I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day, so let’s talk about movies!
Read on for my list of romantic movie recommendations for the whole family this Valentine’s Day.
For one of the best in the romantic comedies, It Happened One Night. It Happened One Night is a 1934 pre-Code American romantic comedy film and “road film” in which we watch two main characters travel to their destination. Frank Capra directed it, the same director of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It has all the goodness and none of the gravitas as It’s a Wonderful Life. Watch pampered heiress (Claudette Colbert) try to escape her father’s domineering plans for her life by running off to rejoin her husband. Clark Gable plays a roguish reporter who helps her in exchange for the exclusive. You can guess what happens next.
If you want more emotion, less fluff, try the romantic tear-jerker, Make Way for Tomorrow. It’s a sadder take on love, but one of the truest. Make Way for Tomorrow is a 1937 American drama film directed by Leo McCarey. Victor Moore star as Barkley “Pa” Cooper and Beulah Bondi as Lucy “Ma” Cooper, an elderly couple that has run out of luck and money. With their home foreclosed, they turned to their five grown children for help. But none of their children will take them both. Directed by Leo McCarey with a screenplay by Viña Delmar, this heartbreaking story is beautiful all the same.
For something old, see City Lights. Who would have thought one of the sweetest romantic movies would be a Charlie Chaplin flick? City Lights from 1931 is a silent romantic comedy film written, produced, directed by, and starring Chaplin. In it, Chaplin falls in love with a blind girl played by Virginia Cherrill. The sad, sweet ending is a treasure in cinema.
For something new, a romantic period drama, Brooklyn. The 2015 film, Brooklyn is directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby, based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín. It stars Saoirse Ronan, an Irish immigrant who comes to America because no work can be found at home. She falls in love with Tony Fiorello, played by Emory Cohen. The movie is slow and quiet, grounded in time and place, with beautiful cinematography.
If you like the drama but want bigger drama against a world backdrop, visit The African Queen. The African Queen is a 1951 British-American adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester and directed by John Huston. Filmed on location, viewers are treated to real footage of African animals, while an older Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut and Katherine Hepburn as Rose Sayer fall in love while navigating the river and seeking to destroy a Nazi warship. Heroic and hopeful, we see all the things you want in a romantic story, clashes of personality, a shared mission, and how true and worthy love motivates the best in us.
Done with serious topics? A screwball comedy may be what you need. In that case, check out The Lady Eve. This screwball comedy is that type of comedy where the modern viewer thinks repeatedly, “This could never happen. In the 1941 film, written and directed by Preston Sturges, based on a story by Monckton Hoffe, cardsharp Barbara Stanwyck and rich fool Henry Fonda fall in love. Stanwyck plays off the boyish charm of Fonda perfectly.
For a contrast of young love with the lasting love of a long marriage, see Since You Went Away. John Cromwell directed this 1944 American epic drama film about the American home front during World War II. It stars Claudette Colbert as Mrs. Anne Hilton, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple as her daughters. We never see the object of Anne Hilton’s love, but we see the steadfast faithfulness in it, and sometimes, that’s all you need.
For another slow and quiet new-ish film, watch Paterson, a 2016 drama film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Paterson stars Adam Driver as a bus driver and poet named Paterson, and Golshefteh Farahani as his artistic, eccentric and loving wife. The movie takes us through one, semi-eventful week. There is no major crisis, only a small one. Rather, it shows the stability of the love and routine that shapes the bigger and arguably the better part of our love stories.
For one more zany love story, with a period backdrop of the beginning of the computer age, and phenomenal acting, see Desk Set. I like this 1957 American romantic comedy film, directed by Walter Lang, written by Phoebe Ephron, and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, as a Christmas movie because of the outrageous Christmas party near the end. But the love, subtle jokes, perfect timing of Hepburn and Tracy is something to behold. The movie shows us the turmoil a computer in the 1950s can cause.