1. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) - A hilarious rom com about a couple of crazy kids in love who, after making every wrong choice available, finally get what they deserve -- each other. Guerlain Shalimar for Katharine Hepburn, who can even make being soused look elegant.
2. Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954; thought the 1995 Sydney Pollack remake is good, too) - A wealthy cynic attempts to seduce the girl from the wrong side of the servant's quarters in order to protect the family business and finds himself stuck with the one problem he can't pay someone to fix -- falling in love. Chanel No.5, because I like to think Sabrina found it while she was studying in Paris and brought it back to the house to seduce David, but in the end Linus bought her a bottle every year for their anniversary.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany's (Blake Edwards, 1961) - When a frivolous young woman meets an equally errant young man, they find that the only thing they are more afraid of than an honest day's work is being without one another. Patou Joy, for so many reasons, last but not least of which because the unassailably talented Ms. Hepburn is rumored to have worn it herself. FN2.
4. Hello, Dolly! (Gene Kelly, 1969) - When a widowed matchmaker is hired to make a marriage match for a dour old merchant, she decides to make a match for herself and goes about setting an entire town to falling in love while she's at it, in song. Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille for Ms. Dolly Levy Vandergelder, who loved to eat and drink and make merry, and would like a scent that reflected her spirit.
5. Sixteen Candles (John Hughes, 1984) - A sixteen-year old girl thinks her life is over when her entire family forgets her sixteenth birthday, but ends up with the best birthday present of all -- the high school hunk of her dreams. Annick Goutal Quel Amour for darling Andy, who has to have one of the greatest film kisses of all time.
6. Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987) - When Francis "Baby" Houseman gets dragged to the Catskills for the summer with her parents, she doesn't imagine she will be taught by a dance instructor how to move with passion and grace...and also dance a little, too. S-Perfume 100% Love beause Baby, even after all of her summer lovin' still has that light and innocent feel to her, which is why Johnny loves her so much.
7. Singles (Cameron Crowe, 1992) - Love in the 1990s -- who the hell knows what that's supposed to look like? If you're looking for the intersecting group of love stories movie that inspired films like Love, Actually and Valentine's Day, look no further. Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming, because Kyra Sedgewick and Bridget Fonda could have both worn it and still gotten their respective endings.
8. Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993) - When an engaged woman hears a sad widower on the other side of the country tell a story of love and loss on the radio, she finds herself unable to ignore the feeling that he is exactly what she's looking for. How does she know? "Magic." Jo Malone Red Roses for the lovely and lovable Meg Ryan, who is both traditional and modern in this timeless romance.
9. Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage, 1997) - When professional assassin Martin Blank gets an assignment that takes him back to his old neighborhood just in time for his tenth high school reunion, he gets the opportunity to try to make up for the biggest mistake of his life: disappearing on prom night and abandoning the girl he has always loved. Creed Love in Black for Martin and Debbie, who deserve to ride off into the sunset.
And last but not least...
10. The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999 remake) - A bored multi-millionaire pulls an art heist for entertainment and meets up with an art thief bounty hunter who makes him believe that life, and love, might be anything but boring. One of the sexist movies of the last two decades. Robert Piguet Fracas for Rene Russo to wear with that see-though golden dress she flaunts during the dance/seduction scene.
Honorable mention: Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983), Der Himmel über Berlin (Wim Wenders, 1987), When Harry Met Sally... (Rob Reiner, 1989), Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991), A Life Less Ordinary (Danny Boyle, 1997), Lola rennt (Tom Tykwer, 1998), Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001), Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe, 2005), Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006), Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008). FN3. FN4. FN5.
Happy Valentine's Everyone!
FN1: In anticipation of complaints, I want to say I explicitly left off the following films for the following reasons:
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) - No one wants to watch a love story where the people don't end up together for Valentine's Day. Sorry, but no -- Louie and Rick don't cut it.
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) - See Casablanca, plus the crushing poverty, death and destruction of post Civil-War south in general and the burnination of Atlanta in particular. Persevering in the face of crushing obstacles might be inspiring, but it is not particularly romantic.
Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990) - Movies where people are dead but still in love are NOT GOOD date movies. Reuniting despite death, a la What Dreams May Come or Always, is a downer, people, not date material for this, the most romantic day of all days.
The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes, 2004) - De-press-ing. The Notebook is a very beautiful story but sobbing until you snot all over the sweater your date lent you doesn't make for a great date for Valentines.
Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996) - Again, they're dead! What is wrong with you people?!?
Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) - Dead, dead, dead. And with sad dead person music!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) - They're caught in a break-up loop! Things can't even change the second time because they don't remember what went wrong with the first try so they can work on it. They're only going to crush each other again. NOT ROMANTIC.
500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009) - About a failed romance. FAILED. He calls the IRL girl a bitch in the opening credits. Not a love story -- says so right there in the voice over.
Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007) - Unless you're trying to get preggo, then starting a date night with this film isn't going to end up where you're trying to get, I'd wager.
An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey, 1957) - They don't get together when they're supposed to midway through the film because she's hit by a bus. Sad. So sad. Just watch Sleepless in Seattle. You'll be better off, date-wise.
Wow, it appears I could have also done a "Movies to Watch on V-Day to Remind You That Sometimes Love Sucks And You're Better Off Single" list. With perfumes.
FN2. For an updated twist, may I suggest Hors de prix, starring Audrey Tatou, which I'd pair with CoCo Mademoiselle.
FN3. This is a really heterosexist list. I know that. I apologize. Maybe next year I can do an all-queer Valentine's list. Which doesn't really make-up for this year's and I'm sorry for that, again. My only excuse is that I'm too tired to rewrite it right now.
FN4. So apparently I'm also a xenophobe, since all my foreign choices ended up as honorable mentions and footnotes, when I could also do an entire list of foreign films in and of itself. I'm sorry. I'm very Oscar-focused right now, so I keep thinking "American Cinema, American Cinema." Again, my apologies.
FN5. Oh! I obviously watch a lot of movies. You got that, right?