I love Valentine’s Day. Not only does it give you an excuse to spoil your significant other (and be spoiled by) with various romantic gestures, it also gives me an excuse to watch my favorite romantic movies. I’m a sucker for a good romance movie. Unfortunately, the large majority of films focused on romance are fairly terrible. I’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of some of my favorites to watch this Valentine’s Day.
7. I Love You Phillip Morris
2009’s I Love You Phillip Morris is a film based on the true story of Steven Russell (portrayed by Jim Carrey), a career con man and escape artist who is eventually arrested for his crimes and falls in love with fellow inmate and titular character Phillip Morris. Ewan McGregor plays Phillip Morris in the film, and this chemistry between them in the film is great.
Both characters fall head over heals for each other, and watching their relationship develop while being inmates is both hilarious and sweet. The way their relationship is portrayed in the film is just so genuine, and that makes all of their successes and failures in the film all the more effective.
The lengths Steven goes to to be with Phillip are hilarious, from posing as a lawyer to get him released from prison to fooling doctors into thinking he’s dying of AIDS. The fact that all of this actually happened just makes the film all the more ridiculous and genuine at the same time, while showing a realistic homosexual relationship, without making a big deal out of it. I Love You Phillip Morris is such an underrated film its almost criminal.
6. The Spectacular Now
2013’s The Spectacular Now at it’s heart feels like John Hughes movie, more than any other film has felt that was not made by Hughes himself. And that is a compliment. The Spectacular Now focuses on the blossoming relationship between two high school seniors, who fall deeply in love with one another while at the same time worrying what the future has in store for them once they graduate.
This is one of the rare films I have seen that doesn’t treat their high school characters like caricatures, which can be attributed to Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webber’s fantastic script. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley’s portrayals of the two leads makes them feel like real people, in a real relationship with its highs and lows, making for a very bittersweet, but worthwhile romance between these two teenagers.
5. Moonrise Kingdom
While Moonrise Kingdom may not be my absolute favorite Wes Anderson film (that honor belongs to ‘Rushmore’) its portrayal of young, innocent puppy love is heart warming to watch as these two kids run away from their respective family and scout troop to live their lives together on a secluded island. Here the two kids experience their first love, their first kiss, and reconcile over differences between them and that of their families while they attempt to live out their dream life together.
While these two children’s love story comprises as the main driving point of the film, it also provides a back drop to explore a couple’s failing marriage as they attempt to find their runaway daughter. Couple this plot with the usual Wes Anderson quirks and cinematography, Moonrise Kingdom is just such an enjoyable and fun film.
4. High Fidelity
High Fidelity is my favorite John Cusack film and one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time. The film focuses on Cusack’s character Rob Gordon, a record store owning music lover who is obsessed with making top five lists. During the course of the film he assembles a list of his top five break ups of all time, showcasing his character in various stages of his life and how his perspective changes on his different relationships through out the years. The film is hilarious and often romantic at the same time, all the while having an amazing soundtrack to back the film up.
3. Before Sunrise
No one comes as close to making films feel like real life as director Richard Linklater, and this holds true for his film Before Sunrise, a film which entirely focuses on two people meeting on a train and just exploring the town together for an entire night, while simultaneously falling for one another.
Even before Linklater’s 12 year passion project Boyhood (a personal favorite of mine) he was already exploring long form, decade spanning storytelling with his Before trilogy, starting with Before Sunrise. The chemistry between Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine is so palpable it acts as a testament to Linklater’s directing skills. The fact that Linklater can make a whole movie about a couple just walking and talking so damn interesting is nothing short of impressive.
The fact that Her is able to make a relationship that is entirely rooted in Joaquin Phoenix’s character falling in love with the voice of a computer and is both compelling and romantic all at once just demonstrates the directorial strength of director Spike Jonze and acting ability of the aforementioned Joaquin Phoenix and voice acting of Scarlett Johansson.
Jonze uses this sci-fi lite universe showcase wisdom on modern human relationships, and meaningful commentary and satire on our societies relationship with technology. Her is a masterpiece in film making, as the relationship between Phoenix and Johansson in the film is both sweet and touching, while somewhat somber.
1. (500) Days of Summer
This is it. My all time favorite romantic comedy. Another film by writers Neustadter and Webber, (500) Days of Summer is such an amazing and unique film in terms of how it portrays love and relationships in such a heartfelt and earnest way, going as far as start the film with the quote:
“This is the story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”
With director Marc Webb framing the story in this context and the fact that the film starts at the break-up of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of Tom Hansen and Zooey Deschanel’s titular character Summer shows that this film is committed to telling a different kind of romance story. One that doesn’t necessarily end in a happy ending for the particular couple, but leaves them both in a better place and acts as a coming of age story for both of the characters.
The film provides moments of brilliant cinematography choices, one particular scene that stands out is one which Tom’s expectations of a certain event and what actually transpire is shown simultaneously, which in turn is very powerful in context of the film.
The film is at times hilarious, sad, happy, and romantic, and sometimes a combination of the four. (500) Days of Summer is really just one of the best films about love and relationships I have ever seen and I highly recommend that everyone go out and watch it now.