This feature originally ran in February 2015. We’re reposting it ahead of this year’s Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day, a loved or loathed holiday depending upon one’s relationship status and willingness to succumb to commercialism’s flowers-and-candy paradigm, is nigh. And what better way to celebrate after gift-giving — or throwing a Singles Appreciation party or eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs alone in bed — than by watching a romantic film?
For options, look no further than the steady march of date movies released on Valentine’s Day weekend in recent years: Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), Just Go with It (2011), The Vow (2012), Safe Haven (2013), Beautiful Creatures (2013), Endless Love (2014), About Last Night (2014), Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), Fifty Shades Darker (2017), and, of course, Fifty Shades Freed (2018).
Although celebrations in honor of St. Valentine date back to at least the fifth century AD, Valentine’s Day in the “Hallmark holiday” sense is only a few decades old. As such, films about Valentine’s Day, or those that even include Valentine’s Day as a minor plot point, are surprisingly few and far between.
With this holiday-specific restriction in mind, we did a little digging and came up with a list of eight feature films ranked from worst to best. The list does not include television movies like the Charlie Brown shorts, as cute as they are, nor any films related to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, in which case Some Like It Hot would have made the cut.
Do you have a favorite film set around Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments.
I Hate Valentine’s Day (2009)
Remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The chemistry between the two leads — then-unknown stage actress Nia Vardalos and Sex and the City’s John Corbett as star-crossed Greek-American and Anglo-Saxon lovers, Toula Portokolos and Ian Miller — coupled with a funny, heartfelt story about ethnic identity and an endearing supporting cast, made it not just the surprise indie hit of 2002, but the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time.
I Hate Valentine’s Day, which reunites Vardalos and Corbett as onscreen paramours, is not that film. It’s the cracked-out Frankenstein version of that film, as Vardalos’ Genevieve and Corbett’s Greg possess none of the chemistry, not to mention the individual warmth or likability, that made the pairing of Toula and Ian so appealing. Good writing and direction might have saved them, but Vardalos is weak on both counts; as a result, both characters come across as blithering, childish idiots.
Genevieve, who owns a Brooklyn flower shop called Roses for Romance, has a “five-date rule” that she considers breaking after getting to know Greg, who owns a tapas bar called Get on Tapas (woof). The forced humor drags on for what feels like years, while the few scenes featuring Zoe Kazan as Genevieve’s dreamy friend (so good that her character might as well have wandered in from another, much better film) offer only brief glimpses of hope.
The moment of truth for Greg and Genevieve arrives on Valentine’s Day, one year to the day after their story begins. But by that point, the will to care is outstripped by the desire to watch something else, anything else, as a form of brain bleach for the painful second-hand embarrassment of watching two actors stumble through a relationship that even they don’t seem to believe in. —Leah Pickett