Oh, Valentine’s Day! Heart-shaped candies, pretty overpriced cards from Hallmark, flowers and chocolates, and a whole lot of “xoxo” make up this holiday. It’s a day for lovers, but it’s also a day for those who are single and just want to avoid Facebook. No matter how you feel, this weekend the cherub riddled “Feast of St. Valentine” arrives. If you’re staying in tonight either with your significant other or your friends Ben & Jerry, here are some films that are romantic but also cater to the men. I’m going to spare you the trouble of watching The Notebook again, or another 27 Dresses, or another Jennifer Lopez rom-com. As someone who is a film fanatic, I can understand how the cliche ‘chick flick’ makes a man cringe. Trust me, it makes a fair amount of women cringe too. If I have to see someone post on Facebook, “I am the exception, not the rule,” one more time—in the kindest way possible, I will high-five you to the mouth.
If you’re staying in tonight with your loved one or are on your own and ordering in from your favorite pizza joint and hibernating from the dreaded winter weather, here are fourteen (because of the blessed occasion) films that will please both sexes on Valentine’s Day:
1. The Before Trilogy:
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
The Before trilogy really should be counted as one film. The three films by Richard Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are quite possibly one of the best trilogies to come out from our era. Dubbed as “the great romantic epic of our generation” by the New York Times, Before Sunrise (1995) follows a French woman, Celine and an American man, Jesse who first meet on a train in Europe and wind up spending one romantic evening with each other in Vienna, knowing that it will be their only night together. Nine years later in Before Sunset (2004), the two characters meet one another on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour and it’s very evident that despite the time lost between the two, the feelings between Jesse and Celine are still strong and very much real despite Jesse moving on with his life and being married—rather, unhappily married. In the final installment of the films (Before Midnight, 2013), Jesse and Celine have two daughters and are experiencing relationship issues of their own that plague the two through the cracks of insecurity and misunderstandings.
Why It’s Great for the Guys: Though it’s romantic, it’s not incredibly sappy or cliche. The two films are heavy in dialogue and that’s what makes it so appealing. Watching these two characters evolve over the years through their walks and talks, is not only sweet and very natural, but seeing their harmonic banter makes the experience fun and very relatable. These two meet in an incredibly natural way, while translating as very real and multi-dimensional experiences. The way the two characters mesh together and build off one another throughout the course of their journey in all the films makes it a thoughtful and genuine piece of work. The romance inclines itself in the little scribbled love notes to their travels, the train and chance meetings, and of course, the romanticism in their backdrops.
2. Moonrise Kingdom
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jared Kilman, Kara Hayward, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand
Wes Anderson is a genius and his off-the-wall films are beloved by many. Best described as an “eccentric pubescent love story,” Moonrise Kingdom is a quirky, modern day version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Set in 1965, the film follows Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky as the two flee from their New England town in hopes to build their own little kingdom together out in the woods. Madly in love, the two turn their peaceful community upside down as local authorities and Sam’s Khaki Scouts come looking for them.
Why It’s Great for the Guys It’s a simple film that plays like a lot of Anderson’s previous work, but with a sincerity and naive innocence. It’s refreshing to see such an honest story about odd kids and their confusing romance. The really beautiful part of Suzy and Sam’s relationship is in that naive hopefulness the two have for their love, and that’s nice to watch. In many ways, it’s touching because love is simple—we just make it super complicated. And just because the film stars two 12 year-olds, that doesn’t mean it’s not appealing to an older audience. As the two have a very “adult” relationship and treat themselves like grown-ups, there is crafty timed deadpan humor that engages attention, and the sexual innuendo that will make anyone remember their first time. Not to mention, an amazing cast with the likes of Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Anderson regulars like Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, and hey—who doesn’t love Bill Murray?
3. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison
Based on the 1945 novel by R.A Dick, the film finds newly widowed Lucy Muir moving away from family and living by the English seaside with her young daughter, Anna at the haunted Gull Cottage. Lucy comes across the previous—deceased—owner, a pompously profane but attractive seaside captain named Daniel Gregg. When Lucy shows no fear to the apparition, the Captain grows intrigued and grows a liking to her. The two become very good friends even though she cannot see the Captain, but only hear him. After discovering Lucy is in financial peril, the Captain offers to dictate his memoirs to her, which she eagerly parlays into a best-seller and a lasting literary career. Through their time together, the Captain falls in love with Lucy.
Why It’s Great for the Guys: This isn’t a heavily romantic movie even though it made AFI’s 100 Years: 100 Passions, coming in at No.73 and it sort of sounds like it. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz knows exactly how to flirt with sentiment without embracing it and showcasing it at the forefront. In many ways, it’s a charming tale of two lost and lonely souls, and one of them just happens to be dead. It sort of stumbles into a dramedy of sorts, looking into the human condition, while maintaining a very old-fashioned charm and appeal. The friendship the two form through the supernatural is comforting and understandable. Of course, soon enough the two begin to have feelings for each other and that’s the part that peaks curiosity, reflecting a naturalness in the form of friendships that sometimes can turn to romantic relationships. In today’s relevance, such a relationship between the Captain and Lucy can parallel that of a long-distance one. All-in-all, it’s a sweet movie and one that is a timeless and remarkable film.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by: Michael Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson
After the emotionally disengaged Joel meets the unrestrained free spirited Clementine on a train, the two opposites strike up a conversation and are immediately drawn to each other despite their extremely different personalities. The two are a clear case of opposites who attract. Little do they know though that they are in fact former lovers who are now separated after having spent two years together. What’s the reason for them not remembering? Both lovers underwent a procedure after suffering several problems in their relationship and felt it best to forget one another. As Joel’s memories were erased, he finds himself revisiting them in reverse and upon seeing happier times of love with Clementine, he begins to preserve some of his memories and love for her.
