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8 Romanceless Movies and TV Shows to Watch on Valentine’s Day



This one’s a bit more open to interpretation. While there are no canon romantic subplots in Sherlock there’s a ton of subtext, most notably between Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) and Sherlock and John Watson (Martin Freeman).

First, as regards Sherlock and Irene: I see their relationship as one more between kindred spirits than potential lovers. Plus Adler says in A Scandal in Belgravia that she’s gay. But then she’s into Sherlock emotionally (romantically? sexually?). And as for Sherlock and John… the subtext is there, and the show has fun with joking about how a pair of co-dependent male roommates resemble a gay couple. But canonically speaking, they’re not lovers. If it turns out all the joking and subtext was a romantic subplot all along and something does end up happening in a later season I will gladly come back here and strike this entry out.

In a way, the relationships between Sherlock characters are too complex to mesh with the standard TV romantic tropes. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) loves Sherlock from afar, but there’s never any question that nothing romantic will come of that. Watson has dating troubles, but his romances are less a subplot than a plot device, there to establish something about his relationship with Sherlock.

Basically, Sherlock is not your standard show, and it’s not going to play into the standard “will they or won’t they/pining from across a crowded room” romance tropes that other series do. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault other series for doing that. It’s fine. But while there’s at least a good assortment of movies with no romance Sherlock is literally the only adult TV series I can think of that qualifies. (TV shows normally show a larger swath of life than movies, after all, and real life generally does include romance.) So I’m including it. Your mileage may vary.

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  • Jen Rubel

    You could also mention Elementary, which is also Sherlock Holmes. But his relation with a female Watson is one of friendship and there is no sexual tension at all which is nice to see on a mainstream tv show.

  • Anonymous

    I think I read somewhere once that the only reason they included Wybie was that Coraline has no friends in the book and most of her character development exists in internal monologue, so in the movie they had to create a character that she could actually talk to as a sounding board for that development to manifest in a visual medium.

  • Ryan Colson

    This is missing Night of the Hunter and pretty much every non romantical Criterion release, jus sayin’

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I haven’t watched Elementary yet, which is why I didn’t include it—but I heard that about the platonic relationship between Sherlock and Liu’s Watson. Pretty cool. :)

  • Anonymous

    That really is so true. There are lot’s of other type of relationships people have, but Hollywood ALWAYS goes for the “easy answer”, instead of the more interesting one. Which is why I’ve gotten pretty bored with big Hollywood movies and have moved on towards other types of media.

  • Chris Talbot

    My wife always called it “National Man-Punishment Day”. :-)

    Also, apologize for grammar nazi-ism: “tomorrow might be Valentine’s Day…”.

  • drgeek

    Thanks for this article!!! Well done. How about The Big Lebowski? He’s just helping her conceive, man.

  • Anonymous

    I would say that Silence of the Lambs has a very, very slight romantic subplot. I think it’s pretty clear that Hannibal has a little bit of a crush on Clarice….I mean, he didn’t want to eat her liver, so that’s something, right?

  • Anonymous

    “…and B) Judge Dredd isn’t a sexual character. At all. He doesn’t even take his helmet off.”

    Interestingly, a new Judge Dredd storyline features Dredd entering a fetish scene to find the targeted son of a recently killed man. The son has apparently just come out and seeks refuge at the fetish club, which fetishizes Dredd himself. So Dredd has to enter a club where everyone is dressed like him, and has to confront the cultural (and sexual) impact his asexual presence has had on the world he lives in. Pretty meta and amusing.

  • Anonymous

    “…and B) Judge Dredd isn’t a sexual character. At all. He doesn’t even take his helmet off.”

    Interestingly, a new Judge Dredd storyline features Dredd entering a fetish scene to find the targeted son of a recently killed man. The son has apparently just come out and seeks refuge at the fetish club, which fetishizes Dredd himself. So Dredd has to enter a club where everyone is dressed like him, and has to confront the cultural (and sexual) impact his asexual presence has had on the world he lives in. Pretty meta and amusing.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Damn my typos. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Liz Baker

    Could not disagree more strongly about Sherlock, which spends FAR too much time gay-baiting its audience (and the entire portrayal of Irene was already terrible, but then they essentially added the “his healing clock made the lesbian straight!” trope, which was just completely offensive and I won’t pretend otherwise).

