Who says Valentine’s Day is only for couples? In our household, we celebrate the holiday as a family. And this year, now that my tween is better able to understand romantic love, I’m planning a family movie marathon centered exclusively around the joy (and heartbreak) of first love.
Take a look at eight movies that prove you never forget your first love:
Rated PG-13; 1996
What it’s about: You know the drill. It's the same timeless love story, but director Baz Luhrmann has given it a modern day setting and a pulsing soundtrack. Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) fall in love at first sight, but when their feuding families threaten to tear them apart, they choose the ultimate sacrifice.
Why tween girls will love it: Forbidden love, beautiful costumes, and a young Leonardo DiCaprio delivering William Shakespeare’s most romantic dialogue secures Romeo + Juliet a top spot in romantic cinematic history.
Why tween boys will love it: This modern adaptation of young love set against the backdrop of stunning visuals and a celebrated soundtrack make this classic love story seem more like an extended music video than a sappy love story.
Parents, FYI : Scenes of contemporary violence, including gunplay and some sensuality.
Rated PG; 2002
What it’s about: A studious good girl (Mandy Moore) and a popular bad boy teach each other about the fragility of life and love.
Why tween girls will love it: In this gentle story of love and loss, Mandy Moore gives an inspired performance as a relatable teenage girl eager to experience all that her abbreviated life has to offer.
Why tween boys will love it: Underneath those tough adolescent exteriors, tender hearts still believe in the transformative power of love.
Parents, FYI: Thematic elements, language and some sensual material.
Rated PG-13; 2004
What it’s about: A working-class boy (Ryan Gosling) falls for a high society girl (Rachel McAdams) in a romance for the ages. But will their societal differences drive them apart?
Why tween girls will love it: A very handsome and passionate young man stops at nothing to win the heart of his one true love for all of eternity. Total swoon.
Why tween boys will love it: It’s easy to identify with the “everyman” quality of the young leading man in his tireless quest to follow his heart. (And of course, a beautiful leading young lady doesn’t hurt either! )
Rated PG-13; 1998
What it’s about: A high-society young lady (Kate Winslet) engaged to a controlling aristocrat falls in love with a free-spirited artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) aboard the calamitous Titanic.
Why tween girls will love it: Once again, young Leonardo DiCaprio charms his way into young hearts with his adventurous spirit, while tragic and romantic themes evoke true heartfelt emotion.
Why tween boys will love it: With every bit as much action as romance, Titanic offers something for everyone.
Parents, FYI: Disaster-related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language.
Rated PG-13; 2014
What it’s about: Two teenage cancer patients (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) connect and fall in love without knowing how much time they have left.
Why tween girls will love it: The uncertainty of both characters’ fates proves that it’s possible to live a lifetime of love within a limited period of time.
Why tween boys will love it: This courageous love story highlighting the purity of the human heart is one that even the coolest tween boy won’t be able to resist.
Parents, FYI: Thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Rated PG-13; 1989
What it’s about: Opposites attract as a high school valedictorian falls for a charming slacker (played by John Cusack) following high school graduation. Can their relationship survive once she heads off to college?
Why tween girls will love it: Lloyd Dobler is irresistible as an underachieving wannabe kickboxer with a heart of gold who proves once and for all that love is all you need.
Why tween boys will love it: Can a directionless dreamer figure out how to get (and keep) the girl? They’ll want to stick around to find out.
Parents, FYI: Teenage drinking, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Rated PG-13; 1987
What it’s about: While summering with her family at an exclusive resort, a teenage girl falls for the club’s handsome dance instructor.
Why tween girls will love it: The dancing! The drama! The music! The passion! This classic coming-of-age story of a shy girl turned confident woman is a feel-good romance that will make them want to get up and dance!
Why tween boys will love it: The exact same reasons as those listed above (even if they’ll never admit it).
Parents, FYI: Sexual content including suggestive dancing, language, and mature thematic elements.
Rated PG-13; 1999
What it’s about: An adorkable journalist goes undercover to experience high school all over again as a popular girl who finds herself in love with her teacher.
Why tween girls will love it: This upbeat ugly-duckling love story speaks directly to the insecurities of every tween girl with plenty of humor and heart.
Why tween boys will love it: So LOL-funny, they’ll forget they’re watching a romantic comedy.
Parents, FYI: Sex-related material and some drug content.