With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, finding a movie to watch with your significant other or simply to “Netflix and chill,” can be a difficult task. You want to find a romance movie, but watching an atrociously bad “chick flick” starring Katherine Heigl may make both of you want to gouge out your eyes. While yes, there are plenty of guy orientated romantic-comedies, or rom coms, like (500) Days of Summer, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, movies from the Judd Apatow crew, Kevin Smith, and Woody Allen, those were hits so you may have seen those already. If you’re looking for a good rom-com that is lesser known, you may want to check out any of the ten films listed here.
10. Ruby Sparks
Calvin has two main problems in his life. While he is a successful novelist, he hasn’t published a novel in years and he has writer’s block. His other problem is that he can never seem to meet the right woman. He’s worried that any woman he meets will just like the idealized version of him and she won’t like him for who he really is. Calvin finds a solution to both of these problems when he writes a story where he is the main character and he meets a girl named Ruby Sparks, who is his ideal woman. Then one morning Calvin wakes up to find that, somehow, Ruby has popped into existence as a flesh and blood, self-aware human. Yes, the premise is slightly more ridiculous than Weird Science, but Ruby Sparks is fun and quirky with enough thoughtful prospective on relationships that anyone can enjoy it, as long as nagging plot holes don’t drive you insane. Like how does a girl created out of nothing get something like a social security card to register for classes?
9. Harold and Maude
Hal Ashby’s cult classic, Harold and Maude, is one of Chuck Palahniuk’s, the author of Fight Club, favorite movies, so that should tell you how strange this film is. Harold is a man in his 20s who is obsessed with death, which deeply annoys his socialite mother. Trying to shake him of his fascination, she sets Harold up on dates, and in turn, Harold sets up elaborate fake suicides and then pretends to kill himself in front of his dates. Besides permanently scaring young women, Harold also drives a hearse and goes to strangers’ funerals. At one of these funerals, he meets 79-year-old Maude, who is full of life and hungry for more. She wants to live every day to the fullest and try to do something new every day. They begin an unlikely relationship that is as touching as it is odd.
8. Wristcutters: A Love Story
Wristcutters: A Love Story takes place in a purgatory-type realm of existence that is for people who have committed suicide. It is just like Earth, but slightly worse. For example, all of the colors are dull, there are no stars, no one can smile, and the inhabitants have to work, usually at crummy jobs. After being on the plane of existence for some time, Zia, the main character, learns that his girlfriend Desiree killed herself about a month after he had committed suicide, which means that she is somewhere in the suicide realm. So Zia and his friend set off to try and find her. While driving, they pick up a hitchhiker named Mikal who believes that it’s a mistake that she’s there and she is looking for “the people in charge.” Wristcutters is a slightly morose film, but at the same time there is a glimmer of hope that drives the story that is also pretty funny, especially considering the tremendously sad subject matter.
7. Safety Not Guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed gets its premise from a real classified ad that read:
“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
In the film, a journalist and two interns travel to Ocean View to track down the man who posted the ad. When they find him, one of the interns, Darius, convinces the man, Kenneth, to train her and take her back in time with him. After a while, Darius learns that Kenneth’s goal is to travel back to 2001 to prevent his girlfriend from being killed in a car accident. But at the same time, evidence starts to mount that Kenneth may just be a man with a lot of emotional and psychological problems.
This film helped launched the career of its director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly, who went on to do the mega-blockbuster Jurassic World. Trevorrow is currently slated to direct the next installment of the Star Wars franchise, which is set to be released in 2019.
6. Celeste and Jesse Forever
Celeste and Jesse Forever is different from a lot of other romantic comedies because the movie begins at the end of the romance between the titular characters. Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse met in high school and married young. By the time they are 30, they realize that perhaps they weren’t meant to stay together. They start the process of divorce and throughout it, they remain best friends. After all, they’ve known each other for almost half of their lives. But things start to get complicated when they decide to start seeing other people. While the film is funny, it asks serious questions about breaking up with someone you’ve been with for a long time. Should you cut them out of your life completely? Or are you prepared to possibly see them happy and in love with someone who isn’t you?
