It's Valentine's Day weekend, and thanks to the ongoing pandemic, date night's likely going to be a little less adventurous than usual. But romance is still in the air during this most love-struck time of the year – and on your screen – as streaming services have plenty of heart-pounding, swoon-inducing love stories to fight off the cold with some cinematic chemistry and to keep things heated during these frosty February nights.
From classic meet-cutes to award-winning whirlwind romances, heart-pumping passionate affairs to riotous rom-coms, authentic love stories that feel written straight from reality to those charmingly fake Hollywood cliches that you can't help but adore, here are fifty streamable movies worth falling in love with this Valentine's Day weekend.
"50 First Dates": One of the more charming later Adam Sandler vehicles, the comedian stars as a man who falls in love with a woman ("Wedding Singer" co-star Drew Barrymore) with short-term memory loss whose mind resets each day – meaning he has to make her re-fall in love with him every day. It's cute, funny, charming and, most importantly, it takes place in warm, sunny Hawaii – the perfect winter escape right at home.
"About Time": This swoony time-travelling romantic dramedy from Richard Curtis (whose movie "Love Actually" will NOT be found on this list) should be kinda creepy and weird. But instead it's super winning thanks to a great cast (Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy), a cute romance and a surprisingly heart-filled father-son relationship that might just steal the show.
"Carol": A movie screaming with quiet, unspoken yearning, Todd Haynes's Oscar-nominated, gorgeously captured love story follows two women (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) as they slowly circle a forbidden romance together amid the repressed, restrictive '50s and the former's loveless marriage. A sumptuously crafted film – as well as easily one of the best on-screen Santa hats not involving Santa.
"The Half of It": Love triangles are nothing new to movies, but this winsome Netflix original has a fairly unique take on it: a coming-of-age tale about Ellie, a young quiet high schooler helps a classmate woo his crush by writing his romantic notes ... all while she's also in love with that very same crush. A take on the teen romance that's more sincere and authentic than the usual.
"Julie & Julia": The Julia Child half gives you the relationship goals of Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci's splendidly warm marriage as the celeb chef and her doting husband Paul. The Julie half gives you Chris Messina's handsome husband Eric being supportive to his blog-obsessed wife. And both halves give you great French dishes to drool over. What's not to like!? Dig in – but after eating something before or you'll snack on the remote.
"My Best Friend’s Wedding": Julia Roberts is a bad person in this '90s rom-com, trying to ruin and sabotage her (supposedly) best friend's wedding because she's also in love with the groom. But the movie, about this bad person doing bad things, is actually good!
"Mystic Pizza": Hey look, it's more Julia Roberts! You almost get the impression she was America's sweetheart and a queen of rom-coms at one point. Here's her first breakthrough performance, a romantic dramedy about two sisters and their friend coming of age while also dishing out pizza. Because everything is better with pizza – especially teenagedom.
"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World": For a different kind of Valentine's Day love story, pop in this poppy, blissfully rapidfire graphic novel adaption. After all, what better way to spice up a romantic story than with raging rock performances, piles of pop culture references and cartoonish smackdowns against demon hipster chicks, pretentious action stars and superpowed vegans – not to mention life lessons about love and finally growing up.
"Set It Up": Cheers to Netflix for single-handedly keeping the romantic comedy genre alive with movies like "Set It Up," a chipper workplace rom-com about two assistants trying to set up their bosses romantically but end up falling in love themselves. And you'll fall in love with its wildly charismatic stars Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. Everybody's falling in love in and around this movie!
"Sex and the City": A perfect movie for Galentine's Day or Valentine's Day, this big screen debut for small screen icons Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda and Carrie is a glitzy fantasy that's also sometimes heartbreakingly – or warmingly – real. Enjoy a cosmo or two, and meet back up with these friends. And then ignore the sequel. That never happened.
"Silver Linings Playbook": The feel-good Oscar-winning hit of 2012, "Silver Linings Playbook" brings together Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper for their first superstar pairing as two broken people recovering together with the help of dancing badly. It's charming, fun and irascible. The only bad side: You have to spend a lot of time with hardcore Philadelphia Eagles fans.
