Romantic comedy recommendations?

About six and a half hours from now, I'm heading for the airport, whence I'll fly to Chicago for a belated anniversary/Valentine's weekend with Mary Anne.

(I have to note my level of sacrifice here. Here in California, spring has more or less arrived. Sunshine, flowers, the works. But the weather report tells me that over the course of the next four days, the high temperature in Chicago is going to be 32. Mary Anne's response? "Wow, it's gonna be warm--we'll even be able to go outside!")

One of the activities Mary Anne suggested for the weekend is watching a bunch of romantic comedies. She suggested that we just go to the video store and pick up whatever catches our eye, and that's probably what we'll do. But in the meantime, it occurred to me to ask friends for recommendations for romantic comedies, and I was kinda startled by what they said.

To me, "romantic comedy" is a genre; my idea of the genre roughly matches that Wikipedia article. Four Weddings and a Funeral is by far my favorite. My other two favorites--Love Actually and Two Weeks Notice (both of which I first saw with Mary Anne)--also star Hugh Grant, but he's neither necessary nor sufficient to make me love a romantic comedy. (I think Mary Anne liked Two Weeks Notice less than I did; she also liked Maid in Manhattan (which I saw around the same time) much more than I did, which wouldn't be hard.) Others I've liked quite a bit (but I'm not sure all of them quite count) include When Harry Met Sally, Shakespeare in Love, Pretty Woman, and Music and Lyrics (there's that Hugh Grant again). And there are a bunch of movies that are very solidly in the genre but that I didn't especially like, such as Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill (I think? Don't remember it very well), and Must Love Dogs.

Now, my definition of "romantic comedy" is somewhat flexible. I'm not sure, for example, whether I would count Wizard of Speed and Time, Moonstruck, Chasing Amy, The Object of My Affection, or Better than Chocolate, all of which I like quite a lot. And although I wouldn't put screwball comedies in quite the same category as romantic comedies, I can see that they're somewhere in the same general ballpark. (Likewise with John Hughes-style teenage sex comedies. I think Clueless, for example, is probably somewhere on the border of the romantic-comedy genre for me; I'd have to think about it more.) Still, there are plenty of movies that are both romances and comedies but that don't, for me, fit the particular genre boundaries of a romantic comedy.

Anyway, I was pretty startled when one friend (hi, N! I apologize for the following, and I hope it's clear that this is meant as teasing rather than mocking) suggested Juno. The ensuing conversation went something like this (exaggerated for comic effect):

Me: Interesting--I hadn't realized that was a comedy.

N: Well, I guess it isn't, not exactly.

Me: Well, and I hadn't realized it was a romance either.

N: I guess it isn't really a romance either. But it's really good!

Me: But a herring doesn't hang on the wall!

Anyway. So I asked another friend, whose first off-top-of-head romantic comedy recommendation was Star Trek IV.

Clearly my friends don't quite have the same associations with the term that I do.

Anyway, other recommendations from friends (hi, D & J! and E, but E doesn't read my journal as far as I know) included Gaudi Afternoon, The Tango Lesson, My Beautiful Laundrette, Gun Shy, Bull Durham, Crossing Delancey, and Groundhog Day.

I've only seen a couple of those; some I'd call romances, some comedies, some neither, but the ones I've seen (all of which I've liked) don't feel to me like they fit into my idea of the romantic comedy genre; they don't have the structure or tone of romantic comedies to me. But as we keep seeing, genre definitions are tricky, and my definitions don't always match other people's.

So now I'm curious: What romantic comedies would the rest of y'all recommend?

I don't know whether we'll end up renting or watching any of them, so this isn't specifically a question about what M and I should watch this weekend. (And anyway we aren't actually limited to only watching romantic comedies per se.) I just thought it might be fun to see what romantic comedies y'all like in general--and, in the process, get a sense of what people's definitions of that term are.

And now I'd better finish packing (luckily, I'm nearly done) and go to sleep, 'cause I gotta get up in about five and a half hours.

28 Responses to “Romantic comedy recommendations?”

  1. Joanne Merriam

    Notting Hill is one of my favourites of all time. I’m having trouble imagining somebody liking Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, but not liking Notting Hill, unless that person just hates Julia Roberts. It’s worth it just for the scene where his crazy and hilarious roommate runs out to model in his underwear for the papparazzi.

