Essays · Movies

The Best Valentine’s Day Movies for Single People

Who needs love when you’ve got movies?
Valentines Movies For Single People
By  · Published on February 12th, 2019

This year I celebrate my 21st consecutive Valentine’s Day as a single person. The experience, for those of you less familiar with the situation, is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have every company that sells cards, chocolate, and/or lingerie telling you that you are a socially defunct failure of a human being. But on the other hand, you get to smugly watch from the sidelines as various friends in the other camp fret over their plans — or, even better, realize at the last minute that they forgot to make plans. Also, February 15th is the best day for buying half-price candy that isn’t November 1st. So yes, there are definite upsides.

Still, it begs the question: what does one do on the commercially designated most romantic day of the year when one is not caught up in a romance? Well, the answer is really quite simple: watch movies. Of course, every day is a good day to watch a movie, but a holiday makes a particularly good excuse to go all-out.

A wide range of emotional states can accompany being single on Valentine’s day — everything from a smug sense of superiority to a deep-seated sense of fundamental inadequacy and loneliness is totally valid, no judgment here. Thankfully, the past century has produced thousands upon thousands of movies covering the full spectrum of human emotion. Suggestions for food and drink are also included because a movie marathon without snacks doesn’t actually count.


February 14th is ultimately just another day of the year. And, both in real life and the fictional worlds of movies, things have happened on February 14th besides an untold number of overhyped dates. The following eclectic selection of films highlights some of the various things that have happened on V-day that don’t involve an exchange of cards or chocolates,

Serve With: Gin and tonic — the snazzy kind, with garnishes and the nice tonic sold in glass bottles — and fancy flavored popcorn (parmesan and truffle oil, that sort of thing), because you’re classy.

Dracula Still

Dracula (1931)

In addition to a spawning a slew of sequels, Tod Browning’s horror classic — released on February 14, 1931 — marked the start of Hollywood’s first golden age of horror that produced such influential films as Island of Lost Souls and James Whale’s Frankenstein. It also, of course, made star Bela Lugosi a cultural icon, and still the most famous onscreen vampire to date.

Can I Stream It? Yes, via STARZ or the STARZ channel on Amazon Prime.

Some Like It Hot

Some Like it Hot

On February 14, 1929, several high-ranking members of Chicago’s North Side Gang were killed in an ambush planned by the one and only Al Capone. Depictions of the incident have made it to the big screen many times over the years, and while other films have featured the massacre more prominently (Roger Corman’s 1967 film The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, for instance) none of them are nearly as good as Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, one of the most entertaining films made by arguably one of the most entertaining filmmakers Hollywood has ever seen. And considering witnessing a shootout based on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is what makes Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) go into hiding as members of an all-female band, the incident definitely plays a key role in the film.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Amazon Prime.

Picnic Hangingrock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

A school trip to Hanging Rock for a picnic on Valentine’s Day, 1900, leads to the disappearance of several students and a teacher, sending the local community into a frenzy. What happened? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out. Sure, you could watch the 2018 limited series if you really want to, but this is a movie marathon. Watch the movie. It’s directed by Peter Weir; you’ll like it. (Also, speaking of Peter Weir, whatever happened to that guy? I miss him.)

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it through Amazon or iTunes.

Silence Of The Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Did you know this Best Picture winner opened on February 14th? Yes, that’s right, the most influential horror film of the 1930s and the most influential horror film of the 1990s — or, “thriller” as the people who love the movie but don’t want to admit that horror can be good would call it — were both released on Valentine’s Day. Can the romance genre say that? No, no it cannot.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Netflix.



See, here’s the thing: you’re single because A) you don’t need another person to make you feel complete and B) you haven’t met anyone who meets your exacting standards and you’re not about to lower them. Maybe occasionally you see an adorable elderly couple and feel a little pang of something somewhere, you’re only human. Being single can be lonely. It has its downsides. But most of the time you look at people in relationships and wonder: is the alternative really any better? In both real life and the movies, there are plenty of examples out there that support the idea that being single really is the best way to go.

Serve with: Your preferred beer and a pizza entirely to yourself, because if you’re alone you don’t need to negotiate toppings.

The Lobster

The Lobster (2015)

In a universe next door, single people are rounded up and brought to a last-chance resort where they have 45 days to find a significant other. Successful couples are allowed to reintegrate into society while the unsuccessful are transformed into animals of their choosing. It’s an absurdist premise for what is often an alarmingly acute satire on relationships and the stigma that can surround being single. With Yorgos Lanthimos’ trademark deadpan panache and crisp visual style, The Lobster renders every frustration you’ve ever had with dating culture and annoying thing you’ve experienced as a single person into a quality cinematic experience.

Can I Stream It?: Yes, on Netflix.

