It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in want of a festive Valentine’s Day rom-com will most likely have to spend two hours immersed in a terrible movie. Romantic comedies, by and large, pretty much suck. You get your occasional charming surprise that’s better than it has any right to be, but mostly the genre is slave to formula. On the other hand, sci-fi movies are generally pretty awesome — and while that might not be the mood you’re going for, you’d be surprised how many sci-fi films stray into romantic territory. Here are seven, in fact, that are far more romantic and entertaining than your average paint-by-numbers rom-com.
1. The Adjustment Bureau
Based on a story by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick — the guy responsible for Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, and The Man in the High Castle — this is a parable of paranoia and conspiracy that also happens to have a surprisingly robust love story at its center. It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and features Matt Damon and Emily Blunt being exceptionally charming. Also, wearing bowler hats and trench coats, because what’s a good romantic conspiracy thriller without them?
2. The Fountain
This one might try your patience if you’re not down with Terrence Malick or David Lynch-style films. But if you are on board with abstract stories heavy on dream imagery and symbolism, dive into these three interconnected vignettes that may or may not be the same story. It’s also got Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, nifty cinematography, magical trees, space bubbles, and conquistadors — so who cares if you can barely explain what it’s about even after seeing it?
3. The Time Traveler’s Wife
Yes, the book is infinitely superior and the movie cuts too much out, but it’s still worth cuddling up with. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams are spot-on casting, the movie nicely depicts both the comedy and the pathos that come with accidental naked time traveling, and covers the inherent weirdness of their non-linear relationship well. Dare you not to cry at the end.
4. About Time
Rachel McAdams has really carved an oddly specific niche for herself in the role of “woman who falls for a guy with a time-travel gene.” This one is decidedly more lighthearted if The Time Traveler’s Wife sounds like too much of a tearjerker.
5. The Lake House
This one is not for the faint of heart, as its Lynchian levels of nonsensical and dreamy even though it’s — surprisingly — penned by David Benioff of Game of Thrones fame. Ryan Gosling continues to trick audiences into thinking this might be a romantic movie while secretly going full-weird. “Someday they’ll learn,” he tells himself in the mirror every night before whispering, “Hey, girl”.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This is a true classic, the most honest romantic movie of the past 20 years, regardless of genre. It’s a nuanced, realistic depiction of a relationship in all of its layers: tragic, funny, maddening, and ultimately hopeful. It was among the most unique and creative movies to come out in the aughts, and may just have you sending a fully sober drunk-text to your last ex.
Don’t resign yourself to having a trite Valentine’s just because most romantic comedies are lame. Treat yourself to a little weird with your hearts and flowers.