    I’ll second Groundhog Day, and add Lost In Translation (although the latter may not technically count as a r.c.). Really, any movie with Bill Murray is worth watching. Scrooged may also count here, though it isn’t the season for it.

    Also, The Truth About Cats and Dogs is a lot of fun, although you have to accept for the sake of the plot that Uma Thurman is more beautiful than Janeane Garofalo, and since I think Uma Thurman is interesting-looking but not beautiful, that was a stretch for me.

    And you can’t go wrong with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Paris When It Sizzles, or, really, any Audrey Hepburn movie.

  2. Amy Sisson

    A few older ones that I enjoy:
    For Love or Money (Michael J. Fox)
    The Secret of My Success (Michael J. Fox)
    Betsy’s Wedding (Alan Alda, Madeline Kahn, Molly Ringwald, et al.)
    Cousins (Ted Danson, Isabella Rosselini)
    The Cutting Edge (Moira Kelly, D.B. Sweeney — this movie is an all-time favorite)

    More recent:
    America’s Sweethearts (Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta Jones
    But I’m a Cheerleader (can’t remember her name + Clea Duvall)
    Clueless (Alicia Silverstone)
    Fools Rush In (blanking on names – guy from Friends…)
    Miss Congeniality (Sandra Bullock)
    A Lot Like Love (Amanda Peet, Ashton Kuchner)
    A View from the Top (Gwyneth Paltrow)
    Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow)
    Wedding Date (Debra Messing)

  3. JessieSS

    LA Story! Also, LA Story! Love that movie, LOVE IT. Then of course there’s Say Anything, which has both John Cusack and some really weird plot twists. Sadly, I cannot recommend High Fidelity because of, as my friend Kymm says, the enormous black hole where the love interest should be. But I did enjoy it aside from that.

  4. Tacithydra

    I would say Kissing Jessica Stein, except it utterly violates the tenets of romantic comedy in the denoument. =P Hm. You know, I don’t actually watch that many romantic comedies…

  5. Anonymous

    Harold and Maude. Very funny. Very very romantic.

  6. jacob

    I’ll second the recommendation to take another look at Notting Hill, unless you hate Julia Roberts (as some do). (Personally, I hate Andie McDowell, who for me almost ruined Four Weddings although everyone else, and the writing, are so good it’s still terrific. End digression.) And if you like Julia Roberts, you might like My Best Friend’s Wedding, which I rather liked, if only for the truly awesome title vocals by Ani Difranco. It doesn’t end in precisely the traditional romantic comedy way (one of the good things about it), but I’d still put it in the genre.

    There’s some nice stuff in My Big Fat Greek Wedding but overall I can’t really recommend it — the writing to me feels more like sitcom writing than movie writing, if that makes sense.

    I think you could safely put The American President into this category, and I liked that a lot. Aaron Sorkin, you know.

    If you haven’t seen Roxanne, then you must, of course. But I imagine you have.

  7. jaipur

    Well, Truly Madly Deeply is excellent–very romantic, and very funny. And LA Story as someone pointed out above, definitely, and Roxanne, though both are pretty dated. What was the Helen Hunt/Jack Nicholson movie–As Good as it Gets–I never saw it but lots of people liked it. I haven’t seen that many romantic comedies, to tell the trugh.

    Groundhog Day is ok but I wouldn’t think of it as what you are looking for; any movie where the main point is him coming to terms with being a jackass may not be good for your weekend (which rules out As Good as It Gets, I guess).

    And there’s always Office Space (hee hee hee). It’s a comedy! There’s some romance! 🙂 🙂

  8. Jenn Reese

    Just gonna repeat a bunch that others have said:
    The Cutting Edge
    LA Story
    While You Were Sleeping (my favorite Sandra Bullock)
    The American President (proto-West Wing)
    Kate and Leopold (not my fave, but kinda fun)

    If you want to go old-school,
    The Philadelphia Story is one of my favorite movies of all time, in any genre.

    I’m also a huge Gene Kelly fan:
    The Pirate
    Summer Stock
    Singin’ in the Rain
    On the Town

  9. Vardibidian

    My immediate response was to jump in with a bunch of recommendations; my second response was that I have learned not to recommend movies to you, because we have had Bad Experiences with that. My third response was that even if I wanted to, I doubted I could come up with any rom-com recommendations, because all the ones I’ve seen recently have stunk on ice. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WATCH KATE & LEOPOLD. Also, do not watch Waitress thinking it is a romantic comedy, because although it is a good movie, it is not a romance or a comedy. Nor are herrings green.

