It's Valentine's Day, which means if you're not expecting a stuffed teddy bear, heart-shaped chocolates or some other trivial symbol of romantic love, it's a good night to stay in (restaurants, after all, jack up the price for hungry dates) and cuddle up with a good movie. But for V-Day, it has to be a specific kind of movie to stream or pop in the DVD player, and we've got just the right recommendations: Films about doomed love. Love can come at a heavy price, and these movies will make you glad you're flying solo this Valentine's Day.
"Atonement": If ever a movie audience will want to smack a child in the face (and I say this as a mother of three), it's when young, jealous, naive Briony lies to the authorities about seeing Robbie "attack" her scheming cousin. The lie costs Robbie and Briony's beautiful older sister Cecilia their chance at happiness, and thanks to World War II, all this couple ultimately has together is the memory of a heated moment against a library wall.
"Casablanca": On a day when everyone's telling you that love is the most important thing in the world, "Casablanca" reminds us all of more important things, like fighting the Nazis, and letting exes go free so you can both save the world. Fact is, the only love in "Casablanca" happens in the past (“The Germans wore grey, you wore blue.") On Valentine’s Day, the fact that "Casablanca" remains one of Hollywood's wittiest scripts provides an added consolation to Ilsa and Rick's heart-rending separation.
"Moulin Rouge": Based on "La Boheme," the Italian opera that defined love in the time of sickness, "Moulin Rouge" contains no shortage of romantic spectacles (yes, there is a duet of ballads sung from atop an elephant-shaped apartment in the heart of Paris). But it also contains bloody coughs and untimely demises, a timely reminder that the course of love usually runs beyond our control and just might leave you worse off than when you started.
"Titanic": The best part about the romance in this film? That 90-minute long disaster movie in the middle of it. On Valentine's Day, when treacly scenes of falling in love on the high seas and nude painting sessions become too much to bear, don't change the channel; just wait a few minutes until people start sliding off the deck into the frigid North Atlantic – including the doomed central couple. There, feel better now?
"Donnie Darko": OK, so technically the high-school romance between Donnie and Gretchen is so powerful it helps him make a life-changing decision that saves the entire world, but guess what? It's not going to end well. At least Rose's heart will always go on for her brave, beautiful Jack, but poor Gretchen... well let's just say that once Donnie has served his universal purpose, she won't be able to reminisce about her first love.
"Ghost": Talk about tragic. Banker Sam and potter Molly have an awesome Manhattan loft where they make sweet clay-covered love to the sounds of the Righteous Brothers. But then Sam gets killed in a mysterious street shooting, and an inconsolable Molly is left dazed and confused about why an eccentric medium claims Sam is speaking through her. If the love of your life turned into Casper via Whoopi Goldberg, you'd spend most of your time weeping too.
"West Side Story": How painful is the love in "West Side Story"? So painful that Maria has to convince Anita, the girlfriend of her freshly murdered brother, to ignore her grief so that can she can ferry messages to Maria’s secret love. So painful that Maria and her love get to spend only one night together before racism, jealousy, and slum violence tear them apart forever. A remake of the classic story of star-crossed lovers that will make you swear off any potential relationship more challenging than “I like cats, but you like dogs.”
"Wuthering Heights": There are several worthwhile adaptations of Emily Brontë's seminal novel, but the 2011 version adds a racial spin on the tragic tale of Cathy and Heathcliff. Forces outside their control (aren't they always?) keep them apart, and although they - like Romeo and Juliet and Tony and Maria, are able to consummate their love - ultimately circumstances ensure that it's only in the afterlife that they can be together.
"Brokeback Mountain": Your heart will break right along with grieving Ennis Del Mar's when he hugs that old flannel button-down that belonged to his one true love, Jack Twist. Sometimes a love is so forbidden that it’s simply not meant to be – especially when your relationship is such a taboo. Can a love that dare not speak its name be anything but doomed from the start? I’d like to think so, but sometimes all that’s left behind is the fading scent of an old jean jacket.
"Gone With the Wind": "Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn" – it's arguably the most famous movie line of all time – the harsh words (downright scandalous in 1939) nailing the coffin shut on the epic, tumultuous love story between self-centered Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara and her fiery third husband Rhett Butler. Even after four hours of watching her act like a beautiful spoiled brat, it's hard not to mourn for Rhett and Scarlett's passionate relationship.