Romantic comedies are like Top 40 tunes to movie critics – they’re fun to watch and are easy entertainment, but sadly fall under the category of “guilty pleasure” all too often. And that’s because, for whatever reason, too many writers seem to find sadistic pleasure in screwing up the genre for all of us rom-com lovers – giving us cringe-worthy pieces like Gigli, Mr. Wrong, and the career stain that was From Justin to Kelly (which, quite frankly, the lead actors want to forget as much as we do).
However, for those disheartened enough to consider giving up on the genre altogether – hold it right there: there’s more Rom Coms can offer besides a shitty McConaughey flick, and here are the movies to prove it.
FIB picks the top five rom-com movies that are excellently done and prove the genre is more worthy than it is given credit for. (Plus, if your friends flaked on your dinner plans and you’re left sifting through your Netflix catalogue – these should save you a boring night.)
This movie has become such a classic in not only the world of romance films, but the entire field of cinema itself – scoring an actual spot in the dictionary with reference to the Bill Murray gem.
The story takes place in the tiny town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where a Pittsburgh-based meteorologist by the name of Phil Connors plays our established leading asshole. He’s called to report on the national Groundhog Day event – an assignment that our guy isn’t too excited about (it’s not the most rousing occasion, to be fair) before a blizzard strikes, leading to the iconic plot that is often parodied and duplicated by other films to this day.
As punishment, Connors is basically thrust into the Twilight Zone and forced to live Groundhog Day over and over again, with memories in-tact. He at first enjoys his endless time, sleeping with various women, stealing money, and committing all sorts of outrageous antics with the inflated confidence of college frat boy. The novelty wears off, however, when he finds himself falling for his news station co-worker, Rita.
The film is a sweet one, with a unique storyline that keeps audiences guessing. It does great in making us root for Murray – who embarks on the great journey from Egotistical Douchebag to Lovestruck (Less-Douchey) Hero, wrapped up in the nightmarish mystery of an unbreakable time loop.
If you’re an easily-offended music snob (1) get over yourself and (2) this might just be the perfect rom-com for you.
High Fidelity (2000) is a Nick Hornby movie adaptation of his book of the same name – starring the Cusack siblings, Jack Black, and a handful of other well-known faces (including a 5-second cameo of a young and mop-topped Drake Bell). The story centres around yet another loveable jerk by the name of Rob Gordon, who owns a small records store in the busy streets of Chicago. He begins our movie by breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience a story of lovers past – five, to be exact – why each failed, and how history is currently repeating itself with his new beau, Laura.
A truly inventive film for its genre, the story pays great homage to good music from the 60’s onwards – a treat for fans of classic bands, musicians and mockers of Top 40. The movie’s record store ensemble of Cusack, Black, and Todd Louiso work well in the hilarity department – playing off each others’ starkly contrasting personalities in entertaining ways. As a plus, it’s interesting to watch Cusack’s elitist prick of a character pick apart his romantic failures and reflect on lessons learned, somehow entwining them with references to his favorite songs, lyrics, and records every time.
If you’re a music buff looking for some light-hearted romance – give this a shot. At the very least, you’ll enjoy the film’s excellent (and widely diverse) soundtrack.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
After getting dumped on by a steaming pile of mediocrity in 2011 (Anna Faris’ Whats Your Number? was just one of them), we were glad to have our faith restored in the rom-com genre by the writing talents of Dan Fogelman (Tangled) and directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You, Phillip Morris). Coming out with an exceptionally clever and heartfelt film – these guys were quick to prove you can break out of the stereotypical rom-com clichés and still come out with a movie that’s as entertaining as it is intelligent.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is just this; a movie that doesn’t shy away from the laughs, romantic tensions, and Steve Carrell’s silliness, though still manages to be grounded in clever wit and smart dialogue. Centered on three different storylines, this star-studded flick delves into the rollercoaster thrills of love, dating, and relationships. Each plotline conceiving a unique, character-driven story of its own. The “multiple stories” concept may sound familiar but trust us when we say, without spoiling anything, that the movie is no bargain-bin copy of Love Actually.
With fantastic performances by Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and the hilarious Steve Carrell – this one’s a go-to for the single and loved-up alike.
500 Days of Summer
Sliding this title onto the shelf of romantic comedies may be debatable for some – but in an area of tried and tested ideas, Marc Webb’s now-iconic flick has a charming rarity to it that just can’t be ignored.
True to its tagline “This is not a love story”, 500 Days of Summer is a more realistic look into the nature of many relationships, and how some, sadly, are not all Harry and Sally. But don’t let that turn you off – as depressing as the concept sounds, Webb finds a way to sprinkle generous doses of lighthearted humor and romance through the film that’ll make you forget you’re essentially watching an on-screen couple crash and burn. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is his typically awesome self – playing the role of the love-struck, hopelessly romantic Tom, a character that swings the audience between feeling sympathetic and simulatenaously frustrated over his schmuck-like behaviour. Zooey Deschanel is your usual quirky manic-pixie-dream-girl, and, well – we definitely didn’t see that coming.
The film will hit home for many – offering bits and pieces that most people who have ever felt “in love” can relate to. It’s a sardonic deconstruction of your stereotypical Hollywood romance, and one everybody needs to see at least once. Just remember that it isn’t necessarily a “love story”, but a story about love.
When Harry Met Sally
Remember the Harry and Sally reference from earlier? Well, here they are at their well-deserved top spot – a couple so classic in the realm of film that it’s near impossible to not have heard of their names at least once.
Considered iconic not only in the world of rom-coms but in film itself, When Harry Met Sally is a feel-good tale of two close friends who address the age-old question, “Can a man and a woman be just friends?” Starring a (very young) Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as your forefront couple, the film takes the audience on a delightful ride witnessing these two form a close and very convincing friendship that may just have the potential to become something more. Ryan and Crystal have an undeniable chemistry and bounce off each other’s performances very well – though it helps that Nora Ephron’s script is packed with witticisms and memorable lines to boot.
Like 500 Days, this movie has something for everyone; indulging in the typical relationship perspectives of both its male and female viewers. Though not the most ground-breaking premise, the film delivers excellently in performance, storytelling, and comedic timing… and of course with moments like this infamous restaurant scene, how couldn’t it have made movie history?
And there you have it, five romantic comedies that are worth a try the next time it shows up in your Netflix recommendations. Given that these are superb films in general, and not just “good for their genre”, you may even get a few guy friends to watch them with you (assuming, of course, they haven’t already seen these themselves). There may be a lot of lovey-dovey crap out there, but these movies sure give us hope that rom-coms ain’t dead, and probably deserve a better rep than the mere label of “guilty pleasure”.
What are your favorite, worthy rom-coms? Let us know in the comments below!