Valentine's Day is coming up, so naturally everyone who enjoys and celebrates the holiday may be looking for some classic romantic movies to watch that evening. Whether you're into straight romance, are more of a rom-com person, or like your films a bit more dirty, there's something for everyone to share with their partners (or their friends, if they're celebrating Galentine's Day). One of the films I've always found incredibly romantic, though, is not your conventional Valentine's Day movie. Roberto Benigni's Italian film Life is Beautiful is one of my favorite romantic movies for the holiday, despite its serious tone.
Now, I know what you're probably thinking: "Wait, isn't Life is Beautiful that Holocaust movie? How can that possibly be romantic?!?" Yes, you're completely right; the movie's second half does take place during the Holocaust and is set within a concentration camp. But the first half is essentially a romantic comedy, featuring huge romantic gestures, an adorable couple, sweeping music, and hilariously charming moments that are totally swoonworthy. It might be an unconventional choice for a Valentine's Day romance, but it does feature some serious romance, even if things get way darker in the second half of the film.
Life is Beautiful stars Roberto Benigni, who is also the film's director, as a poor Jewish Italian named Guido. Making his way through the country on the way to find work in a larger city, he accidentally meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) and is instantly infatuated with her, calling her Principessa (Princess) and making her laugh with his antics and witty wordplay. Throughout the first half of the film, the duo continue to meet accidentally, in varying ridiculous circumstances. Ever on his toes, Guido uses his quick wit, love of life, and charming humor to impress Dora, and she returns his love. But her wealthy family and status have her already betrothed to a man she doesn't love. Enter Guido, on quite literally a white horse to rescue her from her own engagement party, and the two ride off into the sunset.
At this point, halfway through, it would be totally understandable to turn the movie off and consider your night complete. Watching Guido court Dora through hilarious and yet suave means like, for example, pretending to be a government official visiting the school at which she works, or giving her a ride in a rainstorm, is the epitome of romance, and you might not be into where the movie goes from there. But if you're brave, and can get through the extremely sad, horrific, and hard to watch moments of the second half, you'll see that despite the darkness, the whole film is truly a beautiful affirmation of life and love.
Even when things get serious, Guido's grand romantic gestures continue throughout the second half of the film. Guido and he and Dora's son Giosuè are carted off to a concentration camp for being Jewish, but Dora, in her own dangerous grand gesture, refuses to let them go alone, and agrees to board the train with her family. Once separated, Guido hides Giosuè from the guards, and convinces him they're playing a long, complicated game. Though Dora is separated from Guido, he never loses his romantic spark for showing off. Whether he's playing their favorite opera over the camp-wide sound system, or giving his wife confirmation that they are alive by having Giosuè speak to her on the loudspeaker, Guido's love for his wife and incredibly romantic actions continue the love story through the difficult section of the film.
So if you're perhaps looking for something a little unconventional to watch this Valentine's Day, I'm telling you, Life is Beautiful has some of the best romance in cinema. I won't blame you for only giving the first half a shot, but despite its incredibly sad second half, I promise you that the movie has tons of laughs, swoonworthy romance, and a truly powerful ending.