Amy Gone Girl

Gone Girl (2014)

Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) has disappeared and is soon presumed quite likely dead. Her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) quickly becomes the prime suspect. And then everything goes to Hell in a handbasket. It’s written by Gillian Flynn, so the bottom line of all the twists and turns is basically that most everybody is terrible, men especially. David Fincher has the directorial chops required to ground Flynn’s screenplay and make every jaw-dropping reveal flawlessly compelling. With the help of Pike’s stellar performance as Amy, the finished product is addictingly watchable and a perfect antidote to any wistful pangs one might be feeling about a lack of a SO.

Can I Stream It?: Only if you have the FX channel premium streaming subscription FX+, but you can also rent it from Amazon/Google Play/YouTube/iTunes/etc.

The Shining (1980)

“HEERRREEE’S JOHNNY!” There is a 100% chance that, at some point over the course of the film, Johnny’s wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) thinks, “You know I really wish I hadn’t gotten married.” Particularly once said husband starts chasing her with an ax. Because, as this film reminds us, even if you enter into a relationship with someone who is perfectly sane, there are no guarantees they won’t lose the plot later.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it from Google Play/iTunes/YouTube.



When it comes to movies, particularly mainstream ones, romance subplots can be like appendices or wisdom teeth — even when not really needed, they’re almost always still there. Usually, you can just ignore them, but sometimes they just mess with everything and you can’t help but think that a lot of pain could have been saved by just taking them out.

That said, some movies dare to take the road less traveled and kick the romance to the wayside. And that’s exactly what you need right now: a detox from all the lovey-dovey stuff. You’re looking for some good old-fashioned escapist entertainment, no romance allowed. The following genre-crossing sample platter highlights films that score 10/10 for entertainment with nary a romantic subplot to be found.

Serve With: A huge bowl of buttered popcorn and an obnoxiously large soda. We’re going for the classic movie experience here.

School Of Rock

School of Rock (2003)

In 2003, Richard Linklater decided to demonstrate he could make a mainstream family film. He has not repeated the experiment since, but thankfully we can continue to appreciate the result of his first go ’round forevermore. One can easily imagine an alternate universe in which Dewey Finn (Jack Black), the lovable but somewhat lazy guitarist who impersonates roommate Ned Schneebly to snag a substitute teaching job in order to be able to pay the rent on time, is given a love interest of some kind. But Linklater took a different path, and so School of Rock is ideal for inclusion on this list.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon/iTunes/etc.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park (1993)

Who needs romance when you’ve got dinosaurs? Nobody, that’s who.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon/iTunes/etc.

True Grit (2010)

Mattie Ross’s (Hailee Steinfeld) father was murdered by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she will have her revenge; US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) get dragged along for the ride. She doesn’t have time for nonsense of any kind, and that most certainly includes mushy stuff. It may no longer be the Coen brothers’ only Western following the release of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but it’s still their best.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon/iTunes/etc.

Chris Hemsworth Thor Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets a brand new look in his third film, and the result is more entertaining than the first two installments combined. In fact, it’s easily among the most fun entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It also tosses aside the tired entrapments of a painfully forced romantic subplot in favor of simply reveling in a cast full of highly attractive people with great chemistry. Anyway, why pick one pairing when you could instead have vaguely flirtatious energy going in all directions?

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Netflix.



Okay, so you haven’t found “twu wuv” or whatever, but you’ve got some kickass friends, and you’d take a bullet for those dudes. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, probably not. But you’d definitely help them bury a body, no questions asked. Perhaps Plato had the right idea when he talked about the intellectual/spiritual bonds of friendship being the most valuable of all. I mean, the guy died more 2,400 years ago and people are still talking about him, so you figure at least one or two of his ideas must hold some merit. Anyway, tl;dr: spend the day celebrating the gift that is having true friends in your life.

Serve With: Invite your friends over and do things pot luck style.

Thelma Louise

Thelma & Louise (1991)

There are buddy cop films and then there are buddy running-from-the-cops films. This is one of the greats of the latter kind.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Amazon Prime or Hulu.

What We Do In The Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

While the friendship between vampire roommates Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is a thing of beauty, astoundingly accommodating human friend Stu (Stu Rutherford) is the real MVP. He’s a powerhouse of Platonic affection. Everybody loves Stu. Watch the film and you will, too.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Amazon Prime or Kanopy.

Toy Story

Toy Story (1995)

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” What else is there to say?

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon/iTunes/etc.

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Honestly, any film in the Cornetto trilogy could have gone here, so just pick your favorite — they’re all as bromantic as they come.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Netflix.



Some people can feel confident in their single status. Good on them and all, but that’s not you. You want someone to eat ridiculous heart-shaped foods with, and you don’t have one. It sucks. You get on with your life and everything, but Valentine’s Day basically demands you throw yourself a pity party. And if you’re going to do something, you might as well go all out and do it right with these films that reflect every crummy thing you’re feeling in vivid technicolor (or technically, in a few cases, black and white.)

