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Love in Hues: Films for Valentine’s Day

Published on
Feb 14, 2024
Written by
Sabrina Yussuf
Published by
Edited by
Ricardo Felix

February, the month of love, or at least the month that Valentine’s Day is in, is the perfect occasion to indulge in romantic cinema in its many forms. From heartwarming classic rom-coms to alluring action-comedies, there’s a film to match any mood you might be in on February 14th. 

This past year has given us some great new entries in the romance genre, including some you might still be able to catch in theatres for Valentine’s Date Night, like Past Lives, All of Us Strangers, and Fallen Leaves. If you’ve already checked those off your watchlist or are looking for something to watch from the comfort of your home, you’ve come to the right place.

This handpicked selection, definitive and inarguable, is an attempt to highlight a few modern classics for your viewing pleasure this month. With several categories to choose from, you're bound to find something perfect for a cozy rewatch or an exciting new viewing experience regardless of how romantic (or contentious) you’re feeling about the holiday.

Quintessential (Nora Ephron) Rom-Coms 

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Starting with the obvious: the seminal Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner masterpiece When Harry Met Sally. Setting the stage and changing the form for all rom coms to follow, When Harry Met Sally perfectly captures the romantic comedy essentials: enemies to lovers, scene-stealing supporting characters, New York in the fall, witty dialogue, and, of course, Meg Ryan. As an added bonus, this film is the perfect fall/winter outfit mood board, a few shoulder pads notwithstanding. 

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Nora Ephron’s power over the rom-com genre was undeniable. Another genre-defining, endlessly quotable entry into the romantic comedy category, this film leans into the enemies-to-lovers trope with a twist - our protagonists are enemies and lovers at the same time, but neither of them knows it. Set against the cozy backdrop of New York City, Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan reunite with Tom Hanks for this extremely charismatic exploration of connection, friendship, and the evolving landscape of modern romance. You’d think a film about the internet set in 1998 would be extremely dated, but this really is a timeless classic, capturing the uncertainty of online dating well ahead of its time. 


[Editor’s Note: I invented this category so I could include the The Before Trilogy.] 

Before Sunrise (1995) | Before Sunset (2004) | Before Midnight (2013)

(Photo: Criterion Collection) 

Beginning with a chance encounter on a train to Vienna (one can only dream!), this trilogy of films follows the evolving relationship of Jesse and Céline, effortlessly portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who also co-wrote the films, across two decades. Each installment follows the couple in real-time, walking and talking in a different European city, with dialogue so organic it feels like you’re watching a real-life conversation. I’ll leave it there and let the trilogy speak for itself, but if you haven’t seen these films before, I highly recommend giving yourself some space between each film to feel the time that passes between each encounter.  

Literary Adaptation 

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

There have been countless adaptations of this Jane Austen classic (lest we forget Greta Gerwig’s cheeky nod to the beloved BBC adaptation that ‘Depression Barbie’ watches on a loop in the film Barbie last summer) but Joe Wright’s adaptation from 2005 starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is so cinematically stunning, it infuses a new life into this age-old story, a perfect balance of romance and social commentary against the sweeping English countryside. It’s endlessly rewatchable, has an enchanting score, and there’s a scene with a hand flex that I promise you’ll never forget. If you know, you know.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Adapted from the James Baldwin novel, Tish and Fonny are two young lovers whose lives are upended when Fonny is falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Barry Jenkins’ lyrical directional style captures a powerful story of love, hope, and resilience through rich cinematography that luxuriates in colour accompanied by an evocative score that tugs at your heartstrings. The film bounces between past and present in 1970s Harlem with striking performances by Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King (Oscar-winning for this role), Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, and more.   

