Valentine's Day is just around the corner but, due to the pandemic, this year may be a more toned-down affair. If you're not keen on going out to celebrate, why not stay in with a dinner and a film?
Whether you're single or a couple, there's plenty to stream that fit all tastes – whether you want to celebrate friendships, are trying to mend a broken heart or just looking for a good old rom-com to laugh along with.
Here are nine films to watch on February 14:
'The Big Sick', Netflix
If you like films that chart the tale of seemingly star-crossed lovers without being too obviously saccharine or sentimental, this 2017 romantic comedy could be for you.
Kumail Nanjiani plays an eponymous stand-up comic who forges a blossoming relationship with spunky graduate student named Emily, portrayed by Zoe Kazan. However, with Kumail's parents wanting him to marry a Muslim woman, they separate, before Emily is struck down by a condition that leaves her in a coma. Kumail ends up forging a bond with his ex-girlfriend's parents as she lies in the hospital, in a story that balances the tender with the rib-tickling.
Fun fact: the plot is based on the real-life romance of Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V Gordon, who penned the script together.
Emma Day, head of arts and lifestyle
‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, Netflix
I may be hedging 40, but I still can't resist a good rom-com. For pure feel-good nostalgia, I'll put on Bridget Jones's Diary (the original, of course; the follow-ups are unworthy of mention). It has been my go-to since I was a student, so I can recount the entire film more or less word for word. Nonetheless, it still elicits at least one laugh-out-loud moment, every time.
The cringeworthy, quintessentially British fight scene between Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver, or any appearance of Bridget's hapless mother, are particularly giggle-worthy, while the soundtrack and closing scene warm the heart at every viewing.
Selina Denman, head of magazines and travel
‘Runaway Bride’, Netflix
My favourite film is the 1999 romantic-comedy Runaway Bride starring Julia Roberts. Maggie Carpenter (Roberts), weary of emotional commitment, jilts four husbands-to-be. Before she can say "I do", she is suddenly struck by the sombre reality that she accepted proposals only to fill a void in her life. But, would this make her happy? I would say: "No company at all is much better than a bad company." Maggie's fear of the unknown makes her storm away from the aisle leaving the grooms in awe at the altar. Unlike Maggie, it personally took me a long time to realise that trusting my instincts should always come first. Failure to do so will result in painful pitfalls and a longer time to heal.
Liza Ayach, translator
'Set It Up', Netflix
While Set It Up could look like yet another cheesy rom-com sitting on top of a pile of other questionable films on Netflix, the 2018 Lucy Liu-starrer is actually a much more enjoyable watch than you might at first think.
It's the story of two downtrodden assistants – one in sports journalism, the other in venture capital – who hatch a plan to set up their uber-tough bosses, thinking their being in love might give the pair a much-needed break. It's obviously a lot harder than they think it will be and even once they get what they want, it's not quite what they – nor the viewer – imagined.
Katy Gillett, deputy features editor
So Bridesmaids might not be a traditional choice to watch on February 14 as the isn't really about love, but rather focuses on something just as powerful: friendship.
Annie, played by the very funny Kristen Wiig, is asked to be the maid of honour for her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). However, things don't go as planned as there is tension with another bridesmaid and she soon encounters issues while running the pre-wedding rituals. The film has an amazing ensemble cast, is equally as enjoyable as it is funny and also manages to poignantly showcase the importance of female friendships.
Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor
'Always Be My Maybe', Netflix
Starring Randall Park and Ali Wong, Always Be My Maybe is a great romantic comedy that can be watched on any occasion, but especially on Valentine's Day. Park and Wong play friends Marcus and Sasha who have known each other since childhood and had a brief teenage fling, however, they haven't kept in touch in years.
When Sasha returns to their home town to open a restaurant, it’s obviously romantic chemistry is still there. I won’t spoil anything else but there’s a hilarious cameo by Keanu Reeves that can't be missed.
Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor
'Valentine's Day', iTunes Store (from Dh19)
Valentine's Day is considered by some to be the little sister to Love Actually, when in actual fact it's more the third cousin, twice removed that no one in the family likes to talk about. I, however, am a huge fan of this 2010 ensemble flick which takes place in LA on, you guessed it, Valentine's Day, and features the kind of cast you can only assemble by writing some very big cheques and / or resorting to high-level bribery – entirely speculative, of course. Julia Roberts, Kathy Bates, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Shirley MacLaine and Ashton Kutcher star ... that's five Oscar winners and a Teen Choice: Best Hunk nominee right there!
With plenty of intersecting storylines, it's a sweet, easy watch, and Taylor Swift shows off some serious comedy chops. I will defend this movie as a masterpiece with the same vigour with which Jennifer Garner's cheated-on character sets about that heart-shaped pinata with a baseball bat.
Gemma White, acting lifestyle & weekend editor
'Notting Hill', Netflix and Starzplay
For me, Notting Hill is the ultimate romantic comedy – with three pillars of the genre, Richard Curtis, Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, at their absolute best. Set in 1999, it's a fashion and music time capsule that I watch at least once a year, more so when I get homesick for London.
How can you fail to be won over by the slightly hapless Brit, William Thacker (Grant), and glamorous Hollywood actress, Anna Scott (Roberts), who navigate falling in love in the most unlikely of circumstances. Even on my most cynical of days, the immortal line, "I'm also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her", can see me well up. The support cast of Rhys Ifans, Emma Chambers, Hugh Bonneville and Dylan Moran also deserve a mention for adding to the undeniably British charm.
Farah Andrews, assistant features editor
'Titanic', iTunes Store (from Dh19)
Switching between 1996 and 1912, the movie tells the fictional love story between Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson aboard the very real Titanic.
I watched the film when it was released in 1997 and remember being absolutely blown away by everything from the acting to the special effects. And since then, I've also had the immense pleasure of visiting the Titanic Belfast museum in Northern Ireland, which pays tribute to the sunken passenger liner and those that drowned. The pieces of history that the film managed to recreate – from the interiors of the ship to the historic characters – just made me appreciate the film more.
But the crowning glory of the film isn’t the historical titbits or special effects – it’s the chemistry between its two main leads, how they helped each other grow and change in a short period of time. Since then, I’ve grown to realise that the film does have its faults (the door was big enough to fit the both of you, Rose!) but that has still not managed to erase – or drown – my fondness for the film.
Janice Rodrigues, lifestyle writer