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14 Movie Choices to Impress your Valentine's Date

Posted by Tobias Schwartz on

Movie Valentine's


Valentine’s Day is upon us. You know what that means. Candlelit dinners, boxes of dark chocolates, large stuffed animals, roses, kisses (hopefully), maybe some glittering jewels, and, of course, movies…wait, what? Yes, that’s right. After all the conventional festivities are over and done with it’s time to bunker down with your respective date/partner and find yourselves whisked away on the wings of a scripted Hollywood romance. But not all romance movies are alike. Some were born apart.

Sure, you could settle for The Notebook or Titanic, maybe even some, Love Actually or Four Weddings and a Funeral, but how played out are those? Maybe you’re looking for something different; maybe you’re looking for something with a little pizzazz? Or perhaps you’re looking to impress? To display your filmic cultivation and sophistication? To show you’re no mere dilettante?

Whether it’s to impress or refresh or escape the rote mechanics of the traditional romance, here are 14 refined movie choices that will bring your February 14 flaccid flower back to a turgid bravado…and will make your date swoon.

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Brian Cox, Luke Wilson

Wes Anderson is the king of contemporary quirk, so there’s no better way than to kick off this list than by introducing his 1998 cult-classic, Rushmore. Jason Schwartzman (in his first lead role) is Max Fischer, an over-ambitious, reality-impaired student at Rushmore Academy. While he is a jack of all trades – president of the French club, leader of the Model United Nations, founder of the Beekeeper’s Club, among many other extra-curricular pursuits – he is also a terrible student. When the school president (Brian Cox) threatens him with expulsion, there’s only one thing Max can do… immediately fall head over heels for Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a first grade teacher at Rushmore. But when he befriends Herman Blume (Bill Murray), an industrial tycoon, and Blume falls for Rosemary too, well, in traditional Andersonian fashion, all hell breaks loose.

Romance Meter: 7/10
Because we’ve all been known to do crazy things for first love.

Choose this movie if:
Your date was voted Most Likely to be Successful in high school.

How to impress your date:
Make sure to point out Anderson’s composition within his frames. Use keywords like “symmetry” and “closed form”, and make sure to offhandedly remark that these are trademarks of his later works.

Raising Arizona
Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman

Nicolas Cage wasn’t always loco. Or at least in his earlier years he had it better under control. Raising Arizona is perhaps his best work, a typically off-the-wall entry from Joel and Ethan Coen in which Cage plays H.I. “Hi” McDonough, a small time crook whose recidivistic ways have landed him in trouble so often that he gets to know Ed (Holly Hunter), the police officer who takes his mug shots, well enough to ask for her hand in marriage.

When she accepts, the two move to the desert and begin a peaceful and uneventful life together. But that peace is shattered when Ed and H.I. find they are incapable of having a child together. So what can they do?...Kidnap a baby fathered by local furniture impresario Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), of course! But, it doesn’t take long for Nathan to find out, hire the bounty-hunter-from-hell, and give H.I. and Ed a wild ride they never expected.

Romance Meter: 6/10
Because a partner unwilling to commandeer a child for you, isn’t a partner worth keeping.

Choose this movie if:
Your date isn’t afraid of finding his or herself on the wrong side of the law.

How to impress your date:
Proclaim the Coen Brothers the leading contemporary American directors, who in this film, and others, have spun an offbeat, lower-class, American-folk-gothic mythology.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson, David Cross

Who knew Jim Carrey could pull heartstrings? In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind he plays Joel Barish, a reticent, self-conscious man whose girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has just had the memories of their relationship erased from her mind. Unable to bear the loss of their relationship, Joel decides to have his memories removed as well, but as the process is initiated and Clementine is systematically deleted, Joel fights a battle within his own mind to save Clementine and their memories together – both bright and dark.

Romance Meter: 9/10
Love ain’t always easy – sometimes it’s trench warfare – but with the right partner you’ll be willing to go down into those trenches all over again.

