The BAM's Blog 13th annual Valentine's Day movie list

Himesh Patel and Lily James star in "Yesterday." [Universal Pictures photo]

For romantically inclined film fans who prefer not to spend fight the Valentine's Day crowds this weekend, a veritable flock of romantic movies is just a streaming service, DVD or Blu-ray away.

Way back on Feb. 14, 2008, I posted my very first entry on the newly launched BAM's Blog: a list of my favorite films appropriate for Valentine's Day viewing. Some traditions are worth keeping, so I update the list every year to include a few new films that I'm loving on this day of devotion. The list now numbers more than 50 recommendations, including some suggested by loyal readers.

This year’s list new additions include the 2019 Beatles-themed feel-good fable "Yesterday," the 2018 Oscar winner for best picture "The Shape of Water" and the 2019 live-action remake of "Aladdin."

Like the previous entries, my 13th annual list of my favorite films appropriate for Valentine's Day home viewing is conveniently categorized and organized by year of release so that lovebirds of every feather can find the ideal cinematic treat.

Romantic comedies

Men and women alike can appreciate a movie that tickles the funny bone while making romance:

"It Happened One Night" (1934): An out-of-work reporter (Clark Gable) and rebellious heiress (Claudette Colbert) take a bumpy road trip in Frank Capra's Oscar winner.

"The Philadelphia Story" (1940): Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant get entangled in a love pentagon in this classic screwball comedy, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies.

"North to Alaska" (1960): For those fans of John Wayne or a good Western, check out this romantic screwball story about a pair of pals, Sam (Wayne) and George (Stewart Granger), who strike gold in Alaska. When Sam returns to Seattle to fetch back George's French fiancee, he finds she has married another. Determined to head off his buddy's broken heart, Sam recruits a gorgeous French prostitute named Angel (Capucine) to become George's new lady-love. Soon, Sam, George and George's teenage brother Billy (Fabian) are all vying for Angel's affections.

"Support Your Local Sheriff!" (1969): We lost Oklahoma native James Garner in 2014, but we'll always have his movies. This was one of my favorite films growing up, not only because it is ridiculously funny but also because the handsome, square-jawed hero (Garner) falls in love with the kind of girl that reminds me of me: Joan Hackett's high-spirited disaster-magnet, Prudy.

"Better Off Dead ..." (1985): Depressed teen Lane Meyer (John Cusack) tries to win back his popularity-seeking ex-girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss) by challenging her new ski-team captain boyfriend (Aaron Dozier) to a race down the local mountain. The course to straightening out his love life requires him to slalom around cartoon hamburgers, his mother's monstrous cooking and a homicidal paperboy who really wants his two dollars.

"Say Anything ..." (1989): John Cusack is at his most charming as Lloyd Dobler, an aspiring kickboxer and nice guy who romances lofty and lonely valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye).

"When Harry Met Sally ..." (1989): Hilarity ensues as Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) move from loathing to friendship to love.

"While You Were Sleeping" (1995): Lucy (Sandra Bullock) forms a crush on a rich and handsome businessman (Peter Gallagher), saves his life, is mistaken for his fiancee and falls for his charming brother (Bill Pullman).

"Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001): Brit Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) tries to improve her life and find real love in this chick flick.

"She's Out of My League" (2010): Expect sweetness and raunchiness in equal measure with this tale of a skinny Transportation Security Administration agent (Jay Baruchel) who falls into a surprising romance with a beautiful and wealthy event planner (Alice Eve).

"Moonrise Kingdom" (2012): One of Wes Anderson's best films chronicles the romantic angst of preteen eccentrics Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who decide to run away together.

“Crazy Rich Asians” (2018): When a Chinese-American economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) accompanies her boyfriend and fellow prof Nick Young (Henry Golding) to a family wedding in Singapore, she is startled to learn that he is the scion to one of the most affluent families in Southeast Asia. And Nick’s prickly mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), the family matriarch, is among those displeased that he’s dating an American.