    My point is, far from eschewing the cliche, Sherlock’s romance is ENTIRELY the tiresome “will they or won’t they” shtick, and I get the strong impression that everyone involved thinks they’re extremely daring for doing it. Bleh.

    Elementary recommendation with the power of a thousand suns.

    Otherwise, I like the list; we need more like this.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I see Sherlock as romaceless BECAUSE of its queerbaiting (among other things). Because despite how the show jokes about Johnlock I get the feeling Moffat would never in a million years actually make it happen. It’s “will they or won’t they” without a real “will they.” Stop it, Moffat, it’s insulting.

    Anyway, I basically agree with you, is what I’m saying. And Elementary’s moving on up the “to watch” list.

  • Lindsay Beaton

    I will add a third vote for Elementary. Every episode I send vibes out into the universe that there exists in this show’s writers’ room a giant sign that says “Thou Shalt Not Romantically Involve Holmes and Watson.” Such a gloriously platonic dynamic.

  • ShifterCat

    I’d like to put in a mention for Monsters Vs. Aliens. A big chunk of the the heroine’s character development is her realizing that she’s better off without her selfish fiance, and finding happiness with an unusual career and friends who appreciate her for who she is.

  • Tex Arcana

    In Alien, there is one “romantic” scene, where Ripley connects with millions of pubescent viewer while getting semi-naked…

  • Diane Zaida

    I like Tron Legacy. Sure they lay the ground for a romance in the sequel but they don’t force it into this one. No “I just met you and now I love you” that is so common in Disney movies.

    I’ll also throw T2 out there as Kyle is dead by this point (and does he even show up in the theatrical cut? i can’t remember.)

  • Travis Fischer

    Sherlock and Adler are romantic in that their relationship really the only kind of relationship they could ever have with each other.

    They are on opposite sides of the law. They are both paranoid about each other. They express themselves mainly through emotional manipulation. She’s gay and he’s… Sherlock.

    There is absolutely no reason they should even like each other. But at the end of the day, they make it work in the best way they can. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

  • Lady Rainicorn

    As a straight-up lesbian with an absolutely massive crush on Benedict Cumberbatch, I would like to say that I actually found the ‘straight for Sherlock’ thing pretty realistic and put in my application for his healing cock to turn me straight.

  • Anonymous

    Lol no.

  • Carly Hunter

    Its funny how different peoples interpretations of things are. I thought Merida was a decendant of the cursed bear making the same mistake he had.

  • Rachel

    Wizard of Oz (1939): Sure Dorothy may miss the Scarecrow most of all, but they cut the romantic subplot that would have made that line make more sense. As a result it’s just a movie about a girl trying to get home with the help of her 3 awesome best friends.

    Reservoir Dogs: There’s only a handful of women in periphery roles and all of the men are presumably straight.

    Also, Silence of the Lambs was always my favorite movie to watch on Valentine’s Day while I was single.

  • Megan Gotch

    ENG one of my top fav movies EVA! LAMHA FACE!!!! THX for giving it some love!!

  • The Shipper

    Silly Mary Sue, no romance? Please GUUURL! The shipping and sexual tension are strong on your selections. The imminent feeling of shipping will crawl in your body and make you think on romance as twice as much as regular romance. Have you learnt nothing about fandom? Silly innocent blog!

  • Anonymous

    You may be right. I only saw it once in theaters some time back.

  • Liz Baker

    The agreement makes me happy (feeling insulted by showrunners ruins things for me, and Moffat’s baiting is absolutely insulting) and do! Joan Watson is a super-interesting take on the character, and I loooove the inclusion of minor characters like Gregson, who I’ve never seen in an adaptation before. It’s such a different look at the world and I love it.

  • T

    Joke post because that fucker has to be one of the ugliest human beings in existence. You are not a lesbian.

  • Liz Baker

    Also a lesbian, but I didn’t think it was relevant, because very few people are 100% either way in real life and we all have exceptions. Exceptions which, when they exist, do not make our 99% orientation any more prominent.

    That’s real life, though, and THIS is representation in the media, an incredibly damaging representation that tells viewers that gays and lesbians can be “changed” and all we need is the right straight person to apply their genitalia.