"Straight Up": An smartly snappy and unconventional modern rom-com, "Straight Up" follows Rory and Todd, two young Angelenos who start a relationship – despite the fact that she's straight and he's gay ... though, since he doesn't like any of the men he's met, he's wanting to try out being straight. A "Will & Grace" set-up combines with "Gilmore Girls"-esque whiplash-inducing dialogue and a thoughtful exploration of the fluid, undefinable nature of sexuality and relationships to make a lightly lovely indie gem.
"To All the Boys I've Loved Before": The sequel's charming as well – and I guess we'll find out about part three this weekend – but for now, stick with the first installment of this Netflix original teen romance about a young girl whose private notes to former crushes become horrifyingly public. What seems like a disaster, however, soon leads to dates with cute dream guy Noah Centineo in this whimsical sweet treat.
"The Wedding Planner": This film could've been a terrifying cautionary tale about the deadly risks of wearing high heels around sewer covers. Instead, that's the meet-cute for a charming romantic comedy about a successful but lonely wedding planner (Jennifer Lopez) who falls in love with the groom (Matthew McConaughey) that she's currently planning the perfect wedding for.
"If Beale Street Could Talk": Following up a critically acclaimed Best Picture winner is a hard task – and yet writer-director Barry Jenkins pullled it off with his lucious, warm, heartbreakingly and richly human, poetic, smouldering, tender and just plain terrific drama "If Beale Street Could Talk," about two young lovers torn apart by a false accusation. I will never forgive Annapurna for pushing "Vice" harder than this at the Oscars back in 2019; but that's besides the point. Good movie! Romantic and real! Watch it!
"Love & Basketball": It's two great things – basketball and the concept of love – in one movie; what's not to like? And indeed, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood's film debut is pretty terrific, following two childhood friends (Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan) who fall in and out of love over the years while also pursuing their dreams as pro basketball players. As far as Valentine's Day picks go, it's a slam du(*tomato hits me in the face*).
"Love, Simon": One of the first LGBTQ romances released wide by a major film studio, "Love, Simon" isn't just a commendable milestone of a movie – it's just plain a commendable movie, telling a sweet, powerful and joy-sparking coming-out coming-of-age romance set in high school as a young man tries to suss out his secret admirer.
"Portrait of a Lady on Fire": Similar in vein to "Carol," a movie powered by unspoken yearning and passion, this sumptuous and critically-lauded romantic drama from 2019 follows two women who bond and fall in secret love while one paints the other before her arranged marriage.
"The Princess Bride": Need a charming classic that features delightful fantasy storytelling, hilarious timeless jokes, wild creativity and a dreamy romance? AAAAAAAS (*rolls down hill*) YOUUUUUUU (*continues rolling down hill*) WIIIIIIIIIISSSSSH.
"The Shape of Water": Every movie romance involves two people falling in love. Very few, however, involve a character falling in love with a fish man. An even smaller number involve a character falling in love with a fish man – and actually work. That's where the sweet and scary Best Picture winner "The Shape of Water" lands, Guillermo del Toro's wonderfully macabre, beautifully bizarre monster romance about a blind woman who kindles a love story with the scaly government science project down the street.
"You’ve Got Mail": OK, so the days of AOL and a chipper glitchy voice saying "You've got mail" are outdated – but the bitter and sweet charms of this '90s Nora Ephron rom-com have aged beautifully, re-teaming "Sleepless in Seattle" stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as two rival bookshop owners who fall in love with their anonymous alter egos over the internet.
"10 Things I Hate About You": No offense to William Shakespeare – pretty good writer, I guess – but did he ever write a production in which a handsome Heath Ledger sings "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" over a loudspeaker while clumsily yet suavely meandering around some bleachers? I thought not. Point goes to this '90s rom-com adaptation of "The Taming of the Shrew." Try harder next time, Bill.
"Beauty and the Beast": Get that CGI-filled live-action version out of my face. If we're trying to fall in love – rather than hurt our eyeballs – stick with the original Disney "Beauty and the Beast," which is still a gorgeously crafted and swooningly told animated tale about loving beyond the surface.
"Cinderella": There are a lot of Cinderella movies out there – but few can top the original Disney animated rendition that's imprinted on our collective memories. And deservedly so, as the animation is still gorgeous and evocative, and the simple story hasn't lost its timeless power. It may be for kids, but everyone can fall in love yet again watching it.
