Valentine’s Day has become quite the controversial holiday; some have sworn off the saccharine greeting cards and cinematic gestures, while others revel in the romance and Valentine’s kitsch.
To me, Valentine’s Day is what you make of it, and in this article, I hope to give you a movie recommendation that meets you where you’re at. That said, below is a list of romantic comedies fit for different Valentine’s Day viewers.
For people who eat Talenti gelato and still believe in soulmates:
“Love, Rosie” (2014). Directed by Christian Ditter. Watch on Starz.
“Love, Rosie” is an underrated movie that should be the blueprint for the genre. A romantic comedy-of-errors, Ditter’s debut in English film is an adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s 2004 bestseller, “Where Rainbows End.” The film, set in England, tells the story of Rosie Dunne (Lily Collins) and Alex Stewart (Sam Claflin). Rosie and Alex fit the familiar trope of childhood best friends-turned-push-pull lovers but also undergo significant personal transformations outside of their relationship. Over a narrative timeline of 12 years — covering the pair’s journey from late adolescence to young adulthood — Rosie and Alex are repeatedly separated by university acceptances, family moves and insufferable interim partners. Yet the characters’ delightful chemistry, enabled by Collins and Claflin’s intimacy training, always leads them back to each other. “Love, Rosie” hits all the notes of a classic romantic comedy, balancing heart-wrenching missed opportunities and tender moments of emotional catharsis.
For people who had a Tamagotchi and never say “I love you” first:
“Palm Springs” (2020). Directed by Max Barbakow. Watch on Hulu.
I first saw “Palm Springs” at a drive-in theater in Los Angeles, and while that idyllic viewing experience may have biased my positive impression of the film, this comedy will satisfy you no matter how you watch it. One-third sci-fi film, one-third tragicomedy and one-third quirky romance, the genre-bent miracle that is “Palm Springs” somehow brilliantly reinvents — as Andy Samberg’s character Nyles calls it — “one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about.” Nyles has spent over 40 years living the same day at a Palm Springs wedding by the time he hooks up with Sarah (Cristin Milioti), and she accidentally joins him in the loop. Cycling between nihilistic depression and epicurean enthusiasm, the perfectly mismatched characters slowly soften into each other, and the result is a sweet film to add to your rewatch pool.
For people who drink Red Bull and get bored in relationships:
“The Lovebirds” (2020). Directed by Michael Showalter. Watch on Netflix.
No other movie has made me laugh this hard, except maybe Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart.” “The Lovebirds” starts out with a prelude of sorts, in which we see Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) sweetly begin their relationship. “Find Someone Like You” by Snoh Aalegra plays in the background as they stumble from a one-night stand into a brunch date and afternoon cocktails. It’s the first glimmer of a honeymoon phase. Cut to four years later, and the two seasoned partners are bickering about everything from Jibran’s picky eating to Leilani’s phone addiction. Their intimacy has all but flickered out when a stranger hijacks their car and runs over a supposed “criminal” bicyclist, and Jibran and Leilani go on the run as scrappy murder detectives. “The Lovebirds” is a wry, absurdist film with a healthy dose of social commentary and a whole lot of chaos. While critics preferred Showalter’s 2017 film “The Big Sick,” which tells Nanjiani’s real-life love story, I don’t find it necessary to pit the two against each other. “The Lovebirds” has plenty to offer on its own.
For people who are nursing themselves out of a “Fleabag” era and are afraid of commitment:
“Sleeping with Other People” (2015). Directed by Leslye Headland. Watch on Amazon Prime Video.
I used to think this movie was a hidden treasure; then I started meeting all the other people with anxious-avoidant attachment styles. “Sleeping with Other People” features two leads who, despite being well into their adult lives, are about as mature as college freshmen. Lainey (Allison Brie) is a chronic cheater, and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) is a first-class tool. But when these two have their version of a meet-cute at a sex addicts meeting, they pledge to get better — confiding in one another about their dating lives while keeping their own attractions to each other in check. Two sex-addicts navigating a heterosexual friendship is hilariously tricky, and viewers are invested from the moment these two elect “mousetrap” as their safe word to deflate sexual tension. Some scenes in the movie are pure laughs, like when Lainey is rolling on ecstasy at a children’s birthday party. Lainey and Jake are so effortlessly lovable, both individually and as a pair, making “Sleeping with Other People” a joy to watch.
For people who still make valentine boxes and live for the dopamine high of a crush:
“But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999). Directed by Jamie Babbit. Watch on YouTube.
“But I’m a Cheerleader” is the late ’90s film that inspired MUNA and Phoebe Bridgers’ iconic “Silk Chiffon” music video and has had queer women in a chokehold for over two decades. The film’s protagonist, Megan (Natasha Lyonne), is a happy-go-lucky high school student who shows more interest in watching her fellow cheerleaders than making out with her jock boyfriend. Despite this fact, Megan insists to her family and friends that she could not possibly be a lesbian. Still, they stage an intervention and send Megan to True Directions conversion therapy camp, where “wayward” adolescents are rigorously trained in white-picket-fence, all-American heterosexuality. Megan plays along, clothing herself in baby pink and dutifully playing Cinderella. However, when she begins crushing on her camp friend Graham (Clea DuVall), she realizes that being a cheerleader does not, in fact, disqualify one from being a lesbian. “But I’m a Cheerleader” is campy garbage of the highest caliber, ahead of its time but perfect for today’s Pharbz.
For people who were “a pleasure in class” and think more about platonic life partnerships with each passing day:
“Straight Up” (2019). Directed by James Sweeney. Rent on YouTube or Amazon Prime Video.
James Sweeney’s first feature film, “Straight Up,” is so phenomenal that I called three people immediately after watching to rave about it. Todd (Sweeney) is in his early twenties, and though he has historically identified as a gay man, his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and deep fear of bodily fluids leave him uninterested in sex. Along comes Rory (Katie Findlay), an aspiring Hollywood belle who shares Todd’s dry humor and fear of intimacy. The two quickly move in together — hopping from mansion to mansion as professional Los Angeles house-sitters — and navigate a romance devoid of sex. Throughout the film, Todd and Rory’s relationship ebbs and flows as the two fall in something like love, but not quite that. All the while, they reckon with their own identities and family traumas. “Straight Up” is for the mumblecore enthusiasts who believe in many kinds of soulmates.
For people who keep concert tickets and always love more:
“Someone Great” (2019). Directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. Watch on Netflix.
While “Jane the Virgin” made Gina Rodriguez’s acting skills abundantly clear, “Someone Great” lets her shine in an achingly gorgeous break-up film nearly all on her own. Though Brittany Snow and Matt Lasher’s side romance is wildly entertaining and DeWanda Wise has a few impeccable punchlines, Rodriguez’s rawness as Jenny Young takes center stage. Jenny embodies all the heartbreak, self-destruction and hilarity of someone freshly dumped by the love of her life, and we feel every bit of her emotional turmoil. At her 2019 Tiny Desk concert, Taylor Swift shared that after settling into a happy, long-term relationship, she was afraid she would lose her ability to write breakup songs. After watching “Someone Great,” however, Swift was turning out the lyrics to “Death By a Thousand Cuts” in her sleep. From its poignant close-ups to its spot-on soundtrack, “Someone Great” exhibits admirable attention to detail while still knitting a touching story arc. This movie will break and heal you in the best way.
Though I’ve written much of this article in jest, I know Valentine’s Day can be genuinely difficult for some of us. That said, I hope one or more of these films makes you feel seen and comfortable wherever you are in your love life. Happy watching, XOXO.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.