Last year, Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box office during Valentine’s Day weekend. However, despite being touted as the sexiest movie to come out in years, the movie was poorly received by the critics — not surprising since it turned out that the lead actors had absolutely no chemistry and the director was in a creative battle with author E.L. James throughout the production. And while there’s no Fifty Shades of Grey sequel for us to suffer through this year (unless you count the atrociously reviewed parody movie, Fifty Shades of Black), there are plenty of classic movies that couples can enjoy this Valentine’s Day.
So whether you’re in the mood for a Hollywood classic or a unique indie that puts a quirky twist on romance, here are 10 alternatives to Fifty Shades of Grey that will leave you in a more romantic mood than a poorly made erotic S&M drama.
This is a very obvious choice and many would rank this as one of the most romantic movies of all time, but the movie deserves that popular and critical consensus. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are perfection as the lovers that could have been if life hadn’t gotten in the way. The movie is filled with classic romantic lines so well-worn that you’ve heard them all even if you’ve never seen it, but each time you watch it they feel completely fresh and swoon-inducing. Bogart is the definition of the stand-up guy, someone who’s willing to give up on the love he’s long had for a woman in order to help her husband, a man who leads the Resistance against the Nazis. Consistently cited as one of the greatest movies of all time, the film will always be one of the greatest romances Hollywood has ever produced.
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
This vampire movie from Jim Jarmusch was one of last year’s most underrated films. Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as the undead lovers Adam and Eve, instead of being obsessed with vampire lore, Jarmusch answers the question of what he would do with all that time if he were immortal. Adam and Eve have been married for hundreds of years and spend their time making and consuming art, with Eve voraciously reading volumes in various languages while Adam composes music. Their relationship has lost none of its passion in the centuries they’ve been together, though there is no drama or uncertainty in their love fueling the spark between them. While other vampire romances glamorize domineering and obsessive partnerships, Only Lovers Left Alive shows an engaging, productive, and stable artistic relationship that’s still super hot and romantic thanks to Swinton, Hiddleston, and Jarmusch.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson might finally win an Oscar this year for The Grand Budapest Hotel after making his career by defining the hipster aesthetic. His second-most-recent movie, Moonrise Kingdom, is his most romantic, telling the story of a pair of preteens living on a remote island off the coast of New England who fall in love and run away together just as a historic storm is about to make land. With music from Hank Williams, Sr. and starring Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, and Edward Norton among other Anderson favorites the movie captures 1960s small town life through Anderson’s unique visuals. At the heart of the story are Sam and Suzy, two quiet, intelligent, introverted, and weird 12-year-olds who fall in love at first sight, maintain heated correspondence, and then decide to run away together. It’s a reminder that love can be experienced just as intensely at any age.
This 2001 French romantic comedy from Jean-Pierre Jeunet stars Audrey Tatou as the whimsical title character. Amélie is an incredibly shy Parisian waitress who indulges in elaborate schemes to change the lives of the people around her for the better while nursing her own loneliness. She has a highly active imagination honed during an isolated childhood and has more or less given up on finding love in favor of living in her own fantasies. When some of her loved ones make her realize her attraction to an eccentric man who collects discarded passport photos, she takes him on a cat-and-mouse game through Paris before giving back the photo album that he’d accidentally dropped. Jeunet’s vision of Paris is a visual treat as is Tatou’s performance.
5. Bonnie and Clyde
This might seem like a strange choice for a romantic film, but the couple that gets gunned down together stays together, right? Bonnie and Clyde are two of the most romanticized figures in history and Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty’s take on them in this Hollywood classic cemented that romanticization. Bonnie Parker is just a bored Southern girl who sees no way to escape her dreary life until ex-con Clyde Barrow walks into it. Dunaway is beautiful, desperate, and dark in the role, the brains to Beatty’s over-confident, swaggering Clyde. She knows their crime spree will be their undoing far before he does, but she stays with him anyway. Dunaway brings the gravity to the couple, but even with her serious manner you know that all this was preferable to suffocating from boredom back home.
