tavi gevinson’s 42 favorite movies, books, and albums about love

From ‘Edward Scissorhands’ to Toni Morrison, an ultimate list of what to read, watch, and listen to about l-o-v-e, curated by writer and actress Tavi Gevinson.

by Brittany Natale
08 January 2018, 5:04pm

Tavi Gevinson knows a thing or two about love. Her new book Rookie on Love, her fifth Rookie publication to date, is an anthology of essays, interviews, and even comics (you name it) all about the ties that bind. The 45 different contributors include critic Hilton Als, writer Durga Chew-Bose, musicians Florence Welch and Mitski, actress Gabourey Sidibe, and activist Janet Mock. “Love was a great writing prompt for our contributors because it's universal but invites really specific memories and ideas,” Tavi told i-D about the book. “I am obsessed with it as the one feeling language cannot do justice to, so for a bunch of people from this community, a bunch of my favorite writers, to prove me wrong, was mind-blowing.”

Gevinson’s all-encompassing definition of love — spanning family, friendship, romance, and even fandom — grants her writers free rein to explore every corner of the subject. Whether a personal narrative about falling in love for the first time, or a cartoon addressing heartbreak head-on, each piece in Rookie on Love feels like a treasured confession from your most brilliant friend.

Here, Tavi shares her own list of songs, books, movies (and one play) that navigate love in all its many different forms.

Related: Tavi Gevinson on love, and the difficulties of writing about it


I think it's kind of amazing that hearing "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line when I was little, even without the context of the musical's plot, it was clear to me that it was about not necessarily a relationship, but a more general feeling of love one had derived from performing, from being connected to an audience.

I'm obsessed with Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope as a play on those themes as well, where applause, belonging, and love become interchangeable.

Beyoncé's Lemonade, because it shows how scars and mistakes and histories make a love deeper, not doomed.


The Larry Sanders Show, because Garry Shandling insisted it was not about a bunch of people who wanted to be famous, but people who wanted to be loved.

Bye Bye Birdie, for its fictional heartthrob and the mad hormonal teenage love he inspires in a 23-year-old Ann-Margret, whose voice is literally deeper and whose body is more developed in the closing sequence than the opening.

Girlfriends is a perfect movie, and a perfect tribute to female friendship and self-love.

You Can Count on Me, for its beautiful capturing of sibling love.

Toni Erdmann, for the father-daughter love.

Terms of Endearment, for the mother-daughter love, particularly in contrast to the stories of Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine on set, like that on day one Winger turned around, lifted up her dress, and farted in MacLaine's face.

Moonlight, for its depiction of love that haunts.

Heavenly Creatures, because it makes the whole world outside of its central relationship seem unacceptably boring.

Phantom Thread, because I thought it'd be about a perfectionist mad genius who is too work-obsessed to love, and instead it depicted a love dynamic I don't think I've ever seen so painfully accurately rendered on-screen.

Paris, Texas, because watching it is pure heartbreak.

Harold and Maude and Minnie and Moskowitz, for love between eccentrics.

Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid, because it makes Benjamin Braddock-types look more like asses than deep young men.

Adaptation, because it's about how scary it is to care about something so much that you forget how to love it.

Wild at Heart, because Nic Cage and Laura Dern.

Tangerine, because I'd put the very last scene on the next Golden Record to show aliens what friend love looks like.

Edward Scissorhands, for the scene in which Edward goes on a talk show and looks at Kim through the camera and you can feel her heart drop.

Badlands, because Sissy Spacek blithely wonders what her future husband will be like while running away with her murderer boyfriend and I guess that's what I would be thinking about, too.

Something Wild, because it turns a crush into an adventure movie.

Man on Wire and American Movie, because they're documentaries about being in love with a dream.

Grey Gardens and the Bright Lights (the Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher documentary), because they're both real artifacts of true love between mothers and daughters.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's play Everybody, because in Everybody, running around and yelling about how afraid you are of death and aging and your own biology lets you submit to love, and then two giant skeleton puppets dance together.


Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz, because she understands how fame can seem like a catch-all solution to feeling unloved, much like Prince Charming, much like God.

The Talented Mr. Ripley , because it zeroes in on a desire so strong that it becomes the desire to murder and replace. "Behind every fan letter is the desire to murder and replace," from Ty Burr's book Gods Like Us, which is about movie stardom and fandom, and how our love of celebrities can be an indicator of what we love and hate about ourselves.

"Heart Museum" by Durga Chew-Bose, because it's exactly what it sounds like.

"Tristes Tropiques" by Hilton Als, for its ode to twinship, and to not knowing if you want to love someone or just BE them.

Call Me By Your Name , the book and the movie, because it is also about that improbable distinction, and makes you feel as lost in the characters as they are in each other.

The Story of Adele H. and I Love Dick, because they are about love letters, of which I've written many, and about when, in the words of Janet Malcolm, "it is with our own epistolary persona that we fall in love, rather than that of our pen pal."

I love Lolita , The Virgin Suicides , and early Taylor Swift for articulating, intentionally or not, what it means to be in love with the idea of love, in love with your own memories, with your own control, with a prevailing aloneness.

Annie Baker's John, because it's about love triangles in which the third person only really exists in your mind.

"Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?" by Kathleen Collins, because she pinpoints the tender details that make up a long, amorphous relationship-thing.

Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding , because Frankie seems like a silly 12-year-old who's overly obsessed with her brother's wedding but, actually, people of all ages are obsessed with weddings, with feeling a part of something, with forging a relationship to someone else's love that could fill in for a deeper relationship with people at large.

Toni Morrison's Beloved, because everything, but especially this: "Not even trying, he had become the kind of man who could walk into a house and make the women cry. Because with him, in his presence, they could."

David Foster Wallace's "Good Old Neon, " because it addresses the inefficiency of language and the unlikelihood of true empathy by telling the story of a guy who is unable to love and hates himself for what a cliché that is; then somehow by the end it achieves a feat of language so physically shocking that the potential of language as a vehicle for love, for empathy, for going beyond cliches, becomes cosmic.

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