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13 Indie Romance Movies to Stream This Valentine’s Day on Netflix and Beyond

Looking for something to spice up Valentine's Day? In need of a romantic cinematic experience the rest of the year? Settle in with an indie pick from the comfort of your own home.

Romance isn’t dead — in fact, it may be more readily available than ever before. Of course, we’re talking about movie romances, which round out the slates of so many current streaming platforms, from Netflix to Amazon Prime and FilmStruck. From romantic comedies to classic dramas and every twist on the genre imaginable, love is still supreme in the cinematic sense, and this Valentine’s Day holds a bevy of options for lovey-dovey movie watching.

We’ve picked thirteen (very different, all assuredly quite romantic) indie romances available to stream right now. In short, we’ve got your Valentine’s Day plans (and your post-Valentine’s Day plans, too) right here. Check them out.

“Beyond the Lights”

Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in "Beyond the Lights"

“Beyond the Lights”

Relativity Media

Chemistry is the name of the game in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s freight-train fast music industry romance, which pairs up rising starlet Gugu Mbatha-Raw (pure charm) alongside pre-“Birth of a Nation” Nate Parker. The pair exhibit major fireworks from the start, imagining Mbatha-Raw as hot new pop star Noni Jean, a big talent who is dangerously close to burning out and fading away, before she falls into the protective arms Parker’s do-gooder cop, Kaz Nicol. Prince-Bythewood’s film cannily sneaks in big questions about fame and the entertainment industry, along with issues regarding what’s actually sexy (Noni Jean is frequently kitted out in teensy costumes that make record execs happy, while diminishing her own humanity with every stitch), deep issues that are lovingly cradled by full-scale love story. When the pair finally give into their obvious attraction, “Beyond the Lights” pulls out the big guns, all gauzy love scenes and one particularly hot trip to Mexico, but the film maintains its sensuality by remembering that nothing is so sexy as mutual respect and admiration. -Kate Erbland (Available on Amazon Prime.)

“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

David Lowery’s expressionistic crime saga finds Bob (Casey Affleck, never better) and Ruth (Rooney Mara, same) as a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple split up by the law. Bob takes the fall, and Ruth raises their child on her own, until the kid turns four and Bob decides to break out to reunite with them. It’s not the smartest move, but he does it because he’s a reckless old school romantic and this gorgeous little poem of a movie is right there with him. A kind of post-modern riff on Terrence Malick transcendentalism, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” hovers somewhere in between the memory of the profound love shared by two people and the deep sense of loss when that moment passes. —Eric Kohn (Available on Netflix.)

“45 Years”

Andrew Haigh’s subtle drama finds Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) on the verge of their major anniversary when news of Geoff’s old lover comes to light in rather unexpected fashion — she died decades ago, falling on a hike, and was recently found frozen in ice. That jarring image becomes a metaphor for a past that lurks in the subtext of every scene. The movie follows the couple as they wrestle with this news, talk through plans for their upcoming party, and attempt to enjoy each other’s company even as Kate remains troubled by details of Geoff’s old relationship he failed to share. Haigh’s mesmerizing two-hander evolves into a quiet meditation on the dynamics of marriage, oscillating from deeply romantic to somber and regretful before dovetailing into a beautiful fusion of all those feelings registering with remarkable uncertainty on Kate’s face in the iconic final shot. —EK (Available on Netflix.)

“Southside with You”

Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers in "Southside With You"

“Southside With You”

Pat Scola, Courtesy of Miramax and Roadside Attractions

“This is not a date,” Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) informs Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) early in this 1989-set biopic. She was mistaken, to history’s relief. Richard Tanne spent nine years prepping his entrée into feature writing and directing, a take on the future First Couple’s first tryst. Shot over 15 days with $1.5 million and a theme by Oscar-winning songwriter John Legend (“Start”), “Southside with You” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, received two Gotham Award nominations, and enjoys a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Robinson — at the time Obama’s supervisor at a Chicago law firm — is initially unimpressed by his tardiness and the hole in the floor of his hatchback. Yet she softens over a marathon outing that includes an art exhibit, community organizing, drinks, a screening of Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and a shared kiss outside a Baskin-Robbins (now commemorated with a plaque). —Jenna Marotta (Available on Netflix.)

