Valentine’s Day is a little like a winter storm (and if you live in the NE, it literally is a winter storm!). It arrives without much warning, and before you know it, your date night options have been reduced to that one Chinese restaurant down the block, or Joe’s Cellar, which — let’s be honest– probably isn’t best for anyone who’s sensitive to mold. The restaurants that you thought might be worthwhile have been booked up since December, and club covers are exorbitant. So, that means you’ve got to improvise.
Thankfully, dinner and a movie can be a winning combination. But finding a good movie that both genders can enjoy can be as difficult as tracking down that rogue shovel now buried under all that snow. Sure, Netflix streams the usual offenders (Dirty Dancing and Sleepless in Seattle) but there are much better gems locked in the halls of the streaming giant — if you know where to look. We can’t make dinner for you, but we’ve taken care of the movie side of things. You can thank us later.
There are few things that Jon (Joseph Gordon Levitt) actually cares about, and that makes him a little disgusting. He has what some psychologists call a serious porn addiction, which is surprising considering his knack for bringing home “10s” from the club every single weekend. But his life changes drastically when he meets two very different women. One is Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), the girl of his dreams, and the other Esther (Julianne Moore) an older recent widow, both of whom help him learn what it means to be in a healthy relationship.
A comedy about mental illness may not be your first pick for Valentine’s day, but Silver Linings Playbook delivers tons of hilarity paired with a feel-good story. After being released from a state penitentiary for nearly killing his wife’s lover, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents who happen to be the world’s biggest Eagles’ fans. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who agrees to help him win back his wife’s love on one condition: he becomes her partner for a ballroom dance competition. The film garnered several Oscar nods, including a win for Lawrence, elevating her from “the girl from Hunger Games” to Hollywood royalty.
AdventureLand is a good title for any story about recent college graduates who don’t have any real-world skills. That’s the case with James (Jesse Eisenberg) who takes a position working as an assistant manager at a theme park with the movie’s namesake. The story takes place in 1987 and is filled with corny ’80s references, but it gains traction when James meets Em (Kristen Stewart) who heroically saves him from a murderous customer. A hilarious love story ensues that’ll resonate with anyone who’s worked a second rate job.
It’s Havana in 1948 when Chico first meets Rita at a jazz club in this engaging animated feature. Chico & Rita are two star-crossed musicians who must grapple with success and their on-and-off romance. Music is at the heart of this film, and surprising “cameos” come from some musical heavyweights, including jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. Like the jazz music the movie celebrates, Chico & Rita doesn’t sugarcoat the pangs of love and success.
Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work at an independent Chicago brewery where they spend a lot of their days flirting and drinking. The problem is, they’re both already in relationships. When Kate’s boyfriend (Ron Livinston) invites Luke and his fiance (Anna Kendrick) to his cabin, their relationships (and alcohol tolerance) are tested. Kate and Luke confront their obvious attraction in a way that feels somewhat more accurate than the standard rom-com. And there is plenty of booze to go around.
Let’s just make it clear, this is a romantic drama in just about every way. William Borgens (Greg Kinnear) is an accomplished writer who hasn’t written a word since his wife (Jennifer Connelly) left him three years ago. When he’s not trying to help his kids in every way possible, he spends his days snooping on his former wife, who has a new life with a younger and fitter man. The story picks up when his children experience similar pangs of love with new lovers and feel the urge to write their own stories.
Okay, so this classic pulled from the heydays of SNL only loosely fits into the rom-com category — and we think that’s a good thing. In case you’ve just awoken from a coma, the story follows Wayne (Mike Meyers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) who run a weekly public access show in Wayne’s basement, where they mostly talk about girls and lampoon locals. When snooty TV exec Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe) discovers the show, he offers them $10K for the rights to put it on national TV. Filled with hilarious moments like the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene, the movie involves a little loving, sure, but mostly rock n’ roll and slapstick.
The 90s was a good time for romantic movies, and this classic from Cameron Crowe is one of the best of the bunch. Cruise plays Jerry Maguire, a successful sports agent who gets fired for issuing a statement railing against dishonesty in the biz. He then strikes out on his own with the help of his most loyal client, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and a young single mother, Dorothy (Rene Zelwiger). What follows is one of the most iconic sports/date movies of our time, with famous lines like “Show me the money!” and “You had me at hello,” that still make their way into pop-culture decades later.