Choose this movie if:
Your date is someone with whom you’ve been through good and bad, thick and thin, or maybe a little rain and shine. Sure you’ve seen them at their worst, but more importantly, you’ve seen them at their best.

How to impress your date:
Be sure to discuss the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, and how you believe him to be the most humanistic writer around town. Add in his creation of a fictional brother as co-screenwriter for Adaptation, his second Oscar nominated screenplay.

Only Lovers Left Alive
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) have a secret, and its centuries old. They are vampires…and immortal lovers, now geographically separated. Adam is an underground musician with a cult following in beautifully desolate and somnolent Detroit while Eve resides in Tangier alongside fellow vampire Marlowe (John Hurt). When Eve travels to Detroit and the two reunite their worlds slowly begin to unravel in a mellifluously decrepit mood that is all Jarmusch.

Romance Meter: 6/10
What is more romantic than the trials and tribulations of immortal love?

Choose this movie if:
Your date is a night owl who was really into the whole vampire thing but has now matured a little bit.

How to impress your date:
Comment on Jarmusch’s minimalist and revisionist tendencies. Fit in his penchant for atmospherics, and make sure to emphasize his history of reworking and reevaluating age-old genre conventions.

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Serge Merlin

Amêlie (Audrey Tautou), once a home-schooled child, has grown up to have a live imagination and an interior fantasy life. Now an adult, she is surrounded in her day-to-day life by an assortment of doleful outsiders, each of whom suffer from their own maladies and everyday doldrums. Amélie, realizing that life is fleeting, is determined to bring happiness to her friend’s lives. And so she begins a series of maneuvers to do exactly that. But in trying to help her friends, has Amélie forgotten about her own happiness?

Romance Meter: 8/10
Well, it’s French. Does that answer the question?

Choose this movie if:
Your date had a coterie of imaginary friends when they were a kid.

How to impress your date:
This is a toughie; you can either learn French then quote the film, or you can insist that Audrey Tautou is the French Greta Garwig – it’s up to you.

Blue is the Warmest Color
Directed by: Abdel Kechiche
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos

Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a 15-year-old French schoolgirl whose budding sexuality leads her one night into a Parisian lesbian bar, where she crosses paths with Emma (Léa Seydoux), a Parisian art student. The two begin an impromptu romance, hidden from Adèle’s parents - driven by passion, lust, and eventually, love. Their relationship spans a decade, during which the bud of the two’s love must stand the test of time; but, whether it can is the question. Kechiche’s second film is brutally honest portrayal of love unwashed – its blemishes and flaws for all the world to see.

Romance Meter: 9/10
Adèle and Léa are meant for each other…then they aren’t, but that doesn’t mean their love isn’t real.

Choose this movie if:
Your date changed your world forever.

How to impress your date:
Point out the use of color within the film. Explain how blue becomes representative of homosexuality, and red of heterosexuality.

Before Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight
1995, 2004, 2013
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Didn’t think I could choose a trilogy? Well, I can. There’s no rules here. The Linklater trio stars Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), following them over three 24-hour spurts as they first meet on a train, reconnect ten years later, and again tens later, are married. Watch as Jesse and Celine transition from lust to wistful love to marital fatigue, at all times reflecting modern love through the revealing and insightful words of Linklater.

Romance Meter: 9/10
By the third film we feel as if Jesse and Celine will step out of the TV into our living rooms. Each time we watch them we learn a little more about our relationships and our love.

Choose this movie if:
You’ve spent twenty years with your date…and you’re trying to spend twenty more.

How to impress your date:
Mention Linklater’s use of real time, both within the films and between them. Direct your date’s attention to Linklater’s further perpetuation of this device in Boyhood, in which he uses a decade and a half of real time in a single film.

Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek

We all know the story of Bonnie & Clyde, but how many of you know the story of Kit (Martin Sheen) & Holly (Sissy Spacek)? The notoriously enigmatic Terrence Malick made his debut with Badlands, a film that tracks the young couple as they proceed on a killing spree across the American Midwest. Kit is a disenfranchised teen and Holly loves baton twirling, but during the course of their criminal run they’re to become celebrated folk heroes. With Badlands, Malick first displayed his love for natural tableaux, setting it against the virgin cruelty of two distraught souls. Kit and Holly love one another, but their love is fleeting, and is destined to be doomed.

Romance Meter: 6.5/10
Sure, their love is a bit perverse, but sometimes, fledgling love doesn’t know any better.

Choose this movie if:
Your date loves open vistas and the right to arms.

How to impress your date:
Discuss Malick’s tendency to depict the Midwest as a contemporary Garden of Eden, and his characters as modern day Adams and Eves. And, of course, emphasize the short-lived nature of utopia and humanity’s predisposition to bite that apple.

Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac

How far are you willing to go to protect the woman you love? If you’re a handsome, enigmatic driving virtuoso without a name (played by Ryan Gosling), you’re willing to pull of a dangerous heist to protect your love Irene’s (Carey Mulligan) husband, recently released from prison. When the heist goes wrong and your Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is killed, the criminals come knocking, and they come knocking for you. But you’re a man with a shadowy past and a particular set of skills. Soon the roles are reversed and you’re the one after the mob.

Romance Meter: 7/10
A cryptic hunk with the looks of James Dean and the talents of Mario Andretti? That’s a good start. Add golden-lit kisses, fast-paced action, cold revenge, and pulsing electro-pop all under the iridescent direction of Refn, and you’ve got yourself a high-speed romance tale with a lot of RPMs.

Choose this movie if:
Your date wears 80s satin jackets with scorpions sewn across the back, and drives his or her Ford Focus at dangerous speeds.

How to impress your date:
Draw his or her attention to Refn’s use of space and form. Specifically how he uses the frame to divide action into four separate quadrants.

Breaking the Waves
Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Emily Watson, Katrin Cartlidge, Stellan Skarsgard

Bess (Emily Watson) is a borderline mentally challenged woman living in a Scottish village governed by the stringent rules of a local religious sect. While still recovering from the recent death of a family member, she meets Jan (Stellan Skarsgård), a good-natured, caring oilrig worker. They soon marry and consummate the betrothal.

Soon after, Jan must return to the oilrig, leaving the fragile and dependent Beth in a period of distraught depression. When Jan suffers an accident upon the rig and is paralyzed from the neck down, Beth is thrown into acute emotional trauma. Seeking a remedy for both herself and Jan she turns to God, while Jan, believing his death to be imminent, orders Beth to have relations with other men, hoping that this will return stability to her canted emotional life. She views his request as a form of piety and devotion to God, and she follows his orders with focused vigor. Her resulting downward spiral is heartbreaking, but ultimately, her redemptive denouement is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on film.

Romance Meter: 8.25/10
I won’t lie to you - this is a toughie to watch. Nonetheless, it’s been proven scientifically impossible not to finish this film without tears streaming down your cheeks.

Choose this movie if:
Your date is unflinchingly loyal.

How to impress your date:
Mention Von Trier’s Dogma 95 tenets and the affect they have upon how, what, and where the film is shot.

Edward Scissorhands
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder

The first collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton stars Depp as Edward Scissorhands, a Frankensteinian adolescent whose creator (Vincent Price) has failed to add all the supplemental appendages needed for a normal human man, that is, hands. Instead, Edward has been fitted with shear-length scissor blades.

When the inventor passes away, Edward is cast out into the real world: lonely, alienated, and afraid. While he has difficulty not carving up anything that crosses his path, Edward is a warm-hearted youth who is taken by Peg Boggs (Dianne Weist) into her suburban home after she sees the desolate state of the youth. There he meets Kim (Winona Ryder), Peg’s daughter, and girlfriend to Edward’s soon-to-be enemy Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). The suburban neighborhood, at first frightened by Edward’s appearance soon he realizes he has a unique penchant for trimming bushes and cutting hair. Yet, when Edward is unfairly accused of a lecherous assault the town turns against him and he only has Peg and Kim left to rely on.

