Movies For Your Valentine

The best films to watch on Valentine’s Day.

Artwork by Martha Castro

Whether Valentine’s Day is a day for you to spend with a significant other, a situationship, or friends, there’s nothing better to do than watch a movie. Here are a few picks to help you decide. You have been warned regarding spoilers. 

La La Land 

Aside from its stunning use of color and Justin Hurwitz’s heart-wrenching score, La La Land encapsulates the many dimensions of relationships: arguments, what it means to show up, the potential of a partner, and the complexity of sacrifices for love and dreams.

The film is probably best known for its untraditional ending–one that upset many. I believe this ending wouldn’t be as impactful without director and screenwriter Damien Chazelle’s mastery of relating to his audience. 

Haven’t you ever daydreamed about the potential of a partner: a wedding, having children, and growing old together? What makes this movie so heartbreaking is that Chazelle answers this question for the audience through protagonists Mia and Sebastian. By the film’s end, all we can think about is what could have been, the potential happiness so many of us get caught up in while dating. By showing us an alternate plot produced by one vital moment, Chazelle gives us the satisfaction of seeing the happiness that could have happened had the characters stayed together. This makes the ending that much more painful, feeling the two do not get the happy ending they deserved and making it hard for his audience to break away from Mia and Sebastian’s relationship. 

Past partners or even situation-ships, this movie is always relevant and relatable. 

Before Sunrise

The only way to describe this film is, it was okay. The story is exciting: two people, Jesse and Celine, meet on a train and spend the day in Paris before having to go their separate ways. The tension between Jesse and Celine truly is this movie’s strength. You will surely find yourself screaming, “Just kiss already?!” The actors carried this film where the dialogue faltered. However, as fantastical movies are, I’m not sure any woman today would willingly go with a man they just met. And a man whose biggest strength was simply his flirting skills and looks, not his personality. 

When it comes to love stories, you will find most films convince you that love interests are compatible no matter how different they are. Typically character development helps with this, showing their two-dimensionality, that there’s more below the surface. Although the acting was great, there were times when I wondered how the two of them could stand each other. Jesse is a clear pessimist, compared to the more optimistic Celina. Jesse and Celina did not always seem compatible in the long-term. Perhaps that was the idea; this “one night stand” wasn’t meant to last forever, so you shouldn’t get too attached. 

Nevertheless, a hopeless romantic can have a field day with this film. Luckily, if you like this one, you will be happy to learn it is a trilogy. Director Richard Linklater made sequels, filmed years apart, revealing how Jesse and Celina’s lives pan out. 

In the Mood for Love

Cinephiles admire this film and for good reason. If you liked La La Land’s usage of color and symbolism, you might enjoy In The Mood for Love. The film follows Chow Mo-Wan and Su Li-zhen, two spouses who connect over discovering their spouses are cheating.

Through his set, director Wong Kar-wai immerses his audience in the barriers, literally and metaphorically, standing between Chow Mo-Wan and Su Li-zhen. Wong Kar-wai churns his audience members’ stomachs with angst and frustration as Chow Mo-Wan and Su Li-zhen display their compatibility, but debate whether they should be together. Wong Kar-wai makes it unbearable in that the two live right next door to each other, and yet still can’t be together. 

Director Wong Kar-wai encapsulates his theme of longing and forbidden love in everything he touches: sets, lighting, and staging. The actors are truly phenomenal, displaying longing with such simplistic emotions and their bodies. The score is the cherry on top, Through his film, Wong Kar-wai asks his audience to question if there is such a thing as dealing with love responsibly and the ‘right person, wrong time.’ If you want an artistic film this Valentine’s, this may be the film for you.  

Past Lives

Have you ever wondered what would happen if, in some universe, that one person came back into your life when you were happily in another relationship? Director Celine Song’s, CU School of the Arts ‘14, Past Lives explores the difficulty of growing apart and what it means to fall in love with a past version of someone. Past Lives follows Nora’s journey from South Korea to the United States and, in turn, a love journey from her childhood friend, Hae Sung, to her spouse Arthur. The movie touches on the solace many of us use to justify falling in love with someone we can’t have–right person, wrong time. Song’s film proposes a better alternative–maybe in another life

Even with its simplistic design, there is something about Past Lives’ sets, shots, and script that mirrors the barriers and loneliness that come with love, longing, and discovering one’s self. Song’s exquisite process and execution gave actors the creative space to thrive. The actors are jaw-droppingly human to the point where I found myself having to remember this is a movie. 

This film is incredibly memorable, deserving of many nominations it received. Through Past Lives, Song creates conflict within her audience as they attempt to make the tough decision for Nora: if she is better off with Hae Sung or Arthur. Based on the decision her audience makes, Celine Song allows her audience to question their morality regarding love and how they value their current relationships–would you abandon your current spouse for someone else?

Honorable mentions:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Another cinephile pick. It’s beautifully shot, crisp images, and has intoxicating tension. Many consider it a good example of a female gaze, debunking the male gaze where the camera objectifies women for various purposes. Although it won’t end the way everyone wants it to, it’s worth the watch. 

When Harry Met Sally

Have you ever wondered if a guy and a girl can really be just friends? This movie is one of the few love stories that ends well, that I cried my heart out to (and it’s hard to make me cry). The reasons it’s so effective are the lovable actors and the script. People acclaim this film for its natural dialogue, making it relatable and heartbreaking. This is the movie to remind you that holding out for the right person is worth the wait. And most importantly, if he wanted to, he would.  


It’s cheesy, campy, and according to Kristin Stewart, “gay” as well. You have to admit it is a thrill of a movie. Who wouldn’t want a vampire and a werewolf to fight over you? It’s a movie that will make you laugh, cringe, and maybe even hope you are single. And it’s a saga, so you aren’t done yet. Once you finish the first one, you have to admit you want to see the next one. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Another popular cinephile pick. When one girl wants to forget, but the guy doesn’t want to. This film explores what it means to want to forget someone you loved, and maybe run away from love, both while in the relationship and after. It’s well shot and the transitions are mind-blowing. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet give an amazing performance, exploring their past memories as a couple and what it means to struggle, to forget the good memories.  

The Notebook

It’s Valentine’s Day, you might as well watch it. Where do you think that famous Tik Tok sound “I want a big house, with white shutters, and a big ol porch that wraps around it…” came from? It’s a classic love story pick. Everyone I’ve spoken to regarding this film says they always cry. 

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who dislikes this movie. And yes, it ends well. This is the type of movie I see that makes me wish I had a Mr. Darcy. There’s something about proclamations of love that just affect people. It is certainly a beautifully shot movie with its warm tones and phenomenal acting.  

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