Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and that means plenty of romance movies will be filling up your Netflix recommendations. This is great for some, as they can either bask in the glow of love with their partner or fall in love with the very concept of love, thinking of the day they find that special someone. Love is in the air and there is no shortage of romantic movies to choose from. However, for others, it can be a frustrating time of year, particularly if the viewer finds it hard to be invested in romantic relationships in movies.
The common critique is ‘seen one, seen them all’. That means the tropes of the genre can seem stale and unrealistic for a world filled with complicated relationships. If one is already cynical about the genre, a romantic movie is likely not something one wants to watch. Yet, romance as a genre is such a wide umbrella with different directors telling a great variety of stories sometimes outside the normal conventions that could offer something for everyone. Even a cynical viewer is likely to enjoy a romantic movie if it is the right one, a film that either speaks to a similar experience or shows a different type of love story. Here are five romance movies for cynics who hate romance movies.
5 Harold and Maude
The 1971 film directed by Hal Ashby follows Harold (Bud Cort), a young man who has a fascination with death, and as he connects and falls in love with 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon), who teaches him the importance of living life to the fullest. While initially a box office flop, Harold and Maude gained a cult following due to its morbid humor, big heart, and iconic soundtrack written by Cat Stevens. The film has been repeatedly ranked among various Best of Lists throughout the years and even recently celebrated a 50th Anniversary remastered Blu-ray release. This is a delightfully offbeat film for someone looking for a different type of romance… particularly one with a dark sense of humor.
If human romances are a bit too much, there is always the beloved Pixar film WALL-E. The story follows one lonely robot named WALL-E who has been doing his job cleaning up Earth alone for 700 years, when one day he falls in love with a probe droid named EVE. WALL-E follows her to space, and they embark on a journey to save humanity. WALL-E earned universal praise when it was released and was a box office smash as audiences fell in love with the story of the endearing robot and his quest for partnership. The movie features the trademarks of a number of great romances, including a beautiful dance number, a spark-generating kiss, and even a courtship montage. WALL-E appeals to viewers young and old, so it is likely to appeal to those who love romance movies and even those who don’t have an attachment to the genre.
3 Obvious Child
Obvious Child follows Donna (Jenny Slate), a stand-up comedian who, after a drunken one-night stand with Max (Jake Lacey), finds herself pregnant and decides to have an abortion. While the subject may turn some audiences off, for a film about such a controversial topic Obvious Child is rather neutral and treats it as more like just a fact of life. The basic premise came from director Gillian Robespierre’s frustration with a string of films in 2007 like Juno, Knocked Up, and Waitress that dealt with unplanned pregnancies. Obvious Child works as a subversion of those very films and offers a funny and unsentimental story where, by the end of it, the two potential love interests have gone through something very big, yet there is still a whole potential future for them to explore.
2 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a mixture of romance and science fiction that follows Joel (Jim Carrey) as he undergoes a procedure to erase the memories of his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) after finding out that she had the same procedure done. The film explores Joel and Clementine’s relationship through his slowly-erased memories during the process, and as Joel sleeps he begins to fight the procedure, realizing that he doesn’t want to forget. The film posits that love can be both a beautiful yet cruel thing, and that painful memories and happy memories must co-exist within one another. Any viewer who watches it will likely remember a similar situation where they wished they could forget. The film ends on a more bittersweet note where, after finding each other again with no memory but then discovering their complicated history, the audience is left to wonder if the relationship will work, or if it’s doomed to fail again. These philosophical questions helped propel the film to critical acclaim, and Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry went on to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for it.
1 (500) Days of Summer
Since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, (500) Days of Summer was an instant hit and was heralded as a different kind of romance movie. (500) Days of Summer follows the POV of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and in a non-linear time examines the two’s relationship between friendship, relationship, break up, and beyond. The movie gives the audience Tom’s point of view but also shows Summer’s side tangentially, as she is clear with her intent from the beginning. While the popular reading for years was to see Summer as the villain, the stars of the movie see Tom as the villain. Gordon-Levitt wisely told Playboy magazine:
He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life. A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.
The film promises a story about love, but reveals that it’s really an anti-love story, or at least a heartfelt depiction of the dangers of falling in love with the idea of love.
The Best Movies About Unrequited Love For Valentine’s Day
About The Author