Chungking Express this February 14. Shot almost like a memory, two whirlwind romances collide in a neon-soaked Hong Kong, scored by one of the best soundtracks in movie history.
Book Club (2018)
Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen on Galentine’s Day? The quartet plays a group of friends who accidentally reignite their sex lives after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, leading to plenty of romantic hijinks that’ll leave you beaming.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Speaking of Fifty Shades of Grey, why not watch it this month? It’s hot, slick, and (unintentionally) very funny. Dakota Johnson’s shy English major never really has any chemistry with Jamie Dornan’s weirdo billionaire, but it’s always fun to see both of them introduce S&M to the masses. Let their foibles inspire you and your boo.
The Way He Looks (2014)
If you liked the languid, poolside romance of Call Me By Your Name (but prefer a romance with a happier outlook and, ahem, a more age-appropriate pair) don’t miss this Brazilian indie about a pair of teenagers falling hard for each other, soundtracked to the soft sounds of Belle and Sebastian.
Defending Your Life (1991)
Meryl Streep has been in more popular romances, but she’s never, ever been as charming and approachable as she is in Defending Your Life, an afterlife comedy that sees her falling for an age-appropriate Albert Brooks. If you enjoyed The Good Place, you’ll love this witty take on life after death.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
Ask any recent divorcee and they’ll tell you the same thing: Dating over 40 is hard. That’s the setup for Crazy, Stupid, Love, a surprisingly sweet ensemble comedy featuring Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, and Emma Stone at the height of their powers.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Loosely adapted from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this essential high school comedy features Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles—playing social outcasts secretly yearning for love—at their absolute most swoon-worthy. School was never actually this fun in real life, but at least we have 10 Things I Hate About You.
Pretty Woman (1990)
A very modern retelling of Cinderella, Pretty Woman gives us a free-spirited Julia Roberts and a chivalrous Richard Gere courting each other in the upper echelons of Los Angeles society. There’s never been quite so sweet a movie about a sex worker falling in love with her john.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
No February would be complete without catching a period drama, and few are as watchable as Joe Wright’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Five sisters must marry into money to save their family’s lineage, but one, Elizabeth, just can’t bring herself to want her proposed match, Mr. Darcy. You’ll see how that works out.
Crossing Delancey (1988)
Director Joan Micklin Silver never got the acclaim she deserved, especially for this very NYC romcom. When her grandmother forces her to look for love, intellectual, 30-something Izzy finds herself falling for—and repeatedly failing—Sam, a pickle vendor. Oozing a hopeful charm, Crossing Delancey is an irresistible document of city life at the tail end of the 80s.
Months after the death of his father—who came out as gay after his wife of 44 years passed away—Oliver meets the irreverent actress Anna, beginning a romance hindered by their mutual fear of commitment. Beginners nails that perfect mix of happy and sad that feels so much more special on Valentine’s Day.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Feeling lovesick this Valentine’s Day? Watch the ultimate getting-over-a-breakup comedy, about a recently dumped musician who can’t seem to escape his famous ex and her new boyfriend at a resort in Hawaii. It’s the only movie on this list that includes a vampire puppet musical!
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Romances don’t get much fizzier than Crazy Rich Asians, a gigantic piece of eye candy that also broke through barriers in Hollywood with transparent charm and starpower. Come for the sparks between Constance Wu and Henry Golding, stay for Awkwafina’s scene-stealing performance.
Notting Hill (1999)
Julianne Moore’s Pretty Woman dynamic gets flipped in Notting Hill, which sees her as an A-list movie star romancing a non-famous (but still handsome) Hugh Grant after a chance encounter. Their attraction is easy, but merging their very different lifestyles is not.
Love Story (1970)
Is there any more iconic line than “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”? Even if that’s actually a pretty horrible definition of the L-word, this tearjerker about a young couple reeling from terminal illness is still just as potent as it was over 50 years ago—a perfect choice for when you need a good Valentine’s Day cry.
Purple Rain (1984)
Although Prince and Apollonia’s real-life romance didn’t last, we still have this prime slice of eighties cheese to cherish them by. In a barely fictionalized story of Prince’s meteoric rise to fame, the Purple One plays a musician obsessed with boundary-pushing funk, foppish outfits, and his girlfriend. (Music doesn’t really get better than the accompanying album, either.)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn stars as royalty in Roman Holiday, a classic Hollywood escape that features a princess being lightly kidnapped by an American reporter looking for a scoop. Of course, the two fall for each other, culminating in that unforgettable Vespa ride through the streets of Rome.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl is the charming tale of what happens when two of the absolute worst people you know get hitched—in this case, a murder mystery. OK, so this tale of infidelity, narcissism, and unfettered rage isn’t exactly romantic—but it is fun for an anti-Valentine’s Day watch party. (It’s also Anne Hathaway’s favorite romcom.)
Valentine’s Day (2010)
Valentine’s Day bravely answers the question “What if they set Love Actually on February 14?” There are better, more easy-to-follow romcoms out there, but Garry Marshall’s two-hour epic offers the absolute most 2010 cast ever committed to film: Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, and the Taylors Swift and Lautner, among other stars.
Desert Hearts (1985)
When literature professor Vivian arrives in Reno for a break from her husband and a quick divorce, she finds herself drawn into the orbit of Cay, an alluring sculptor who lives in her neighborhood. Despite the conventions of the time, the two pursue a swooning romance with an ending that’s realistic, but hopeful.
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