Valentine’s Day is upon us, and whether you’re alone, with friends or with that special someone, you can rest assured that there’s always going to be one soul mate waiting for you at home: Netflix. Yes, Netflix, the streaming giant that somehow still finds the time to cuddle up with you and you alone through the best of times and the worst of times.
This Valentine’s Day, why not spice up your regular binge of Jim and Pam kissing in the rain and try out some romantic hits that you hopefully haven’t seen before?
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
Hailed as one of the best LGBTQ romance films of the 21st century, “Blue” is noted for its raw, unflinching portrayal of two women, Emma (Léa Seydoux) and Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), as they explore their relationships with each other and the society around them. Although deemed controversial by some for its occasionally graphic content, the film deserves a watch.
Directed by Todd Haynes, a pioneer of the New Queer Cinema movement, “Carol” was one of 2015’s best films, even though it was notoriously snubbed at the Oscars. It was nominated for six awards and did not win a single one. The film tells the story of two women — Carol (Cate Blanchett), a wealthy woman going through a divorce, and Therese (Rooney Mara), an up-and-coming photographer — who engage in a forbidden love affair in the 1950s.
This film is a sheer masterpiece of cinema, accentuated by phenomenal performances, directing, music and cinematography. It is truly one of the greatest LGBTQ romantic dramas made in the past decade and a testament to the importance of telling stories like this.
A man falls in love with Siri. No, really. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. And a bit more dramatic. And, honestly, far more touching than you could ever imagine. Essentially, in the near future, smartphone AIs have become so advanced that they sound, talk and act human. Throw in a lonely, recently divorced man played by a very mustachioed Joaquin Phoenix, warm-looking cinematography and a soundtrack featuring songs by Arcade Fire, and you’ve got a romance that will continue to surprise you.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
What if you could forget everything you knew about someone? In “Eternal Sunshine,” people do just that. Joel (Jim Carrey) undergoes an experimental procedure to erase his memories of his rocky relationship with his previous girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet).
However, when Joel decides mid-operation that he loves Clementine too much to forget her, he has to survive the chaos of his own mind in order to cling to any memories he has left of her. These elements make for one of the most visually creative and emotionally powerful movies of all time. (Disclaimer: This is my favorite movie ever.)
Okay, I know I’m cheating by putting two of my personal favorites on here, but I promise that this one is fantastic as well. “Punch-Drunk Love” features Adam Sandler as a serious dramatic actor. No, really. Of course that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t funny. It’s the oddly hilarious story of a man who exploits a loophole with pudding cups to earn millions of frequent flyer miles, gets involved with the mafia after calling a phone sex line and manages to fall in love in spite of his crippling social anxiety.
“She’s Gotta Have It”
Spike Lee’s first film (and one of my personal favorites of his) is a 1980s classic that flipped typical notions of gender and relationships. Nola Darling is a young black woman in Brooklyn who maintains a relationship with three different men at once — gentleman Jamie, model Greer and jokester Mars — only for things to be thrown out of sync when the three men meet up.
Romantic, comedic and dramatic all at once, “She’s Gotta Have It” is a phenomenal film that celebrates sexual and romantic liberation and challenges established norms with excellent execution. And if you like the movie, be sure to check out the first season of Netflix’s episodic remake, which leans only more strongly into topics and issues addressed in the original and features a Nola who self-identifies as a “sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual.”
“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”
Stay with me now because I already know what you’re thinking. “That sounds like the most unromantic title I’ve ever heard.” And yes, admittedly, the idea of Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) hiring their friends and strangers to shoot a porno in the coffee shop where Zack works in order to make enough to money to pay their rent doesn’t sound too romantic at first glance, or frankly, at any glance. But what follows is by far one of the sweetest, most genuine progressions of “just friends” to “maybe something more” that you’ll see.