    Actually, now that I think about it, Hitch might be right up your alley. It’s a romance, it’s a comedy, there’s laughter and learning and whatnot. One has to like Will Smith, or at least not dislike the fellow, but that’s easy enough. Which leads me to the point that it seems reasonable to simply like Hugh Grant movies, much as Ms. Merriam up there likes Audrey Hepburn movies and I like Cary Grant movies or, oh, Greer Garson movies.

    OK, how about a Pride & Prejudice marathon, with the Olivier, the Knightley and Bride & Prejudice? I suppose that would be difficult to arrange, with the suggestion that you walk into a video store like some sort of wild animal in the wilderness. Still, romantic. Comic. Sweet.


  10. Megan

    If you have a long block of time (or a series of evenings), I recommend Nodame Cantabile. (I couldn’t get into the live action version, but the anime’s adorable.)

    I’ll add another vote for The American President. Dave‘s also good, if you’re already in the White House, and adjacent to romcom. I didn’t go as wild for Knocked Up as many folks, but it was cute.

    The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain falls very firmly in the “Hugh Grant” genre (as distinct from movies simply starring Hugh Grant, like About a Boy) and is therefore close enough to “romantic comedy” for horseshoes and hand grenades.

    “Romantic comedy” is not the same thing as “romantic” + “comedy”–there’s a specific set of expectations and conventions for a romcom that don’t necessarily apply to comedies that are also romantic. Some of the genre definitions get a little blurry around the edges, and I typically find that if I have the urge for a romantic comedy, it can be sated just as well by a movie I wouldn’t quite define as a romcom as by one that hits every single tonal and structural convention.

  11. Samuel

    I’m probably not operating on a very good definition of Romantic Comedy (especially since many of these are genre films of a different type), but immediately think of the 40s. Any of the Thin Man mysteries (comedic, and Powell/Loy throw in the romance) or the Topper series.

    Does State and Main qualify? Or am I completely tone deaf here?

    I need to see Wizard of Speed and Time. Elizabeth has a credited extra role, so it’d be worth seeing what she looked like ten years before we met 🙂

  12. Colin


    There’s a few I’ll second:

    Cutting Edge
    The American President
    Kate and Leopold
    Cousins (or the original version, Cousine Cousine, which is more serious and less light hearted, but I prefer the remake.)
    Fools Rush In
    Say Anything
    A View from the Top

    Ones that I didn’t see mentioned which I enjoy are:

    Serendipity (John Cusack in one of his better romantic comedy leads)
    Jet Lag (French film with Jean Reno and Jullitte Binoche)
    Simply Irresistible (fun fluff, don’t expect much subtance.)
    Mostly Martha (AKA Bella Martha) (Remade recently as “No Reservations,” which I haven’t seen but given that Catherine Zeta Jones, whom I can’t stand, is in it I don’t think I’d waste my money on the remake.)
    Better Off Dead (Mostly comedy, but it’s basis is in romance, though it, like Say Anything is based in high school.)
    Keeping the Faith
    I.Q. (Worth it alone for Walter Matthau’s portayal of Albert Einstein, but Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins were great in this.)
    Kissing a Fool

  13. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Funny — lots of the movies above, which I like, I wouldn’t consider romantic comedies. Mostly because they’re primarily about other things — for my strictly limited definition, these are two requirements for a romantic comedy:

    – must be primarily centered on the protagonists getting together — if it’s just a movie with some comedy and romance in it, but mostly about something else, it doesn’t count (and actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral counts, but for me, just barely, because in some moods, the funeral part overtakes the rest of it)
    – must have happy ending where folks are expected to live romantically happily ever after (i.e., I love My Best Friend’s Wedding, but it’s really a meta-romantic-comedy, rather than a romantic-comedy per se)

    In addition to many of the Hugh Grant / Julia Roberts movies above (all of which I pretty much love), and some of the others listed above, I’d add a bunch of poly movies too, like Threesome, Three of Hearts, Splendor, Cafe au Lait (also known as Metisse). Would love to hear about more like them!

