What to Stream on Valentine’s Day

‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ | YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu

Make sure you watch the 1968 version, not the 1999 remake. While the newer film is fine enough, the original is a textbook example of classic Hollywood at its sexiest. Steve McQueen plays a millionaire who robs banks for fun, and Faye Dunaway is the insurance investigator on his tail. There is something downright intoxicating about the two stars’ charisma, and their chemistry feels as inexorable as tectonic plates moving toward each other. When they engage in a game of chess — a real one, though the metaphorical aspect is also there — you might have to fan yourself. Michel Legrand’s alternately lush and driving score is a gem of its own. ELISABETH VINCENTELLI

When Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon appeared in Louis Malle’s 1980 heartbreaker, he was almost twice her age. Yet after his rueful character, a small-time hood named Lou, takes a shine to Sally (Sarandon), a struggling oyster-bar waitress, their connection develops a melancholy magic. Blending romance and crime caper, Malle has crafted a dreamy, atmospheric study of a man, and a city, in decline, and Lancaster plays him with so much tattered heart that we easily understand Sally’s surrender to Lou’s quiet courtship. Watching him spy on her each night as she stands gloriously naked in her kitchen window, rubbing lemons on her skin to banish the odor of a job she detests, there is something innocent and inoffensive in his peeking. To him, she represents all he has lost — and all he might yet salvage. JEANNETTE CATSOULIS

‘Brief Encounter’ | Amazon Prime Video, iTunes

It’s not a spoiler to say that the love affair in “Brief Encounter” does not last: The title is pretty clear on that point. Yet you will hope against hope that Laura (Celia Johnson) and Alec (Trevor Howard) somehow find a way to end up together. The enduring appeal of David Lean’s 1945 romantic masterpiece lies in the push and pull between two people’s mutual attraction and their sense of honor and duty. (They are both married to other people.) The film gently suggests the all-encompassing power of love with characters who maintain a stiff upper lip. Slight gestures and sideways glances resonate like deflagrations of unabashed desire in this context, and the effect is devastatingly emotional. ELISABETH VINCENTELLI

‘My Bloody Valentine’ | Shudder, Crackle, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

This Valentine’s Day, do like many horror fans do: Fire up the streaming service Shudder and snuggle up with your boo. Start with “My Bloody Valentine,” a 1981 Canadian slasher film about a mining town besieged on Valentine’s Day by a killer with a pickax. It’s gory and deranged, but also a strangely nostalgic slasher classic. Follow that with the new Shudder podcast “Horror Noire: Uncut,” a fascinating six-episode valentine to African-American film buffs’ love-hate romance with horror cinema, based on Shudder’s acclaimed 2019 documentary. The podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts and other platforms. ERIK PIEPENBURG

‘Eames: The Architect and the Painter’ | Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes

It all started with a chair. When Charles Eames met Ray Kaiser, they were both at the height of their fields (architecture for him, abstract art for her). In his love letters, he dreamed of a future together. He destroyed her letters. After all, he was married, with a daughter. Yet their connection sparked a professional partnership that helped define design and consumer culture. The film paints the picture of a love rooted in work and a shared joy in making things. Which is to say it manages to make the business of furniture and experimental filmmaking seem terribly romantic. Charles and Ray, who eventually married, are seen smiling together in archival photos from the 1940s, ’50s and beyond, look like a pair of delightful, delighted oddballs, fussing over designs that would eventually make their way into homes across the country. Their bond flourishes as they find success, is buffeted by industry criticism, the era’s sexism, and even infidelity. Still, they forged ahead, leaving their mark on just about everything they touched. #Goals. KWAME OPAM

‘Broadcast News’ | Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play

One of the great love-triangle movies of all time, James L. Brooks’s comedy-drama (set in the world of network television news) finds Holly Hunter, in her breakthrough role, as a high-strung producer torn between two potential partners: Albert Brooks (as a reporter with a great mind but no physical spark) and William Hurt (as the hotshot new anchor with a killer bod and an empty head). They’re all playing recognizable types, and dig the expected laughs out of those personalities (and their interpersonal dynamics). But Brooks’s witty, sophisticated screenplay doesn’t treat them like stock characters; these people are all both likable and deeply flawed, and the film’s refreshing lack of clear choices makes Hunter’s romantic predicament all the more poignant. JASON BAILEY

‘Jodhaa Akbar’ | Netflix

Some love stories end in weddings; others begin with one. In the Bollywood historical romance “Jodhaa Akbar,” the Mughal emperor Akbar marries the Hindu princess Jodhaa as part of a peace arrangement with the king of a rival province. Jodhaa resents being used as a political pawn and forced into a stranger’s home, but Akbar’s acceptance of her independence and religion slowly wins her over. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan are resplendently charismatic as the lead royals: the scene in which, armed with swords, they duel it out to resolve a lover’s quarrel is one of the sexiest moments ever committed to screen. The director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s knack for swooning romance and political intrigue — and the stunningly designed set — make the film worth every minute of its three-and-a-half-hour run time. DEVIKA GIRISH

‘The Thin Man’ | YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu

Who ever said marriage killed romance? Not Nick and Nora Charles, for whom life is a euphoric succession of dry martinis and drier banter, seasoned with a little detective action here and there. The first (and best) in what would become a successful franchise, “The Thin Man” (1934) is Hollywood screwball comedy at its most sophisticated: Everybody looks great in evening wear, cracks wise, and downs staggering amounts of alcohol while keeping their wits about them. But the key to the movie’s enduring appeal is its portrayal of an enviably liberated modern couple, played by William Powell and Myrna Loy. Partners in crime-solving and sly sex appeal, Nick and Nora don’t just love each other — they absolutely delight in each other’s company. ELISABETH VINCENTELLI

‘Crossing Delancey’ | Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play

Opposites attract, in spite of all attempts to stifle said attraction, in this bewitching 1988 romantic comedy from the director Joan Micklin Silver. Amy Irving stars as Izzy, a downtown woman who’s moved uptown and fancies herself a sophisticate. So she dismisses her grandmother’s attempt to find her a husband via a matchmaker — especially when the suitor is the neighborhood pickle vendor (Peter Riegert). “I don’t live down here, I live uptown,” she assures him, and refuses to admit her obvious attraction, because of the backward step a romance with him seems to represent. Susan Sandler’s complex screenplay (based on her play) hits the expected will-they-or-won’t-they rom-com beats, but underscores them with complicated dynamics of cultural assimilation; the result is an sparkling, dizzy New York romance in the “Moonstruck” tradition. JASON BAILEY

‘Heartbreaker’ | YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

This French charmer may remind you of the romantic-caper style that flourished in Hollywood from the late 1950s to the mid-60s. It is so sneakily funny and charming that it can shoulder such references as “To Catch a Thief,” whose Riviera setting this 2010 film echoes. Alex (Romain Duris) has a very special profession: Anxious friends and parents pay him to break up mismatched couples by seducing the woman. Things go south after Alex is hired to wreck the impending nuptials of Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) and Jonathan (a pre-“Walking Dead” Andrew Lincoln), and he finds himself actually drawn to his target. As with the best rom-coms, the romance feels ineluctable, no matter how hard the two leads fight it — but what fun it is to watch Duris and Paradis spar. ELISABETH VINCENTELLI

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