    If you don’t see he danger there, congratulations on having never been exposed to “ex-gay” “therapy”, but shit like this only encourages it.

  • Liz Baker

    *any LESS prominent
    *the, not he

    Stupid cell phone typing.

  • Ash Ketchum

    Well, thanks for contributing to the dumb as fuck idea that all a lesbian needs is the right man. And I have to concur with T, that’s one ugly motherfucker.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, would Warehouse 13 count. The expected pairing (PeteMyka) has more of a brothersister-relationship than a romantic one.

  • Electrical Rat

    I recommend “The Replacement Killers”
    It’s about two people shooting other people and kicking butts and one happens to be a man, the other one happens to be a woman. The End
    It was so refreshing having a film with that kind of plot that was about a growing friendship not about having some random and lame sex scene.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    It can be hard sometimes to separate shipping from canon, but I tried. :)

  • Magic Xylophone

    Perhaps the deferred romance is a silver lining of modern Hollywood’s penchant for franchise-baiting?

  • Magic Xylophone

    “a same-sex cast didn’t equal no romance 95% of the time.”

    Well, I mean… isn’t that demographically accurate?

  • Christopher Holden

    Great Article! I’m going to throw in my favorite romance-less movie just for kicks; Hidalgo. No love there except that between a man and his horse (minds out of the gutters people)

  • janna roam

    This is a very interesting movie list, you a have a little of everything in here. I won’t be able to watch any of these for Valentine’s Day today since I’m working late at DISH, but I could rent one and watch it as a belated celebration next week. I think I’ll rent Brave from Blockbuster @Home through DISH, which has over 100,000 titles to choose from, so it’s always easy for me to find the movie I’m looking for.

  • Mark Brown

    Ditto the “secondary couple,” Claudia/Jinks (because Jinks is gay).

    Arty, of course, is confused by this human emotion called “love” and has no time for it.

  • Anonymous

    I get NO “will they won’t they” tension from Sherlock. I mean, from John and Sherlock. I’m frustrated that no one on television or in movies seems to be able to have very close friends without having sex with them at some point. People talk about the romantic tension between Frodo and Sam in LotR as well, but honestly, are people not allowed to have friends? If they wanted to introduce a boyfriend for either character, that’d be one thing, fine, but if they were to put John and Sherlock together, it would be wrong, that’s not the point of their relationship.

  • Joe G

    Re: Romance subplots in action films–my understanding is, they weren’t originally included to cater to female demographics, but to

  • Anonymous

    Love this list. I get into a lot of moods where I can’t handle romance, and I always watch Alien or Hot Fuzz depending on the amount of humor I want.

  • Meg P. W.

    I had never heard about a romantic subplot involving Dorothy and the Scarecrow. That’s so nutty!
    I always thought she missed him most of all because she met him first and spent the most time with him – especially since it would be harder to get attached to a heartless Tin Man and a Lion who threatened to kill you when he met you.

  • Natalie Willoughby


    /end yelling excitedness

  • Viperswhip

    I would have expected The Sarah Connor Chronicles to be the show. There is not a single major female character in Sherlock. Sarah doesn’t not care about Men, she doesn’t have time for that aspect of her life, and the one relationship she does enter is to get information on the guy’s project and maybe kill him.

  • Anonymous

    Late to the party, but I’d like to mention the recent horror movie “Mama”. Not just zero-romance, it also very very nearly fails the reverse Bechdell test … I also have a love / hate relationship with it as it scared me witless, yet I also found it compelling.

  • Raven Jennifer Demers

    While it’s a kids movie, I was just saying to my daughter how much I liked that in “Finding Nemo” the relationship between Marlin and Dory never becomes romantic, yet they end up bonded together in a close, platonic relationship where both get their needs met and take care of one another. The romance is already over in the first few minutes of the film when explaining Marlin’s back story and losing his mate.

  • Ham Boner

    Merida wasn’t gay. She just didn’t want to marry the men she was offered. Plus she was just a kid. No kid knows what they want.

  • Anonymous

    But you’re only joking.

    If you want a “healing cock” there are plenty of men willing to provide it.

    I’m tired of queer women calling themselves lesbians when they get ladyboners for men!