It’s Valentine’s week, which means that many of you will be snuggling up with that special someone (or sitting closer than usual to your friends) and watching a romantic movie. Previously I highlighted Valentine’s alternatives to the “chick flick”. This year I knew I would highlight the more traditional love stories, but simply listing great romantic movies was something that had been done to death.
|My friends and I in 2005 (I’m second from the left).|
I got to thinking about some of my buddies, the alpha males who love college football, red meat, Metallica, power tools, motorcycles, John Wayne and John McClane. They don’t do “mushy.” This type of guy hates it when his girlfriend or wife gets to pick the movie. If you’re that kind of guy (or the wife/girlfriend of that type of guy who tires of his whining about your taste in cinema), then this list is for you. While not everyone fits gender stereotypes (after all, I got my degree in marriage and family therapy while my wife got hers in construction management and architecture), for those who struggle with Valentine’s movie nights, I give you 15 romantic films that guys can enjoy.
What it’s about: A firefighter (Kirk Cameron) in a dying marriage discovers the humility and strength to make things right with his wife.
Why it’s guy-friendly: Because it’s all about stepping up to the plate and being a real man for your lady. And what, you might ask, does it mean to be a real man? According to Fireproof it means getting rid of your porn, owning your mistakes, turning your life over to Christ, rushing into burning houses to save children, and joining with other men to lift entire cars out of the way of oncoming trains using only your burly man strength! HOO-YEAH!!! Also, this being produced in the South, spotting the random Chik-fil-A product placements makes for a fun little (root beer) drinking game.
FIRST KNIGHT (PG-13, 1995)
What it’s about: King Arthur and his dream of Camelot are threatened by the forbidden love between Lady Guinevere and the dashing Lancelot.
Why it’s guy-friendly: It’s got the greatest Bond (Connery, natch) as literature’s greatest king. Julia Ormond is quite fetching and a fine actress to boot (whatever happened to her?) Richard Gere nearly makes up for years of onscreen sissiness by proving himself impressive with a blade. There’s battles and swordfights galore. The truly terrific musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who brought us the soundtracks of manly favorites such as Rambo and Rudy. There’s plenty of testosterone in this one, not to worry.
GORGEOUS (PG-13, 1999)
What it’s about: Jackie Chan is an ex-fighter, now a successful (but arrogant) businessman. He gets his butt kicked in a fight. He falls in love. He learns humility and happiness through the kindness of his new girlfriend. He trains hard and fights again. Make sure you watch the Chinese version with English subtitles; the English dub is unbearable (the DVD has both).
Why it’s guy-friendly: Yes it’s a love story, but it also stars Jackie Chan just before age finally caught up with him, which means there’s plenty of astounding fight choreography (seriously, the final fight is one of his best ever). The romance is beyond cheesy, but thankfully it’s so cheesy that it’s unintentionally hilarious. In that regard, this is one of Chan’s most entertaining movies.
HITCH (PG-13, 2005)
What it’s about: Will Smith is a dating consultant who teaches nice guys the rules of the game so they stand a chance with the ladies. He’s a smooth operator…until he falls in love himself and becomes just as helpless as the rest of us.
Why it’s guy-friendly: It’s a romantic comedy from the male perspective. Will Smith and Kevin James bring the laughs, big time. Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta do some great work as well. Hitch is sweet and clever fun that doesn’t get too sappy.
JOE VS THE VOLCANO (PG, 1990)
What it’s about: Convinced that he has a terminal illness, an average Joe takes a billionaire’s offer to live the high life for a few months before jumping into a volcano to appease the gods of some island natives. It’s all going great until he falls in love.
Why it’s guy-friendly: With respect to Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, this first pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is my favorite. It’s a dumb (in the best way) comedy that plays to their strengths, with a pre-Oscar Hanks being terrifically loose and silly while the gorgeous Ryan is clearly having a ball playing three very different characters. It’s a romantic comedy that favors laughs over schmaltz.
MISS CONGENIALITY (PG-13, 2000)
What it’s about: A tomboy FBI agent steps way outside of her comfort zone, going undercover as a beauty queen in order to stop a pageant bombing.
Why it’s guy-friendly: The stuff that annoys you about women? Turns out they have a sense of humor about it (can we say the same?) Sandra Bullock is brilliantly funny here (and she’s a good sport about skewering her own image), the comedy packs plenty of punch, and there’s not a sentimental moment in sight. Plus, Michael Caine (Alfred in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) nearly steals the show, as does Captain Kirk himself, William flippin’ Shatner!
