This is normally the part of the Valentine’s Day listicle where we explain our deep-seated hatred for this commercialized holiday made up to make us all feel depressed and whatever. But you’ve read that a million times before anyway, and this post goes further than that. This isn’t an anti-love list or even an anti-Valentines list. Hell, some of us here like the holiday (Me. It’s me. I like it).
No, this is a list of movies to watch when you suddenly look around you and realize that things aren’t quite where you wanted them to be. Maybe that’s because it’s Valentine’s Day, or maybe it’s because it’s a day ending in “y.” These movies don’t care. These movies get you or make you forget that no one gets you or maybe they just fill time. Look, there’s a lot of reasons you come to the sudden realization that no one will ever truly love you but there are also a lot of movies to help you kill a few hours so you don’t have to think about it.
With all that in mind, please find below the movies selected by our editors when presented with the title of this story. I gave them no more direction than to choose the film that is best to watch at the exact moment you find yourself crying alone eating Taco Bell in your parent’s basement on Valentine’s Day because you realize no one will love you. I won’t lie, I’m a bit more disturbed about some of the people who write here now but I’m also amazed at the diversity of films we’ve selected. Flixist writers are some weird folks.
Goldfinger – Matthew Razak
No one wants to be in their parent’s basement stuffing a chalupa in their mouth as the sour cream plops directly onto their already-sour-cream-stained sweatpants. The moment that happens you need to escape and there is no better escapist cinema than James Bond. The franchise pretty much created escapist cinema. When Sean Connery first came on screen in Dr. No it changed action movies forever. The film was half travelogue, half machismo, and all escapism. Guys, you’re alone and no one likes you? Hop into the perfectly cut suit of a spy so good and so sexy that he always wins and always gets the girl. Ladies, every guy you meet is covered in Taco Bell hot sauce? Let’s all just watch Daniel Craig slowly leave the water.
Of course, any Bond film is going to do to escape, but Goldfinger is still truly the most perfect encapsulation of James Bond. It’s got the impossible gadgets, the overblown villain, Sean Connery, and everything else you need to forget just what that Taco Bell is doing to your stomach. Are there plenty of problems with masculinity, sexism, and race? Yea, it’s James Bond. I mean this is a movie where the heroine is named Pussy Galore, the henchman throws his hat for a weapon, and the first line Bond says is, “Shocking. Positively shocking,” right after he electrocutes someone. There’s a certain magic to Bond that makes it easy to slide ride into the fantasy world of a spy who wears an unwrinkled tuxedo underneath a scuba suit. That’s the sort of fantasy we all need sometimes.
Garden State – Nathan McVay
“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some place where you can put your shit that idea of home is gone… You’ll see when you move out. It just sort of happens one day… and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I don’t know maybe it’s like this right of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start. It’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.”
Oh my Lord! This guts me every time! Love him or hate him in all his Scrubs/Shins loving glory but Zach Braff created a hipster miracle in Garden State. It hit me at a time and spoke to me in a way a movie never has. I will always remember the first time watching this scene and seeing Braff sticking out his lower lip, emoting these words to a young, amazing Natalie Portman. I just needed Braff to tell me it was OK to have all of these feelings, and miss home, and feel lost and really really love indie music.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Nick Hershey
Typical love stories revolve around fate. Whether it’s bumping into someone on the street or a missed train, the “right time right place” trope is forever present in romantic movies. This is especially true in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind before being twisted into a sadder rendition of the prototypical love story. And that is why this 2004 film is a perfect candidate for TBMTWWYCAETBIYPBOVDBNOWELY (blame Matt for this month’s feature title).
The traditional love story movie arc is done in three parts: First, two people meet and have that awkward but cute getting-to-know-you phase and things are good. Second, something happens that pushes the two apart to varying distances. Lastly, comes reconciliation and flowers and puppy dogs. Eternal Sunshine takes two people who meet by chance, have an entire relationship, and get on each others’ nerves so much they both decide to have the memories of the other erased. Then, because the universe is cruel and unforgiving, they encounter each other again and decide to chance a relationship even after they learn about their erased memories. It’s depressing and frustrating and hopeful at the same time, and I can’t think of a better way to describe Valentine’s Day.
