It’s a common misconception that male viewers aren’t interested in great film romances. But just because premises involving Katherine Heigl as a saucy bounty hunter fail to generate considerable enthusiasm in the male demographic, that doesn’t mean the more bellicose sex is completely cold and unfeeling.
Valentine’s Day, for all its pageantry and commercialism, is always a good time of year to revisit some of the great films out there with a primarily romantic bent. Some of these are more comedy than romance, and others have sci-fi, musical or sports-related twists, but every one of them is an excellent film in its own right that your boyfriend, husband or otherwise male object of interest probably wouldn’t mind watching this Valentine’s Day.
1. Groundhog Day (1993)
Everyone loves Groundhog Day, right? I’ve always found it curious that many people don’t regard it primarily as a romance. I guess it’s understandable given how funny it is and its fantastical premise, but much of this story is about Bill Murray’s character learning how to truly love someone other than himself. He develops such a profound longing over time for Andie MacDowell’s character because he’s given unlimited time to fully appreciate what makes her unique, which transforms his baser lusts into genuine love. Ultimately, he works toward making her life better in the one day he’s allotted with a selflessness that comes from a lack of expectations of reward.
2. It Happened One Night (1934)
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to revisit some film classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and they don’t come any more classic than It Happened One Night. In many ways the quintessential American romantic comedy to predate the implementation of the Production Code in 1934, it tells the story of a young socialite runaway (Claudette Colbert) who tags along with a streetwise reporter (Clark Gable). It goes pretty much exactly as you’d expect—they both learn from each other’s very different skill set, and opposites absolutely attract. It’s famous for its hitchhiking scene, where the wily Colbert successfully flags down a car simply by showing a little leg, completely emasculating Gable. His reaction is priceless.
3. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson’s 2012 film is described as an “eccentric pubescent love story,” but it’s really not quite as eccentric as it would have you believe. Through just about any form of measurement, it’s probably Anderson’s most simple and sincere film, a genuinely heartfelt story about a couple of weird kids and their confusing adolescent romance. The director’s films are so often about exceptional children growing into adults who fail to achieve their promise, but here they never have that chance. It’s an optimistic story that entertains the possibility that maybe love really is all we need. Call it sappy, but the innocence is refreshing. Also, Billy Murray is there—perhaps his presence is the biggest deciding factor to getting on this list?
4. Drinking Buddies (2013)
If you feel compelled to go full indie and can’t stand love stories with tidy, happy endings, Drinking Buddies should be your pick. It’s an unconventional romance in that most of the characters never commit to the relationships or infidelities we expect them to. Instead, it’s about temptation, the lies we tell ourselves in a relationship and the boundaries between friendship and romantic feelings. A scion of but not full-fledged entry into the mumblecore genre, its largely improvised dialog lends an air of reality to the conversations, but those expecting typical genre conventions may find themselves perplexed when you don’t get anything resembling the “wedding bells” ending of the typical romantic comedy.
5. Waitress (2007)
A comedy drama starring Keri Russell as a pie-baking waitress probably doesn’t sound like something your boyfriend would seek out, but Waitress is much more than meets the eye. A fun, quirky movie that’s as emotionally affecting as it is entertaining, it plays like a more feminine Coen Brothers flick. Russell is wonderful as Jenna, a Southerner waitress who finds empowerment and freedom from her overbearing, emotionally abusive husband first in an affair and then in a new source of love. This film, unlike some of the others, is not so much about romantic love as it is about finding love for self. It was an impressive achievement for writer/director Adrienne Shelly, who was tragically murdered three months before its debut.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
I love Edgar Wright’s whole “Cornetto trilogy” of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, but for my money this is easily his most impressive film to date. For all the appreciation that has grown for it since its poor box office showing, Scott Pilgrim still hasn’t truly gotten its due. Most of what makes it great (in addition to the stellar writing) is Wright’s incredibly creative visual aesthetic, seamlessly blending influences from comics, video games and pop art into a whole that just works, against all odds. The romance aspect is a bit more “young adult” and inconsequential, but you’re unlikely to notice in a film so vibrant and full of life.
7. His Girl Friday (1940)
If you’ve ever wondered “what the big deal” is about women and Cary Grant, then you’ve probably never seen His Girl Friday. One of the absolute classic screwball comedies of Hollywood’s Golden Age, it was a definitive role for Grant as a hard-boiled newspaper editor. It’s actually fairly progressive, or at least tries to be, as beautiful star Rosalind Russell plays her reporter role vivaciously and plans to leave the scheming Grant behind her before getting caught up in the news story of the decade. The pair have a comic chemistry that has rarely been seen in the near-75 years since, and the movie moves so fast that you hardly have time to breathe. Every joke ever made about fast-talking 1940s newspapermen had its source in this movie.