Remember when we gave Valentine cards to every kid in the class, the teacher, our parents, and saved a handful of candy hearts that said “Hot Stuff” to stuff into our own mouths?
Valentine’s Day used to be about more than just romantic love. To honor its origins in our childhoods and it’s place in our adult lives, we’ve broken out Valentine’s Day movie picks for every kind of love in your life.
If you’re in a fabulous relationship with yourself…
What it’s about: Sorority girl Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon, pure perfection) is preparing for her boyfriend to propose to her. When he dumps her instead, she follows him to Harvard Law School to prove that she’s the right girl for him.
Why you should watch it: If you’ve ever had a special someone “move on” to supposedly greener pastures, watch this one. As her ex and the people in her new world continue to dismiss Elle, she studies harder than any of her classmates and begins to outshine them. Yet she also embraces what made her ex dismiss her. In the hype of the holiday, this is the film to remind you that you don’t need a significant other — or anyone’s approval — to succeed.
Where to Watch it: Tubi
Waiting to Exhale
What it’s about: Four women living in Phoenix support one another through their complex romantic relationships.
Why you should watch it: Waiting to Exhale brought together four incredible actresses — the late Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon — and took us along for the adventure. None of their men treat them all that well, and through the course of the film, the foursome decide they’re not gonna settle for that. The most kickass moment comes when Bernadine (Bassett) stuffs her cheating husband’s car with his designer suits before setting it on fire. You have to watch it, but this movie is cheer-worthy.
Where to Watch it: VOD
They Came Together
What it’s about: In this razor-sharp satire, Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) recount the story of their relationship to another couple, but it’s a story that parodies every rom-com trope.
Why you should watch it: While it’s technically a romantic comedy, They Came Together is so wacky you hardly notice. Like so many typical rom-coms, the film is set in New York. Joel has a group of buddies he plays basketball with, and each of them announces what their (cliche) role is in Joel’s story. They skewer all the usual set-ups: Joel works for a major company set out to destroy Molly’s business. They breakup just to make-up. They even declare their love for each other at a… well you have to see it. You’ll be laughing at the ridiculousness of this entire genre. But if you feel the need to lose yourself in a straight-up rom-com first, save They Came Together for after.
Where to Watch it: Freevee
What it’s about: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a successful photographer, has been dating Rose (Alison Williams) for a while when she takes him to meet her family. While they seem like innocent white liberals (her dad claims he would have voted for Obama a third time), they turn out to be involved in something far more sinister.
Why you should watch it: Get Out will remind you that sometimes you’re better off not being in a relationship. There is nothing lovey-dovey about this riveting film. Jordan Peele, in what was his directorial debut, dials up the terror to 11. Rose herself is an underrated villain, and you’ll never want to undergo hypnosis after watching it. The real love story is between Chris and his bestie, Rod (Lil Rey Howery), who proves that TSA agents get the job done.
Where to Watch it: Fubo, VOD
If You’re Dating and Using Apps…
It’s a rarity to meet a couple who did not meet on an app these days, and if you’ve been dating in the past decade, you’ll likely appreciate these flicks. You might even want to watch one with a swiped-right date. Sadly, we have yet to find a movie about a couple from Farmers Only.
What’s it about: Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev) is so bad at dating that she has a successful blog detailing her romantic mishaps. When she meets Josh (Jimmy O Yang) on a dating app, she thinks she’s finally met the one. But when she impulsively surprises him for the holidays…well, she learns that Josh isn’t the person he pretended to be.
Why you should watch it: There are plenty of movies about the dangers of dating online, but Love Hard isn’t one of them. A light, Hallmark-meets-Netflix holiday film, Love Hard thwarts some expectations and charms with its two endearing leads. There are a capella Christmas carols, digs at the vaunted “outdoorsy man” cliche, and an ending that will satisfy.
Where to Watch it: Netflix
You’ve Got Mail
What’s it about: The OG online dating rom-com, Kathleen (Meg Ryan) is trying to keep her struggling bookstore afloat when, unbeknownst to her, the stranger she starts emailing online, Joe (Tom Hanks), is the owner of a bookstore behemoth that’s hellbent on buying out her store.
Why you should watch it: Part of the romantic comedy and Nora Ephron canon, You’ve Got Mail is a movie you could watch with your parent or grandparent. It’s a delightful trip back to a simpler time known as the 90s, and it’s a love letter to New York City. Is it improbable and a cheese-fest? Yes, but that’s part of what makes it so irresistible.
Where to Watch it: HBO Max
What it’s about: In a dystopian world, David (Colin Farrell) is sent to a hotel where he has 45 days to find a romantic partner. If he doesn’t? He’ll be turned into an animal of his choosing. Daniel decides that should he fail to find a partner, he will simply become a lobster.