Eat before you see this one. Jon Favreau is Carl Casper, a chef in a classic LA restaurant. After getting lampooned by both the restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman) and food critic (Oliver Platt), Carl looses his job and reputation. But that proves to be turn of fortune as he turns to Twitter to get the word out on his brand new food cart, which he drives with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), and loyal friend, Martin (John Leguizamo). There’s love to be found as the team makes their way from LA to Miami, with stops in Austin and New Orleans to serve their innovative Cuban-inspired food.
Based off director Mike Mills’ own experience, the film stars Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) who enters into a state of depression with his mother’s passing, after which his father Hal, (Christopher Plummer) comes out as gay and takes up with a much younger male lover. Inspired by his father, Oliver attempts to begin a new relationship with a french actress Anna, (Melanie Laurent) and adopts his fathers dog. It’s an indie-flick, no doubt, but many will find Plummer’s performance to be hilarious and touching.
Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) is a super-cautious risk insurance expert who is nearly obsessed with weighing the risks and rewards of every situation. On his honeymoon, Reuben finds his wife Lisa (Debra Messing) hooking up with a scuba instructor, and he’s forced to reexamine his entire life. Back in New York, Reuben meets the uncalculating and free spirited Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston) and sparks fly. That’s all well and good, but the real magic of this movie comes from the absolutely brilliant comedic performance from both Alec Baldwin, and the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Valentines day is a time to celebrate your social prowess. You found a partner and it wasn’t easy. What better way to celebrate than watching Will Smith explain the ins and outs of matchmaking? Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith) is a “date doctor” who’s up against the nearly impossible task of helping Albert (Kevin James from King of Queens) make something of his crush on Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), a business executive who happens to be the heir to a large fortune, and dangerously good looking to boot. Hitch is confronted with professional and personal challenges that threaten to unravel him.
For some, The Big Apple is far from the city of love, but this is a sequel of sorts to Paris I Love You, offered as a collection of ten short films about love and romance in New York. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars make appearances, including Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, and Orlando Bloom, all of whom take lead in their respective stories. There’s no apparent connection between the strands, but it’s worthwhile for those who want something a little different — or have a really short attention span.
It’s hard to explain Forrest Gump without explaining the history of America. It may not be a rom com or even a love flick — at least not in the traditional sense — but Tom Hanks’ role as a simple man with simple aspirations, who happens to be really good at running, won him an Oscar. The movie spans the decades of Forrest Gump’s astonishingly charmed life, moving through seminal American events, from Watergate and the Vietnam War, to good old-fashioned college football. At 142 minutes long, Forrest Gump is a marathon of a movie, but good things sometimes take a little more time, right?
Ok, this is our black sheep of the list, but if you’d rather just laugh and not have deal with all the drama that comes along with the lion’s share of romcom plots, check out Louis CK’s standup routine at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. He doesn’t shy away from topics such post-divorce life and all those politically incorrect thoughts that occasionally crop up in your skull, nor is he afraid to admit his 7-year-old daughter is better than him in each and every possible way. Sometimes the apple falls further from the tree than you might think…
Though it’s a modern age Kung-fu epic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has all the makings of a great love story. Set in 18th century China, Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), a veteran warrior, has his sword stolen and enlists the help of Yu Shu Len (Michelle Yeoh). As they quest to recover the sword, they begin to fall in love. And when your life is on the line, love is that much sweeter — and so are high-flying martial arts and committed, student-teacher relationships involving revenge. We can only hope you don’t mind subtitles.
There are hundreds of movies about marriage retreats. At first The One I love appears to be a common offender. The movie begins in Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) and Ethan’s (Mark Duplass) couples therapy session. The therapist suggests they go on a couple’s retreat. Soon after they arrive, things quickly get weird … like HP Lovecraft weird. Duplicity and confusion run amuck. Consider it an interesting twist on the tired genre.
It’s hard to call any movie that begins with a shocking event and biblical undertones a true love story, but movie buffs will be happy with this drama, which stands as one of Terrence Malik’s signature films. After falling into trouble in Chicago, Bill (Richard Gere) flees to the Texas Panhandle with his girlfriend, Abby (Brooke Adams) and Abby’s sister, Linda (Linda Manz). Opposing Bill is a wealthy farmer that falls in love with Abby. What ensues is a bloody and brutal fight for money and love. It’s a poignant reminder that marrying for money hasn’t worked out since the beginning of time.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s brand of offbeat comedy comes through with flying colors in this one. The star director recruited Adam Sandler to play a lovable loner named Barry Egan. Barry meets Lena (Emily Watson) and the story proves that sometimes love isn’t so complicated — all you need is an ally. Sandler is an unusual choice, but it pays off, as the comedy icon shows his knack for slapstick, tantrums, and spontaneous confessions of love.