Pink Floyd’s The Wall – Jesse Lab
As a man who has recently entered the single lifestyle yet again, there’s always one movie that I watch whenever I feel down, lonely, or anything else in between. Pink Floyd’s The Wall is not a happy movie. It’s depressing, ugly, bleak, unsettling, and also contains some striking imagery that resonates with audiences to this day. You may not have seen the movie, but you know what the marching hammers are and have heard at least one of the songs that have appeared in this concept album turned movie. It’s also my favorite movie of all time, so it has that going for it.
But why is it the movie that I cry to myself in my parent’s basement? Because it’s a release. Sure, this is one of the most joyless movies around, but it’s also a valid reminder to never isolate yourself from society. Life may be shit at times, but you shouldn’t hold everything in. That isn’t healthy. It’ll just breed resentment, animosity, delusions, and self-loathing. When Pink destroys the wall that he built himself, the movie shows this as being healthy. You can’t just eat Taco Bell in your basement and call it a day. Sure, you can be sad for a while and let it out, and that’s what Pink Floyd’s The Wall is for me. It lets me feel better about myself, then I’m good to go back out and socialize with people and find true love. That or realize that I’ll be spending my Valentine’s Day watching Alita: Battle Angel alone in a theater, which may or may not be sadder.
Boogie Nights – Sam van der Meer
Boogie Nights. The answer is always Boogie Nights! I throw Boogie Nights up on Easter! Happy birthday Oma (as I was raised to call my Dutch grandmother), let’s sit down and watch Boogie Nights! Thanksgiving dinner in the oven? Grab the niece and nephew and watch Boogie Nights! Alone and feeling lonesome on Valentine’s Day? Grab your paper-sleeved DVD copy of Boogie Nights!
I’m going to try to avoid typing the title again, but really there are a multitude of reasons you should sit down for Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore effort again and again. On one hand, it’s the peak of post-Tarantino Hollywood style meeting substance; the long, elaborate, flashy tracking shots are just that, but they also dip in and out of the massive cast’s activities in a Robert Altmanesque show of character and place. PTA’s script is endlessly quotable, yet not simply superficial. The soundtrack is loaded with incredible period music, and the sets and costumes just ooze personality. There was a time and place called California in the ’70s, and Boogie Nights (dammit!) nails it. I think. I wasn’t there.
But as a film it’s entertaining and a technical feat, but this lonely Valentine’s Day Boogie Nights might touch you in a different way. Get your head out of the gutter. It’s a tableau of people caught up in a scene that’s easy to think of as silly or immature, or one people try not to think of at all because of all that Puritan guilt we Westerners seem to be keen on. The porn stars and workers in Boogie Nights put on a show for the camera, but reveal themselves to be deeply damaged, lonely people trying to make up for that by baring it all for all to see. The best place to hide is in plain sight. So if you’re alone this February, just remember – “I’m a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I’m a big, bright, shining star.”
Society – Kyle Yadlosky
Society is perfect on a lonely Valentine’s night stuffed full of Taco Bell because it puts you in that fourth-meal mindset: Everything is a conspiracy. Taco Bell is run by the Illuminati, Valentine’s Day is run by Hallmark, they’re all out to get us, and you’re the only one who can see the truth!
Bill Whitney is in a similar situation when he finds out that his family, who expect him to be a contributing member of society, are actually alien aristocrats who want to suck him dry in a decidedly not Valentine’s-friendly manner. They want to fuse their mouths to his body and drain all of his guts and innards into themselves so that they can live with vitality and strength while he’s nothing more than a puddle on the ground. Bill is too smart and cool, however, and he’s able to fight back and escape before he’s assimilated into society. And what’s not being in a relationship while living in your parents’ basement if not another way to fight back against society’s iron rule?
