Valentine’s is surely one of the most exhausting days of the year. If you’re dating, it's full of stress, expectation (which is unlikely to be met) and last-minute dashes to the florist. And if you’re not, it's an unnecessary reminder that things haven't gone perfectly in the romance department of late. Navigating a (freezing cold) solo cuffing season has been hard enough, thank you.
So if you planned to go home, watch a film and wait for the day to be over, we have your back with a guide of fantastic non-Valentine Valentine’s films, full of powerful women living their lives independently (or sometimes in spite) of men. See you on the other side.
The Philadelphia Story, 1940
OK, admittedly, this classic from director George Cukor has three romances at the heart of it, and begins just before a high society wedding. But don’t let this perturb you: The Philadelphia Story is really about a woman coming to terms with who she is. The exquisite Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, the daughter of a wealthy family, whose ex-husband, Dexter (Cary Grant) turns up to her wedding, alongside two reporters (one of whom, Mike Connor, is played by James Stewart). It’s one of the best screwballs of all time, and Hepburn is – as always – bewitching.
Auntie Mame, 1958
This comedy follows the flamboyant Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell), as she goes about her unconventional life. When Patrick Dennis is orphaned he starts to be cared for by his Auntie Mame, which makes for a very unusual upbringing. But as he gets older he starts to dislike her outlandish habits and behaviours (she holds a lot of parties, wears spectacular clothes and has eccentric friends), which hurts Mame’s feelings very much.
Basic Instinct, 1992
To this day Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct remains one of the steamiest films that has ever been released in cinema. Michael Douglas stars as Nick Curran, a Detective who is usually cock of the roost. But there’s a power shift when he investigates a writer, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), who is a suspect in the murder of a man stabbed to death with an ice pick. Catherine, a gorgeous millionaire, is unbothered and uncooperative, and the two begin a toxic relationship. A fantastic non-Valentine’s film, what’s better than an erotic Nineties thriller about a man who starts to become undone after falling for a powerful woman?
Pulp Fiction, 1994
Another great option is this mind-boggling thrill ride which, thirty years later, is still as fresh as it was the day it was released. Intense relationships, incredible music, mad twists and turns that still titillate, even after repeated watches. There’s the whole of life in this Quentin Tarantino classic. The story follows hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) as their lives intertwine with gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), his wife Mia (Uma Thurman) and many more.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001
Nearly all of Angelina Jolie’s films could be on this list: what’s better than watching a film where the world’s biggest babe kicks ass? But this 2001 video game adaptation is a particular favourite. Jolie is a highly intelligent and skilled British agent who travels the world tracking down an ancient object which has the power to control time before it falls into the wrong hands for good. Pure fun and Jolie is brilliant in the role that she is probably still best remembered for.
The Host, 2006
In this fantastic film from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, the younger daughter of a semi-dysfunctional family is swallowed by a monster that emerges from South Korea’s Han River. But her family don’t give up, deciding to track down and kill the beast, and free their sister. The motley crew are led in their attack by their sister Park Nam-joo (Bae Doona) a national medalist archer. Bong’s signature cynicism and dark humour joyously pervades the film.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011
A journalist sent to a snow-covered Swedish Island; a mystery about a teenager from one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappearing forty years earlier, an eccentric; motorbike-riding hacker? It’s all there in this Hollywood remake of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel. Although a Swedish version was released two years earlier, director David Fincher did a great job with this English-language adaptation.
Daniel Craig stars as Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is hired by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to find out what happened to his grand-niece. Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander, a troubled but highly-skilled researcher who becomes integral to the case. A warning, there are some very sexually explicit scenes that involve rape.
The Assassin, 2015
Although another film with a female fighter at its centre, The Assassin is absolutely unique. The film won Hou Hsiao-hsien Best Director at Cannes and was also selected as the Taiwanese entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2016. Set in seventh-century China, Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi) is an assassin who doesn’t carry out a mission. Her punishment is that she must kill the man she loves, leaving her with a huge predicament. While there is a love story running at the centre of The Assassin, it’s the captivating Shu Qi, and Zhou Yun – who plays Lady Tian, the woman married to Nie Yinniang’s old lover – who linger in the mind. Stills from this gorgeous film look like paintings, and there are numerous fantastic martial arts scenes to enjoy, too.