Forbidden Love 

In The Mood For Love (2000)

This Wong Kar-wai masterpiece follows two neighbours in 1960s Hong Kong, portrayed stunningly by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, who find comfort in one another’s company when they suspect their spouses of infidelity. There’s so much to take in in this movie: lush cinematography that lingers on our characters just as longingly as their stolen glances at one another, a beautiful and haunting score, and two people looking better than anyone has ever looked on film. Also, this movie invented the colour red. Once you’ve seen this, look into Wong Kar-wai’s other films, including some just as worthy of being on this list, like Chungking Express or Happy Together

Decision to Leave (2022)

(Photo: MUBI) 

An ace detective in Korea is called to the scene of a tragic accident. Or is it a cold-blooded murder? Is the striking, intelligent widow an aggrieved victim or the very doer of the deed? The first movie to make texting sexy takes us on a charming, terrible tale of two star-crossed lovers in a cavalcade of deadly situations.  

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

In 18th-century France, Marianne is commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse; Héloïse is determined not to be painted. As Marianne attempts to capture her subject’s likeness and keep her assignment a secret, their connection deepens, blossoming into a passionate affair filled with long sustained gazes and discussions about art and literature, making their bond both uniquely artistic and deeply emotional in a very condensed period of time. Director Céline Sciamma calls this film a “manifesto about the female gaze”. 


Moonlight (2016)

Another Barry Jenkins entry, Moonlight is a poignant and tender portrayal of love and self-discovery in its exploration of a young man's journey to adulthood. Following Chiron in three pivotal stages of his life, the film navigates the struggles and complexities of love, connection, identity, and sexuality. 

The Worst Person in the World (2021)

An inventive coming-of-age story for people in their twenties, this Norwegian film follows Julie as she struggles to find herself while experiencing the highs and lows of love and life in Oslo. The film is refreshingly candid and doesn’t shy away from portraying the good, the bad, and the ugly of navigating this period in life. It’s also incredibly funny, romantic, at times very sad, and has a great soundtrack - everything you could possibly need all wrapped into one film. 

Sports & Love 

Love and Basketball (2000) 

Is basketball the flirtiest sport? I had to invent a category of one for this list to include Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love and Basketball, a film following two childhood friends with a shared passion and dream of ultimate basketball success and stardom. The film follows Monica and Quincy’s respective careers, personal lives, and the strong bond that forms between them on and off the court.  

Romantic Action 

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) 

This film takes “‘til death do us part” to the next level. Unbeknownst to each other, married couple John and Jane Smith are both assassins from rival agencies, assigned to kill each other. I can’t think of another film this century that captures the raw sexual energy of two co-stars carrying on an alleged real-life affair while making the movie. Sure, we don’t know that they were sharing a dressing room so to speak, but it’s all up there on the screen. This movie is flawed but very fun, especially if you ignore the plot holes and instead focus your attention on the flaming-hot chemistry and charisma of the duo. 

Out of Sight (1998) 

George Clooney (handsome, charming, bank robber) accidentally kidnaps JLo (beautiful, dangerous, US Marshal) on his unscheduled departure from prison. A steamy game of cat and mouse ensues. This genre is just an excuse to be sexy. 

Anti-Valentine’s Day 

Midsommar (2019)

A stark portrayal of a failing romance and a visceral (this is a horror movie) exploration of grief and isolation against the backdrop of pagan rituals in rural Sweden, Midsommar subverts the traditional love story, serving as a haunting reminder of the complexities and, sometimes horrifying, realities of relationships. This film is a mesmerizing yet unsettling exploration of the darkest depths of love, making it a worthy choice for anyone seeking a departure from saccharine romantic classics this Valentine’s Day. 

Ready or Not (2019)

From “I do” to “I…die?” A newlywed bride finds herself thrust into a seriously deadly game of hide-and-seek on her wedding night. Need I say more? 


Phantom Thread (2017) 

Not your traditional romantic comedy, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread follows a meticulous and eccentric dressmaker in 1950s London as his carefully curated life is altered (get it?) with the entrance of sweet and intriguing but strong-willed Alma. Alma is thrust into the delicate world of the famed House of Woodcock, where missteps are rewarded with tantrums and taste in everything is a requirement. It will sneak up on you, but this is sort of the funniest movie in years. 

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