As a bonus, Society is also a film that makes it impossible to have intimate contact with another human being for a full 24 hours after viewing.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Sian Francis-Cox
Alright, enough wallowing. Get off your lazy butt and pull yourself together. You’re alone in your parents’ basement? There’s not a soul in sight? Good. This is the perfect opportunity to bust out some kick-ass martial arts moves totally judgment-free. What are you waiting for? Jen Lu, Shu Lien, they don’t need no man. They’re loving life (well, for 90% of the movie and in a figurative spiritual sense until Li Mu Bai dies and they realize life is actually insignificant and futile). My point is, we can all take lessons from the masters here: namely, that martial arts are way better than dealing with troublesome exes.
I’m going to try really hard to ignore the fact that Crouching Tiger is fundamentally about unrequited love and a tragic unconsummated lifelong passion, not to mention that there’s a whole Stockholm syndrome thing going in the desert (definitely not a scene to watch with your parents on Valentine’s). Let’s also skip past the fact that the central drama revolves around Jen not wanting to get married then falling straight for a no-good waster boyfriend (Bechdel Test: fail) and then just can’t make her mind up so her soul flies away into eternity. Huh.
No, if you’re a purist, you’ll look for the pathos in the film without being distracted by the mushy-smushy romance baloney. All you need is the fantastic choreography high in the heavens, beautifully shot landscapes, and preferably a sword, though the bottle of hot sauce you’ve been dripping on your Taco Bell might serve the same purpose. I’m telling you, you’ve not lived life to the fullest unless you’ve fully reenacted that treetop battle scene and brandished your weapon (erm, hot sauce) in victory. Who needs love? You’ve got Taco Bell and your inner Qing warrior, and that’s the next best thing.
Valentine’s Day (2010)- Tarah Bleier
If ever there was a movie that defines the day ‘Valentines Day’ this would be it. When it first came out in 2010, I was mildly intrigued especially since one of my favorite singers was in it, Taylor Swift. Her bad acting aside, this movie plays out more like a bad soap opera which really is what Valentines Day is. One giant soap opera. Sure you have your sappy teenage puppy love, cheating boyfriends, timeless love and of course… a kid falling for his teacher (creepy). Now if you happen to be single and alone on this day of days don’t fret this movie is sure to make you feel so much better because it’s so damn bad you’ll realize you aren’t doing that bad at all. If you do happen to have a special someone they will enjoy laughing at just how bad this film truly is. With such a star-studded cast everyone expected it to be so much better but sadly it just leaves you with so much disappointment.
The best part of this film was the Anti-Valentine’s Day bash thrown by Jessica Alba’s character who literally hates this day like so many of us. This movie will either make you laugh or cry depending on your mood this Valentine’s Day but you can at least sit back knowing your life is not as pathetic as this movie makes it out to be no matter what stage of the relationship you may or may not be in. Yes, it even has some teachable moments like every good romantic comedy (using the term good loosely here). So whichever way you spend your Valentine’s Day this year at least know there is one movie out there that tries to show the day for what it is and fails horribly at it. Just wait till the day after and stock up on all those yummy chocolate that will be on sale.
Requiem for a Dream – Peter Glagowski
I’ll level with you all: I don’t actually watch this movie on Valentine’s Day. I don’t have any yearly traditions for this hallmark holiday because I just don’t care about it. I’ve been single my entire life, so I’ve just grown accustomed to doing things on my own. That being said, I can always put on Requiem for a Dream whenever I feel like garbage about life.
This is a film where the happiest ending is that an elderly woman gets a lobotomy and can’t remember how horrible her life was. To say everyone is thoroughly destroyed by the end is an understatement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the infamous “Ass-to-Ass” scene and just cried in sheer disgust at how drugs can destroy someone’s life.
For a little background, I’ve previously worked in a homeless shelter and I’ve seen the effects of drugs first hand. Decent, well-meaning human beings get transformed into monsters by their addictions and when the system fails them, they often drop even further into the abyss. Requiem for a Dream perfectly showcases both of those elements, with some characters in the film falling prey to their vices and others getting taken advantage of by medical professionals that don’t care about them.
It’s just a sad movie and it always makes me hate life when I watch it. It’s perfect for when I’m down and out and just want to revel in that hatred to purge it from my mind.
