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5 underground romance movies to watch

From animated movies to classic romances, find the perfect movie for Valentine’s Day

Picking the perfect movie to watch can be an exhausting experience. We’ve all had times when we’ve spent a substantial amount of time in search of an ideal film, just for our efforts to end up in vain. If you’re looking for a romance-themed movie this Valentine’s Day and have had enough of La La Land or The Notebook, the following list of five lesser-known romance movies will have you covered. 

Casablanca (1942)

Filmed and set in the symbolic city of Casablanca in Morocco during the Second World War, the film Casablanca is a masterpiece. No stranger to being mentioned in conversations and lists ranking the greatest films in history, Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman—two of the largest names in Hollywood at that time—as a romantic couple. 

The film’s premise revolves around an American expatriate, his love for a woman and the resulting events that ensue amidst the political environment of the Second World War. The cultural and historical impact of Casablanca is still felt, perhaps as a result of its numerous memorable lines and iconic theme song, “As Time Goes By.” 

Because it’s 2024, many may avoid black-and-white movies for something more vibrant. However, Casablanca‘s emotional story paired with the political and historical context in which it was filmed makes it a must-watch movie.

Chungking Express (1994)

Chungking Express is one of those movies that truly has it all. With a stellar soundtrack (“California Dreamin” is my new favorite song), beautiful cinematography set in the nighttime of Kowloon and a deeply profound plot, Chungking Express follows two separate stories, both involving a Hong Kong policeman falling in love. 

If this is your first Wong Kar-wai movie, there is no better month to watch than February, as the movie provides a refreshing, non-traditional view of relationships and love. While the somewhat distinct storytelling aspects of the movie may be chaotic at first, this very attribute is what elevates this film into the upper echelon of romance movies. If this type of movie is something you enjoy, be sure to check out Wong Kar-wai’s sequel: Fallen Angels (1995).

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) 

Stranger Than Fiction is a sweet rom-com that employs the more typical cheesy romance-movie tools.

Starring Will Ferrell as a lonely IRS agent named Harold, who starts hearing the voice of a woman narrating his life on the day that he’s scheduled to audit a baker named Ana. It’s exactly what you’d expect of a Will Ferrell movie in the early 2000s. One thing leads to another and Harold finds himself dating Ana, despite the narrating voice in his head. What makes this movie enjoyable is its light, unique and witty plot. It’s worth a watch if what you seek is a traditional rom-com that tells a heartfelt story. 

5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

If you’re in a time crunch or animated movies are your style, this is the movie for you. With only a sixty-minute runtime jam-packed to the brim with beautiful animation, 5 Centimeters per Second provides an intimate view of love. 

The film is divided into three sections and follows protagonist Takaki Tōno through a few relationships in his life. Through an examination of Takaki’s relationships at three different ages, director Makoto Shinkai provides a visceral view of love and its various obstacles experienced as one grows up. Space and time are explored, and seasons and nature are used as metaphors for life. Whether you’re in need of a cry, are an avid anime fan or simply don’t have much time but want to fit a movie in, 5 Centimeters per Second is the movie for you. 

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

If a vibrant background movie is more of what you’re looking for, director George Miller’s movie starring Idris Elba as a Djinn is a good choice. Three Thousand Years of Longing adds to Miller’s impressive directorial CV compromising movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Happy Feet (2006). 

The movie centers around an English historian, Alithea, who unleashes a djinn while on her academic trip to Istanbul. The Djinn grants Alithea three wishes—one of which is her desire to be loved in the way that love is “professed in ageless tales.” Three Thousand Years of Longing is a charming movie that speaks to the vulnerability and bravery needed to be in love while attempting to decipher the meaning of love itself.

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