February is traditionally not a good month for movies, so it only makes sense that studios will use Valentine's Day as an excuse to release their gooiest, most pandering films. Take, for instance, the box office this year. While The Lego Movie will likely take the weekend, entering the fray today are Endless Love and Winter's Tale, two sap-heavy love stories. Their ads practically shout: woman, take your boyfriend to see this movie. Next year, Valentine's Day weekend will see the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.
Of course, that doesn't mean all romance-themed Valentine's Day releases seem quite as pandering. Typically, romantic comedies fare better. See: 2005's Hitch or 2007's (underrated!) Music and Lyrics. The Wedding Singer was a Valentine's Day release in 1998, and Groundhog Day, arguably one of the best post-When Harry Met Sally rom coms, came out this weekend in 1993, though it's probably worth noting that the holiday which gives that movie its namesake also comes around this time of year. That same year, Baz Luhrmann's break out Strictly Ballroom also came out for the holiday. And it's not like the weekend hasn't had it's share of non-love themed movies. Heck, Silence of the Lambs was released over Valentine's Day in 1991.
But without further ado, here are some of the most aggressively lovey-dovey Valentine's Day releases for the lover (or hater) within.
Message in a Bottle (February 12, 1999)
Nicholas Sparks was obviously going to figure heavily into this list—interestingly enough, though, the quintessential Sparks movie, The Notebook, was a June release. But! In 1999 came Message in a Bottle, starring Robin Wright (then Penn) and Kevin Costner, in which she plays a reporter (why are they always reporters??) who goes searching for a man who wrote a beautiful, well, message in a bottle. The trailer featured "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia. Todd McCarthy wrote in Variety at the time that "almost anything would be more stimulating than this dreary, lachrymose and incredibly poky tear-jerker that makes its audience wait and wait and wait until nearly the last second for its jerking."
50 First Dates (February 13, 2004)
Now, 50 First Dates is actually a relatively well-received rom com, though its individual appeal probably depends on one's ability to appreciate Adam Sandler schtick. In fact, the movie landed on Vulture's—admittedly flawed—list of the 25 best post-When Harry Met Sally rom coms. Still, it gets a place on this list for two reasons. One, it was a craven attempt to capitalize on nostalgia for another Valentine's weekend release, The Wedding Singer. Two, it actually has the word "date" in the title.
Valentine's Day (February 12, 2010)
Actually released on February 12, this Gary Marshall vehicle is the mothership of all pandering Valentine's Day releases. It's named Valentine's Day, for goodness sakes. It has all the stars in the stratosphere. It paved the way for New Year's Eve. God bless (or, you know, curse) Gary Marshall.
The Vow (February 10, 2012)
The Vow almost seems like a Nicholas Sparks movie even though it's not. It stars two Nicholas Sparks movie vets, Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. There's tragedy. There's, obviously, romance. And this movie's marketers really went all out when it came to targeting its young female audience. Seemingly personal video messages from Tatum? Check! It paid off: the movie set a Valentine's Day box office record.
Safe Haven (February 14, 2013)
Sparks, schmarks. This movie is like the Stefon club of Nicholas Sparks movies. It has everything: Kids, gasoline fires, Julianne Hough with a terrible haircut/wig, cancer, soft lighting, an abusive ex-husband, a GHOST ...