Romance Meter: 7/10
It’s a modern day fairy tale right out of Brothers Grimm. The prince and princess have just gotten some makeovers.

Choose this movie if:
Your date has a propensity for hairdressing or shrubbery.

How to impress your date:
Point out that Edward Scissorhands is the first of nine Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaborations (the ninth being the soon to be released Alice in Wonderland sequel). Reflect upon Burton’s new American Gothic and his reworking of Shelley’s Frankenstein to reflect an outsider’s perspective of contemporary society.

Directed by: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) has had a rough time of it lately; his wife has left him and he just can’t seem to find anyone he can relate to. That is until he’s presented with a startling technological breakthrough – a computer whose operating system is so advanced that it boasts a realistic human personality. Soon Theodore, like many around him, has fallen in love with his computer system, named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). But as Samantha develops (and begins to thirst for more) their relationship becomes brittle. Can her and Theodore’s relationship stand the test of time?

Romance Meter: 7.5/10
Is a relationship between man/woman and computer really so far-fetched? No, it’s not. Plus, C3PO and R2-D2 give it their approval.

Choose this movie if:
Your date is so immersed in their smart phone screen he or she will collide with multiple passersby during leisurely strolls.

How to impress your date:
It may be low hanging fruit but discuss Lee’s vision of a soon-to-be future in which technological advancements and endless interpersonal connectivity leads to increased human isolation

Wings of Desire
Directed by: Wim Wenders
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk

There are angels all around us. Or at least that’s the premise for Wender’s Wings of Desire. Damiel (Bruno Ganz) is an angel who patrols the streets of Berlin. He can hear people’s thoughts and invisibly stand witness to all those around him. One day he falls in love with Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a trapeze artist in a failing circus, and so begins his journey to become a human mortal. Wings of Desire is a reflection on the beauty of life as only an immortal could see it.

Romance Meter: 6/10
An angel can live forever, but forever is nothing without love.

Choose this movie if:
You think your date stashes a halo in his or her dresser.

How to impress your date:
Note the film’s change from black-and-white to color as Bruno becomes mortal. Ask, why color is used to represent mortality? Does this express Wender’s belief that mortality is a fuller existence than immortality? If so, why?

True Romance
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken

Why not end this list with a little Tarantino madness. Clarence (Christian Slater) is an awkward twenty-something whose boss hires a prostitute - Alabama (Patricia Arquette) - for him on his birthday. As chance will have it, the two fall for one other, and Clarence vows to free Alabama from her demented pimp (Gary Oldman). Clarence goes to see the pimp and, in typical Tarantino fashion, all hell breaks loose…and then breaks loose again. The pimp ends up dead and Clarence ends up with a briefcase full of 5 million dollars worth of drugs. From there on, well, it’s true romance.

Romance Meter: 6/10
Bang, bang, kiss, kiss. There’s nothing like Tarantino for gory love.

Choose this movie if:
Your date plays no blood no foul.

How to impress your date:
Discuss Tarantino’s current revenge fantasy trend: Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and now The Hateful Eight. Hypothesize as to what his next revenge fantasy target will be. My guess is the orca from Free Willy gangs up with a pod of dolphins to avenge his species of the mistreatment they received from SeaWorld.  




Tobias Schwartz is a shameless biblio-cinephile, freelance writer, and former Division I baseball player. He holds an English and Film & Media Studies degree from Lafayette College and is pursuing an M.F.A in Screenwriting at Chapman University. You are as likely to find him discussing the merits of Cormac McCarthy’s film adaptations at your local baseball diamond as you are discussing the finer points of pitching mentality at your local library. One place you can most certainly find him is on Twitter @tobiasschwartz7.

Your favorite refined Valentine’s Day selection left off? Let us know in the comments!

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