A&E’s Valentine’s Watchlist
Reading Time: 5 minutes
“The Princess Bride” (1987) —Nicole Liu
“The Princess Bride” is widely considered to be a cult classic and a staple in pop culture today, as exhibited by the endless quoting of some of its most iconic lines. The film follows the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farm boy who must venture through the fictional kingdom of Florin to rescue his true love, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) from the repugnant Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). With witty one-liners, sword fights, and secret torture dungeons, there is never a dull moment. The love story is also one for the ages, as Westley fights tooth and nail to be reunited with his soulmate once again. Westley and Buttercup’s relationship challenges the notions of marrying for status or wealth by encouraging marrying for the sake of real love. “The Princess Bride” is the perfect blend of adventure, romance, and comedy, and it conveys the beautiful message that true love can prevail, even in spite of the most unexpected curveballs.
“Pride & Prejudice” (2005) —Jaein Ku
Based on Jane Austen’s timeless novel of the same name, “Pride & Prejudice” sets itself apart from other romance movies with captivating shots in sunkissed fields and grand manors. Deborah Moggach’s screenplay and the film’s dramatic soundtrack perfectly convey the misjudgments and mishaps that ensue as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their pride and prejudice as individuals from different social classes. By utilizing subtle facial expressions rather than spoken dialogue, Keira Knightly’s execution of Elizabeth’s independence and Matthew Macfadyen’s performance of Mr. Darcy’s vulnerability breathes life into Austen’s characters. The sensational tension and the heart-tugging finale in “Pride & Prejudice” compels even the most hardened hearts to fantasize about true love and happily ever afters.
“Notting Hill” (1999) —Lianne Ohayon
For a romantic comedy released in the heyday of successful rom-coms, setting oneself apart is a tough thing to do. Nevertheless, “Notting Hill” accomplishes just that. Hollywood star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) doesn’t just fall in love with bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) fresh out of a bad marriage. “Notting Hill” dives deep into the fine print of love and proves that not all is smooth sailing for the charming couple. The film delves into Anna’s fame that she so greatly wants to escape and emphasizes the consequences it has on her and Will’s relationship. Another layer of depth is added to the film through the backdrops, most of which take place on the vibrant and bustling Portobello Road of London. “Notting Hill” is not a simple rom-com; it is multifaceted and layered with complex emotions, beautiful sets, and the strong message that there is no one true meaning of love.
“500 Days of Summer” (2009) —Eleanor Leung
As staunchly stated by the movie’s omniscient narrator, “500 Days of Summer” is not a love story… at least, it’s not your typical love story. The audience roots for hopeless romantic Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he falls in love with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), who, ironically, thinks the idea of true love is just that: an idea. Despite their differing beliefs, the two grow closer, their relationship punctuated by illicit sex and park dates. In essence, Tom and Summer seem to be “the one” for each other. So it comes as a surprise to both Tom and the audience when Summer dumps him. As viewers, we’re accustomed to and even expect the manic-pixie-dream-girl (Summer, in this case) to be everything the male protagonist wants. But “500 Days of Summer” portrays Summer to be the opposite. Instead, the movie comments on love’s intricacies, and how even relationships that we are absolutely faithful to can crumble as quickly as they form.
“Carol” (2015) —Adele Bois
Director Todd Haynes confronts ideas of repression and traditionalism in this 2015 rendition of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt.” “Carol” successfully translates Highsmith’s depiction of LGBT subculture in 1950s America into a modern-day love story; Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) unexpectedly form an intimate relationship culminating in a cross-country road trip in pursuit of acceptance. Clips of dingy motel rooms, dark bars, and rain-washed windows touch on the theme of Carol and Therese’s alienation despite being together. Though “Carol” is about forbidden love in a repressive period, it is poignant and maintains a heartfelt, aching beauty.
“The Twilight Saga” (2008-2012) —Caroline Pickering
Just good enough to be a box office hit and just trashy enough to be hilarious, the Twilight Saga is the perfect movie to watch on any Valentine’s Day. It may not be the dramatic, emotional film that normally graces ones’ screen this time of year, but it is a series you won’t want to miss. “Twilight” (2008) was, and still is, one of the most well-known love stories of our generation, and the vampire-filled saga still holds up as one of the most entertaining series available to stream. “The Twilight Saga” is a jack of all trades for your Valentine’s Day needs. It’s a compelling and emotional love story with enough twists and turns to leave you on the edge of your seat. It has superhero movie caliber action to keep those who don’t normally enjoy romantic movies entertained. And, it’s just bad enough that I would qualify it as a comedy, without being unwatchable. So, if you’re looking for something to keep you entertained this Valentine’s Day, “The Twilight Saga” is the right movie series for you!
“Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) —Levi Simon
Wes Anderson brings his signature quirk to “Moonrise Kingdom,” a crowd-pleasing love story of two young, determined outcasts. Anderson’s repertoire of symmetrical shots, controlled camera movement, bright hues, and flat, snappy dialogue adds so much color and depth to the otherwise simple tale, simultaneously encouraging quick laughs and cutting, wistful melancholy. He explores maturity and adolescence through the lens of early romance but ends up saying so much more.
“How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days” (2003) —Christine Lin
Critics say it’s unrealistic. Cheesy. Predictable. So what? Romantic comedies are supposed to offer you a lighthearted laugh and a reality where love triumphs all, which is exactly what “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” does. Directed by Donald Petrie, the movie follows advertising executive Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) as he bets that he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Ironically, the woman chosen is Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson), who is assigned to write an article for “Composure” magazine on how to lose a guy in 10 days. They scream. They fight. They do everything in their power to ruin things, yet McConaughey and Hudson’s chemistry shines through to create a genuine and witty battle-of-the-sexes love story. “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” is the comfort food of rom-coms and is a beautiful ode to McConaughey’s cinematic roots and Hudson’s iconic eggshell-yellow dress.
“Call Me By Your Name” (2017) —Shivali Korgaonkar
“Call Me By Your Name” is a true masterpiece of nuanced, modern-day love. Set in Northern Italy, the film follows the veiled love story of a high school boy who falls in love with his father’s older student. The film subtly touches on same-sex relationships, pedophilia, and religion, while also maintaining an effortless and relatable style. Stunning shots in isolated creeks and waterfalls flowing on mountain tops support the surreal love between Elio and Oliver over this one blissful summer. The screenplay is eerily familiar and personal, with actors who phenomenally embrace the intentional awkwardness of each scene. The soundtrack is the icing on the cake, as orchestras of emotional, raspy music emphasize the existing tear-jerking nature of the film. “Call Me By Your Name” is not merely a story of heartbreak. It is a story of learning, loving, and regretting.