  14. sairuh

    One of my favorites is Amélie, or its full title, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The fabulous destiny of Amélie Poulain). Because of my admitted distaste for most anything sappy, I only occasionally enjoy romantic comedies. But this film wins me over with its delightful mix of quirky personalities and fun bits of surrealism. And it shows the wacky side of Paris.

    Samuel, I didn’t realize that E was in Wizard of Speed and Time. So cool!

    [Apologies if this post becomes duplicated. Had server issues earlier.]

  15. sairuh

    Ah, and I just remembered A Room with a View, which you’ve already seen. I second Colin’s suggestion for the German film Mostly Martha, which is also a good foodie movie.

    Hm, all three films I’ve mentioned are European. Interesting.

    Others have mentioned some Cusack films I hadn’t heard of. As a fan Better Off Dead and Grosse Pointe Blank, I’ll have more to check out. 🙂

  16. Twig

    Earth Girls are Easy, Grosse Pointe Blank, His Girl Friday, The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love, Notting Hill, One Fine Day, Roman Holiday, Runaway Bride, Sabrina (’54 version), Say Anything, Serendipity, Shakespeare in Love, Two Weeks Notice, The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Singer, You Can’t Take It with You

    Others I liked at the time, but don’t know if they’d still work:
    Benny & Joon, But I’m a Cheerleader, Intolerable Cruelty, It Could Happen To You, The Pirate Movie, Sixteen Candles, Tootsie

  17. Twig

    Oh, I forgot A Room with a View. That was a favorite for many years. I like both Dave, and The American President. And I like Love, Actually.

  18. bethlet

    OK, since has mentioned it yet, I recommend French Kiss, with Kevin Klein and Meg Ryan. Almost no one I know has seen it, but I think the writing & plot are both really good, not to mention some beautiful scenes of France.

  19. Susan

    State and Main definitely qualifies! I remember the first time I saw that movie, being practically dumbstruck by the end, having realized that -David Mamet- had written a lovely little romantic comedy.

    I would say also 10 Things I Hate About You, which hits all the romantic comedy buttons and is -fabulous-. And maybe also, in that vein, Bring It On.

  20. Comfort me with Apples

    I’ll add “I love Lucy” which, while it’s got a bit of an annoying set up in the begining, was the second Henry Thomas movie to make me cry in one weekend. It’s also surprisingly unknown, particularly considering the people in it.

    Sliding Doors, which you’ve probably seen, is one of my favorite RCs. I usually hate Gwyneth, but I think the John Hannah Effect cancels her out.

    Also, and this is really more C than RC (and a painful C at that) but Eagle Vs. Shark should be on your to-watch list.

  21. kairon_gnothi

    I have a pretty flexible standard for romantic comedies, too; probably tending toward the darkly humorous ones. Most of these are seconding the above:

    Musical: Singin’ in the Rain; Bride & Prejudice
    Darker: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Lion in Winter, Harold & Maude, War of the Roses
    Lighter: Woman of the Year, 50 First Dates (and I usually hate Sandler), Benny & Joon, Roxanne, Fools Rush In, Groundhog Day, Breakfast @ Tiffany’s, Some Like It Hot, Kiss Me Kate

  22. Jed

    Wow–thanks for all the recommendations! I’ll probably comment more on several of these later.

    I pretty much agree with what Mary Anne said about what constitutes a romcom. In particular, to me the comedy must be in the service of the romance, not the other way ’round; the focus is on two (or occasionally more) people who you know are going to wind up together by the end of the movie, and on the growing relationship between them; and although the movie is funny, the comedy isn’t the center of it, isn’t what it’s primarily about. On the flip side, the comedy has to be integral to the movie for me–a romantic drama that has a funny scene or two doesn’t count, for me.

    So I’m curious: those of you who are recommending movies that don’t fit that paradigm, is it because you have a different idea of what the romcom genre is, or because you don’t see it as a genre and to you the phrase “romantic comedy” just indicates a movie that contains at least some aspects of romance and/or at least some funny bits?

    If you have different genre definitions, I’d be very curious to hear more about them–anyone up for attempting to define what you mean by the term?

