The 14th February is synonymous with many things. Overpriced chocolate. Truly terrifying stuffed animals clutching red felt hearts. The sudden inundation of films and series directed at loved-up couples who want to watch two ridiculously attractive people fall in love onscreen at the same time they do. This is all well and good, of course, but regardless of whether you're seeking a partner or not, Valentine's Day can be an irritating holiday for the singletons of the world who dare not adventure out into the sea of couples spread across every restaurant, cinema and romantic hotspot going. So, what is there left to do? Curl up with some overpriced chocolate which you don't have so share and watch an excellent film or series, that's what.
Films on Valentine's Day often appeal to the hopeless romantic in us. It's time that we explore an alternate catalogue for those film-and-blanket days, however: a movie marathon that reminds the viewer that being single is not only a valid choice - sometimes it's the better one. In celebration of singledom, we have prepared this list of films that covers everything from toxic relationships to the importance of genuine friendship. After all, if you're single, there's no chance that your boyfriend will turn out to be a secret Joe Goldberg from 'You' impersonator.
'Gone Girl' is the perfect film for lovers of mystery, aficionados of crime thrillers and believers that everyone that surrounds them is probably a psychopath in some capacity.
Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn and directed by David Fincher, 'Gone Girl' follows unhappy married couple Nick and Amy Dunne after Amy disappears and Nick is accused of having a sinister hand in the case. Playing these smug marrieds are Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, whose iconic "cool girl" monologue proves that her portrayal of Amy Dunne is one of the most spectacular of her career. If you love thrillers, complex plots and meditations on the dark side of marriage and relationships, 'Gone Girl' is the perfect way to kick off your alternative Valentine's Day marathon.
2 'It Follows'
Perhaps it's not just romance that you feel particularly apathetic to, but rather the process of flirting in general. Perhaps the age of "Netflix and chill" just isn't for you and you enjoy having the whole bed to yourself for prime starfish position. Or perhaps you actually do enjoy the chase but are sick of the outdated stigma that is associated with admitting that.
'It Follows' explores the judgement, fear and mass mentality surrounding sexually transmitted diseases through the genre of supernatural horror. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, 'It Follows' supposes the existence of a malevolent supernatural creature pursuing the students of a college campus in the US. The only way to pass on the demon and prevent your own demise is to have sex with another person, thereby transferring the demon's attention to them. Though this may seem to play into the vilification of STDs, what 'It Follows' in fact does is offer a brutal commentary on that very mindset by showing the negative impact of victim blaming and the need for communication and honesty in relationships. It's a refreshing take on romance and sex that rejects the cliché sentimentalism that you may want to steer clear of on Valentine's Day.
3 'Gerald's Game'
Picture this: you and your partner are trying to recapture the spark in your rapidly dwindling relationship only to end up experiencing one of the most terrifying ordeals of your life. Sound alarming? That's because it comes from the mind of the one and only Stephen King. His novel 'Gerald's Game' was adapted to the screen for Netflix by Mike Flanagan and is psychological terror meets couple drama at its finest.
Beyond the psychological mindgames, however, 'Gerald's Game' is also an insight into the pysche of a woman who has suffered under the yoke of machismo for her entire life. For those of you who like heavyweight themes such as this mixed in with trademarks of the horror genre (gore, psychological horror, jump scares), 'Gerald's Game' has it all.
4 'Blue Valentine'
There's nothing more cathartic than a good, hearty cry. For many, perhaps Valentine's Day is not synonymous with love so much as it is with heartbreak, which is a theme that cinema knows only too well.
Our pick for this is 'Blue Valentine', a recent heartbreak film that follows a couple portrayed by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as they struggle to accept that even a once-perfect relationship can end, and end painfully.
If you've already seen this indie gem but are hungering for more of those healthy tears, there is no shortage of Hollywood tear-jerkers. A classic is 'Kramer vs. Kramer', which boasts an incredible performance from one Meryl Streep, though the more contemporary 'Marriage Story' directed by Noah Baumbach will get those waterworks flowing, too.
5 'Thelma & Louise'
One of the major issues with romance films is that women are often placed in opposition with one another. From love triangles to juicy betrayals, Hollywood has always enjoyed watching two women rip each other to shreds over one (usually largely uninteresting) man. If you want a break from this tired narrative, why not turn to one of the most enduring films about female friendship of all time: 'Thelma & Louise'.
Starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in the titular roles, 'Thelma & Louise' follows two women as they escape their own relationships and set off in search of freedom from oppression and machismo, armed with trusty getaway vehicle and their fierce friendship. Many people interpret 'Thelma & Louise' as an LGBT film, but whether you view it as a movie about women in love or female friendship, the importance of sorority and mutual support remains at its core.
If a Galentine's Day marathon is on the cards for you this year, the ensemble comedy 'Bridesmaids' is the perfect follow-up to 'Thelma & Louise'. For bromance-centred films, the British cult classic 'Hot Fuzz' and the comedy 'I Love You, Man' are sure-fire hits.
6 'Legally Blonde'
Sometimes relationships can knock you down rather than build you up. Perhaps your loved ones underestimated or belittled you and so you feel it's time to prove to everyone, most of all yourself, just what you're made of.
If this sounds familiar, we have the soul (and sorority) sister for you: Elle Woods. Played by Reese Witherspoon, the protagonist of 'Legally Blonde' is an inspiration for anyone whose ever been knocked down and has decided to get up again nonetheless. Though at the start of the film, Elle doesn't want to accept her singledom and actually follows her unworthy ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School, over the course of a few semesters, trials and challenges, she begins to realise how everyone around her has consistently underestimated her. What started as a ploy to get the guy turns into a journey of self-discovery as Elle realises that she is a capable woman worthy of respect from those around her. If Elle Woods can teach us all the bend and snap, surely we can absorb this life lesson, too.
Above all, 'Legally Blonde' is a story about how you shouldn't try to change yourself to meet the standards of others because there's nothing wrong with you in the first place. If you live how you are and how you want, you will thrive.
7 'Cast Away'
It may be a strange angle to take on the subject, but Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) spent a considerable amount of time not only single but away from human civilisation all together and, aside from a blip with Wilson, he turned out fine. In a roundabout way, 'Cast Away' explores how although having to rely on yourself can be difficult at times, you can survive and grow stronger because of it.
We're not suggesting that you test this theory by jumping ship to a desert island, but amongst this tale of survival are subtle messages about will, strength and accepting the process of moving on.
We can't talk about alternative Valentine's Day films without giving a well-deserved shout-out to Edgar Wright's classic 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World', the geeky indie gem inspired by the world of comic books and based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O'Malley.
If you're unfamiliar with the plot, let's catch you up: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a musician and self-admitted slacker, develops a huge crush on the too-cool-for-school Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) only to find out that if he wants to be with her, he'll have to fight off her hoard of exes (amongst whom feature cameos from Chris Evans and Brie Larson) video-game style. Over the course of this colourful flick full of catchy musical themes and creative special effects, however, Scott realises that perhaps he was better off before he got wrapped into this complex wooing plot. In short, don't be like Scott - if someone you like demands that you put yourself in danger and enter into combat with their ex, it's probably in your own best interest to walk away.
9 'The Graduate'
'The Graduate', aside from being one of the most popular films of the 1960s and the role that shot Dustin Hoffman to fame, is also a testament to the complexities of relationships and the chase. In this case, however, we're not talking about the attempts of Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) to seduce Ben Braddock (Hoffman) to a catchy soundtrack featuring the famed Simon and Garfunkel hit, but rather the situation of Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross), who has to live with the knowledge that her boyfriend slept with her mother after taking her on what has to be one of the worst dates in cinematic history.
The ending of 'The Graduate' is famously ambiguous, though we're inclined to believe that Elaine is even more uncertain than she lets on as the credits fade to black. 'Mrs Robinson' shines a light on the complexities of relationships and why making impulsive decisions is not always healthy for the heart.
10 'Kill Bill'
Because sometimes what you really need to cut that toxic person out of your life is a katana.
We've spoken at considerable length about toxic relationships on this list, though no couple we've mentioned thus far has been as corrupt as the twisted and bloody pair Bill (David Carradine) and Beatrix Kidd (Uma Thurman), aka The Bride, aka Black Mamba, aka Arlene Machiavelli, aka the worst nightmare of anyone foolish enough to get between this force of nature and revenge.
If one film isn't enough to quench your thirst for this vivid revenge story, why not watch the second film back to back with the first? The combination of well-shot violence, cinematic allusions and an incredible performance from Thurman is a must-see for any fan of Quentin Tarantino.