“The Incredible Jessica James”

Although last year’s Sundance Film Festival closer features a central couple, its biggest takeaways are the love between a woman and her craft, and a woman and her friends. Reteamed with her “People Places Things” writer-director, James C. Strouse (“The Hollars”), Jessica Williams — once the youngest-ever “Daily Show” correspondent  stars as an effervescent playwright from Ohio who spends her workweek at a children’s theater, inspiring her mini-mes à la “Frances Ha.” Just off a break-up and still dreaming about her ex (Lakeith Stanfield, “Sorry to Bother You”), there’s still nothing broken about Jones: she’s content to wallpaper her Bushwick apartment with manuscript rejections, and confirm to suitors that she is indeed “freaking dope.” A romantic comedy modernized with Tinder swiping and meal Instagramming, the narrative posits a starting-and-stopping, hard-to-define relationship between our heroine and a divorcé (Chris O’Dowd), until the final scene, jubilant even while they’re separate by thousands of miles. —JM (Available on Netflix.)

“Y Tu Mama También”

“Y Tu Mamá También”

Alfonso Cuarón’s 2001 Oscar nominee is rife with big ideas and big questions, from political upheaval in Mexico to searching questions about sexuality, concerns that the filmmaker finds room for alongside a dead sexy plot and the kind of three-way chemistry that could light an entire theater on fire. Real-life best friends Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna star as on-screen BFFs Julio and Tenoch, who we’re introduced to almost immediately as very sexual creatures whose burgeoning adulthoods are dominated by their desire to get down. Initially living it up when their girlfriends go out of town, the pair are thrown for a loop when they meet the alluring Luisa (Maribel Verdú), who soon leads them on an erotic and emotional journey that results in some major revelations. But as lurid as that might sound, Cuarón keeps his story and his characters rooted in realism, sensitively exploring their road trip as it veers towards surprising (and tragic) ends. It’s that kind of emotion that feeds directly into the incendiary erotic power that unspools as Julio, Tenoch, and Luisa began to move ever closer to each other, both physically and emotionally. The film is loaded with sexy scene after sexy scene, from sweaty erotic encounters to a bar-set dance sequence that would make anyone blush, all leading into a daring sequence that sees Julio and Tenoch coming to terms with long simmering feelings in probably the steamiest way possible. It’s a sexy film that endures, with plenty of payoff, and explores the process of digging deep into latent feelings — no matter the cost. -Kate Erbland (Available on Netflix.)

“Carol”

One the beautiful aspects of “Carol” is how much weight and emotion is held in a single glance between Carol and Therese, and these moments hold just as much tension and release as the film’s eventual sex scene between the women. The attraction between Carol and Therese is undeniable and it upends everything Therese thought she knew about herself, sending her on her own journey of self-discovery both intertwined and apart from Carol. While staying in a dingy motel in Iowa, Carol stands behind Therese and watches her in the mirror before leaning forward and sharing a passionate kiss. She lays Therese down in bed, running her hands and mouth across Therese’s body, both exploring and initiating Therese. The scene is packed with passion, as the women simply cannot get enough of each other, their bodies and hair are entangled, their mouths pressed against each other exhaling pure ecstasy. It is both beautiful and erotic but also tinged with heartache as both we and Carol know that finally giving in also means the end. When the women see each other again at the end of the film, Therese is a different woman, more secure and sure of who she is, thanks in part to Carol. It isn’t their final words but Carol’s hand on Therese’s shoulder than sends another surge of emotion (and a wave of tears) once more. —Jamie Righetti (Available on Netflix.)

“Blue Is the Warmest Color”

Blue Is the Warmest Color

“Blue Is the Warmest Color”

Wild Bunch/Sundance Selects

Abdellatif Kechiche’s rigorously erotic three-hour romance initially spawned Cannes walkouts before picking up the Palme d’Or, split three ways between Kechiche and his stars Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, proof of the level of dedication all three of them poured into a wild (read: maybe even nightmarish) shoot. While “Blue” earned big buzz because of the obvious — its long-form sex scenes, alternately hot and totally exhausting — that only obscures the finer points that Kechiche and his ladies put on the ill-fated romance between Adele and Emma. Hormonally speaking, it’s essential that the film opens when Exarchopoulos’ Adele is still slogging through high school, all burning desires and deep boredom, the perfect time for her to meet and fall obsessively in love with the slightly older Emma. There’s no love quite like the first (or one as confusing), and while Adele’s awakening isn’t just about sex, but also her sexuality, that her most formative of experiences comes at the hands of another woman is simply one facet of a highly relatable love story. Sure, audiences may still flock to the film for its unbridled sex sequences, but there’s no scene more telling than Adele, stuffing her sauce-stained face full of spaghetti, bursting with new desires that have to be redirected somewhere. —KE (Available on Netflix.)

