There are the Great Date Movies that everybody knows — Casablanca, The Way We Were, Dirty Dancing. But that’s the problem: Everybody knows them. Renting one to watch at home with a would-be honey is like sending a dozen red roses: It’s nice, but it’s been done. Look, the movie should be as special as she or he is, right? So here are the 10 secret Great Date Movies on video, each guaranteed to heighten pulses, melt resolves, and leave you feeling like the only couple in the world.
Choose Me (1984) Writer-director Alan Rudolph’s bittersweet lovers’ farce is giddy with the idea of being in love. Colliding like supercharged ions in the night are Keith Carradine, Lesley Ann Warren, Rae Dawn Chong, and Genevieve Bujold. They all act pretty silly. (As if you don’t.)
The Clock (1945) A love story so simple that it skirts parody; a knowing innocence saves it. Soldier (Robert Walker) and secretary (Judy Garland) fall in love during his two-day leave in New York; as they warily dance closer to each other, the city magically mellows.
I Know Where I’m Going (1945) Tough London girl Wendy Hiller knows where she’s going, all right: She’s going to marry an old moneybags she doesn’t love. Then fate strands her on the Scottish coast with a mighty manly laird (Roger Livesey). Directed by Michael Powell, it’s an enduring portrait of cynicism melting under unexpected bliss.
Love With the Proper Stranger (1963) One for the urbanites when they need to be reminded that love can still bloom among the city’s concrete canyons. A shop clerk (Natalie Wood) gets pregnant by a jazz musician (Steve McQueen), but all she wants from him is money for an abortion — or so she thinks. Frank for its day; disarmingly delicate now.
Roman Holiday (1953) A fairy tale on the screen and off. It’s about a bored young princess (Audrey Hepburn) who goes AWOL and falls in love with an American reporter (Gregory Peck), but that’s nothing compared to how audiences fell for Hepburn in her first starring role.
Roxanne (1987) Cyrano de Bergerac updated with tremendous grace by Steve Martin, who wrote the script and stars. This one has a proven track record: I once took a date to see Roxanne, accidentally spilled a box of Goobers on her halfway through, and by the end credits she had forgiven me. In fact, she married me.
Say Anything… (1989) John Cusack and Ione Skye play teenagers in love: Sounds simple, but it’s actually the sharpest look at young love in years. That may be because director Cameron Crowe understands how one song (in this case, Peter Gabriel’s ”In Your Eyes”) can come to mean everything that passes between two people.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) A pair of shop clerks (James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) give each other merry hell all day long, then go home and write mash notes to their anonymous pen pals, who are — who else? — each other. There’s a message here: What we look for in love and what we get are closer than we think.
Starman (1984) Your basic alien-falls-to-Earth-and-takes-the-form-of-a- woman’s-dead-husband-so-naturally-she-helps-him-elude-authorities-whi le falling-in-love-with-him movie. Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen have a lovely gravity together.
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991) Juliet Stevenson plays a young widow who misses her husband (Alan Rickman) so ferociously that he really has to come back and look in on her. Already building a cult following on video, this movie is more than just a thinking person’s Ghost. It’s a love story transformed by an understanding of grief.