It’s that time of year that some dread and others anticipate: Valentine’s Day. It’s time to pull out the romantic comedies, sappy love stories, popcorn, and Ben & Jerry’s to help it all go down.
Whether you’re celebrating alone, with friends, or with a special someone, this guide will help you figure out what to watch depending on how you feel about this upcoming season of love.
Happy: If this Valentine’s Day is penciled into your busy schedule as a day to spend with your significant other, here’s a show and a movie that you should make time for together.
Friends from College: Friends from College was met with negative critical reception, but audiences overwhelmingly praised the show, and it’s easy to see why. It depicts the reunion of a group of friends twenty years after their college graduation. The awkwardness and teenage angst of these professional adults is hilarious to watch, and the tangle of love intrigue that has persisted for two decades will give young couples optimism about their own futures.
About a Boy: Usually, it takes the right, upstanding woman for the wayward hedonist to mend his ways. In this case, it takes a force that’s much more heartfelt. A young boy, Marcus Brewer, struggles to fit in at middle school while also caring for his depressed mother. Hedonist Will Freeman wants nothing to do with this symbol of responsibility, but Marcus’s persistence in befriending him after a chance meeting pays off. Will begins to realize that there is more to life than bachelorhood, and while the right, upstanding woman does come along, it is Marcus' friendship that ultimately gives Will’s life meaning. This heartwarming film is an excellent choice to share with the person you care for.
Angry: Your significant other just cancelled plans for the big day, annoyed you with some remark, or didn’t text you back soon enough. Whatever the reason may be, these are the movies that will cheer you up.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore: Ruth Kimke is sure to commiserate with any kind of anger. She’s fed up with the rudeness and the indecency that she sees all around her. The burglary of her house is the final straw, and she decides to take justice into her own hands and teams up with her eccentric neighbor Tony. The two make an unlikely yet highly amusing duo as they chase down the burglars. This film is a humorous rendition of a disillusioned woman experiencing an existential crisis. It restores the audience’s faith that there is some good in the world—even if it's only in the form of a neighbor who is weirdly obsessed with ninja stars.
The Spectacular Now: Upset because the person you planned to spend Valentine’s Day cancelled last minute? This movie is all about cancelled plans. Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a senior in high school, struggles in the shadow of his alcoholic, absent father. He drinks and can’t focus on college applications, prioritizing the “now” over the hazy future. He meets Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), a shy social outcast. The two recognize their mutual interest, but then the cancelled plans begin. Sutter asks Aimee to the prom but subsequently ignores her; when the two reconcile and visit Sutter’s father, Sutter’s father fails to show up to their meeting place. Sutter, angry, tells Aimee to get out of the car, that he is no good for her. The movie reminds us that cancelled plans could merit empathy rather than anger.
Sad: You’re thinking that this Hallmark holiday only exists to remind people of what they don’t have. The following two films touch on heartbreaking loss and the ephemerality of love, something we are told lasts forever but rarely works out that way.
The English Patient: The passion of the illicit love affair between László Almásy and the married Katharine Clifton, the awe–inspiring setting of the Saharan Desert, and poignant storytelling all unite to form one of the most powerful romantic tragedies in film to date. Deservedly nominated for 12 Academy Awards and winning nine, this incredibly moving film about a short–lived affair requires viewers to be armed with a steady supply of tissues.
Blue Valentine: The English Patient concerns a lovers’ affair cut short by forces rather optimistically outside of their control, but Blue Valentine offers a far more cynical perspective on the termination of love through the relationship of Dean Pereira (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy Heller (Michelle Williams). Cutting across the giddy beginnings of their courtship and the bitter depths of their estrangement five years later, the film portrays the devastation of falling out of love. It takes us beyond the “happily ever after” of romantic comedies, and doesn’t just eternally freeze the happiness of a couple by killing one of the two off, as romantic dramas so often do. It takes us to the uncharted “ever after,” where ugly hardships seem to flourish and passion fades away.
Happily Single: Why celebrate Valentine’s Day when Galentine’s Day is around? These movies are perfect for a fun viewing with your friends.
Sydney White: This quirky tale of freshman Sydney White (Amanda Bynes) attempting to navigate college is particularly appropriate for this time of year. Sydney struggles to find her place in Greek life and in the student body, meeting the handsome Tyler Prince and the tyrannical Demetria Hotchkiss along the way. The plot line is formulaic and its rankings of “who’s hottest” is extremely outdated, but the movie is nevertheless still fun to watch twelve years after its release.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: We could all use a refresher on the charms of Peter Kavinsky. Lara Jean Covey, desperate to cover up the crush that she has on her older sister’s ex–boyfriend, agrees to enter into a “fake relationship” with Peter, who is looking to make his own ex–girlfriend jealous. While the premise of “fake dating” is just as overused a trope in romantic comedy as it is an unrealistic one, the film embraces and transcends it. The cinematography creates stunning tableaux of cherry blossom trees and Jeep rides to school, and Peter’s transparent and unabashed interest in Lara Jean from the start leaves the audience swooning. Most importantly, however, the author and producers did not whitewash the book’s Asian heroine, despite substantial pressure to do so. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sets a new standard for romantic comedies and is a must–see for this time of year.