Whisper of the Heart – Bradley Sexton
All of my relationships have been low-stakes, amicable affairs, meaning they’ve basically been friends I’ve held hands with. My experience in relationships is lacking to say the least, so I don’t really have any sad memories to reflect on Valentines Day, instead choosing to think about the crushing isolation it provides. It’s so dumb because there are countless loners in the exact situation as me, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Whisper of the Heart captures that feeling of isolation so beautifully in its mundanity.
In what could be considered a lesser known Studio Ghibli work, in part because it’s not directed by Miyazaki, the intimate tale of Shizuku Tsukishima hits on the ideal ideas of true love and intense passion happening on normal days in a normal city to normal people. Shizuku’s budding romance doesn’t even really bud until the end of the film, only after putting herself through the always treacherous task of writing. During the movie she closes herself off, keeps everything inside of her and is all around miserable because of it, but when she finishes with her work, there is no triumph or celebration or reward. Instead, Shizuku rewards herself with the motivation to continue braving her own way into the world of writing, adulthood, and love. It’s a personal victory in a personal story, but it always fills me with enthusiasm. Yeah, right now you don’t have someone or you don’t have direction in life, but there’s always time, always possibilities to screw up and try again, just so long as you are still trying.
Synecdoche, New York or I <3 Huckabees – Anthony Marzano
I’m not one to watch sappy movies and feel bad about past relationships. Music albums? Yeah sure, I’ll throw an old shared album on if I wanna feel sad but movies are a very personal experience for me so I tend to use them as an escape rather than a wallowing aide. Which is why if I were alone eating taco bell all by myself in a musky Western Pennsylvania basement, I’d choose either I <3 Huckabees or Synechdoche, New York. So why group these two for something as trivial as being alone on a corporate mandated holiday such as Valentine’s Day? Because they both offer coping mechanisms for the inanities of everyday life.
In I <3 Huckabees, it’s about finding a way through the muck and mire by discovering your own path. Be it through romanticism, nihilism, or some path that moves between two extremes. It does ultimately end on a high note if you consider accepting the chaos of life and how we’re inextricably linked to even our greatest foes. On the other hand, Charlie Kaufman’s masterpiece Synechdoche, New York is the bleak nihilistic underbelly to everything that I <3 Huckabees has to say. Yes, the universe is against you and you’re going to die an unfulfilled life, so why get caught up in the minuscule aspects of life? I can’t really say much more about Synechdoche other than that it put life and consciousness into perspective for me and therefore if I ever found myself in a place where I cared about what corporations told me to care about I’d probably reach for these two movies to right my ship.
Also, they are both scored by Jon Brion, so you know you can just enjoy the soundtrack.
Punch-Drunk Love – Chris Compendio
Ah, there was once a time when I was in college, felt lovesick, and identified as a cishet man. Now, none of those are true! But back in the era of Heartbroken Chris, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love is what I turned on every time I felt a case of the lonelies. Unless you count Click (which I don’t, really), it was my first exposure to dramatic Adam Sandler—he still played his usual “manchild” character, but with a completely different context. See, this hard-working and tantrum-prone boy just wanted affection.
There’s something so artful about how Anderson blocks and shoots the journey of Sandler’s character, Barry Egan. He collides with Lena Leonard (Emily Stewart), a woman who may be… just as strange, eccentric, and perhaps as troublesome as Barry in some ways. Anderson’s usual cinematographer Robert Elswit brings a lot of blue tones to the picture, and there’s an ethereal feel to the film as a whole. Like Anthony’s own contributions, Punch-Drunk Love was graced with a fabulous and off-kilter score from Jon Brion. And with an unusually short running time for P.T. Anderson films, it served as the perfect drug during my lonely days.
Maybe I saw myself something in Barry, maybe it served as escapism for me as even the most quirkiest man could find love, or maybe it was just a pretty movie to look at. It has been several years since I’ve needed to watch this movie, but I still keep it safe in my heart as something to take me through some rough patches earlier in my life. Looking at the prompt for this feature though, I can’t really say that I was that much into Taco Bell.