Cyrus begins at a party, where John, played by John C. Reilly, meets Molly, played by Marisa Tomei, in a role that she specializes in, being effortlessly sweet and seductive at the same time. John and Molly hit it off, and to his amazement, she agrees to go on a date with him and ends up really liking him. But John knows that Molly is keeping a secret. After following her, he finds out that she has a strange grown up son named Cyrus, who lives with her. The mother and son have a weird relationship, but since John is so smitten with Molly, he decides to tolerate it. Cyrus, on the other hand, wants John out of his life and away from his mother and he sets about sabotaging the relationship in some incredibly bizarre ways. This movie is great for those who like their humor with an edge of awkwardness.
4. Me and You and Everyone We Know
Roger Ebert’s fifth favorite movie made between 2000 and 2009, Me and You and Everyone We Know, doesn’t follow a specific plotline. Instead, it is a bunch of subplots that revolve around the characters of the film. The two main characters are Richard (John Hawkes) and Christine (Miranda July, who also wrote and directed the film). Richard is a shoe salesman who is recently separated from his wife and he is looking after his two children. He meets Christine, a cab driver for seniors and an amateur video artist, when she brings a client to his store. Both Christine and Richard are odd, but charming in their own way, slowly, the two start a romantic relationship.
The idea behind the movie is that when two people fall in love, it is like they are speaking a language that only the two of them understand. At times, life feels like a puzzle, but sometimes you find someone special and it feels like their pieces were meant to interlock with your own.
3. Oblivious Child
Donna Stern is a stand-up comedian living in New York City, who hits a rut in her life when her boyfriend breaks up with her in the bathroom of a comedy club. The boyfriend says he’s sick of their private life being the butt of her jokes. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also tells her that he is leaving her for one of her friends. After the break-up and losing her job, Donna goes out drinking and has a one-night stand with a guy named Max. A short time later she finds out that she is pregnant and she decides to have an abortion. I know, not exactly the most upbeat premise in the world, especially for a romantic comedy, yet without making light of the topic, the film is smart and sensitive while being pretty funny at the same time.
2. The One I Love
2015’s The One I Love is solely about relationships but it uses an intriguing sci-fi/fantasy premise to examine the problems that can arise when two people marry. It is an enlightening and funny film that is romantic, but not sentimental. It is about a married couple, Ethan and Sophie, who are having marital problems. Their therapist suggests that they go on a couple’s retreat at a reclusive estate that has a small guest cottage. It turns out the cottage has an interesting ability that will profoundly change the couple’s relationship.
Like Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love stars Mark Duplass, who is perhaps best known as Pete on FX’s The League and as a key figure in the Mumblecore genre. He and his brother also wrote and directed Cyrus. If none of the other movies on this list appeal to you, look at his film biography as a writer, director, and actor for another one of his romantic comedies like Your Sister’s Sister, The Puffy Chair, and Hannah Takes the Stairs.
1. Happy Accidents
Ruby Weaver, played by Marisa Tomei, has a problem finding the right guy. Her problem is that she is attracted to guys with severe personal problems because she wants to fix them. Of course, after a short time she realizes that she’ll never be able to do that and finds herself single again. Then she meets a man named Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio) who is nearly perfect, except for a few odd quirks. He is terrified of small dogs, he speaks many different languages, has a terrible grasp on American geography, and at times, he’ll seemingly go into trances. When Ruby asks him about these idiosyncrasies, he says that he’s from the year 2470, in the future. Thinking it’s harmless, Ruby goes along with it for a while, but things come to a head and she has to decide if she believes him or if Sam is just mentally ill.
What elevates this simple plot premise and low budget is the amazing acting by the two leads. Tomei and D’Onofrio accurately depict two people that are excited because they found someone new and amazing without the film being sentimental or cheesy. Then, when Sam explains he’s from the future, you can tell what he is saying are facts, which is an incredibly complicated feat to accomplice if you’re an actor.
Happy Accidents, with its slight sci-fi edge, is about how time and space can’t even hold back two people who are meant to fall in love. If that isn’t the ultimate message of Valentine’s Day, then what is?