As far as Valentine’s Day plans go, curling up on the couch with a romance movie is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend your night. If you manage to fend off the pressure of getting all dolled up and squeezing into a restaurant reservation amidst the crowds, there is nothing quite like a cosy evening at home with your favourite snacks, a bottle of wine and your movie of choice. Who can resist a good love story?
When it comes to the question of what to watch, classic rom-coms may be an easy first thought—but not all of them have aged well. Several of the most popular romance movies of the early 2000s contend with one-dimensional depictions of love and problematic tropes. Let’s just say that consent was not a character in many of these movies, rendering them extremely uncomfortable to watch today.
This early crop of romance movies also struggle with an absence of inclusivity and diversity in their characters. Most of the leads are white, thin and heterosexual, and if there was ever a queer relationship shown on screen, it was likely the butt of a joke rather than a genuine attempt at broadening the scope of representation.
The good news is that recent years have seen a surge in romance movies made more mindfully for a wider, more diverse audience. From nuanced relationships between fully-developed, intersectional characters to the celebration of sweet young queer love, Vogue Singapore rounds up a selection of masterful films that are heart-warming, romantic and enriching all at once.
This edit is not restricted to Hollywood—in fact, one good way to expand your understanding of love in all its forms is to explore films made in different languages, from Japanese to Hindi. Many of the movies in this list are easily available on Netflix, Apple TV+ or other streaming services. For some of the others, you may have to dig a little deeper, but we promise you, it will be worth it.
1 / 7
The Half of It
In this loose retelling of the Cyrano de Bergerac story, we follow Ellie Chu, a shy but brilliant Asian-American student who forms an unlikely friendship with school jock Paul Munsky. Paul, who is nursing a crush on their schoolmate Aster, enlists Ellie’s help to write heartfelt letters and texts to Aster in his name. What follows is an incredibly tender and winding coming-of-age journey where love and friendship bloom in unexpected places.
Watch The Half of It on Netflix
2 / 7
This is a film you’ll want to prepare for with waterproof mascara and a box of tissues. Starring veteran actors Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth, Supernova is a devastatingly beautiful love story centred on a 20-year-old relationship now threatened by one of the partners confronting early onset of dementia. With exceptional performances, breathtaking cinematography and a truly haunting soundtrack that will follow you around for days, Supernova asks the question: how far will you go for love?
Rent Supernova on The Projector
3 / 7
The Big Sick
Real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are known for their funny bones, so this romantic-comedy based on their own relationship is sure to earn more than a few laughs. At the heart of this acclaimed film, however, is a unique story of interracial love. Watch as the characters navigate the ups and downs of cross-cultural relationships, turning old rom-com formulas and tropes on their head and proving that even in a genre of film as old as time, there are still fresh ideas waiting to be discovered.
Watch The Big Sick on Amazon Prime
4 / 7
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Lauded as one of the greatest love stories of our generation, this historical masterpiece is an intimate exploration of desire and loss. Set in late 18th century France, it depicts the swells of a thrilling forbidden affair between an aristocrat and a painter commissioned to paint her portrait. Portrait of a Lady on Fire won the Queer Palm at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first movie directed by a woman to do so, and is compulsory viewing for any contemporary film buff.
Watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire on Apple TV+
5 / 7
Fans of animation will appreciate this award-winning, beautifully animated feature film released in 2016, which tells the story of two strangers who find themselves suddenly and inexplicably linked when they begin to swap bodies. Watching the two characters—a high school boy in Tokyo and a high school girl from the Japanese countryside—navigate the nostalgic awkwardness of adolescent love is exceptionally delightful, and will definitely put a smile on your face.
Watch Your Name on Netflix
6 / 7
If Beale Street Could Talk
From the director of Oscar-winning Moonlight is this 2018 romantic drama based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name. When her lover is wrongly charged with rape, Tish seeks to clear his name and prove his innocence before the birth of their child. Gorgeously captured and full of unshakeable performances from an ensemble cast, If Beale Street Could Talk aptly honours its source material while seamlessly merging past and present.
Watch If Beale Street Could Talk on Google Play
7 / 7
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
Amidst the range of contemporary Bollywood films tackling important, sensitive topics is this romantic-comedy featuring young couple Manu and Maanvi, who meet at a gym. When Maanvi reveals an intimate truth about herself to Manu, their relationship is fractured. As we follow the charismatic couple’s journey back to one another, Manu confronts his own prejudices and biases, which results in the truly delicate and sensitive depiction of an issue seldom seen in Indian media.
Watch Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui on Netflix