Romantic Comedies are my favorite genre of movies.
One day I dream of writing the perfect romantic comedy. One that doesn’t require a woman to lose her job or put her entire life on hold for a man. A romantic comedy where the ridiculous shenanigans that we put each other through don’t come from a place of deception and fear that without which the movie would be 5 minutes long and who cares?
This list has been deeply researched and cultivated because I watch just about every rom-com that comes out-good or bad. Even terrible ones can have blissful redeeming qualities. Sometimes, I can even tolerate the nonsensical gender politics and the construct of women vs. men that has infiltrated our psyche.
There are two things that make a romantic comedy work-in my book. Charisma and two people who find themselves better together than they were alone. Oh, and the power that love has to bring us back to life-mentally, psychically, physically. Love can heal all and returns us to the possibility of believing in something bigger than ourselves-that is what makes life worth living.
You might ask where are the romantic comedies from this decade and I will say that when I find one that doesn’t slyly insult my intelligence as a woman and make me feel like my fallopian tubes are being removed through my nose then I will put it on my list. How it is that the movies I grew up with were more empowering than the stilettoed bikini waxed nonsense we portray women going through as a way of “catching a man” today? Really? We are still trying to catch a man. Ladies-we have vaginas. Bee meet honey.
Until that day here are my personal favorites.
Say Anything – John Cusack & Ione Skye. Classic. Perfection.
Jerry Maguire- Tom Cruise & Renee Zellweger. You complete me.
Don’t worry-they aren’t all Cameron Crowe movies.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – the reason Audrey Hepburn is Audrey Hepburn. Grace, quirk and being completely fucked-up in perfect measure. And Mickey Rooney being completely un-PC by today’s standards.
*Many other lists has Roman Holiday instead, but for the life of me I can’t understand why.
It Happened One Night – Claudette Colbert & Clark Gable
This is where it all began…and Clark Gable put the undershirt business out of business by not wearing one. Very risqué.
Some Like It Hot – Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis & Marilyn Monroe and a dress with the best jiggling ever put on film.
Ball of Fire – Barbara Stanwyck & Gary Cooper, Screwball at it’s best. This is sexy comic mastery.
My Favorite Wife – Cary Grant & Irene Dunne.
*Everyone else has “My Girl Friday” as Cary Grant’s best-but this screwball comedy actually has a level playing field and divine physical comedy.
Bridget Jones’ Diary – Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant & the inimitable Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. For Singletons everywhere.
Tootsie – Dustin Hoffman, Teri Garr, & Bill Murray. Oh, and Jessica Lange of course. Gender bending actors-thank you Sydney Pollack.
Moonstruck – Cher & Nicholas Cage. “A wolf without a foot.” Brilliant. Perfect. La Bella Luna will fix anything.
Punch-Drunk Love – Emily Watson & Adam Sandler. As stressful as falling in love is and as charming and rewarding if you can survive it.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey in my favorite performance of his and the multi-colored hair of Kate Winslet –For the broken hearted who can’t get free from the memory of the past to create something new- Michel Gondry genius.
Monsoon Wedding – From the woman who gave us Kama Sutra & Salaam Bombay, Mira Nair brings us one of my favorite topics to explore- multi-generational, new world meets old world thrown together in a wedding pressure cooker.
About A Boy – Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult. About love in more than a few ways.
Murphy’s Romance – Sally Field & James Garner, with a very young Corey Haim. A little more of a dramedy but the wisdom of the difference made when dealing with a man.
Something’s Gotta Give – Fuck Annie Hall-watch Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson be adults instead of neurotic narcissists.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and other British stalwarts who are also in Bridget Jones’ Diary. The coming back to life in a foreign country meets being a dreamer with the best of ensemble acting and heart.
Just because the last 3 will make many of you ask “Why do I have to watch movies about old people?”
Harold & Maude – Ruth Gordon & Bud Cort.
*Reference rom-com requirements and charisma
40 Year-Old Virgin – Steve Carell & Catherine Keener…and every other comic superstar birthed from Judd Apatow movies. The best awkward comic moments with a gooey sweet center.
Oh, and from this decade-here you go:
Trainwreck – Amy Schumer & Bill Hader. Thank you Amy Schumer for calling all of the nonsense out and making a possible for a multi-layered fucked up girl to be worthy of love too.
Silver Linings Playbook – J-Law & Bradley Cooper. 2 fucked up people worthy of love.
Brooklyn – Saoirse Ronan. Simple and breaktaking. Astonishing that a movie about a girl in the 50’s is the most independent female story of the year. If you watched Carol instead, I feel sorry for you.
Now. When you need a little something more and when a rom-com just won’t do it.
Who is ever in the mood for that? Once a month-Get your cake and blankie and watch these.
Can’t be with your soulmate cause the universe is a cruel cruel place- heal and watch a romantic drama and cry cry cry and find a way to search for something new. And don’t watch The Way We Were-it will only keep you searching for emotionally unavailable men.
Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. The reason why Casablanca is on every list of best movies ever-selfless love.