"Ever After": Did I mention there are a lot of Cinderella movies out there? Case in point: following up the original "Cinderella" ... with another Cinderella movie. Oddly, the recent – and quite solid – rendition with Lily James isn't available on Disney+ (or any streaming platform), but "Ever After" comes in a quality second place when it comes to live-action adaptations, capturing all of the swoon of the formula with some clever new tweaks.
"The Lady and the Tramp": Listen, don't do the pasta-slurping thing with your significant other. It's messy, it's awkward, it's hard finding a decently sized pasta string and you end up kissing with food in your mouth. Instead, just watch two precious animated dogs do it in this Disney animated romantic classic. It'll be better for everyone.
"While You Were Sleeping": So after a woman (Sandra Bullock) saves her secret crush from getting murdered by muggers and run over by a train, she accidentally gets confused for his fiancee while he's in a coma, becoming a member of his family and falling in love with her secret, now-comatose crush's brother (Bill Pullman). Got all of that? Good. And yet somehow, despite one of the crazier high concepts of all time, this movie is sweet and charming! Man, '90s rom-coms were on another level. Nowadays, the plots of rom-coms are simply "two people like each other, but they have jobs."
"13 Going on 30": Jennifer Garner becomes a star in this blissfully bubbly, sweet comedy about a young teen who wishes to be a grown up – and it happens, suddenly finding herself dealing with a job, a crush on Mark Ruffalo and other adult responsibilities. It's like a modern version of "Big" – just as playful but without that pesky scene of a woman having sex essentially with a boy.
"A Star is Born": Tell me somethin', girl: Are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more? Is there somethin' else you're searchin' for? Oh, you're looking for "A Star Is Born" on streaming? Well, the Oscar-winning Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper edition is on HBO Max, along with the Judy Garland 1954 version and the Barbra Streisand remake from 1976.
"Casablanca": Of all the streaming services, in all the apps, in all the world, you had to walk into this one. But really, like you need me to convince you to watch "Casablanca." It's only one of the great cinematic love stories – and of the cinematic greats, period – featuring icons Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as past lovers reunited by chance in Morocco during World War II, the latter trying to escape the country, the former trying to escape his still wounded heart.
"City Lights": It may be a silent movie, but you'll be anything but silent while watching this terrific cinema classic from comedy titan Charlie Chaplin. And you'll find yourself laughing, crying and swooning as his poor famous tramp character bumbles his way through high society and into the heart of a beautiful blind flower girl.
"Crazy Rich Asians": Enjoy this glitzy rom-com hit about a young woman who has to manuever her way through her fiancee's absurdly wealthy family – including his glamourous but protective mother, played by the great Michelle Yeoh. And then afterward take lessons on how to play mahjong and emotionally devastate a future in-law with it.
"Dirty Dancing": Definitely try popping on this iconic toe-tapping '80s romance, featuring Jennifer Gray as a vacationing young woman who falls in love with the resort's slick dance instructor, played by the irreplacable Patrick Swayze. Definitely do not, however, try the film's signature climactic lift move. It's just not going to go as well as you hope.
"Emma": If you're looking for a beloved and timeless love story for Valentine's Day, you can't do much better than a Jane Austen adaptation. And this '90s variant on the literary classic, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as the titular heroine, is one of the better ones, telling the tale of a young effervescent matchmaker whose plans for others get in the way of her own romantic hopes. It's like "Hitch"! (Editor's note: It is not particularly like "Hitch.")
"Love Jones": It wasn't a big hit when it first came out back in the '90s, but this jazzy, soulful romantic drama has grown a deserving audience and fan base over the years, telling the all-too-rare story of everyday authentic Black love on screen as a photographer (Nia Long) and a poet (Larenz Tate) come together and try to stay together through life's predictably unpredictable ways.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding": Still one of the biggest indie hits ever made in Hollywood history, and still an awfully winning romantic comedy, this film is about a woman who traumatizes her loud, Windex-loving Greek family by marrying a very not Greek man. Fun fact: It was made for just $5 million. It made $241 million. I'm not great at math, but that seems like a solid return on investment.
"The Notebook": Yes, it's the most manipulative romance movie pretty much ever. And yes, Noah is kind of a possessive creep who threatens to kill himself (?!) to get a date. And yes, this did help open the door to a whole mess of bad Nicholas Sparks movie adaptations. But come on, "The Notebook" is still lovely and sweet, with the one thing a romance movie needs above all else: a pair of performers – Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams – worth swooning over.