PENELOPE (PG, 2000)
What it’s about: A girl, cursed with a pig’s nose, has almost given up on the idea of love until a money-seeking scoundrel finds himself falling in love with her personality.
Why it’s guy-friendly: Yes, it’s the cliched “sweet-girl-changes-bad-boy” story, but you may be amazed at how this witty comedy wins you over, not the least of which because Christina Ricci’s (fake) pig nose draws your attention to the life in her eyes and in her smile. I know it sounds weird, but she’s very attractive here, largely because of how she plays the role. I double-dog-dare you to watch this (real men don’t back away from a double-dog-dare!) without falling in movie-love with the pig-nosed girl. This movie teaches all of us to not be such shallow dirt-bags, but it’s so much fun we don’t feel preached at.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (PG-13, 2004)
What it’s about: A disfigured genius composer gets murderously jealous when his muse falls for another man.
Why it’s guy-friendly: While it is a musical, the songs are powerful, emotive, and passionate. This is actually a great movie with which to show off your home theater system to your date. The opening organ solo alone will showcase your sub-woofer’s capabilities like nothing else. While this is a love story, it’s also tragic, gothic, and menacing. There’s sword fights and lynchings and King Leonidas himself plays the Phantom. Sadly he never shouts “This…is…OPERA!” while kicking someone into a deep well, but then you can’t have everything.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (PG, 2003)
What it’s about: The classic Jane Austen novel gets a modern update.
Why it’s guy-friendly: Three words: it’s really funny. Exhibit B supporting the argument that Mormon comedies can actually be witty and well-acted (Exhibit A is The Best Two Years), turns out there’s comedy gold in drawing parallels between Victorian England and modern-day Provo. Never fear, if you’re not a Latter-day Saint or if you’ve never lived in Happy Valley, there’s some terrifically-realized characters and a razor-sharp screenplay, ensuring that the humor hits home no matter who you are.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (PG, 1987)
What it’s about: Sick and staying home from school, Kevin from The Wonder Years is tricked by his grandfather Columbo into listening to a romance novel.
Why it’s guy-friendly: Do you really not know? Inconceivable! I’ll let grandpa Columbo explain it: “Fighting, fencing, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”
RETURN TO ME (PG, 2000)
What it’s about: After losing his wife in a car crash, a lonely widower falls in love with the woman who got his wife’s heart in an organ transplant.
Why it’s guy-friendly: The premise is as hokey as it sounds, but this one’s a keeper. While David Duchovny plays against type as the ultimate “nice guy” (something for the ladies), guys can look forward to an adorable Minnie Driver, a funny turn from In Living Color’s David Alan Grier, a riotously realistic marriage between Bonnie Hunt and “man’s man” James Belushi, and a group of elderly old romantics who insist that Sinatra is the only way to woo a woman (they’re right).
SWEET HOME ALABAMA (PG-13, 2002)
What it’s about: A Southern girl moves to New York City and gets engaged. There’s just one problem: it’s been years and her first husband still hasn’t signed the divorce papers.
Why it’s guy-friendly: Maybe it’s just me, but having lived in Alabama I’m a sucker for Southern culture, the people, and the humor. Plus, I really like that both of the guys are portrayed as decent. No man-hating here.
TANGLED (PG, 2010)
What it’s about: A modern take on the Rapunzel story. Read my full review.
Why it’s guy-friendly: The horse, Maximus, is definitely the coolest thing to come out of non-Pixar Disney for ages. The romantic interest will likely remind you of one of your cooler buddies from college. The heroine is spunky, smart, and fun. The love story is balanced by adventures and bickering of the kind Han and Leia’s displayed in The Empire Strikes Back.
TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART TWO (PG-13, 2012)
What it’s about: Bella stops whining, develops surprisingly awesome vampire superpowers, and leads an enormous battle to protect her daughter and family. Read my full review.
Why it’s guy-friendly: I loathed the preceding four Twilight films. But this finale does a near-180 from what came before. Instead of angsty moping, an interminable love triangle, and a maddeningly passive female protagonist who falls for two stalkers, this one features an empowered and courageous wife/mother who doesn’t take crap from anyone, characters that actually register, genuine wit, and a giant fight that ranks among the very best action scenes of the year. Plus, there’s Amazon women! Because…why the heck not?
WARM BODIES (PG-13, 2013)
What it’s about: A zombie falls in love with a human girl, jump-starting his heart and gradually bringing him back to life. Read my full review.
Why it’s guy-friendly: It’s more spirited that sappy, it’s quite funny, and the romance is tempered by brain-consumption and shotgun-wielding heroics. Check out the trailer below; trust me, you’ll love the movie.