I’ve got nothing against Valentine’s Day, but most of us have had a February 14th where the last thing we wanted to do is celebrate this holiday. Hollywood knows this and offers some counter-programming each year for people who need anything but a romantic comedy or family drama or cute talking animals.
With that in mind, here are ten movies designed to help you avoid Valentine’s Day. We’re talking action, horror and camp films. The movies on this list were all playing in theaters on Valentine’s Day in the years listed. They most likely helped someone enjoy that year’s holiday a little more. I hope you enjoy them as well. Oh, and keep in mind that some of these films are for mature audiences only!
1) John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980)
The Fog is the cinematic equivalent of a ghost story being told around the campfire, and what a ghost story it is. While often viewed as a minor classic next to Halloween and The Thing, this is still John Carpenter working at the height of his powers – with atmospheric locations, great character actors, and a synthesizer film score that shouldn’t work but totally does.
It’s also notable for being the least misanthropic of Carpenter’s horror films, featuring a group of ordinary, small-town people who pull together once things start going bump in the night. If you like horror movies and haven’t seen The Fog, track it down immediately.
2) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Despite being released in the summer of 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark still came in 6th at the box office on Valentine’s Day weekend in 1982. In fact, it was playing in almost as many theaters as that weekend’s new releases.
What else is there to say about Raiders of the Lost Ark? It’s the best – possibly the greatest adventure movie ever made. Even though I enjoy all the Indiana Jones films (Crystal Skull isn’t that bad), there’s no denying Steven Spielberg captured lightning in a bottle with Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s thrilling, scary and subversive in a way its sequels never quite manage.
3) Over the Top (1987)
Creed is a reminder that Sylvester Stallone can be utterly fantastic in the right role. It’s no surprise that he’s up for so many acting awards. Stallone’s always been a great performer. He’s just, well, not always so hot at picking great movies to be in.
Take Over the Top, for example. It’s basically the Rocky formula with arm wrestling subbing in for boxing. And arm wrestling is just the tip of the crazy iceberg that is this movie. If you’re a fan of Stallone as the underdog getting in the ring to take on a cartoonish supervillain of an opponent, Over the Top may be for you.
4) Tango & Cash (1990)
Stallone again. What can I say? The guy entertains me.
Tango & Cash is ridiculous and ridiculously amazing. It’s a film where no one seemed to agree on what movie they were making, which led to Tango & Cash coming off more like a parody of action films and their tropes. It’s a movie that felt dated and out-of-touch even in 1990, but it’s terrific entertainment if you go into it with a “How did this get made?” attitude.
And Kurt Russell is in it. That man is a national treasure.
5) The Quick and the Dead (1995)
While nowhere near as ridiculous as Tango & Cash, The Quick and the Dead is still pretty out there. It’s a mostly forgotten film from a time when Hollywood wasn’t really making westerns. For those unfamiliar with the plot, Sharon Stone plays a mysterious stranger who rides into town to take part in a to-the-death quick-draw tournament run by Gene Hackman (who would be twirling a moustache if he had one).
It’s a film full of frantic action and crazy camerawork. While certainly a fun watch on its own terms, the most notable thing about the movie is all the before-they-were-famous talent involved – including director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) plus actors Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.
6) Pulp Fiction (1995)
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another surprise hit that’s more surprising than Pulp Fiction. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, there’s little left to say about this one – except it’s a cultural landmark for a reason. While Quentin Tarantino has grown considerably as a writer and director, he’s never had more fun making a movie. It shows in every frame of this film.
And while we’re avoiding romantic movies for this article, Pulp Fiction technically does feature two characters going on a date. I think we can all agree it didn’t end well.
7) Galaxy Quest (2000)
Galaxy Quest is on a lot people’s minds at the moment due to the recent passing of Alan Rickman, who we lost far too soon. The above clip proves just how great he was. He’s one of the best things in a movie that gets as close to perfection as humanly possible.
Incredibly funny, clever and sweet, it’s a film way ahead of its time. I’m glad it now gets the respect it deserves. I don’t know how they did it – but Galaxy Quest somehow both sends up and extols Star Trek and its fans, proving that you can love something by poking fun at it.
8) Brotherhood of the Wolf (2002)
Please answer the following question: Brotherhood of the Wolf is a ____
- Foreign film
- Period drama
- Political thriller
- Love story
- Monster movie
- Martial arts movie
- All of the above
If you chose “7”, you are correct. Brotherhood is a crazy genre mash-up that never feels stitched together. I won’t say anymore in the interest of not spoiling its surprises. If you don’t mind subtitles, you are in for one heck of a movie.
9) Coraline (2009)
I wanted to include at least one family movie on this list. While not suitable for very young viewers, Coraline is an absolute delight for anyone else. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s young adult novel, the story follows a young girl who moves to a new town and finds a secret doorway that leads to a macabre world that mirrors her own. Needless to say, the inhabitants of said macabre world do not have Coraline’s best interests at heart.
Like last year’s Inside Out, it taps into the alienation any child/teen goes through when moving to a new place just as they were finding themselves. Coraline features an excellent protagonist and supporting characters – and while not too scary, it’s just scary enough for kids and adults to enjoy together.
10) The Book of Eli (2010)
A lot of critics accused The Book of Eli, an apocalyptic action movie, of having nothing new to say. Whether that’s true or not, it’s made so well that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Everyone’s working at 100% here – especially Denzel Washington, who is fantastic as always.
The Book of Eli doesn’t land with the same impact as, say, Mad Max: Fury Road – but it’s a welcome addition to a genre that’s currently having a resurgence at the moment. The two films together make an excellent double-feature.
So, what movies will you be watching this weekend?
Jeremy is Customer Service Specialist at HPB Corporate