This film is also historically significant as it’s cited as ushering in the New Hollywood era of moviemaking due to its frank takes on violence and sexuality. When it was released in 1967 it was one of the most violent movies to date and the ending scene was particularly shocking. “Its combination of sex and violence with dynamic stars, social relevance, a traditional Hollywood genre, and an appeal to hip young audiences set the pace for many American movies to come,” said The New York Times.
6. It Happened One Night
Frank Capra’s 1934 screwball comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable established some of the most-used clichés in the romantic comedy genre and did them better than most of the rom-coms that have tried to imitate it since. The chemistry between the two actors is sexy and hilarious. The film contains that famous, often-imitated scene where Gable is attempting to get someone to pick them up hitchhiking, and when his thumb doesn’t do the trick Colbert sticks her leg out from under her skirt. Colbert plays a spoiled heiress who is trying to travel alone and penniless from Florida to New York City to be with a man her father highly disapproves of. When she meets Gable’s reporter character on the train, he recognizes her and forces her to give him the inside scoop on the story in exchange for his help with getting to New York. Of course hilarity and misadventures ensue as the pair annoy the crap out of each other until they end up falling in love. The movie is so good it was the first film to take home all five major Academy Awards, according to the official Oscar website, which wouldn’t happen again until One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975.
7. Edward Scissorhands
Tim Burton’s 1991 romantic drama was responsible for bringing together Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp as the couple all dark and moody weirdos wish would’ve lasted. Scissorhands sees Depp giving a landmark performance from inside a bizarre costume and with hardly any dialogue that is in turns heartbreaking and funny. Edward is cut off from the people around him by the fact that he’s different from everyone else, which is exhibited by his having scissors instead of hands. Ryder’s teenage character, imbued with a sensitivity and capacity for empathy certainly inherited from her mother, falls in love with Edward by finding the beauty in his weirdness. Isn’t that what we all would like a partner to see about our eccentricities?
8. City Lights
Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 film City Lights is considered not only one of the finest achievements of his career, but also one of the greatest films ever made. It’s also one of the most romantic, with the film’s final scene being what the critic James Agnee called in 1949, “the greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid.” The movie follows Chaplin’s beloved Tramp as he meets and falls in love with a poor blind girl selling flowers on the street. Through a series of Chaplinesque mix-ups, she ends up believing that the Tramp is in fact a millionaire, an illusion that he attempts to maintain for as long as possible by giving her all of his money and paying her rent when her and her aunt are about to be evicted. The ending scene when her sight is restored and she recognizes him for the first time is one of the most romantic movie moments ever.
9. Blue Is the Warmest Colour
As people fret over how much or how little sex Fifty Shades is going to have, if you’re looking for a critically acclaimed film with some of the most controversial sex scenes in recent memory, the 2013 French lesbian coming of age romance Blue Is the Warmest Colour is guaranteed to be both titillating and have a good story behind it. The film is based on a graphic novel of the same title and is about a young high school student named Adéle who is questioning her sexuality and ends up falling in love with a college art student with blue hair named Emma. Adéle must hide her sexuality and the relationship from her peers and her conservative family, while Emma’s more liberal social group doesn’t require such pretenses. After having a long and passionate affair, the couple eventually grow apart and split up though they acknowledge they’ll always have some love for each other. The film gained a lot of attention for unanimously winning the Palm d’Or and for featuring some of the most explicit lesbian sex ever seen in cinema.
10. To Have and Have Not
If you want a sexier version of Casablanca with a happier ending, then Howard Hawke’s adaptation of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not is exactly the movie you’re looking for. This is famously the film that brought together the dynamic duo of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Though they were over 20 years apart in age, with her being just 19 when filming began, and he was married to someone else at the time, by the end of production they were inseparable. That chemistry oozes off the screen. Though there aren’t any sex scenes or nudity in this 1944 film, it’s still hotter than innumerable movies with much more actual sex in them. From their playful nicknames for each other (“Slim” and “Steve”) to their witty banter (“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? Just put your lips together and blow”) to the way they light each other’s cigarettes, Bogie and Bacall are the couple everyone wishes they were cool enough to be.