If there’s one ideal day for watching romantic comedies and/or movies about love, it’s Valentines Day. We’ve assembled a list of movies in various styles and genres to watch this year to mark the occasion.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
“With ample laughs and sharp performances, Forgetting Sarah Marshall finds just the right mix of romantic and raunchy comedy,” says Rottentomatoes.com of this 83% “FRESH” approved breakup comedy. Michael Compton of Bowling Green Daily News calls it “a film that manages to balance raunch and sweetness just enough to make it a worthy date movie.”
A bonus highlight is the select songs from Peter’s Dracula-based puppet rock opera, A Taste for Love.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Scott Pilgrim is the ultimate selfish slacker who sees himself as the hero who fights the bad guys and gets the girl. It’s an unconventional romcom, based on a series of graphic novels and featuring the occasional extraordinary fight scene, but really with a couple of simple love triangles at its core. Rottentomatoes calculates an 82% approval rating and summarises the film’s reviews with: “Its script may not be as dazzling as its eye-popping visuals, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fast, funny, and inventive.”
Though some of its pop culture references might have aged out of relevance or funniness, Shrek is undoubtedly a modern classic fairytale that manages to tell a positive story about true love without sacrificing the fun, action, and laughs. It was widely praised upon release, and was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2020. It has an 88% approval rating on Rottentomatoes.
You really can’t have a modern list of romantic comedies without featuring the work of director Judd Apatow. Knocked Up is really an unconventional romcom featuring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl as a one-night-stand that gets together afterwards because of a pregnancy. Rottentomatoes.com sums it up as “a hilarious, poignant and refreshing look at the rigors of courtship and child-rearing, with a sometimes raunchy, yet savvy script that is ably acted and directed,” with a 89% “FRESH” Tomatometer rating.
I Want You Back
The newest entry on our list is a suprisingly well put together 2022 romcom streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video. Charlie Day and Jenny Slate play a recently-dumped pair who try to get each others’ love life back on track in a Strangers on a Train-inspired arrangement. There are some uncomfortable situations, but good chemistry and decent laughs make us root for these characters despite their often-creepy behaviour. The film earned a 90% rating on rottentomatoes.com.
Still one of the highlights of director Tim Burton’s career, Edward Scissorhands is a modern fairy tale about traditional archetypical characters in a modern world. It has a lot of heart, and while it touches on different genres, is ultimately a love story at its core. This is definitely a must-see!
The John Cusack-led Stephen Frears movie, based on the novel by Nick Hornby, features a selfish-but-charming lead character with serious issues about his love life – presented in a fun post-modern light. Rottentomatoes summarises it as “an entertaining story with a rock-solid soundtrack”, with a 91% “FRESH” rating, and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian saying “It is still a bit wimpy and sugary, but it’s definitely entertaining, and the translation to American accelerates the tempo refreshingly.”
Rent High Fidelity on Apple TV.
The Shape of Water
One of our Top 20 films of 2018 and with a 92% “FRESH” score on Rottentomatoes.com, The Shape of Water is one of director Guillermo del Toro’s spectacular best. It feels like a modern fable that expresses humanity through a strange fish creature, and succeeds at making the most bizarre concepts feel real and relatable.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine is an alternative Valentine’s Day classic by now. A romantic sci-fi film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, plays with perception, subjective explorations of the subconscious mind, and most importantly: love. It sits with a 92% “FRESH” score on Rottentomatoes.com, and Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal says it “goes by like a fevered dream of love, but one you remember vividly, with profound pleasure.”
Anomalisa is writer-director Charlie Kaufman’s (Synecdoche, New York, and writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind) interpretation of a life-altering romantic encounter – making pitstops at anxiety nightmares, introspection and self-destructive behaviour. In our review, we called it “one of the most human films we’ve seen,” that can “rightly be called a psychological horror film in the sense that it investigates what scares us most – more than monsters or serial killers ever can: to be human.”
Rent Anomalisa on Apple TV.
True Romance is the first Quentin Tarantino-penned film directed by someone else (Tony Scott in this case, before Pulp Fiction was made), and it represents a neat blend of Tarantino and Scott: A violent and funny love story that Richard Corliss of Time Magazine called “violent to a fault, glam to the max.”
Screenings of this film has become a Valentine’s Day tradition at The Bioscope in Johannesburg.
Love and Monsters
In a post-apocalyptic earth invaded by dangerous monsters, Joel Dawson reconnects with his high school girlfriend via radio, and attempts a dangerous journey to reunite with her. Ian Freer of Empire Magazine called it “a blast, an unassuming, immensely winning monster movie filled with great lo-fi creatures and a likeable cast,” with David Ehrlich of IndieWire saying it’s “the rarest kind of movie these days: A fun, imaginative, genre-mashing adventure that was made with a modest amount of big studio money.”
Stream Love and Monsters on Netflix.
Some Like it Hot
This Billy Wilder-directed drag comedy, starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon, and Marilyn Monroe, has two musicians who just witness a mafia murder joining an all-female jazz band on a tour to Florida. Misunderstandings, chase scenes, and lots of romance follow. Jack Moffit of The Hollywood reporter called it “another supersonic, breakneck, belly-laugh comedy”, and The Writers Guild of America ranked the film’s screenplay the 9th greatest ever written.
This Woody Allen classic is all about the contradictions – how hard romance can be, but the way we keep doing it anyway. Rottentomatoes.com calls it “a quantum leap for Woody Allen and remains an American classic,” and “filled with poignant performances and devastating humor,” with a Tomatometer score of 96%.