Cloud Atlas – Drew Stuart
You know, I won’t be watching Cloud Atlas this Valentine’s Day. You know why? Because, in this life, I have a girlfriend. That’s right; instead of draping my Cheeto-crusted fingers over a DVD copy of this film, I’ll be going to The Cheesecake Factory with my girlfriend, because fuck it! I’m not some dweeb who’s gonna massage my knob with my right hand, forget that. My relationship is more committed than a patient in the loony bin. You copy that, nerd? You better.
But that’s just in this life. In the life before this one, I was just like you, dear reader. I spurned the dreaded day of February 14th, a day where all were either judged or celebrated based on their romantic status. It was an awful life. I had thick, gorgeous black hair, slicked back with grease, my body porous and reeking of death. I was a man without hope, a man who needed to see a film like Cloud Atlas.
Why? Because Cloud Atlas is a bittersweet masterpiece of cinema that, much like the numerous characters in the film, never got a proper shake. It’s a story spanning centuries about the lives we lead, the people we influence, and the rippling effects of decision after decision, year after year, time after time. It’s tragic and beautiful, filled the brim with hope and destitution. It allows the viewer to escape their mortal boundaries, and find themselves out at sea in the Victorian age. It flings them far into a dystopian future, where every girl in the diner has the same face. And, most of all, it has Halle Berry. You can’t possibly go wrong.
If you don’t Halle Berry, fuck you.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Hubert Vigilla
I always get the feels while watching Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This musical romance about a glam singer trying to find her other half speaks to me in a strange way. I remember watching it in undergrad via Netflix—it was on a physical DVD back then—and crying in my dorm room alone; I watched it again the same day with the subtitles on to sing along. It’s as if it Jonathan Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask tapped into a well of imaginative melancholy that all lonesome recovering theater kids know too well. I was also studying philosophy at the time and felt attached to its allusions to Plato’s Symposium, and was also finally getting David Bowie as an artist instead of just enjoying his music. Hedwig even ties nicely into my long fandom of Clive Barker, believe it or not. I remember reading an interview with Barker in which he shared a short poem he wrote (I’m not sure it ever found a home) that was about Plato’s Symposium: “Brother Plato right or wrong? / Says the tribe where I belong, / Is a family of souls in two, / Me a half – another, you. / Let’s stay together, one tonight, / And prove our brother Plato right.”
If you’re single, so much in the culture pushes a sense of incompleteness on you, as if not being in a relationship or not being in love at the moment is the sign of something missing. Maybe that’s true to a certain extent. Now imagine just getting dumped and watching a DVD you rented, and suddenly all the tumblers in your imagination click and fall into place. An idiosyncratic work of art made me feel less alone, and made the world seem a bit more interconnected. There is this key line from “Midnight Radio,” the final song of the musical, that always sticks out for me whether I am with someone or single: “Know that you’re whole.”
Any Movie Ever – Rick Lash
VD. You catch it every year. Something to do with a polar vortex or heart of darkness or some such prognostication of doom from the weathermancers. The curse of the northeast: the world mirrors your mood, force feeds it back to you, and hopes you choke on it. February 14thcomes earlier in January with each successive season. Retail festoons itself in a thousand shades of clashing pink, banners advertising half-off the half-off. The cheapest of whores, willing to sashay its wares for any who walk through its pneumatic double doors.
Your face — numb from the cold, bleeds emotion, drained of color and muscular tension, the indications of warmth, happiness and joy having long ago abandoned their posts — is a wasteland. Eyes two looking glasses to nothingness. There’s no basement to hide in, your parents long ago shoved you and your malformed wings from the nest. You’re still falling now. Cocooning in your one-bedroom apartment has not led to metamorphosis. No beautyreborn. No one can love the shell that is you, the husk that withers, desiccating, decaying, dying. Any movie brings tears to your eyes, the futility of the human condition. The inevitability of extinction. Comedy beckons, something with Vince Vaughn or Ben Stiller or Melissa McCarthy, but the credits and the memory of the last viewing seem little more than a blueprint for the determined progression of time.
Your phone is there. Its satellite signal whispers in your ear. Seductive. Suggestive. You open up Porn Hub and find 40 seconds of thoughtless, lecherous bliss.