Dinner and a movie can make for a great date night. But it can feel a little lazy, too.

Do you really just want any dinner and any movie?  Especially on Valentine’s Day, don’t you want to put a little more thought into it?

One way to do that is by picking a dinner that fits the theme, locale or vibe of the movie you want to watch. You could impress your significant other with a clever movie and dinner combination, or you can have fun brainstorming together.

Here are some dinner and a movie pairing suggestions, based on what’s playing in southern Maine theaters now (or likely will be), as well as what’s streaming now. Several area theaters had not completely confirmed their scheduled for Valentine’s Day by press time, so check to make sure the movie you want is playing before the big date.


“Wonka,” the newest film inspired by the Roald Dahl novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” came out in December and will likely still be at southern Maine venues on Valentine’s Day. The musical fantasy film stars Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka and tells the story of his early days of making candy and how he became who he is. If you see the film in Greater Portland, you could pair it with dessert at Gross Confection Bar in Portland’s Old Port. A caramelized banana mousse or a brown butter coconut macaroon should satisfy your sweet tooth. The movie may also be showing at one of the Maine locations of Smitty’s Cinema, a movie theater/restaurant chain. You could watch the movie while sampling something from the extensive dessert menu, which includes ice cream sundaes, floats, cheesecake, shakes and cakes.


If you go to see “Wonka” on Valentine’s Day, you’ve got to have something sweet to go with it, perhaps from Gross Confection Bar in Portland. Jaap Buittendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures


The film “The Taste of Things” is romance set in a French kitchen in the 1880s, focusing on a gourmet and the cook who works for him. It stars Juliette Binoche as the cook and follows her relationship over 20 years or more and the incredible food she creates. It’s scheduled to play at the Maine Film Center in Waterville on Valentine’s Day. Management at  Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland are hopeful they’ll have the film then, too. You could pair a Portland showing with diner at Chez Rosa in Kennebunkport – with a traditional French menu – about a half hour south, or go a half hour north to Maine Street Bistro in Brunswick. If you see the Waterville showing, you might dine at Bistro Milliard in Hallowell, which focuses on the wines and food of Southern France and Northern Italy.


In the movie “Nyad,” Annette Bening earned an Oscar nomination for best actress for playing someone who is obsessed with swimming from Cuba to Florida. Her dream seems to start, according to the movie, with her childhood fascination with Cuba and carries her through a marathon swimming career that extends into her 60s. So you could pay homage to the Cuban spirit by streaming this movie – it’s on Netflix – and getting a Cubano sandwich to go from Quiero Cafe, with locations in Saco and Portland. Or dine-in and feast on Caribbean flavors before the movie, at Caribbean Taste in South Portland.

Film Review - Nyad

“Nyad” is about a woman obsessed with swimming from Cuba to Florida, so why not watch it with some Cuban or Caribbean take-out. Liz Parkinson/Netflix via AP


The romantic drama “Past Lives” is a slow-paced and beautifully filmed story about childhood friends (sweethearts?) from South Korea who are torn apart when the girl’s family emigrates. The films catches up with them at a couple different times in their lives and relationship over 20 years. The early scenes especially may make you hungry for Korean food. So you could sample some Korean fusion cuisine in style at N to Tail in Portland and stream the movie at home. It’s available on Prime Video and Apple TV, among other services.


Film Review - Past Lives

Greta Lee, right, and Teo Yoo in a scene from “Past Lives,” set partially in Korea. Jon Pack/A24 via AP


There are at least a couple Massachusetts-set films nominated for best picture Oscars this year, including “American Fiction,” which was actually filmed along Bay State beaches, south of Boston. So you could celebrate the New England coastal vibe of that film with some clam chowder or other seafood dish. Maine actor Dustin Tucker is in the film – in a key beach scene – so you might get your chowder at one of Tucker’s favorite local restaurants, Gilbert’s Chowder House on Portland’s waterfront. The film is slated to play at several Greater Portland theaters.

Jeffrey Wright stars in “American Fiction,” set partially on the Massachusetts coast. Photo by Claire Folger/Orion Releasing


Another Bay State-set film that’s getting acclaim this Oscar season – and also features Dustin Tucker in a small role – is “The Holdovers.” It stars Paul Giamatti as a disliked teacher at a private boys’ boarding school near Boston in the 1970s. The locales include several private and public schools, but also some pretty gritty areas in and around Boston. So to celebrate that, why not try a classic North Shore roast beef sandwich – made famous by Kelly’s on Revere Beach – from George + Leon’s Famous Roast Beef in Westbrook. The movie is currently streaming on several platforms, including Peacock, Apple TV and Prime Video.

The Super Beef with roast beef, griddled onion roll, BBQ sauce, white American cheese and mayo at George and Leon’s in Westbrook, Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


How perfect for Valentine’s Day that a movie called “One Love” is opening. It’s a biopic that tells the story of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, and is scheduled to be playing Valentine’s week at theaters all over Southern Maine. It’s scheduled to open at the Apple Cinemas IMAX in Saco on Valentine’s Day, so you could get some takeout Jamaican food from Go See Tyce BBQ in Saco, before or after a showing. Or, if you see it closer to Portland, pick up some Jamaican fare from Yardie Ting in the Public Market House.

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