Romantic comedies- true romantic comedies- have a bad rap here on MRFH, and deservedly so. It’s a genre full of bad cliches, unbelievable coincidences, and come on- are we REALLY expected to believe that women who look like Jennifer Garner or Amy Adams can’t find a man willing to date them? The better ones tend to be forgettable and the bad ones are things of nightmares. Think I’m joking? Then let’s see you sit down and watch The Wedding Planner.
A friend of mine on-line was talking about writing a mystery, and genres and why certain conventions don’t work, and as she did, she hit the issue with romantic comedies on the head. There’s no tension. They are so formulaic that you know how they’re going to end, no matter what hijinks the movie throws at you. The boy is going to get the girl, and someone is going to learn An Important Lesson about love.
Let me also add that by romantic comedies, I mean the ones where the romance is the main plot. Almost every movie seems to have a romance plot that’s a B plot. When I was doing a bit of research for this article, I checked out some lists. There were some movies listed that, while they do have a strong romantic element, I wouldn’t consider the romance to be the A-plot. WALL-E, for example – I think the main plot is the quest to save Earth. Or About a Boy, where I consider the principle relationship to be the one between Marcus (the kid) and Hugh Grant’s character. Or even The Princess Bride. I’m talking the ones where romance is front and center.
With that in mind, I maintain that there are some romantic comedies that get it right, and are actually worth watching. So, without further ado, let me bring you my own top ten list.
10.) While You Were Sleeping
Let’s start out with a really conventional one, shall we? Generally, I consider Sandra Bullock in the lead female role to be one of the signs that this romcom will suck. However, While You Were Sleeping actually works. It has a rather loony premise, but then plays it out with some measure of seriousness.
One of my gripes about romantic comedies is that I do not believe in love at first sight. I really don’t. Lust? Attraction? Sure. But I’m a big believer that true love is something that needs to be built. And one of the reasons I like While You Were Sleeping is it lampoons that nicely, but realistically. It plays off the trope of love at first sight and shows the development of a better, stronger relationship without necessarily granting everyone absolution. Plus, the family, while a little wacky, is warm and wonderful. And to top it all off, it’s Christmas themed. (There’s something about Christmas that makes me want to watch romantic comedies.)
If you really want to watch a traditional, predictable romantic comedy, this is a decent one.
9.) The Holiday
Christmas, nice people, and sexy accents. What more could you want in a romance flick?
I debated here between Love, Actually and The Holiday, because in some ways they’re so much in the same vein. I chose The Holiday just because it features something unusual: people actually being nice to each other. I like Love, Actually, too, but for me, The Holiday edged it out, just a little. But both had realistic premises, overall, and the characters are nice to each other. Hey- that just doesn’t seem to happen often in the movies.
8.) Four Weddings and a Funeral
I seem to like the ones that are broken down into smaller bits. Four Weddings and a Funeral would have rated even higher on the list if I could stand Andie McDowell. But I can’t, and the fact that she’s in this movie and it still makes the list speaks extremely highly of it. What makes this movie for me isn’t so much the romance, but the quirky banter between a group of friends, and the subtle mocking of weddings in general.
7.) Say Anything
There had to be an eighties classic on here, and what is more classic or romantic than John Cusack holding his boom box over his head as it plays out Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”? One of the better teen romantic comedies, even though it’s (ready for this?) twenty years old.
Full frontal nudity breakup scene aside, this was a really memorable one for other reasons. Forgetting Sarah Marshall had its moments of crudeness, but the crudeness never overwhelmed the actual story of two people breaking up because they just weren’t right for each other. I really liked that, as the story progressed, we saw what both parties did wrong in the relationship, and that it wasn’t just one person being terrible to the other. Plus, the new love scenes are sweet, and Russell Brand is actually tolerable and even funny in this.
5.) The American President
Smart movies always make me happy, and this is early Aaron Sorkin. You can see the seeds of ideas for The West Wing all over this one, and not just in the repeat cast. But the romance between Andy and Sydney is refreshingly direct, and the complications stem from places that might not be applicable to all of us, but I find believable. (Dating the President of the United States really isn’t something most of us will do in our lifetimes.) The dialogue is funny, the supporting cast is memorable, and the White House setting and lack of dress-trying-on montages make this a great one for both guys and girls.
4.) The Wedding Singer
I don’t always like Adam Sandler. His man-child routine gets really old and annoying for me, especially as he often chooses to emulate childish behavior that I find obnoxious in a child, much less in a grown man. But every now and then he decides to let that part go and go for the less crude humor, like he did in The Wedding Singer (or in The Lonesome Kicker, or the Chanukah Song, or…). And the character of Robby, with Sandler’s innocent, optimistic humor and only the occasional utter immaturity, is actually likeable. I want him to get Drew Barrymore’s totally adorable Julia. Add in the recreation of the Eighties, the great music (say what you want about the fashion, but I still love Eighties music), and Billy Idol thoroughly enjoying his cameo performance, and you’ve got a winner.
3.) The Cutting Edge
Nothing says love like instant dislike. The dislike/sexual tension/turning into love thing doesn’t always work for me, but in The Cutting Edge, it works brilliantly. Both characters are completely obnoxious, but in a funny way, and show just enough vulnerability that you really see their human side and root for them. Plus, the skating! The skating is just fantastic, especially the final routine. Again, no fluff, no big implausible romantic gestures, and hockey for the guys and figure skating for the girls. Toe pick!
2.) Keeping the Faith
Keeping the Faith is one of my all-time favorite movies. I almost didn’t put it on here, because I was debating if it really was a romantic comedy or if it was a friendship movie, but then said heck with it and put it on because it does have romance and it’s just fantastic. What I love about Keeping the Faith, and what I think it does better than just about any other romantic comedy out there, is that it makes the relationships real. The misunderstandings and arguments are the ones that real people would actually have, rather than manufactured setups that romantic comedies so often go for. Plus, the exploration of faith, the acceptance of faith, and just the core group of friends is optimistic and cheerful and wonderful to see.
1.) When Harry Met Sally
And the big guns, When Harry Met Sally. I firmly believe this is the best romantic comedy ever made. It’s funny, it captures that friends turning into lovers, it’s believable, it’s not ridiculous, and it’s got both the funniest scene ever (the restaurant scene) and the best speech on love I have ever heard in a romantic comedy. I firmly believe this is the best romantic comedy ever made. It’s funny, it captures that friends turning into lovers, it’s believable, it’s not ridiculous, and it’s got both the funniest scene ever (the restaurant scene) and the best speech on love I have ever heard in a romantic comedy (that moment at the New Year’s Party.)
So, there it is. My ten romantic comedies that are actually worth watching. And with that, I leave you with a real treat. Follow this link, and go to the 3 minute 45 second mark. You will find that memorable, immortal scene from When Harry Met Sally… as performed by Miss Piggy and Billy Crystal. Yes, they really went there, and they kept it family friendly. Check it out, as my Valentine’s Day present to you all.