"Yesterday" (2019): The latest modern-day fable from director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") and Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") boasts a life-affirming uplift that’s almost as big as the Beatles. Himesh Patel stars as Jack Malik, a struggling small-town English singer-songwriter who is hit by a bus at the same moment that an inexplicable global blackout plunges the world into darkness for 12 seconds. When he wakes up, Jack comes to the astounding conclusion that the Beatles and their groundbreaking music have somehow been lost in the blackout and he is apparently the only person on the planet who remembers them or their songs. Once he adds some of their tunes to his set and shoots to superstardom, two questions linger: Will Jack get caught passing off someone else songs as his own? And will Jack ever grab a clue that his best friend and ever-encouraging manager Ellie (Lily James) is in love with him?

"The Shape of Water" (2017): “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy” helmer Guillermo del Toro made a stunning addition to his canon of fantastical fairy tales for grown-ups with this four-time Oscar winner. The 1960s period drama stars Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins as a lonely mute night janitor shadowy government research facility who falls in love with the enigmatic and powerful Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) who has been plucked from the Amazon River, where the locals worshiped him as a god.

Family-friendly fare

If you and your sweetheart are snuggled on the couch with a couple of kiddos, zap on a romantic movie appropriate for the whole family:

Most of the Disney "princess" movies: From "Snow White" to "Tangled," romance rules in most of Disney's beloved "princess" movies. (But some of the newer and notable exceptions to that rule are worth watching if you want to explore the idea that romantic love isn’t the only kind worth pursuing: "Brave” centers on the warm and complicated love story between a mother and daughter, and "Moana” is an incredible film about a girl following her love of the ocean and her people into a grand adventure. Sounds like the perfect double feature for a mother-daughter Galentine’s Day celebration to me.)

"The Sound of Music" (1965): If you've got a free three-hour time slot in your Valentine's Day schedule, find "Something Good" watching Maria (Julie Andrews) win the heart of Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).

"The Princess Bride" (1987): Westley (Cary Elwes) refuses to let pirates, a prince or even death come between him and his Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) in this ever-quotable favorite.

"Shrek" (2001) and "Shrek 2" (2004): Grumpy ogre Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and his Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) discover that their love isn't based on society's rules of beauty. And that's OK.

"Penelope" (2006): Christina Ricci stars as an aristocratic young heiress who is born with a pig snout due to an ancient family curse. She has the chance for romance with a handsome ne'er-do-well musician (James McAvoy) but first must learn an important lesson about loving herself in this modern-day fairy tale co-starring Reese Witherspoon, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage and current Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant.

"WALL-E" (2008): A lonely trash-compacting robot finds a hand to hold with a sleek probe droid in one of Pixar's Oscar winners for best animated film.

"Ponyo" (2008): Skip Disney's version of "The Little Mermaid" in favor of Hayao Miyazaki's more magical and abstract adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, in which a girl goldfish uses her father's magic to transform into a human after falling in love with a kindly boy.

"Gnomeo & Juliet" (2011): I'm not one to classify movies as guilty pleasures; I firmly believe different films have different purposes and there's no point in feeling guilty if a stupid comedy makes you chuckle or a big-budget actioner gets your pulse pounding. But I feel a bit sheepish in admitting that I was utterly charmed by Disney's transformation of The Bard's greatest tragedy into a zanily animated, happily-ever-after comedy about a pair of garden gnomes (voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) who fall in love despite the feud between their respective color-coded families of backyard knick-knacks. Watch it with your kids and be prepared to giggle a lot and have Elton John songs stuck in your head for days.

"Cinderella" (2015): Directed by five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branaugh, Disney's live-action version of "Cinderella" pulls together an enduring message, extravagant visuals and just enough “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" to create a fairy tale both beguilingly familiar and bewitchingly new. Lily James and Richard Madden make a captivating couple with her determination "to have courage and be kind" and his resolve to marry for love even if it means picking a peasant. Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and Stellan Skarsgard provide high-class support.

“Trolls” (2016): Directed by Oklahoma City native Mike Mitchell, this neon-hued animated film is gung-ho about making sure the audience has a good time, Anna Kendrick is clever and captivating as always, and Justin Timberlake didn’t just cut the movie’s Grammy-winning smash hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!,” he’s also in charge of the whole soundtrack. The movie doesn’t just boast the expected romance between Kendrick’s perpetually peppy Princess Poppy and Timberlake’s grumpy survivalist Branch, but it also features a sweet star-crossed love story between King Gristle of the miserable troll-devouring Bergens (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his castle’s scullery maid Bridget (Zoey Deschanel).

