Last year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, College of Charleston film studies professors offered their lists of top romantic movies (here and here) to help you celebrate the holiday.
However, we recognize that, for some, Valentine’s Day only serves as an unwelcome reminder that they’re single—or unhappily paired. For you Valentine-haters out there, Assistant Professor Colleen Glenn offers this list of failed romances that will be sure to cheer you up. Tales of missed opportunities, love gone sour, and vengeful psychotic lovers await! So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, sprawl out on the couch, and settle in for the darker—or unsuccessful—side of Cupid’s arrow.
Colleen’s Top 5 Anti-Valentine Picks
5. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
In this epic melodrama set against the backdrop of the turbulent Civil War and Reconstruction period, Scarlet O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) heat up the screen with enough chemistry to ignite the burning of Atlanta. Matched by their strength, wit, and resourcefulness, the handsome couple’s on-again, off-again romance spans years, but finally, ends tragically, when pride, grief, and misunderstanding become insurmountable barriers.
4. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton delight in this classic romantic comedy set in New York City and LA. One of Allen’s best films, Annie Hall persists in its popularity because it not only offers charming and relatable characters, but also presents the best and worst of romantic relationships, making it as realistic as it is funny. Finally, its sweetly sad ending (à la The Way We Were, 1973) resonates so powerfully because it captures the universal sentiment toward “the one that got away:” the nagging “What if?…”
3. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
In this melancholy, graceful, and understated film, an ordinary couple, played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, fall in love, spar, struggle, and fall apart in what is one of the most darkly touching (failed) romances on screen. Crosscutting between the present and the past adds both a sense of doom and terrible beauty, as we seem to experience their loss over time as much as they do. Gosling and Williams turn out incredibly powerful performances in this hauntingly sad love story.
4. Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987)
Lock up the family pets! Michael Douglas pays the price for his philandering when Glenn Close begins to stalk his family in this superb thriller. Iconic performances by the leading actors under Lyne’s masterful artistic direction create an unforgettable, spine-tingling cinematic experience. A PSA on why not to cheat on your spouse, Fatal Attraction will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Now considered to be Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo portrays Scottie (James Stewart) falling for a married woman, Madelaine (Kim Novak), in what turns out to be an elaborately-laid trap to set him up for murder. A portrait of the dangerous power of the grips of romantic love, Vertigo, through its hauntingly beautiful score by Bernard Hermann, meticulous cinematography, and its fantastic performances, leaves viewers with unsettling, lingering feelings about the things we do for love.
Related article: The Valentine’s Day Effect