What are you looking for in a film that you want to watch on a first date? Maybe something funny? Something romantic? Or something a bit scary, in order to facilitate cuddles?
(Incidentally, this is #42 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)
For me, I’m thinking probably the basic thing is you want something that is enjoyable and a bit “safe” – nothing too extreme or challenging, but well done.
So with that in mind, I’m probably recommend something like these:
Ant-Man (2015 – directed by Peyton Reed)
A mostly stand-alone Marvel superhero film, subscribing to their popular formula, but with plenty of humor mixed in with the heroics.
Hitch (2005 – directed by Andy Tennant)
Will Smith and his charisma headline a clever romantic comedy that offers plenty of laughs.
The Fugitive (1993 – directed by Andrew Davis)
A little on the older side now but still a big budget adventure movie with solid character work by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, and some outstanding action set pieces.
That Thing You Do (1996 – directed by Tom Hanks)
An smartly produced but small scale comedy about the struggles of a young band that suddenly hits it big. Solidly enjoyable.
However, on the other hand, when I think of the early days of a romantic relationship, I also think this is a period where you are getting to know each other, and finding out if you enjoy being with each other on a more personal level. Ultimately, you are finding out if the person you are going out with is the person you want to marry. At least, that’s my philosophy.
So, if we look at it from that point of view, there might be other films you want to watch, that might stir certain sorts of conversations or help you learn certain things:
La La Land (2016 – directed by Damien Chazelle)
Not last year’s Best Picture winner, but a very good movie about two dreamers in Los Angeles who face the reality that their dreams and their relationship may not be compatible.
Good for: Talking about “calling”–where are you going in life and is that compatible with the person you are with. Normally, I’d say there is time in a relationship to get into the deep topics, but this is such a fundamental one that people often miss, you might as well dive into it up front and find out if you are wasting each other’s time.
Up (2009 – directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Bob Peterson)
One of my favorite Pixar films, although apparently not enough to get it on my list of favorite animated movies. It opens with a short sequence that covers just about everything in life, and then goes on to tell a wacky fantasy story about an old man, an awkward boy, and a talking dog all moving a house to South America by attaching to thousands of helium balloons.
Good for: Talking about a surprising range (for a kid’s movie) of serious topics, including financial priorities, facing mortality, and attitude toward children. These are big things that couples need to get on the same page with, not necessarily on the first date, but a film like Up provides a pretty safe way to start talking in “hypotheticals”.
The Apartment (1960 – directed by Billy Wilder)
A romantic comedy/drama with an uplifting ending, but which walks through some pretty dark stuff to get there.
Good for: Gently probing to find out what sort of creepiness might be in your dates’ background. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine both play likeable characters who have some pretty messed up stuff in their lives. This might be a good chance to ask things like, “Gee, I’m glad I never sold out my values to get a promotion, or had an affair with my married boss, aren’t you?” and then see how they respond.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016 – directed by Zack Snyder)
Comics’ two biggest superhero icons come face to face in a movie that can only be described as a disappointing underachiever.
Good for: Finding out how your date relates to his or her mother. We get a lot about this in this movie, for both Superman (whose mother is alive) and Batman (whose mother is not). This is really, really important stuff for a long-term relationship, because it will have a lot of impact on how they relate to you. If you are more interested in finding out how your date relates to his or her father, then maybe see Man of Steel instead.
Pearl Harbor (2001 – directed by Michael Bay)
Two young friends find themselves in a complex relationship triangle with a nurse they’ve met in the military. Oh, and Japan attacks Pearl Harbor during World War II as well.
Good for: Well, I think Pearl Harbor is a terrible film. But some people really like it. No matter what side of this fence you sit on, wouldn’t it be good to find out if your prospective life-time partner is there with you, or if instead this is going to be a point of controversy between you? Don’t you want to know if one partner is forever going to be tempted to mock the other for their unsophisticated film tastes, whilst the other will always be lamenting their partner’s cultural elitism? I know it’s only a first date, but bite the bullet and find out, so you know what you are getting into.