Why you should watch it: A bizarre satire of dating apps like Tinder and our couple-centered society, The Lobster is a love story of sorts, but it’s also a social satire. In the hotel, guests are forced to attend dances and watch films praising couples, and then hunt down the “loners” who live in the forest. The loners are the exact opposite of the hotel guests; they forbid any kind of romance. You have to watch it to fully grasp it, but the subtext is that romantic love should not be forced on people. It’s a welcome departure from the pressures that surround February’s hyped-up holiday.
Where to Watch it: HBO Max
If You’re in a Relationship…
Whether you’re in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship or visiting IKEA together every weekend, here are four films to add to your Date Night watchlist.
What it’s about: Bobby (Billy Eichner) doesn’t believe in love. When he meets Aaron (Luke MacFarlane), another guy who’s known to play the field, he starts to question his belief system as they spend more and more time together.
Why you should watch it: Bobby and Aaron’s relationship is more of a slow burn. They move through the typical stages: movie date, hanging out with friends, meeting the parents, etc. But it’s when they experience the deeper moments, like exploring Pride together and sharing intimate secrets, that they become endearing — to each other and the audience. They share a chemistry that is undeniable fire, and the ending features a sweet song that is guaranteed to make you cry.
Where to Watch it: Peacock
What it’s about: Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) hasn’t been very lucky when it comes to love. But when his cousin Allan invites him to a party, he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan). He falls for her, but she has a boyfriend, so they become just friends.
Why you should watch it: What If is an underrated rom-com that got buried when it was released. A pre-Rylo Adam Driver plays Wallace’s cousin in one of his most normal roles, and Kazan and Radcliffe’s chemistry is palpable. There are also some hilarious only-in-a-romcom moments, like when Wallace and Chantry go skinny dipping and Allan and his wife take their clothes and drive off, leaving them to spend the night together naked in a sleeping bag.
Where to Watch it: Prime Video
It Happened One Night
What it’s about: Rebellious heiress Ellie (Claudette Colbert) has eloped with a gold digging pilot named Westley. Her tycoon father is not pleased, and ushers her far away from the playboy. Ellie manages to run away, and while on a Greyhound, meets Peter (Clark Gable), a reporter who agrees to help her find Westley if she gives him an exclusive interview.
Why you should watch it: A Frank Capra film, It Happened One Night won all five Oscars it was nominated for, and unlike today’s Academy Award contenders, it was essentially a screwball comedy. It was also one of the original rom-coms, one with Capra-esque dialogue, zany misadventures, and charm to spare. Despite being made in the 1930s, the film moves at a rapid pace akin to the rom-coms of today. It’s also fun seeing what was considered oh-so-scandalous, like when Ellie flashes a glimpse of her leg while hitchhiking.
Where to Watch it: Tubi, The Criterion Channel
If You’re in a Long Distance Relationship…
Even with the advent of FaceTime, long-distance relationships are hard. Not being able to smooch your sweetie anytime you want can be so frustrating. The couples in this film are faced with the same challenges you and your partner are, and thanks to streaming, you can watch this one together even if you’re miles apart!
Going the Distance
What it’s about: Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (Justin Long) are happily in love. There’s just one problem: one of them lives in New York and the other in San Francisco.
Why you should watch it: A bit more realistic than most rom-coms, Erin and Garrett are up against a challenge many couples face. They both want thriving careers, but neither one of them can up and leave their job. Drew Barrymore adds extra charm to this one, and Justin Long is adorable as her smitten sweetie (and apparently her real-life beau at the time). You’ll have to watch this one to see if they end up together.
Where to Watch it: VOD
What it’s about: Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a lonely housewife who tries to rekindle her romance with her husband by sending home-cooked lunches to his office. When one of her lunches is accidentally sent to Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a lonely widower, the two begin a flirtatious friendship through the notes she places in the lunchbox.
Why you should watch it: A sweet film centered around two lonely people and the potency of connecting through letters and stories. It’s not exactly a long distance relationship in a traditional sense, but Ila and Saajan do bring light to each other’s lives. You may even be inspired to start sending notes to someone special.
Where to Watch it: Starz
If You’re Engaged…
Congratulations! To get you in the mood to check out venues, try different cakes, and listen to DJs, check out these wedding films.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
What it’s about: Toula (Nia Vardalos) is sick of working at her family’s Greek restaurant and bearing the brunt of her overbearing family. After giving herself a mini makeover and learning some new computer skills, she gets a job as a travel agent. That’s when she catches Ian’s (John Corbett) eye. They fall in love, which quickly leads to planning a wedding. There’s just one problem: he’s not Greek!