Serve With: Two-buck Chuck from good old Trader Joe’s (which is $3 now — thanks, inflation) and something straight from a jar eaten with a spoon or just your fingers, because fuck it, it’s not like you’ve got anybody to impress.

Unknown Woman

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

The “women’s film,” as it was known, was a particular genre of film prominent until the 1950s that were geared towards female audiences and centered around martyr-like heroines who suffer through trials and tribulations, usually unthanked, before quite frequently dying at the end. When you really boil it down, women’s films were basically an opportunity for women to project onto the characters and get a cathartic cry out of the experience. It’s quite a bleak genre, and as far as romance is concerned, it doesn’t get any bleaker than Max Ophüls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman. The basic premise is that Lisa (Joan Fontaine) falls desperately in love with concert pianist Stefan (Louis Jourdan), who utterly fails to notice she exists. Thus begins a lifelong unrequited romance and a plot with the overall trajectory of “and then it got worse.” In conclusion, a great film for wallowing in feeling neglected and unloved.

Can I Stream It? No, unfortunately.

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

When thinking of tearjerker romance movies from the 2000s, the go-to answer seems to be The Notebook, which I will never understand. An elderly married couple dies in their sleep after a long and mostly happy life together. Yeah, it’s sad, but isn’t it also, technically, kind of a best-case scenario? Really, this is a long roundabout way of saying that if you want to go for the ultimate ugly cry experience, leave Ryan Gosling on the shelf in favor of Ennis (Heath Ledger) going through Jack’s (Jake Gyllenhaal’s) clothes at his parent’s house, because that’s prime gut punch material right there. If you want to feel even sadder, remember that this film lost to Crash for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off of Amazon/iTunes/etc.

Summertime (1955)

Middle-aged secretary and spinster Jane Hudson (Katherine Hepburn) finally takes her dream vacation to Venice in what might be the loneliest romance movie Hollywood has ever made. Even its “happier” bits have a sort of backhanded edge to them — the closest thing to a grand romantic proposal this film has basically boils down to “this isn’t exactly what you want, but you do realize you’re not going to get a better offer, right?” Talk about ouch.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Kanopy.


In The Mood For Love (2000)

This film might have taken home the top spot in FSR‘s ranking of romantic movies, but much like the other films in this list, it’s a romance film that’s ultimately about loneliness more than finding respite from that condition.

Can I Stream It? Yes, on Kanopy.



Last but not least: ’tis the season, and you’re in the love-hearts spirit, even if you don’t have a Valentine. Is this the most cliché choice? Absolutely. But if you’re feeling it, own it and indulge your hopelessly romantic side with the following titles. Happy endings are, of course, a must.

Serve With: Chocolates in heart-shaped boxes and pink-frosted baked goods, all washed down with hot chocolate.


Belle (2013)

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a true romance marathon unless there’s a period piece involved. The world before the invention of dick pics just seems inherently more romantic. The more traditional choice would be to go with something adapted from Austen or a Brontë sister, but Belle is my go-to for two important reasons. First, its social and historical commentary give you a little bit more to chew on while still keeping all the fun lordly talk and courtship shenanigans one expects from a period piece. Second, love interest John Davinier (Sam Reid) has that sort of smoldering broodiness that makes Byronic heroes so addictive without the problematic power dynamics or the abusiveness of a Mr. Rochester or a Heathcliff — Byronic hero lite.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon/iTunes/etc.

Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

If Heath Ledger dancing on the bleachers singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” doesn’t make your heart go all gooey I regret to inform you that you’re actually a machine. The high school rom-com has never gone out of fashion since the ’80s, meaning the genre has no shortage of entries, but for my money, none of them are quite as adorably romantic as this one. BUT WHAT ABOUT JOHN HUGHES!?!!!! The thing is, as a child of the ’90s it turns out that I have no loyalty to the gods of bygone eras.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon/iTunes/etc.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Fluffy as a marshmallow with a wit sharp as a tack, this movie is pure fantasy in all the best possible ways. It’s got adventure, it’s got a sense of humor, and of course, it’s got swoon-worthy romance.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off Amazon.

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

So we’ve got historical romance, high school romance, and fantasy romance covered, which leaves us with the traditional rom-com. There are plenty of enjoyable rom-coms out there, but not having a personal favorite, I figured I might as well feature the latest big entry to the genre. While Netflix has become the preeminent provider of rom-com fare in recent years, Crazy Rich Asians swept through 2018’s late summer box office with a welcome reminder that the mainstream big screen rom-com is still a viable creature.

Can I Stream It? No, but you can rent it off iTunes, Google Play, or YouTube.


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Ciara Wardlow is a human being who writes about movies and other things. Sometimes she tries to be funny on Twitter.