Film

From Silence of the Lambs to Sonic the Hedgehog: 6 films you didn't realise are actually romantic

Looking for an alternative Valentine's flick? Look no further

Sonic The Hedgehog movie (2020)

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020). Image: LANDMARK MEDIA / Alamy Stock Photo

A darkened room, heightened senses, artfully framed close-ups of impossibly beautiful people… there are plenty of reasons why going to the cinema is still regarded as a classic date night option. It becomes especially true around 14 February: it was no accident that the Fifty Shades trilogy tied up the Valentine’s Day window in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

But for every amorous film opening during that most romantic of release weeks there are also movies that go to the other extreme, offering welcome options for those not in the mood for love. Or are some of these examples of Valentine’s counter-programming secretly romantic? Let’s take a beat and find out.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Secret Romance Rating: ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Academy voters have memories like goldfish, so it is testament to the staying power of Jonathan Demme’s chilly thriller that it was released in the US on Valentine’s Day and still took home five Oscars over a year later. Amid its murky serial killer psychology and forensic FBI methodology, there is a sort of love story as the icy Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and empathetic novice Clarice (Jodie Foster) inch toward intimacy. Giving your heart to Hannibal feels like a reckless move though – especially if he looks peckish.

Available to stream on Prime Video

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Doctor, doctor: Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and psychiatrist Frederick Chilton (Anthony Heald) in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Image: FlixPix / Alamy Stock Photo

Absolute Power (1997)  

Secret Romance Rating: ❤️❤️❤️ 

Adapted from David Baldacci’s debut bestseller, this political potboiler has a distinctly non-romantic premise that belies its 14 February release date: jewel thief Luther (Clint Eastwood) covertly witnesses a sexual assault by the US president (Gene Hackman). It ends in murder, triggering a cat-and-mouse battle of wits. But in the margins is an unexpected but sweet romance between the dogged local cop assigned to investigate (Ed Harris) and Luther’s long-estranged daughter (Laura Linney).

Available to rent/buy on digital platforms

Daredevil (2003)

Secret Romance Rating: ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A blind lawyer takes to the darkest alleyways of Hell’s Kitchen to dispense his own brand of two-fisted justice. On paper, that may not sound too appealing for date night. But releasing Daredevil on Valentine’s Day may have been a canny marketing decision. Between brawling in dive bars and brooding atop gothic cathedrals, Ben Affleck’s damaged superhero also finds his soulmate, Elektra (Jennifer Garner). Affleck and Garner first met while making Daredevil and something also sparked off-screen: the couple married in 2005.

Available to stream on Disney+

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Secret Romance Rating:  ❤️

The original Die Hard is a Christmas movie that was actually released in summer blockbuster season (in the US, at least). This fifth and final instalment was shunted to mid-February presumably to lure action junkies with no romantic plans. If the focus was once on John McClane (Bruce Willis) rebuilding his relationship with his long-suffering wife, in this one he is off to Russia to shout at his beefcake son (Jai
Courtney). The result is a rushed action flick that lacks the visual clarity and sly wit that characterised the first film. Heartbreaking.

Available to stream on Disney+

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) 

Secret Romance Rating: ❤️❤️

Gearing up for a proposal? Then perhaps this lickety-split adaptation of the Sega Mega Drive classic could subtly get your beloved in the mood, as it prominently features gleaming gold rings. (They allow our fuzzy blue hero to teleport between dimensions.) Being released on Valentine’s Day 2020 certainly did not seem to hurt its initial box office takings, although lockdown would soon stop poor Sonic in his tracks. It may not feature any love scenes but the bromance between James Marsden’s goofy cop and
the titular fidget-spinner is undeniably heartwarming.

Available to stream on Paramount+

Madame Web (2024)

Secret Romance Rating:  ❤️❤️

After previously dominating Valentine’s Day with the Fifty Shades trilogy, Dakota Johnson returns to her old stomping ground with a new comic book movie where she plays a paramedic with psychic powers. Like Venom and Morbius, Madame Web is tangentially set in a world where Spider-Man exists but it is not the usual superhero sausage party. Lining up alongside Johnson are Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O’Connor and Isabela Merced as potential young protégées that need protecting. That might not leave much room for romance but watching a spider-squad of women kick ass could offer some Valentine catharsis for all the single ladies.

In cinemas from 14 February

Graeme Virtue is a film and TV critic.

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