10 Romantic Movies For Valentine's Day
February 9th, 2012 11:00am EST
It’s Valentine’s Day and you want to watch a romantic movie but all you can find on cable is “Love Story” and, really, how many times can you watch Ali McGraw die? Why not check out one or more of the below movies? We’ve given you choices from each decade since the 1930s to switch things up.
1931 – City Lights (Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill)
Don’t be afraid of black and white films and especially, in this case, silent films. With “The Artist” getting so much good publicity this year, why not check out a funny, romantic, silent film made by the master of silent films: Charlie Chaplin? In this film ultimately about unrequited love, The Tramp spends most of the movie trying to make money to woo a blind flower girl who thinks he’s a rich suitor. They meet when he buys a flower from the girl and she assumes he went off, leaving her the change. He quietly leaves her but throughout the film the two continue to meet up with humorous but non-romantic results. The Tramp is befriended by a drunken rich man who embraces him (and shares his wealth) while drunk and turns him out when sober, making his quest to continue to lavish the blind girl with gifts more desperate. Chaplin’s portrayal of the love-struck and penniless man hoping for the best and getting slapped down every time things start to look up is heartbreaking, but the final scene is a wonderfully romantic payoff for all the trouble he goes through. No spoilers, but every cornily romantic movie made after 1931 has the ending of “City Lights” to thank for their ideas.
1940 – The Shop Around the Corner (James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan)
If you enjoyed “You’ve Got Mail” you have this film to thank. Co-workers James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan barely acknowledge each other during the work day but are unknowingly in the midst of a love affair going on via the letters they write to each other. Because it’s the 1940s, the humor and the romance are both a bit corny but the chemistry between Stewart and Sullavan is such that you don’t care how corny it is. The stars eventually made four films together, but this one is the one you’ll remember most. Sweet, a little silly and very romantic. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are nice but they can’t touch these two when it comes to an oblivious love affair.
1955 – All That Heaven Allows (Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson)
In many a woman’s fantasy, Jane Wyman plays a rich, older, widowed woman who starts an affair with the younger, hunky but poor Rock Hudson. Most of the film is spent showing the disparities between the two. She has adult children and spends her time at cocktail parties while he’s a loner who likes to work with trees and has house parties with his down-to-earth fans. Still they spend time together and decide their differences don’t matter because they’re falling in love. Her children turn out to be their biggest obstacle, basically blackmailing her into ending the relationship. If you like romantic films that make you talk back to the screen, this is the film for you.
1967 – Barefoot in the Park (Jane Fonda and Robert Redford)
Possibly the only film where you could categorize Jane Fonda as being “cute” but she is. She’s so cute that sometimes it’s annoying but that doesn’t take away from this being a great film to watch on Valentine’s Day. She and Robert Redford are newlyweds desperately in love and trying to deal with married live in New York City in this Neil Simon classic. There are stereotypes: she the giggly, newly married woman who wants to keep the perfect apartment and do whatever it takes to make her husband happy and he the overworked, buttoned-up lawyer who doesn’t pay his wife the attention she needs. But in this film they actually work. The relationship plays as a little bit dated but it’s still fun and romantic and Simon’s touch makes it difficult to resist.
1977 – The Goodbye Girl (Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason)
Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason are no Redford and Fonda in this Neil Simon film, but that’s why it’s so perfect. You look at them and don’t think they fit but when they start bantering it’s obvious how perfect they are for each other. Mason is a cynical, neurotic dancer, hurt too many times by actors and Dreyfuss is an actor not looking for a relationship who falls in love with both Mason and her precocious daughter. Unlike many films where it seems forced, the relationship flows with every scene and you can see them falling in love, which is why the ending is so wonderful. Mason’s character grows emotionally by the end but you’ll still be utterly charmed by the romantic ending Simon gives us.
1981 – Arthur (Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli)
This movie is funny even in today’s politically correct society, there’s no denying that. But it’s terribly romantic as well and a great date night movie. Rich, drunken Arthur doesn’t want to marry Susan but if he doesn’t his grandmother will cut off his money so he proposes to her anyway. But he falls in love with Linda when he meets her at a department store when she gets caught shoplifting. The contrast between how he acts with his fianceé and how he acts with Linda is stark and while Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli might not strike people as the most romantic couple to watch, they’re absolutely adorable in this film. Sir John Gielgud has some classic scene-stealing moments but the film belongs to Moore and Minnelli. They’re funny, they’re real and they’re in love. You might not cry at the end but you’ll definitely smile.
