Kristi Weyand
Deputy Editor 

Valentine’s Day 2021 is for the hopeless romantics. After a year in a pandemic (2021’s new catchphrase), we don’t need any more think pieces about dating during COVID-19. What’s actually needed is a good — or bad — romantic comedy, some chocolate, and a cheesy listicle. While many rom-coms have their problematic tropes — which I was writing about this time last year — and some of these are no exception, the ways in which these movies maneuver these tropes with their own doses of romance (from cynical to con to corny) makes them worth the watch. In case you have already worn out the classic rom-coms (it’s been a rough year, after all), here are my favorite underrated/unknown rom-coms that maybe are not underrated, but just from a few decades ago: 

Image of Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon
Image courtesy of AMC UK

1. Just Like Heaven (2005)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Just Like Heaven is underrated in the way that anything in the early 2000’s starring Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon is underrated. Witherspoon plays a woman in her last year of residency at a San Francisco hospital, so, naturally, that’s all her life revolves around. Ruffalo is downtrodden man, for reasons that become apparent later, unsuccessfully searching for an apartment. After being attacked by a flier, he finds the perfect apartment to sublet — only to find it haunted by Witherspoon’s character. Like all good rom-coms with a complicated romance, they find a way through it and reach their happily ever after thanks to some cosmic interference. 

Still from Leap Year
Image courtesy of Finding Wonderland

2. Leap Year (2010)
Where to Stream: Hulu 

This movie might not be underrated, hence it being early on the list, but it’s bound to make you swoon. Amy Adams plays a woman who runs off to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day (supposedly a tradition in Ireland). However, on the way, everything goes wrong, with only a grumpy Irishman to help her on her way. If you like headstrong women and emotionally withdrawn men rom-coms, this is for you.

Image from Heartbreakers
Image courtesy of MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

3. Heartbreakers (2001)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Heartbreakers is for the cynical, hopeless romantic that is still in denial. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver are a mother-daughter con team who pair up to take down rich men. No going wrong there, right? That is, until they fall for their targets in a con with everything on the line. Weaver and Hewitt play tough women whose ‘take no sh—t’ energy has caused them to build a wall around their emotions. While they certainly remain bad—sses, they learn that they deserve a little love, too.

Image courtesy of A24

4. Obvious Child (2014)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Obvious Child is a clunky rom-com (though a little light on the com) by design. It’s awkward from the start and seems like it’s a bust, but that’s life, isn’t it? Jenny Slate plays a down-on-her-luck stand-up comedian who has just found out her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend. When she ends up pregnant from a one night stand, she decides to get an abortion, but the only available appointment is Valentine’s Day. Obvious Child gives the leading lady a path for growth before leaning into a romance, which just makes it all the more swoon-worthy. 

Image courtesy of IMDB

5. Accidentally in Love (2018)
Where to Stream: Netflix
While the first thing that may come to mind is the song from the Shrek soundtrack, Accidentally in Love deserves a chance. Although not technically a movie, Accidentally in Love is a Chinese drama series that will make even the coldest heart melt. It’s a slow burn romance between a woman who runs away from her rich life in order to experience the college her late parents attended, but ends up falling in love with a musician who has a tormented past. She is feisty, and he takes a little while to warm up to anything; they’re a match made in rom-com heaven. The show has 30 episodes, 30 minutes each, but their chaotic chemistry will have you burning through episodes like a match in dry hay.

Image courtesy of Flavourmag

6. Let it Shine (2012)
Where to Stream: Disney+
Hear me out on this one. Let it Shine was released as a Disney Channel original movie the same year Joyful Noise and Rags were released, not giving Let it Shine the room to, well, shine. While Joyful Noise is not a Cinderella adaptation like Let it Shine and, more obviously, Rags, it does have the similar theme of the clashing between modernity and church. That said, Let it Shine is endearingly predictable and one of the last Disney Channel movies that gives teenage characters layers, realistic dialogue, and a couple that’s likeable because of the confidence we see them grow into.

Image courtesy of Netflix

7. Love Guaranteed (2019)
Where to Stream: Netflix

This movie is horrible, and that’s why you should watch it. Love Guaranteed is a Hallmark breed of rom-coms without all the undertones of religious guilt. Rachael Leigh Cook is actually no stranger to Hallmark movies, but, alongside Damon Wayans Jr., this movie is a step up. Wayans’ character, Nick, is suing a dating company with the help of Cook as his lawyer, Susan. Love Guaranteed promises its users will find love after 1,000 dates, and Nick, about to go on his 1,000th date, believes he has proven them wrong. However, Susan and Nick technically met on the app. Which will be successful: the lawsuit or their romance?

Image courtesy of Korean from Context

8. Wish You (2021)
Where to Stream: Netflix

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen this series yet, but it is on my list for this Valentine’s Day. With the Netflix description saying the two main characters, a singer-songwriter and a keyboardist, “add harmony and love to each other’s lives,” this show seems like the perfect, sappy love story for Valentine’s Day. Street performer Kang In Soo garners the attention of Yoon Sang Yi, a keyboardist at an established record label, and the two begin to live together in company residency as they begin realizing they have feelings for each other. So, yes — oh my god, they were roommates.

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

9. Brown Sugar (2002)
Where to Stream: Hulu

Brown Sugar has an incredibly star-studded cast with the talent to back it up. It stars Sanaa Lathan, one of the queens of romances, and Taye Diggs as the main couple. These characters knew each other as children but are now adults, whose lives are still very much intertwined within the hip-hop music industry, and are engaged to separate individuals. However, their romances cause a minor rift in their friendship, and they must both experience personal growth — outside of their own relationships — to realize that they were meant to be together. Not to be overlooked is the background romance between Queen Latifah and Mos Def due to their charismatic screen appearance.

Image courtesy of Momentum Pictures

10. Half Magic (2018)
Where to Stream: Netflix

Half Magic is more of a comedy than a rom-com, but it’s an honorable mention for those who enjoy raunchy rom-coms, as this is consensually so. It follows three women, played by Heather Graham, Angela Kinsey, and Stephanie Beatriz, in their sexual adventures (or, rather, fumbles). Cheesy and downright awkward at times, Half Magic intends to be a story about finding self-love and love instead of settling for sex from men who, well, suck. Unfortunately, it stars Chris D’Elia, who might as well play himself as a pompous, misogynistic male.

These are not Oscar-worthy movies. In fact, they’re quite predictable, but maybe we all need a bit of predictability and stability right now. While maybe we cannot be granted the simplicity of life in most of these movies, we might need the rather elementary message of caring for yourself. For now, let’s not worry about it and sit back with some popcorn and Hinge as these romances flash across your screen.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of A24

Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.

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