  23. jacob

    Well, another reason to propose films outside the very specific romantic comedy genre is that there are only a certain number of “real” romantic comedies (studios tend to budget for a couple each year) and they are very well marketed as such. Therefore, you’ve surely heard about, well, all of them. I can’t think of many “real” romantic comedies in the past few years that haven’t been recommended by someone above. (In some cases things have been both recommended and trashed above — clearly this stuff is subjective; I’ll mention here that I thought French Kiss was awful, for example. And I love Kevin Kline. I also didn’t really like America’s Sweethearts or Serendipity although I love John Cusack, and really wanted to like both movies. On the other hand, I loved High Fidelity, but it’s not a romantic comedy.)

    So therefore, it’s pretty natural to think well, since you probably know about all the “real” romantic comedies, then, if you like romantic comedies, you might also like such-and-such. Or a particular “real” romantic comedy (say The American President, which I’d say qualifies) might bring to mind another movie that really isn’t a romantic comedy (say Dave).

    That said, it is a funny thing how this is clearly a very specific genre in the minds of many (including the studio executives) and yet really doesn’t seem to be one in the minds of many others.

  24. jere7my

    At the excellent Sex Workers’ Art Show we went to last night, one of the performers opened her monologue with, “You might remember me from Monster Cock Fuckfest 3.” (Beat.) “It’s a romantic comedy.”

    So, you could try that one.

  25. Shmuel

    I think I have two definitions for “romantic comedy”; one narrow, one loose.

    In the narrow sense, a romantic comedy follows the following inflexible pattern: boy meets girl [1] in a non-romantic way; boy and girl slowly fall for one another; just when this is complete, some misunderstanding or lapse in judgement causes one to dump the other; said other then regains the one’s good graces, and they are presumed to live happily ever after.

    [1] Or boy meets boy or girl meets girl, though in practice I don’t think I’ve seen any such film that didn’t mess with the formula in some additional way.

    In the looser sense, a romantic comedy is any movie in which a couple ends up happily ever after, regardless of how they get there, or whether the movie in general is particularly romantic and/or comedic.

  26. jlafler

    Of course Clueless is a romantic comedy. It’s an adaptation of Emma. Jane Austen invented the romantic comedy.

    I’m going to join the Truly Madly Deeply fan club. A lovely movie. Will watch again soon. I mean, it has Alan Rickman *and* Juliet Stevenson.

    Galaxy Quest. But I’m certain you’ve already seen it. Not a romcom by your definition, but it has a couple of minor romances. Also, the moment when Alan Rickman (sigh) finally consents to say “By Grabthar’s Hammer, you shall be avenged” and mean it, is about as romantic as it gets.

    I am fond of pointing out that about half the plot of Shrek is lifted directly from It Happened One Night.

    Of the classic romantic comedies, one of my favorites is Roman Holiday, which is more romantic than comedy (bittersweet ending — no, please don’t let Gregory Peck just walk away!!!!). I also like Holiday (no relation). Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and Lew Ayres in a wonderful supporting role.

    Someone mentioned Miss Congeniality above; it’s a surprisingly good movie.

    I tend to like romantic comedies where the romance is not necessarily the central element. Miss Congeniality is a good example; there’s a romance, but it’s not the main plot. It’s not the climax of the movie.

  27. Jed

    Was looking at this old entry today, thought it was worth posting some other romantic comedies I’ve liked lately (that haven’t been mentioned elsewhere on this page):

    Friends with Benefits
    No Strings Attached
    Imagine Me & You
    New Year’s Eve
    She’s the Man

  28. Arinn Dembo

    Will heartily second many of these suggestions, and add that in newer movies I have been seeing some healthy changes in the romantic comedy genre–especially those which are aimed at teenagers. A lot of the messages to “drop everything and chase happiness with a sexual partner” have been substituted for “sometimes you have to prioritize your own growth, no matter how much you love someone”, and I cannot help see this as progress.

    Older Rom-Coms That Still Kinda Work For me

    Pretty Woman, Romancing the Stone, Roxane, The Princess Bride, Dirty Dancing, Strictly Ballroom, Better Off Dead, Stardust, Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity, Groundhog Day, Scrooged, Jerry MacGuire, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Blast From the Past, Joe Vs. The Volcano, House Sitter, Bridget Jones Diary, Love Actually, Notting Hill, The Birdcage, and pretty much any version of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. (Give my +1 for Bride and Prejudice).

    Some (often newer) ones that I liked:

    Always Be My Maybe, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Bridesmaids, Crazy Stupid Love, Crazy Rich Asians, Love Simon, Yesterday, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Love and Monsters, The Holiday, Booksmart, The Half of It.


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