Dr. Zhivago – Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and a brilliant ensemble of the crème de la crème of actors. The best of sweeping epics. I watch it every ten years and every ten years it has a completely different effect on me. So, you can keep going back even if it didn’t get you the first time.
Wuthering Heights – Merle Oberon & Laurence Olivier. Heathcliff & Cathy. Heathcliff. Heathcliff.
Sense & Sensibility – Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson (won an Oscar for her screenplay) Alan Rickman
Speaking of crying in the rain-Willoughby. Willoughby. In memory of Alan Rickman-a must watch. He is the reason to care about these women.
Scenes From A Marriage – Liv Ullman & Erland Josephson
Ingmar Bergman. It was originally a Swedish TV show. It is 6 hours long. Watch with someone you love and then take breaks and have arguments. Humanity through the lens of the Swedish master.
And of course-the benchmark of romantic drama.
Romeo & Juliet – the Franco Zeffirelli version. It doesn’t get better…but if you just can’t stand that
The Baz Luhrmann version is a gorgeous sumptuous re-creation. Hell, make it a double feature with Moulin Rouge – Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman.
Which brings us to…
Aren’t they all-probably but they aren’t all good and there are so many-so a few outside the box choices.
Singing in the Rain – Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, & Donald O’Connor. It is the epitome and has the most delicious singing and dancing.
Once – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova. So gentle and sweet. I put this on the list for my hubby.
Umbrellas of Cherbourg – Catherine Deneuve & Nino Castlenuovo. Technically not a musical but the entire thing is sung. Director Jacques Demy creates a Technicolor fantasy of love and heartbreak.
What a Way To Go – Dame Shirley MacLaine & a host of iconic men. Technically also not a musical but who cares-it has all the things that I love about musicals. Costumes and giant set pieces…just watch anything Shirley is in and it will make you feel better…Even Terms of Endearment.
Bonnie & Clyde – Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway. Classic and wrong in all the best ways.
The Grifters – Anjelica Huston, John Cusack & Annette Bening. Wrong in all the wrong ways.
My personal favorite genre that kind of went the way of the 80’s love montage. We need to bring this back. Note to self: idea for rom-com premise-sexy independent woman whose main flaw is not knowing how to let a man be a man.
Romancing the Stone & Jewel of the Nile – Kathleen Turner & Michael Douglas. Sex appeal, intelligence, and travel oh my!
“Joan Wilder? The Joan Wilder?”
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – Gene Tierney & Rex Harrison. The title says it all.
Somewhere in Time – Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour. It will make anyone believe in the impossible.
Splash – Tom Hanks & Daryl Hannah. Again, belief in the impossible.
The Fountain – Rachel Weisz & Hugh Jackman. When you don’t know what to believe.
Just Like Heaven – Reese Witherspoon & Mark Ruffalo. My personal go to-anything is possible where destiny is concerned.
50 First Dates – Drew Barrymore & Adam Sandler. “Wait, you have to find a way to make her fall in love with you every day?” Yup.
Hot Tub Time Machine – John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke & Lizzy Caplan. Yes, it really is about a hot tub and time travel.
Bull Durham – Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins. And baseball? Yes, please and thank you.
Fever Pitch – Drew Barrymore & Jimmy Fallon. Again, baseball charisma-indulgence, yum.
AND OF COURSE – FRENCH
Who knows more about love than the French? Well, at least they make great movies.
Cleo 5-7 – Directed by Agnes Varda, the Mother of the French Neue Wave. My all-time personal favorite-made me want to direct movies.
Chloe in the Afternoon – Directed by Eric Rohmer. Will never let you down in the illumination of life’s complexities.
Amelie – Audrey Tautou. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Truly a masterpiece of whimsy.
The Diving Bell & the Butterfly – Mathieu Amalric & Emmanuelle Seigner. Directed by Julian Schnabel. An uncomfortable glorious painting.
Betty Blue – Beatrice Dalle. One of the saddest romantic stories ever. Heart wrenching. And opens with morning sex. They way people actually have sex.
GAY & LESBIAN ROMANCE
Okay it would be an oversight to not comment on the fact that this category shouldn’t have a reason to exist because love is love but it is necessary and so underrepresented that it is an embarrassment, a failure of our culture. And that this year’s Carol was touted as a lesbian movie is infuriating-since it really was about a self-centered narcissist who thought not of anyone but herself and used everyone she came in contact with. Ladies, we need to step it up.
But, I’m A Cheerleader – Natasha Lyonne. Cultish, quirky, delicious.
Bedrooms and Hallways – Jennifer Ehle, Hugo Weaving, & James Purefoy. A little outdated but is a good example of labels not mattering.
Brokeback Mountain – Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger. Heartbreak city. “I wish I knew how to quit you” We’ve all been there.
Far From Heaven – Dennis Quaid, Julianne Moore & Dennis Haysbert. Where Todd Haynes got it right.
Warm Bodies – Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco & Rob Corddry. Zombies need love too.
You know you have gone too far when you get to Romantic Zombies.
There of course are many not mentioned here. There are plenty of other wonderful romantic comedies out there. I only put the ones I watch on my list. Because “When Harry Met Sally” is perfect- everyone knows it, but does it really need to be on another list?