Why you should watch it: If you haven’t seen this movie — or it’s been a while — you will get a fresh kick out of this classic. Every wedding requires a “clash of civilizations” to some degree, and family members who insist on butting in on the details. MBFGW takes it up a few notches, as Toula’s family introduces some truly hideous bridesmaid dresses while insisting on baptizing Ian in the Greek Orthodox church. The film is especially funny if you have a family that’s always in your business, and you’ll be quoting some of the great one-liners. “Yess, inside the bump was my twin!”
Where to Watch it: HBO Max
The Wedding Singer
What it’s about: Wedding singer Robbie (Adam Sandler) has his heart broken when his fiance dumps him on their wedding day. He’s fed up with anything matrimonial-related, until he meets a new waitress at his work, Julia (rom-com queen Drew Barrymore at it again). He reluctantly agrees to help her plan her wedding. But when sparks start to fly between the two, the wedding planning becomes a lot more complicated.
Why you should watch it: If you’ve been through wedding planning, you’ll get a kick out of the jokes: all the ridiculous characters involved, the terrible singers, drunk uncles, and cringey speeches. Unlike Sandler’s more well-known characters, Robbie is truly kind: he teaches his elderly neighbor how to sing in exchange for meatballs, he helps Julia secure better rates from her wedding vendors, and he deeply loved his fiance. This is also the start of Sandler and Barrymore’s on-screen chemistry, which has yet to be replicated by another onscreen couple.
Where to Watch it: VOD
Coming to America
What it’s about: In the fictional African country of Zamunda, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is about to be married. But after meeting his bride-to-be, he decides that he wants to find his own true love — someone who loves him for who he truly is. His father allows him and his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to travel to New York City to find his “true queen.”
Why you should watch it: Technically Coming to America isn’t about a wedding, but the romance between Akeem and the woman he falls for, Lisa (Shari Headley), will have you rooting for them to get married. The film is Murphy’s funniest, from working at a rip-off of McDonald’s to Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate, there isn’t a dull moment. As a bonus, you can watch the long-awaited 2021 sequel, Coming 2 America, in which Akeem returns to America after learning he has a son.
Where to Watch it: HBO Max (for the original). Prime (for the sequel)
If You’re Married…
After all these bumpy movie journeys and life journeys, you’ve found the one! You’ve also probably discovered that romance isn’t always about grand gestures. True romance is about doing the dishes for your partner or helping cook Thanksgiving dinner for your in-laws. Celebrate your marriage with a few ideas from these onscreen married couples.
What it’s about: Armand (Robin Williams) owns a drag bar where his husband Albert (Nathan Lane) performs. The pair have a son, Val (Dan Futterman), who announces he’s planning to get married. The problem is his fiance’s father is a conservative politician (Gene Hackman) who cannot afford any sort of scandal. Armand and Albert have to play it straight for her parents in what becomes a hilarious comedy of errors.
Why you should watch it: While the film’s plot might sound retro and homophobic, The Birdcage encourages us to celebrate who we are and embrace each other’s differences. The heart of the film is Albert and Armand’s relationship. Even though they constantly bicker, we feel the love they share. Also, watching Williams try to teach Albert how to walk like John Wayne is funny no matter how many times we see it.
Where to Watch it: VOD
What it’s about: Carl (Ed Asner) is an unhappy widower who, upon learning that he has to give up his beloved house, launches balloons out of his chimney and flies to South America. To his surprise, wilderness explorer Russell (Jordan Nagai) has joined him as a stowaway. Once in South America, they embark on an adventure involving talking dogs, a retired explorer, and “Kevin.”
Why you should watch it: Most of the marriage part of Up takes place in the first fifteen minutes, but what a beautiful 15 minutes they are. The montage of Carl and Ellie getting married, setting up their home, and their day-to-day misadventures truly sum up marriage. Be prepared to cry, but it is truly inspiring to see how Carl and Ellie’s love grows for each other year after year. The rest of the film isn’t a tearjerker; it’s one of Pixar’s most endearingly oddball stories.
Where to Watch it: Disney +
What it’s about: Phil (Steve Carrell) and Claire (Tina Fey) have been married for years, and their lives have become downright boring, so Phil takes Claire to a swanky restaurant in Manhattan. When they can’t get a table, they take the reservation of another couple. The no-show couple stole from a mob boss, and the criminals don’t believe Phil and Claire when they say they aren’t the thieves. For the rest of their date night, they’re on the run from the mob.
Why you should watch it: If you’re been married a while, Fey and Carrell’s relationship will hit notes of familiarity. And since adrenaline and humor are supposedly two key ingredients that ignite sparks, you might get some vicarious thrills from this one. The duo are comedy masterminds, and watching them hatch out escape plan is hilarious.
Where to Watch it: VOD