“Kiss Me”

This lovely drama of errors from Swedish director Alexandra-Therese Keining offers a redemptive entry into the unfortunate lesbian-falls-for-straight-girl sub-genre of queer romances. Both in their thirties, Frida (Liv Mjönes) meets Mia (Ruth Vega Fernandez) when she arrives home for her mother’s engagement party, to Frida’s father. The future step-sisters are more interested in getting to know each other than their parents’ impending nuptials, complicated by the fact that Mia is engaged to a man. Visually appealing and with an unexpectedly clever script, “Kiss Me” succeeds where most lesbian romances fail. The characters are artfully drawn, they have excellent chemistry, and the older actors are equally compelling. “Kiss Me” is in Swedish with English sub-titles, so you can feel a little highbrow as your enjoy your dreamy lesbian romance for Valentine’s Day. —Jude Dry (Available on Netflix.)

“Eyes Wide Shut”

Eyes Wide Shut

“Eyes Wide Shut”

The last — and arguably the best — movie that Stanley Kubrick ever made, “Eyes Wide Shut” is a sexed up long night of the soul, a kinky riff on “The Gift of the Magi” that revolves around a married couple whose relationship is a lot like the massive Christmas tree that’s been hunched into the living room of their uptown Manhattan apartment: gorgeously ornamented and completely severed from its roots. In the broadest of strokes, this is the story of a jealous man who thinks that he’s trying to step out on his wife, only to discover (after nearly having sex with a half-dozen women and barely surviving the most hypnotic orgy ever committed to the screen) that he’s actually trying to find his way back to her, instead. As beguiling as cinema gets, “Eyes Wide Shut” may not be a Valentine’s Day viewing staple, especially now that it’s become something of a Christmas tradition, but it will remind you not to take your partner for granted. —David Ehrlich (Available on Netflix.)

“Before Midnight”

The latest (and possibly last) chapter of Richard Linklater’s singular trilogy is the most difficult of the three movies to love, but also perhaps the most rewarding. Both of the previous two films were buffeted by a romantic velocity, “Before Sunrise” capturing the magic of a first encounter and “Before Sunset” the absolute perfection of a second chance. “Before Midnight” doesn’t have things so easy — in this chapter, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have graduated from an idea to a reality, and that reality comes with a whole mess of real problems. Given that we’ve been involved in this relationship for as long as they have, “Before Midnight” can be an extremely painful thing to watch. But that last scene, in which Jesse digs himself out of a hole he built with his own two hands, is such an unshakably touching reminder of why people need each other that getting there (and getting through it) makes up for all the hurt along the way. This may be delicate Valentine’s Day viewing, the kind of thing to watch with a spouse who’s sensitive to the fact that marriage isn’t always going to be easy, but there’s something romantic about taking that to heart and rolling with it together. —DE (Available on Netflix.)

“The Big Sick”

“The Big Sick”

“The Big Sick” is very funny, culturally timely and finds a way [spoiler] to balance humor with the fact that one half of the romance is in a coma for the entire second act, yet the most underrated aspect of the Oscar nominated film (Best Original Screenplay) is it is one of the most fully fleshed out films about two people falling in love in recent memory. The magic ingredient here is Zoe Kazan, who plays Emily (based on co-writer/producer Emily V. Gordon) with a quick, take-no-BS wit that makes for an enjoyable meet-cute, while also bringing such a winning charm to the role that comedian Kumail Nanjiani convincingly settles into a leading man role based on his real life relationship with Gordon. Equally enjoyable is there is no forced rom-com conflict, but rather what stands in the way of love is an incredibly relatable story about how family, culture and love can clash. -Chris O’Falt (Available on Amazon Prime.)

“History Is Made at Night”

I’m going to blow your mind for a moment – not only is “Titanic” not the best romantic story set aboard the famous sinking ship, it’s not even close. The transformative power of love is far more the domain of Frank Borzage than James Cameron, and it’s on full display in a film that revolves around an absurd, but enjoyable plot in which a never-better Jean Authur plays a woman looking to divorce her disturbingly jealous husband, who sends someone to follow and capture her cheating. When Authur is gloriously swept off her feet (the best late night date of food and dancing ever) by a head waiter (Charles Boyer), it sets up a confrontation with the off-his-rocker husband who owns the ship the new couple are escaping to Paris aboard. -CO (Available on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck)

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