Why It’s Great for the Guys: Quite a different film for comedic actor Jim Carrey, but this one really is a gem. It’s funny, imaginative and very loopy, balancing smarts and sentiment very well. What’s great about it is that in many ways like the Before Trilogy, the storyline is believable and very honest, showing that when you’re meant for someone, nothing can really stop or erase those feelings. Sure there’s a sci-fi element to the film, but it’s one that sort of hosts insights to memory and relationship perspectives. After watching the film, it’s one that sticks. The emotions felt by both characters is very genuine and something most of us have been through. It takes a fascinating concept like the ability to erase painful memories and use it as a pretext for examining what really happens to a couple when they undergo such a procedure. Going through life with what we’ve experienced is an important part of who we are and our personal outcomes. It’s an odd film, but a compellingly interesting one at that.
5. Out of Sight
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Don Cheadle
In all simplicity, this movie is about an unadulterated attraction between two individuals from the opposite sides of the law, or right wrapped in wrong. Career bank robber, Jack, and U.S. Marshal, Karen are forced to share a car trunk together after Jack makes a getaway with the help of a friend from a Florida prison. While in the trunk, the two have a “moment” and it’s evident they have an incredible amount of chemistry. Jack and his friends work their way to a wealthy suburb in Detroit to visit a businessman named Ripley who bragged to them in prison about a stash of uncut diamonds he has hidden in his house. Of course, Jack has competition with a vicious criminal named Maurice who is also planning on hitting Ripley’s mansion. Hot on his tail, Karen meets up with Jack and the two consummate their attraction in a hotel room (though it’s set in winter, the scene is hot), but the question remains: will Karen really pursue Jack romantically or is she going to arrest him?
Why It’s Great for the Guys: This is a great one for guys because it’s an awesome dark comedy, crime caper complete with FBI agents, cops, weirdo criminals and the original ‘Dapper Dan’ himself, George Clooney. It’s not your typical romantic comedy. It’s bleak and funny, pretty sexy, but it’s also pretty violent. The film plays off very cool and quite frankly, is one of Clooney’s best films. What’s interesting is the chemistry between the two isn’t overdone. It plays very well with the story and is definitely slick.
6. The Philadelphia Story
Directed by: George Cukor
Starring: Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey
The Philadelphia Story is a romantic comedy about prim and proper socialite, Tracy Lord whose ex-husband C.K Dexter Haven, a tabloid-reporter, Macaulay Connor and his photographer, Elizabeth Imbrie show up just before her planned remarriage. With C.K back in the picture, Tracy begins to re-evaluate herself and who she is, wondering what she really wants. Along the way, she creates a comical situation of mix-ups in order to deter the tabloid reporters from getting a scoop but becomes smitten with Macaulay, as the two share a moment singing “Over The Rainbow” after a night of romantic drinking. What does a girl who has everything finally decide?
Why It’s Great for the Guys: This is a seamless and downright wistful romantic comedy that is a timeless classic. It is not at all boring. In fact, it has made 7 of AFI’s best lists and from the looks of this film, Hollywood simply doesn’t make movies like this one anymore. It’s a clever screwball for both men and women and is a must-see for its time. It’s rather mature and showcases a humanistic social satire that was not only an assessment of the times, but of the social ladder—something still relevant today. The film is hilarious and has quite the surprise ending!
7. Django Unchained
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christophe Waltz, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio
Set in the South two years before the start of the Civil War, Django Unchained is the story of a slave whose brutish history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with a German-born bounty hunter by the name of Dr. King Schultz. Schultz is hot on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, with Django serving as his only lead. Dr. Shultz and Django form a friendship and trust through their journey, confiding in him how he must find and rescue his wife, Broomhilda who was lost to slave trade. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused with Schultz and their search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie, the wealthy socialite of a Southern plantation. While exploring the compound under disguises, Django and the doctor begin to arouse the suspicion of Stephen, Candie’s trusted house slave.
Why It’s Great for the Guys: I know what you’re thinking: how is this romantic? Tarantino films are riddled with bullets, guts, gore and gratuitous violence, but this western is an adventurous film and one that serves well for the film lover who wants a small dose of romance against a very stylized variation of the well loved spaghetti western. The fact that Django goes on a life and death search for his one true love, Broomhilda, how is that not romantic? It takes chivalry to a new, adventurous level not seen since The Princess Bride. Another great thing about this film is if you do have a significant other, they just might fawn over the charm of Leonardo DiCaprio who plays the nefarious villain, Calvin Candie. It’s clearly a win-win!
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