11 Romantic Movies for Lovers Who Love Love

11 Romantic Movies for Lovers Who Love Love
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It’s become fashionable to hate on Valentine’s Day, and I get it — the commercialization; the unreasonable expectations; the bland packaging of the whole thing. But, just as importantly, it’s also OK to love love. It’s OK to look forward to Valentine’s Day, whether because you’ve found your own storybook romance (of whatever variety), or because you enjoy watching other people navigate the many possible relationship complications. These movies all celebrate love, with many shades from dark to outright comedic — because when the expectations of V-Day start to feel overwhelming, sometimes just throwing on a movie is more than enough.

Note: While generally avoiding specific spoilers, there’s no getting around the fact that these are all movies that end well for their main characters, if not perfectly. You might even describe them as having happy endings.

God’s Own Country (2017)

Until relatively recently, gay romances (even many of the comedies) with happy endings were rather shockingly rare, with God’s Own Country representing a firm shift away from what felt like a dramatic necessity that these types of stories end in tragedy. It’s more pronounced here, because it simply doesn’t feel like the kind of movie that’s going to end well. Josh O’Connor (The Crown’s Prince Charles) and Alec Secăreanu play Yorkshire farmer Johnny and Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe. The initially tempestuous relationship that develops really does feel like it’s headed for tragedy (à la Brokeback Mountain), which makes the film’s unexpected turn even more joyous.

Where to stream: Apple TV

Moonstruck (1987)

Cher and Nicolas Cage are such distinctive, idiosyncratic performers that it’s hard to imagine a romantic pairing between the two being something other than a cartoon. Instead, it’s one of the great film romances of all time, with engaged widow Loretta Castorini falling for her boyfriend’s younger brother. That love triangle is the film’s core, but the troubled marriage of Loretta’s parents, played by Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia is a significant piece of the film’s heart. While most rom-coms deal with young people and first love, Moonstruck suggests that that there’s room for romance even as life grows more complicated in middle age.

Where to stream: Stan

Before Sunset (2004)

This middle chapter of director Richard Linklater’s trilogy might not have the most unambiguously happy ending of the three, but it’s the most memorable — one of the great romantic movie endings of all time, really. Reuniting nearly a decade after Before Sunrise, Jesse and Céline (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) spend a day roaming Paris, at which point the two are forced to decide whether or not they’re willing to leave their present dissatisfying lives and relationships — a scene perfectly set to Nina Simone.

Where to stream: Stan

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Family is the biggest barrier to lasting love in Crazy Rich Asians, the rare example of a crowd-pleasing modern blockbuster that doesn’t involve car chases or capes. Constance Wu plays New York native Rachel Chu, an economics professor from a poor family who learns a little too late that her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) is the scion of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families. She’s not prepared for the level of conspicuous wealth, nor the snobbery she encounters when she travels with him for a family wedding — Rachel’s forced to decide if she can handle the pressure and judgement from Nick’s family, and if she even wants to. The happy ending here does not come easy for anyone.

Where to stream: Binge.

The Shape of Water (2017)

The course of true love is unlikely to ever run smooth in a Guillermo del Toro movie, this story of the cleaner in a Cold War-era laboratory and the alluring fish-man with whom she develops a relationship. What follows is a dark fairy-tale romance with elements of horror that place it firmly in the classic Grimm tradition, but with an atypically happy outcome.

Where to stream: Disney+

Love, Simon (2018)

Nick Robinson is closeted high schooler Simon, who takes inspiration from the anonymous confession of a similarly closeted student in his school. Without knowing the true identity of “Blue,” Simon strikes up an online friendship that turns into something more. Think The Shop Around the Corner, or You’ve Got Mail, with modern queer high schoolers.

Where to stream: Disney+

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

The modern classic, but very ‘90s, rom-com that retells The Taming of the Shrew in an American high school. And without some of the ugly misogyny. The film’s concluding exchange of a guitar for the title poem is delightfully memorable — there’s a reason the movie made stars of Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger.

Where to stream: Disney+

Shelter (2007)

Aspiring artist Zach (Trevor Wright) has had to give up his dreams of art school, literally flipping burgers in order to support his disabled father and young nephew. The vibe being so very SoCal, Zach spends whatever free time he has painting and surfing, and starts hanging out with his best friend’s older brother, Shaun (Brad Rowe). It’s very nearly love at first sight, none of which makes Zach’s family problems go away — fortunately, Shaun’s not going anywhere and, by the end, the two have formed not just a relationship, but a family.

Where to stream: Stan

The Photograph (2020)

A photograph left behind by her deceased mother leads Mae (Issa Rae) to explore her own family’s past, while also bringing her into the orbit of a young journalist played by Lakeith Stanfield. Learning about her mother’s mistakes ultimately leads Mae to think twice before turning love away in this beautifully shot, multi-generational love story.

Where to stream: Netflix

Loving (2016)

Based on the true story of the couple who took a challenge to their marriage all the way to the Supreme Court, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the couple who were arrested shortly after their marriage under Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. It’s a love story that, quite literally, changed the course of history.

Where to stream: SBS on Demand

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