Valentine’s Day is upon us, so we’ve scoured the big three streaming services—Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime—for movies that meld geeky themes with love. Some are tragic, some are salty, and some even involve zombies. Ain’t love grand?
1) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Screenwriter Lorene Scafaria made her directorial debut with this quirky take on the run-up to the apocalypse. Neighbors Steve Carell and Keira Knightley meet soon after it’s announced that an asteroid is hurtling toward the Earth. Fortunately for the odd couple, the time they have left is enough to take a wacky road trip (and, inevitably, fall for each other) amid the chaos, with amusing characters played by Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lynskey, Derek Luke, Martin Sheen, Connie Britton, and William Peterson all popping up before doomsday hits.
2) 13 Going on 30
In this girlie spin on Big, a wannabe-popular teen named Jenna wishes to be older and cooler and magics herself into her future life—where she happens to be a big-time magazine editor played by Jennifer Garner. Garner is believably charming as a dorky kid from the 1980s flailing around a glamorous grown-up life in 2004, doling out life advice from Pat Benatar songs and saving a work party with a “Thriller” dance-off. Of course, unlike the kid in Big, Jenna has actually lived those intervening 17 years and realizes (to her horror) that she transformed into a ruthless snake along the way. Oops! You’ll see the ending of this formulaic rom-com coming a mile away, but Garner’s performance and the above-average supporting cast (Andy Serkis, Judy Greer, Mark Ruffalo) actually make it worth your while.
3) Burying the Ex
Joe Dante’s most recent feature has the horror elements you’d expect from the guy behind Gremlins, The Howling, and The ‘Burbs. And it also factors in romance, although things turn gruesome pretty damn fast. Anton Yelchin plays a nerdy cult-movie fan who realizes too late that his seemingly perfect girlfriend (Twilight’s Ashley Greene) is a control freak—but before he can end things, she’s hit by a bus. Things go from “I guess the universe did me a sick favor” to “holy shit!” when she returns in zombie form, ready to resume their relationship... just as he’s begun to pull himself out of his guilt spiral by dating someone new. Awkward! Burying the Ex does play into the well-worn psycho ex-girlfriend stereotype, but all the horror-movie flair that’s infused into the story does give it a (dismembered, putrid, rotting) leg up on others of the genre.
Between American Gods and Good Omens, Neil Gaiman adaptations are particularly hot right now, but he’s racked up tons over the years. In 2007, his popular 1999 novel Stardust got the big-screen treatment, courtesy of Matthew Vaughn, now best-known for the Kingsman films. In a fantasy kingdom, a young man (Daredevil’s Charlie Cox) tracks down a fallen star to win over his beloved but ends up falling in love with the star (Claire Danes) instead. This story has everything that a dark fairy tale needs—including kings, unicorns, pirates, and a campy evil witch played by Michelle Pfeiffer—and manages to feel magical, even when things do get a tad overstuffed.
5) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher—a director generally more associated with grittier fare, like Zodiac, Se7en, and Gone Girl—delves into romance with this fable very loosely based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Brad Pitt plays the title character, a man who’s born in 1918 already resembling a very old man... and then proceeds to age in reverse, thanks to some remarkable special effects, until he dies as an 84-year-old baby in 2003. This complicates his relationship with Daisy (Cate Blanchett), to say the least, though it also makes their romance (when it’s age-appropriate, that is) all the more remarkable.
6) Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare makes this list by way of Joss Whedon, who filmed this 2012 passion project at his own house and populated its cast with a raft of his go-to actors (Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg). The setting is moved to the present day, and the film is black and white, but the production is quite true to the original play—which is, of course, all about attraction, witty banter, mistaken identity, one selfish jackass who tries to screw it up for everyone, and happy endings for all who deserve them.
7) Zombie Honeymoon
That title doesn’t hold anything back, does it? Wedding vows do specify “in sickness and in health,” though turning into a flesh-hungry member of the walking dead isn’t exactly covered under those terms. Newlyweds Denise and Danny try to make a go of it after a shambling monster chomps at him on the beach, but some differences just can’t be overcome. Fortunately, Zombie Honeymoon has the right macabre sense of humor to go with what could otherwise be some mightily grim subject matter.
8) Let the Right One In
One of io9's greatest movies of the last 10 years, Let the Right One In would be a poignant tale of first love, except for all the throat-ripping that goes on—as is tradition when boy meets girl... who isn’t actually a girl but instead a centuries-old vampire. Strange circumstances aside, their emotional connection can’t be denied, and these young soul mates’ version of “happily ever after” makes for one of horror’s strangest yet most eerily adorable final scenes ever.
9) Little Shop of Horrors
Frank Oz’s 1986 horror-comedy musical, an adaption of the off-Broadway hit—itself an adaptation of the 1960 Roger Corman cult film—sees geeky floral-shop worker Seymour (Rick Moranis) nice-guy his way into the heart of his dream woman, Audrey (Ellen Greene). But with love comes complications, including the interference of her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend (Steve Martin, having a blast playing a sadistic dentist; Bill Murray has a cameo as a pain-loving patient), and Seymour’s increasingly aggressive pet plant/alien, Audrey II (voiced by Motown legend Levi Stubbs). The film is pretty true to the stage play, with one notable exception: It has a much happier ending.
10) Marjorie Prime
Based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play, this 2050-set scifi fantasy is about an elderly woman named Marjorie (Lois Smith) who uses new technology to create a holographic version of her beloved late husband as a young man (Jon Hamm). He keeps her company and helps her as she struggles with dementia, though others in her orbit (especially her daughter, played by Geena Davis) don’t embrace his presence quite so quickly. That’s just the first layer of this intense, moving drama, as Marjorie’s family comes to accept and rely on the hologram program to help them come to term with their own memories and past regrets.
11) My Bloody Valentine
Yeah, it’s the remake, but until a streaming service realizes it really needs to get the O.G. MBV on tap, this’ll have to do. And honestly, if you’re looking for a movie that’s in keeping with the holiday theme and is also unintentionally hilarious, you could do a lot worse. Like the slasher classic it’s based on, the 2009 take on My Bloody Valentine is set in a mining town where a February 14 disaster some years prior sets the stage for gory revenge, with a killer hidden behind a coal miner’s mask. But unlike the earlier film, massacres happen not once, but twice, and the lead character—ageless Supernatural star Jensen Ackles—gets a lot more emoting to do amid the movie’s pleasingly stupid twists. And yes, there’s at least one scene where body parts pop up in a heart-shaped candy box. Sweet!
In a sterile, tightly regulated dystopia where feelings are forbidden, the only two people left who are capable of having emotions are obviously destined to fall in love. (No doubt, it helps that they’re both really, really good-looking.) Perfectly androgynous pair Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult are just two elements of eye candy in Drake Doremus’ sleek tale, which blatantly prizes style over substance but is entertaining nonetheless.