It's Valentine's Day weekend, and thanks to the ongoing pandemic, date night may still 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 fighting off the cold with some cinematic chemistry and keeping 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 make you say "I do," here are fifty streamable movies worth falling in love with this Valentine's Day weekend.
"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.
"The Half of It": A modern take on "Cyrano" courtesy of Netflix, this coming-of-age romance follows Ellie, a young quiet high schooler helps a classmate woo his crush by writing his love 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.
"Phantom Thread": Paul Thomas Anderson's lavish Oscar-nominated romance is a treat even more decadent and sumptuous than Reynolds Woodcock's signature breakfast order, charting a love story between Daniel Day-Lewis' turbulent designer and his enchanting muse (a star-making turn from Vicky Krieps) through the good, the bad and the mushrooms.
"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!
"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.
"To All the Boys I've Loved Before": The sequels are charming as well – but 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.
"500 Days of Summer": Grab your animated birds and dance along to Hall & Oats – and to this entertaining and inventive indie rom-com, starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as an architect who falls in love with the very charming Zooey Deschanel. It's a relationship story that's smarter and wiser than its reputation – but also maaaybe turn it off ten seconds before the end credits.
"Hitch": Remember the days when a star-led original romantic comedy could not only top the box office but make, like, a ton of money? Go back to those old days with this entertaining modern rom-com favorite, featuring the always-likeable (and newly Oscar-nominated) Will Smith as a slick dating coach who meets his match – in multiple ways, with both a troublesome client (a winning Kevin James) and a woman (Eva Mendes) wise to his pickup artist ways.
"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!
"La La Land": No, actually I mean "Moonlight!" Ah, it never gets old. Barry Jenkins' Oscar-winning drama has its number of swoonworthy, heart-pumping moments (mostly involving Andre Holland and a cigarette), but if you want lighter, fluffier fare (with a little bittersweet bite) for this Valentine's Day, its musical Best Picture rival may be just the ticket, pairing the perfect Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling together as a couple dancing their way through the highs and lows of the city of stars – sometimes literally.
"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.
"Palm Springs": Can't imagine why a movie about two people having an existential crisis stuck reliving the same day over and over again would pop during the time of social distancing. But even if we're (hopefully) moving closer to the end of the pandemic, "Palm Springs" is still a darkly delightful watch.
"Portrait of a Lady on Fire": 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.
"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.
"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 awkward scene where a woman has sex essentially with a boy.
"Bridget Jones's Diary": Renee Zellweger has two Oscars – yet neither of them are for her best performance, and certainly her most famous performance, as the charmingly bumbling and love-chasing Brit Bridget Jones in the first movie. Doesn't hurt to have the always magnetic Colin Firth and daffy Hugh Grant to play off of and fall in love with.
"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.
"Down with Love": Before he directed the two "Ant-Man" movies, Peyton Reed crafted this witty technicolor tribute to the cheeky Hollywood romances of old starring Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger as singles from opposite sides of the spectrum – one a playboy, the other an assertive feminist – who fall in love with perfectly retro-tastic backdrop of the '60s. A bright and bubbly (but by no means braindead) Valentine's Day binge.
"Enough Said": One of James Gandolfini's last performances was also one of his best – and surprisingly sweetest, playing the romantic interest to Julia Louis-Dreyfus in this mature and winsome (but no less smartly funny) adult romantic comedy.
"How to Be Single": Looking for a rom-com that's less about falling in love with a relationship and more about falling in love with yourself? Look no further than "How to Be Single," a comedy about a woman coping with a recent breakup featuring a delightful lead performance from Dakota Johnson and some lovingly shot NYC scenery. A perfect Valentine's Day watch for one.
"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*).
"Moonstruck": One of the most revered romances to ever hit the big screen, this six-time Oscar nominee – and three-time winner, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Olympia Dukakis and Best Actress for Cher – tells the story of a Brooklyn bookkeeper who makes the mistake of falling for her fiancee's brother, as well as the mistake of learning more about her family's little secrets.
"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.
"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.
"The Photograph": This warmly performed and directed romance was unfortunately overlooked and forgotten after it came out in early 2020. (Can't imagine what happened that took up everyone's attention!) But you now have a chance to rediscover Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield falling in love with the help of a lost historic photo.
"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
"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.
"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!
"They Came Together": Love to hate rom-com cliches and conventions? So does this underrated spoof gem starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and just about anyone else who's ever made you laugh, lovingly mocking all of those usual love story tropes and turning groans into gags.
"The Wedding Singer": Adam Sandler's movies can be hit or miss – but this one fully falls into the former category, the first of his two winning collaborations with Drew Barrymore about an '80s wedding singer who falls in love. Just one problem: They're both already engaged. Cue "Love Hurts" by Nazareth – and cue a lot of laughs and love in this still charming rom-com. Certainly a more fitting Valentine's Day choice than "Uncut Gems!"
"West Side Story": Want to see the original Oscar-winning musical masterpiece before you see Steven Spielberg's Best Picture-nominated take? Luckily you can now find the iconically swoony musical take on "Romeo & Juliet" on HBO Max.
"When Harry Met Sally": Oh, nothing – it's just one of the most iconic romantic comedies ever made, featuring a fully star-making performance from Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal cementing himself as a comedy great, the dearly missed Carrie Fisher making everything better and Nora Ephron earning a Hollywood blank check with her sharp, savvy and sweet screenplay. You'll want what this movie is having.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"I Want You Back": One of the newest entries on this list – released just this weekend! – "I Want You Back" is a hilariously ridiculous rom-com starring Jenny Slate and Charlie Day (both tremendously entertaining) as two newly dumpees who team up to win their respective exes back. Shenanigans – and surprising cameos! – ensue.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"To Catch a Thief": Alfred Hitchcock may be most famous for his iconic horror films and tense 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.