This Valentine’s Day, because we should be staying at home and not spreading the virus further, I have 20 movies (and more) that I believe you should watch. Take the recommendations and stay home! Netflix and chill or eat ramyeon with someone (*wink wink*), just stay home so that next year we can spend Valentine’s Day outside again!
- Should be a classic: The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride has achieved cult classic status for a reason. It has what I believe to be the appropriate amount of romance, which is romance sprinkled on top of witty comments and slightly absurd comedic situations in a fantasy fairytale story all the while being self aware. Recommended for group watches but equally as good for couples.
- Bittersweet: Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name took me back to Europe in the 1980s (as if I was there right?). Fun fact, the cinematographer for the film is Thai; Sayombhu Mukdeeprom did Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Life and the 2018 remake of Suspiria. It’s beautifully shot and Timothée really does take you along Elio’s crush on Oliver. It may seem tame at times, but the realism of how guarded Elio must have been about his longing is what makes you crack. Best watched alone so you can fully immerse yourself in the unrequited love.
- Step Up!: Dirty Dancing
Dirty Dancing is a classic when it comes to dance movies. An 80s classic that was expected to fail but became the household name it is today. The music won multiple Grammys and even beat out Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen on the charts. All the songs invite you to dance, so it’s perfect for those who like to get on their feet with their partner. Be careful and responsible and do not attempt the lift if you’re not a professional or have done it before.
- Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood
Murakami characters are known for their raw and unfiltered honesty. Matsuyama Kenichi perfectly portrays Toru as he is torn between Naoko and Midori, all the while haunted by the suicide of his best friend Kizuki. Murakami is one of those authors whose books you need to read at least once (Harry Styles even said that Norwegian Wood was one of his favourites) and this movie is one to watch if you want a slightly melancholic Valentine’s.
- Be Woke: If Beale Street Could Talk
If Beale Street Could Talk is about the story of a black couple in the USA in the 1970s when racial tensions were at an all time high. Fonny and Tish are childhood friends who began a relationship now that they are older. Fonny gets falsely accused of raping a woman despite having an airtight alibi. While Fonny is in jail, they find out that Tish is pregnant. The film is the story of how they overcome these obstacles and injustices while still continuing to ‘live’ life despite everything. I believe this film is a must watch, especially in Asia where racism and its baby colorism is not considered for serious conversations. If you want to educate yourself more on the matter (especially since February is Black History Month), this could be a good film for you.
- Girl Action: Carol
The US in the 1950’s and 1960’s was not a good place for people from the LGBT community. Attitudes towards gays and lesbians were more of the “they need to be locked up” as they were considered mentally ill and in need of psychiatric help unlike the current “yass queen” responses we see today. The film is about Therese and Carol’s relationship as they discover their feelings for each other and how they navigated the social climate. Small spoilers, they do get a happy ending, a big step in fair LGBT-Q representation on the silver screen.
- You want to cry: Her
[18+ only] Everyone I know who has watched this Spike Jonze masterpiece has bawled their eyes out even in their third and fourth watch. It follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his relationship with Samantha, an AI voiced by Scarlett Johansson. This film completely encapsulates all the things a relationship can bring someone: the beginning, heartbreaks, longings, and goodbyes. It feels real.
- Being a Young Adult is Hard: Scott Pilgrim vs The World
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, dropping everything to watch it right at this moment is the right thing to do. It’s fine, come back and read the rest of the recommendations later. It’s a must watch for all the young adults out there. All the growing pains, slowly increasing amount of responsibilities all the while just wanting to go out, having fun and falling in love… All of it is blended perfectly with video game sensibilities and aesthetics.
- The Pains of Interracial Marriages: The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjianiis is undoubtedly one of the best comedians of this generation, but did you know he and his wife made their story into a movie? While it was quite dramatized, it was the story of their relationship (you can find the differences between the movie and real life story here). Emily (the character) was induced into a coma and despite having broken up, Kumail decides to stay by her side, bonding with her family, and opening up a future for them despite the previous disapprovals from Kumail’s family as they wanted him to marry a good Pakistani girl. This film will undoubtedly be relatable for Asians all over the world.
- Suda Masaki: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
Suda Masaki’s charisma grants him his own little section, that’s how impactful the guy is. He is one of the most talented and sought after actors in Japan, and for good reasons too. Having followed his career since seeing him in Shinigami-kun with Arashi’s Ohno Satoshi back in 2014, Suda has never produced anything underwhelming, whether its acting (watch him on Netflix) or singing (yes he does music and he’s good, having worked with Yonezu Kenshi and more recently Aimyon). Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is a live action adaptation of the shojo manga of the same name; Suda plays Haru alongside Tsuchiya Tao who plays the main character, Mizutani Shizuku. It’s a feel good slice of life story that unlike what most people say about live action adaptations of mangas, does not disappoint.