1982 – Tootsie (Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange)
Mostly remembered for Dustin Hoffman dressing in drag, “Tootsie” is touted as a sort of women’s rights movie. Not being able to get acting work, Hoffman dresses as a woman and becomes soap opera actress, “Dorothy Michaels” an actress who, with her strong will and confidence, ends up helping Jessica Lange and other women characters stand up to their sexist director and co-stars. They are women and (s)he teaches them how to roar. But in the meantime, he’s falling in love with his co-star Lange and she’s oblivious to the fact he’s a man. The interesting turn in the film is that it cultivates a deep friendship between the two that shows Hoffman’s character to be more genuine than his lying ways would indicate. But the real sweetness comes from Charles Durning who plays Lange’s widowed father, a man who is falling in love with Dorothy Michaels. The scenes between Durning and Hoffman, while somewhat played for humor, are surprisingly endearing and when they meet up as two men having beers it’s wrapped up in a way that doesn’t mock what either of them went through. Stephen Bishop’s “Maybe it’s You” is an overly sentimental theme song that works perfectly with the sweetness of all the actors. You get no huge declarations of love to end this film, but it’ll leave you feeling good. And, really, what more do you want from a movie?
1995 – The American President (Michael Douglas and Annette Bening)
Michael Douglas’ good looks, Annette Bening’s spunkiness and Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue make this movie a wonderful choice for date night (fair warning: only if you’re not a conservative). The liberal politics are only a faint backdrop to the story of a widowed Commander in Chief who starts dating an environmental lobbyist in 1990s America. Sorkin’s story now watches like a hundred minute episode of “The West Wing” (he even rehashed some of the dialogue from the film for his television show) but that doesn’t take away any of it’s charm. It fits the formula: boy meets girl, they spar, they date, they fall in love, something tears them apart, they might or might not get back together…but as rout as that reads, it absolutely works. That Sorkin could turn a political speech into one that declares the President’s love without him even saying it is a credit to his talents. That we believe Michael Douglas would risk the Presidency for Annette Bening is the stuff that makes us watch romantic movies in the first place.
1998 – How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs)
Angela Bassett made a name for herself when she portrayed Tina Turner, but Stella showed the world that forty year-old women could still be “hot”. Single mother and stock broker, Stella has it all but a man and when her friend talks her into taking an island vacation she finds one in the guise of Taye Diggs who happens to be twenty years her junior. While the movie is always touted as a tale of how older woman can be sexy and in charge of their lives, behind it is a story about how age doesn’t matter if you know you’ve found the one. The story is based on author Terry McMillan’s life. She married a man much younger than her after she met him on vacation in Jamaica. (While you’re watching Bassett and Diggs fall in love, though, try not to think about the real-life ending of the story, which is the younger man turned out to be gay and the lovers ended up getting divorced.)
2007 – P.S. I Love You – (Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler)
The premise is corny enough to make you think twice about watching it: A young husband dies but leaves notes and messages for his widowed wife so that he can convince her from the grave to go on living her life. But, somehow, Hillary Swank pulls it off. Having Gerard Butler as the perfect (but dead) husband helps as does having Jeffrey Dean Morgan along as the man you expect will help her forget her husband. The film takes off in a direction you don’t expect but it doesn’t take away from the romance that existed between Swank and Butler. The idea that her dead husband wants her to experience life after he’s gone is over the top romantic but played subtly and refreshingly. Swank might not seem the best choice for a romantic lead but if you put aside your preconceptions about this film and watch it, it will make you laugh and cry and feel like you didn’t just waste two hours of your life.
Related: Angela Bassett, Annette Bening, Charlie Chaplin, Dudley Moore, Dustin Hoffman, Gerard Butler, Hilary Swank, James Stewart, Jane Fonda, Jane Wyman, Jessica Lange, Liza Minnelli, Marsha Mason, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Redford, Rock Hudson, Taye Diggs, The Vow, Virginia Cherrill, Starpulse Exclusives, Movie Spotlight
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Photo Credits: Universal Pictures