“Beauty and the Beast” (2017): With its live-action remake of its acclaimed 1991 animated blockbuster – which not only won Oscars for Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman’s exquisite score and iconic title theme, but also became the first full-length animated movie in cinema history to receive a best picture nomination -- Disney gives its cherished “tale as old as time” a lavish movie-musical treatment that casts its own powerful spell. Nominated for best costume design and best production design at next month’s Oscars, the remake faithfully follows the animated classic, filling in little plot holes and sketching in back stories while working its own movie magic. Although she doesn’t have the vocal range of Paige O’Hara, the original voice of Belle, Emma Watson captivates as one of Disney’s best fairytale heroines, the brave and brainy small-town girl who longs for a bigger life.

"Aladdin" (2019): Yes, Will Smith's blue CGI genie look is off-putting, but Disney's live-action remake of its 1992 animated hit brings welcome diversity to the cast, a more well-rounded role (and more dignified outfits) for Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and a nifty romantic subplot. As EW reports, the Mouse House is in in early development on a sequel to the live-action "Aladdin," so it's a good time to watch it anyway.

Action-packed romance

If you enjoy your romance mixed with plenty of adrenaline, consider yourself locked and loaded with these movies:

"The Terminator" (1984): Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) travels across time to save Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) from the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He travels across time for her! Now that's romance.

"True Lies" (1994): A mild-mannered wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) gets drawn into the action and danger when she discovers that her seemingly boring husband (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is actually an elite government spy.

"Desperado" (1995): It's got Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek falling in love between all the flying bullets, so this actioner offers everyone someone quite nice to look at.

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005): Although we've seen the end of Brangelina, Shawnee-born Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie still have smokin' chemistry in this movie playing as assassins on opposite sides.

"300" (2006): Sure, most of this pumped-up Greek legend is focused on big battle sequences and impressive pectorals, but King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) make one hot power couple.

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (2010): Based on the popular video game, this swords-and-sandals epic hearkens back to the Saturday matinee romps of old, pairing Jake Gyllenhaal (possibly the world's palest Persian prince) as an orphaned boy who is adopted by a king and becomes his father's fiercest warrior and Gemma Arterton as a spirited princess entrusted with a magical dagger that can alter time.

"Thor" (2011): Chris Hemsworth quite ably supplies the brawn as the Norse god cast down to Earth, but Oscar winner Natalie Portman gets to be the brains as relentlessly curious and lovably disorganized astrophysicist Jane Foster in the movie version of the Marvel Comic.

"Drive" (2011): Director Nicolas Winding Refn's sun- and blood-soaked slice of Los Angeles neo-noir isn't for the faint of heart. But if you can handle some Tarantino-level outbursts of violence, you can marvel at the crackling chemistry between Ryan Gosling as the enigmatic Hollywood stunt driver/getaway wheelman and Carey Mulligan as the vulnerable, single-mom neighbor who opens his heart without even trying. And yes, their kiss in the elevator is as sexy as you've been led to believe.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2016) "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." So begins both author Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling 2009 novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and director-screenwriter Burr Steers’ (“17 Again”) surprisingly entertaining new cinematic adaptation of it. To put it in modern English, this story is exactly what the title indicates: Jane Austen’s beloved 19th century comedy of manners and matrimony set in an alternate universe in which the English countryside has been overrun by hordes of the undead.

“Wonder Woman” (2017): Thanks to Gal Gadot’s breakout performance and Patty Jenkins’ robust direction, “Wonder Woman” got so much of the long-awaited first film showcase for the venerable DC Comics A-lister wonderfully right. Under Jenkins’ direction, the World War I-era superhero origin story not only delivers the requisite thrilling fight sequences – the Amazon warrior-princess’ dramatic crossing of No Man’s Land was my favorite cinematic scene of 2017 – but it’s also the rare comic-book movie romance that actually gets sparks flying instead of landing as awkwardly as a Hulk shot out of a cannon. Rather, the tender love that grows between Diana of Themyscira, who knows plenty of legends and stories about humans but has never met one until she goes marching off to war, and American fighter pilot and spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), whose crash-landing on the Amazons’ idyllic island home begins the wise but inexperienced princess’ journey to becoming Wonder Woman. The eagerly awaited sequel, "Wonder Woman 1984," hits theaters June 5, so a rewatch is probably in order.


Related Photos
Himesh Patel and Lily James star in "Yesterday." [Universal Pictures photo]