- Critically Acclaimed Bittersweet Pain: The Handmaiden
[18+ only] From the famous Park Chan-wook (Old Boy), the film made all the top ten lists that movie critics published. The Guardian even ranked it 41st in 100 best films of the 21st Century. The film is a must watch as the actors effortlessly portrayed their character’s longing. You could feel that there was nothing between a certain pairing while the other pairing’s blooming passion could burn through the screen at times. However, there are explicit scenes in the film which can make younger or more sensible audiences uncomfortable, so proceed with caution.
- No, You’re Crying: Brokeback Mountain
This film is about two people’s love and longing for each other; two people who cannot quit each other despite everything in the world telling them that it’s wrong for them to be together. The actors themselves emphasize that it was the story of two souls in love, and implied that the audience should only bear that in mind while watching the film. While this film does contain the narrative that being gay never leads to happiness or good endings, I still believe that the story is strong and can serve as some sort of cathartic experience for us who have had lost love before.
- Secrets and Silent Longing: In The Mood for Love
In The Mood for Love is one of the best films about love and longing, as well as being one of the best films of all times, period. Despite its troubled production, Wong Kar-wai (one of the very best) and the cast and the production managed to produce a trip back in time in 1960’s Hong Kong, putting us into the main character’s cautious and possibly paranoid mindset they are in as neighbors and implied gossips prevents them from going for what their hearts long for.
- Gothic Remake: Rebecca
Rebecca, starring Armie Hammer and Lily James, might have only received mediocre scores from the critics despite having Ben Wheatley in the director wheels, but I personally want to recommend this movie for the younger generations. The 1940 version of Daphné du Maurier’s classic may be too old school for today’s audience. If we only look at the 2020 remake as a stand alone movie, it is more than adequate. Armie Hammer is charming and romantic, but he does a great job carrying a secret; the perfect hot guy with a dark secret type.
- Raunchy American Stuff: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
[18+ only] Probably one of the best romantic comedies of the 2000s, up in the list with The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Superbad. It is hilarious and heartwarming. It is raunchy and crude but you cannot hate it. Bill Hader is in this (enough reasons to watch it already).
- Baz Lurhman: Romeo + Juliet
If you are all about the glamour and fantasy, you cannot pass on a Baz Lurhman film on Valentine’s and which one of his films is best suited for anything romantic and tragic? It is of course Romeo + Juliet. The genius of the film is the mixing and matching of Shakespearean dialogue in a modern setting. Some might find it crass and that it cheapens the tragedy, but I find that it is the Shakespearean lines that bring the romance into an otherwise rather crass, dirty, and over the top world (that and Leonardo and Claire’s faces, how are they so beautiful). In a way, those complicated lines are the things that simplify the love of two teenagers in an otherwise complicated and layered setting.
- Korean First Loves: Architecture 101
In Asia, there is this saying that first loves never come true or work out. This movie resonated with Koreans when it came out in 2012, so much so that it made Suzy the “Nation’s First Love”. It is the story of a 35 year old architect Seung-min who gets a visit from his first love Seo-yoon, who he hasn’t seen since university. The movie revisits their younger years in university as well as the present. As we find out what happened between them in the past, we cannot help but experience nostalgia for those times when we first ventured into the world as an individual, when things were simple.
- Must-See Tearjerker: Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
You might not know it, but Jim Carrey is not just a comedic actor. He has shown his more dramatic acting skills in films like The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is about a couple who, after a breakup, erases each other from their memories, only to find each other again and fall in love again. This can be a hard watch to those who are a little bit more sensitive but I loved every minute of it.
- Boi Bi: Alex Strangelove
If you don’t want to be watching anything too serious right now; it’s either another night with the family (since we’re stuck in MCO) or you’re bunkered with friends or roommates (for those who are stuck in dorms), then Alex Strangelove is the movie for you. It follows the main character, Alex, as he prepares himself to lose his virginity to his long time girlfriend, Claire. However, he cannot stop thinking about Elliot whom he met at a party. The movie is adorable and manages to portray the teenage struggle with sexuality without resorting to belittling any aspects that comes with growing up.
- If You Want To Feel Conflicted By ‘Love’: Ningen Shikkaku (2019)
[18+ only] While the film holds the same name as one of the best selling novels in Japan, the story of the film is about its author, Osamu Dazai, and his troubles with women and various addictive substances. The novel is long thought to be autobiographical and the film certainly takes that approach. As you watch Dazai get tangled with the different women who seek his affections, you cannot help but get drawn back to the character of Oba Yozo’s struggles from the original novel. While Dazai (portrayed here by Oguri Shun) is a much less sympathetic character than Yozo, you can’t help but somewhat relate to his character and his struggles even if you cannot agree with how he is living his life. A Mika Ninagawa film, it does not disappoint when it comes to the visuals and cinematography.
- Great Music: The Liar and His Lover (Kanojo wa Uso wo Aishisugiteru) (2013)
- Korean Classic: The Classic (2003)
- Musical: Grease [18+ only]
- Great Music Part 2: The Bodyguard
- Forbidden Love: Maurice [18+ only]
By Julia S.