Valentine’s Day inevitably promises a bevy of indignities—cheesy flower arrangements, perhaps, or stale message hearts; the occasional, undesired proclamation of affections; long solo walks down the CVS candy aisle at midnight on the 15th to grab newly on-sale boxes of chocolates. Worst of these is the silly, divisive war it fosters between the single and the — ahem — coupled. The truth is, we can all hate on this cheesy holiday equally. If you’re bitter and alone, or happy and alone, or you’re that cool couple who doesn’t take V-Day seriously, here’s a curated list of movies to nurse you through this Hallmark holiday.
Kicking off this list is a truly terrible romantic-comedy with a premise just wacky enough to keep things interesting. Over Her Dead Body stars Eva Longoria as Paul Rudd’s deceased bride (killed by an ice sculpture on their wedding day) and Lake Bell as the psychic he eventually falls for. Longoria spends the duration of the film haunting Rudd and offering commentary on his romantic decisions. Let’s be clear here: this is a bad movie. Over Her Dead Body is weird and simultaneously tired in its rom-com tropes, but the combination is delightfully cackle-worthy for Valentine’s skeptics.
Not in the mood to shell out to see the new 50 Shades with your special someone this Valentine’s Day? Why not stay in, and enjoy a detailed account of the United States’ history of systemic racism and classist, state-sponsored aggression towards people of color? Ava DuVernay’s hard-hitting documentary explores the complex legacy of the 13th amendment and the criminal justice system in America. It’s long on top-notch documentary chops and fluent historical explanations, and notably short on women taking their glasses off and suddenly becoming hot.
A favorite for most movie buffs, The Graduate’s torrid trysts and unlikely couples aren’t exactly the most…romantic. The Graduate follows new college grad Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and his relationships, first with the infamous Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a middle-aged neighbor, and later with her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). Benjamin is at turns pathetic and creepy, Mrs. Robinson is predatory, and we’re all left wondering what the heck Elaine sees in Ben at all. The film ends in a marriage, but as the newlyweds bus out of town, it’s clear they’re as ambivalent about romance as anyone who’d watch this classic for Valentine’s Day.
One of Director Noah Baumbach’s earlier offerings, Greenberg, which stars Ben Stiller as the titular character and Greta Gerwig as his romantic interest, has all the trappings of a regular old rom-com: a pair of attractive leads, a plot heavy with hijinks, and a seemingly inevitable romance. Baumbach, however, imbues the plot with his trademark theatrical staging, awkward encounters, and bravado-laced dialogue that allows Greenberg to take on an odd sort of realism. For those keen to see romance run smoothly, Greenberg will surely disappoint; it is a correspondingly fantastic anti-Valentine’s day film.
This oddball festival film, directed by Madeline Olnek, isn’t exactly un-romantic in its narrative. However, its artistic aspersions trend way more towards the weird than anything else. It tells the story of Jane (Lisa Haas), a store-clerk who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be a space alien named Zoinx (Susan Ziegler). It’s a tongue-in-cheek spoof of old B-grade sci-fi movies, and is endearingly goofy. It is a labor of love, but in the artistic sense, that will leave you Valentine’s naysayers giggling at the silliness of human beings.