Movies to Watch Whether You Love or Hate Valentine's Day

‘Love & Basketball’ (2000)

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s brilliant directorial debut cares equally about the two nouns referenced in its title, which is one of the reasons it’s so special. A sprawling movie, it charts the years-long game of emotional one-on-one between Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), childhood neighbors who both have dreams of hoops stardom. As Monica and Quincy age, Prince-Bythewood unpacks the ways in which these competitive people both clash and fall into each other’s arms. On top of that, it’s one of the rare movies about the challenges of being a female athlete all while remaining incredibly sexy on and off the court.

‘Rye Lane’ (2023)

If anyone starts to bemoan the current state of rom-coms I point them to “Rye Lane” from the director Raine Allen Miller. It’s a walk-and-talk in the style of “Before Sunrise” in which two Londoners, Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah), meet at an art show where we first encounter Dom crying in a bathroom stall over his ex’s betrayal. Yas and Dom spend a chaotic day wandering around the neighborhood of the movie’s title, complete with awkward encounters with former partners and a lot of delightful banter. Miller’s inspired creative direction makes “Rye Lane” especially vibrant.

‘Love Is Strange’ (2014)

Romance onscreen doesn’t have to be only for the young, as is the case in Ira Sachs’s moving film about connection that endures. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow do some of their finest work as George and Ben, a couple who are forced apart by homophobia and the high price of New York real estate. George is fired from his job as a choir teacher at a Catholic school after he and Ben finally marry after decades together. Without that income, they have to sell their apartment, and when their friends and family can’t accommodate them both crashing together, they are required to live in different locations. Ultimately, however, Sachs creates a testament to the power of love that is stronger than distance and age.

‘The Lady Eve’ (1941)

Preston Sturges’s “The Lady Eve” is a delightfully wild pinnacle of the screwball form, where love triumphs over lunacy. The great Barbara Stanwyck is at her sultriest as Jean Harrington, a con artist who sets her sights on Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), the nervous, snake-obsessed heir to an ale fortune, luring him into a card game where her associates will scam him out of his money. As is often the case in these kinds of plots, both parties develop actual feelings for one another that get thrown for a loop when the extent of the ruse is revealed. And then Sturges throws another deception on top of the initial one, increasing the lunacy, but making the ending that much sweeter.

‘Crossing Delancey’ (1988)

The dream of a perfect nice Jewish boy comes alive in Joan Micklin Silver’s still woefully underrated “Crossing Delancey.” Amy Irving plays Isabelle Grossman, a bookseller whose Lower East Side bubbe surprises her with a meeting, set up by the local matchmaker, with Sam Posner (Peter Riegert), a pickle vendor. Considering herself a modern woman, Isabelle is resistant to the arrangement, but finds herself charmed by the unpretentious and sweet Sam, a born storyteller, connected to a version of New York culture that’s disappearing. Irving and Riegert stare at each other with such intensity it’s hard not to be convinced their characters are perfect for one another.

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