"Once": One of the loveliest movies of all time, this low-budget Irish miracle of a musical tracks a down-on-his-luck street performer and a poor immigrant flower saleswoman as they grow closer together, out of their loneliness, through the power of music. You're guaranteed to fall in love with the characters, the movie and the raw yet beautiful music.
"The Philadelphia Story": Pst, HBO Max is secretly the best streaming service out there – maybe not with its originals but definitely with its library, densely packed with significantly more movies than its rivals, and especially more older classics, such as this peak romance, a starry love story and Best Picture nominee featuring several greats: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, who won his lone Oscar here.
"Singing’ in the Rain": What better way to fight off the seasonal disorder symptoms this Valentine's Day weekend than with one of the most blissful movies ever made, starring the incomparable Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds as three performers trying to make it through showbiz's awkward transition from silent pictures to sound. It's a movie most famous for making the best out of bad weather – how fitting!
"Definitely Maybe": Romantic comedies are already a blend of two genres – why not toss another one in there: mystery! That's the case with this appealing, star-studded flick about a father (Ryan Reynolds, more charm than smarm) telling the story of how he met her mother – either Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz or Isla Fisher.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall": I'm pretty sure this is the only movie on this lists to feature full frontal male nudity (well, this and "Beauty and the Beast"), but that's not what makes this rom-com special. That would be the charming performances, sweet love story and painfully human characters, all set in Hawaii, the perfect escape for while the weather outside is weather.
"It’s Complicated": I mean, it's not really THAT complicated. This Nancy Meyers hit – about a divorced couple (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin) that ends up cheating with each other many years later – in is just like one of Streep's character's baked goods: light, airy, sweet and immaculately crafted for satisfying bliss. It also heavily involves a beautiful kitchen.
"Pride & Prejudice": Sorry but nothing can compete with the BBC edition starring Colin Firth. But in case you have other plans beyond spending seven hours in front of a screen this Valentine's Day weekend, the 2005 rendition will do the trick as well, lusciously directed by Joe Wright and luminously acted by a plethora of future stars and famous faces. (Rosamund Pike! Carey Mulligan!) But sorry to Matthew Macfayden: #NotMyDarcy
"The Big Sick": On paper, this rom-com doesn't sound either romantic nor comedic: Two people fall in love, only to break up ... and then she falls into a medically-induced coma due to a mystery illness, leaving her ex to bond with her grumbling parents. SWOON! But on screen, this indie wonder is a delight – funny, honest and painfully authentic (it's based on a true story!), powered by lovely performances from Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan.
"Ghost": Get out the pottery wheel and muck up some vases with this Oscar-winning supernatural romantic classsic about a man (Patrick Swayze) trying to reconnect with his wife (Demi Moore) after he's murdered. Oh, and also he's trying to save her from also getting murdered by his friend. People always forget that part and remember the bad makeshift arts and crafts.
"Moulin Rouge": Like your romances big, epic, musical, frantically edited and fueled by absinthe?! Have I got the pick for your oddly specific demands! "Moulin Rouge" is a wild and crazy productio, and not all of it works, but it's hard not to get overwhelmed and washed away by its massive swooning theatrical melodrama, bombastic style and glamourous production.
"Roman Holiday": You probably haven't been able to take a vacation lately because of (*gestures at everything*), but at least you can watch OTHER people take a glorious holiday in this enchanting award-winning classic about Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck playing a princess and a journalist escaping their worries and falling in love in Rome. Live vicariously through them!
"Sylvie’s Love": Nnamdi Asomugha: good football player, maybe even better actor. He plays half of the lead pairing alongside the great Tessa Thompson in this Amazon Original, a simple but swooning '50s throwback romantic melodrama about two ambitious lovers growing apart and together as their lives take them in different directions.
"To Catch a Thief": Alfred Hitchcock may be most famous for his iconic horror films and tense classsic thrillers, but he also made this blissfully glossy Hollywood romantic caper, teaming up Cary Grant as a burglar trying to catch a fellow thief who's framed him for crimes and Grace Kelly as his love interest and potential target for the mysterious criminal. It's as tense and immaculately crafted as some of Hitchcock's best thrillers but with a light, luxurious love story touch. The champagne of Hitchcock hits.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.