1. TRUE ROMANCE (Dir. Tony Scott, 1993) - Remember when I just said most romance films aren't realistic? Well this one isn't either, but with a script written by Quentin Tarantino, direction by Tony Scott, and a cast that includes Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt, IT DOESN'T MATTER. So unknowingly getting set up with a prostitute, falling in love, stealing cocaine from a pimp and selling it to Hollywood bigwigs may not be your everyday scenario, but this getting-to-know-each-other scene in the diner is what I love about relationships:
Also, I absolutely love the score by Hans Zimmer. It's an ode to Terrence Malick's BADLANDS (1973), which is another film you can see on Valentine's Day, if you like couples that go on killing sprees.
2. SIXTEEN CANDLES (Dir. John Hughes, 1984) - I don't have a problem with the starry-eyed girl who's in love with the popular senior as long as it's done right. And John Hughes is a master of teen RomCom (and adolescence in film in general, obviously). But some of the best scenes are The Geek's (Anthony Michael Hall) failed attempts at getting Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald):
3. CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER (Dir. Lee Toland Krieger, 2012) - This movie is excellent for many reasons. Rashida Jones and Will McCormack wrote a heartbreakingly beautiful screenplay about the complexities of relationships. The soundtrack is also amazing, but I don't expect the daughter of Quincy Jones to let subpar music near her work, so it's not surprising. This clip is hilarious:
Although not everyone is living with their ex-spouse in a roommate situation, the film exposes real problems in relationships. Not everything is clear and 'solvable.' There's no fluff and glitter here, so if that's the kind of V-Day film you're looking for, try elsewhere. But you'd be missing out.
4. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Dir. Wong Kar-wai, 2000) - This isn't just a great romance movie. This is a masterpiece by renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. This film explores love that could have been and perhaps still could be, with excellent use of color, masterfully composed shots, and just listen to the score in this scene:
5. AARON LOVES ANGELA (Dir. Gordon Parks Jr, 1975) - Many people haven't seen this film. It surely wasn't Gordon Parks Jr.'s most popular work (Once you make SUPERFLY, how can you really top it?), but I loved the Romeo and Juliet adaptation set against the backdrop of East and West Harlem, where Angela and Aaron fall in love. They face opposition from all sides since Angela is Puerto Rican and Aaron is Black. The gritty 1970s feel always gets me, which is one reason why I love this film. The other reason? José Feliciano blesses the soundtrack.
Since we have limited attention spans (myself very much included), I ended this list at 5 films, but here are other suggestions that deserve to be mentioned:
AWAY WE GO (Dir. Sam Mendes, 2009) - Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski's relationship? I want that.
ENOUGH SAID (Dir. Nicole Holofcener, 2013) - Many people will now remember this as James Gandolfini's last film, but I just see real-life romantic problems portrayed well on the screen.
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (Dir. Leo McCarey, 1957) - I had to throw a classic tear-jerker in there. I'm not a robot.
JUNO (Dir. Jason Reitman, 2007) - "I need to know that it's possible that two people can stay happy together forever." Me too, Juno. Me too.
AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY (Dir. Terence Nance, 2012) - A whole film describing the indescribable beauty of someone (or multiple people) you're in love with. Stunning work.
SAVE THE LAST DANCE (Dir. Thomas Carter, 2001) - Because WHY NOT!? This movie came out when I was 15 years old, so basically it formed a lot of my misshapen opinions on love.
I love movies 'til the death of me, so I hate when people think there aren't good romance films. Or when men think they have to suffer through THE NOTEBOOK on holidays like V-Day. So hopefully this list will help you enjoy the day a little more. That and chocolate. Lots. Of. Chocolate.