Romance for All! 22 Not-So-Conventional Love Stories

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in ‘Warm Bodies’/Still © Summit Entertainment
Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in ‘Warm Bodies’/Still © Summit Entertainment

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, “Warm Bodies” scrambled the horror and romance genres by introducing R., a zombie with heart who doesn’t just want to eat one. Based on Isaac Marion’s novel – and ranking top at the box office with warm reviews to boot – it is proof that cinematic love stories don’t always require meet-cutes, sunsets, weddings, misunderstandings, pratfalls, war, pestilence, or misfortune. Sci-fi, music, sports, adventure, and general goofiness work too.

For your Valentine's Day this year, here are our alternative suggestions for whatever movie-watching mood you’re in. (If you want something more straightforward, try “Sense and Sensibility,” “The English Patient” – or anything based on a Nicholas Sparks book.)

For Something Sort-of Sci-Fi  

“Happy Accidents” (2000)”
The unlucky-in-love Ruby (Marisa Tomei) thinks she’s finally found a winner in Sam (Vincent D’Onofrio), who is thoughtful, sincere … and claims to be a visitor from the future. As it toys with whether he’s telling the truth, this quirky comedy reminds us how all love involves a leap of faith.

“WALL-E” (2008)
This Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature Film blends the comic stylings and emotion of a silent movie with a plucky, soulful hero: a trash-compacting robot who wants to hold hands with a sweetheart. How he wins her over – and saves the human race – is as enchanting as the treasures he discovers in what others throw away.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
Exes Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) erase each other from their memories, only to realize what made their relationship special. Like “Annie Hall,” this breakup movie finds the right balance of bitter and sweet.

For a Sweeping Adventure

“The Last of the Mohicans” (1992)
Michael Mann’s passionate, poetic interpretation of James Fenimore Cooper’s historical novel about the French and Indian War puts Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) at the center of the story, along with glorious scenery and old-fashioned dialogue. She: “Why didn’t you leave when you had the chance?” He: “Because what I’m interested in is right here.”

“North by Northwest” (1959)
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic innocent-man-on-the-run caper sends advertising executive Cary Grant across the country to evade foreign spies, pausing for breath (and more) with the alluring Eva Marie Saint.

For a Strong Sense of Place

“Lost in Translation” (2003)
The pain of loneliness is palpable as a fading movie star (Bill Murray) and a young wife (Scarlett Johansson) form an unlikely friendship on business in Tokyo.

“One Fine Day” (1996)
New York City sparkles as two divorced parents (George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer) watch each other’s kids all over Manhattan.

“Roman Holiday” (1953)
This black-and-white lark showcases Rome’s splendor as a sheltered princess (Audrey Hepburn) secretly tours the city with an American journalist (Gregory Peck).

For Something Sporty

“Love & Basketball” (2000)
Next-door neighbors Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) turn from kids who want to play in the NBA to a competitive couple on and off the court.

“The Cutting Edge” (1992)
Paul Michael Glaser (the original Starsky of "Starsky and Hutch") directed this fast and fun story about a proper figure skater (Moira Kelly) paired with a scrappy hockey player (D. B. Sweeney) for Olympic competition.

“Bull Durham” (1988)
Baseball was never as sexy as in this witty flick about an enthusiastic fan (Susan Sarandon) drawn to a minor-league pitcher (Tim Robbins) and his teammate (Kevin Costner) over one season.

For a Little Light Music

“Strictly Ballroom” (1992)
Baz Lurhmann’s inimitable style meshes with the world of ballroom dancing as a championship dancer (Paul Mercurio) meets a new partner (Tara Morice).

For Your Love of Language

“Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004)
American man Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Frenchwoman Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train in their twenties, then reconnect nine years later for an afternoon in Paris. Their intellectual connection is just part of their attraction in these first two installments of director Richard Linklater’s talky trilogy. (The latest, “Before Midnight,” played last month at the Sundance Film Festival.)

“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)
A secret romance with Lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) jolts the young Bard (Joseph Fiennes) out of writer’s block in this Oscar-winner for Best Picture.

For Some Real-Life Love

“Something New” (2006)
A brilliant, ambitious black accountant (Sanaa Lathan) falls for a free-spirited white landscaper (Simon Baker) in spite of herself. Honest talk, genuine laughs, and believable chemistry abound.

“Next Stop, Wonderland” (1998)
A nurse (Hope Davis) and a plumber (Alan Gelfant) unknowingly cross each other’s paths as she navigates the Boston dating scene. The movie includes a wonderful bossa nova soundtrack and a fondness for Ralph Waldo Emerson.

For a Bit of Eighties Fun

“Romancing the Stone” (1984)
Kathleen Turner evolves from gawky romance writer to heroine as she travels to Colombia to help her kidnapped sister, meeting a jungle adventurer (Michael Douglas) along the way.

“Splash” (1984)
A bachelor (Tom Hanks) falls for an out-of-water mermaid (Daryl Hannah) pursued by an eccentric scientist (Eugene Levy).

“Moonstruck” (1987)
A Brooklyn bookkeeper (Cher) falls for her fiance’s estranged brother (Nicolas Cage) in a film that combines the heart’s yearnings, family, and the lure of la bella luna.

For Horror Fans

“Dracula” (1979)
Of the many versions of Bram Stoker’s classic, this one with Frank Langella (without fangs) as the suave and seductive Count Dracula who pursues Kate Nelligan struck a nerve with a generation of women.

“30 Days of Night” (2007)
Based on a comic-book miniseries, this tale of an Alaskan town besieged by vampires has a romantic streak, as a sheriff (Josh Hartnett) makes a poignant sacrifice to save his estranged wife (Melissa George).

Tell us: What’s your cinematic love story of choice?