Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Top 10 Romantic Comedies

Valentine's Day was this past week, which brings to mind feelings of love and affection. Romance is ripe for comedic moments. Thus, the romantic comedy film genre. These films are distinct from regular comedies, walking a tight balance between affection and amusement; it's a film where a romance is key to the narrative while comedy enhances it. Romantic comedies have a tendency to become a bit formulaic--girl meets guy, guy and girl flirt awkwardly, a miscommunication or mishap occurs to jeopardize the romance, guy and girl reconcile and smooch. Yet some romantic comedies rise above the rest to both touch our hearts and our funny bones. These are the top ten romantic comedies that I've seen:

10. While You Were Sleeping: I'm not sure why this film works, but it really does. It follows every romantic comedy formula in perfect fashion. Sandra Bullock is sweet as a toll booth attendant who manages to save a handsome business man from getting run over by a train, is mistaken for his fiance by his family, and ends up falling in love with his brother. If Katie ever made a top 10 movies list, this would probably be on it somewhere.

9. Lars and the Real Girl: A romance between a guy and a life-sized inflatable doll? Yeah, it's a bizarre premise, but Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Remember the Titans) gives such a moving performance that it outweighs any initial reactions to the plot synopsis. The rest of the cast is too, and the theme of finding love and community in the midst of pain is simply transcendent. Katie and I both loved this film.

8. When Harry Met Sally: There had to be a Meg Ryan film on this list, and this one is probably the most fulfilling rom-com she's done (though Sleepless in Seattle was good too). Harry's musings on why men and women can't just be friends is priceless, and the authentic dialogue about dating and sexuality is awkwardly hilarious. While this isn't my personal favorite on this list, it's worthy enough to make the top ten.

7. Annie Hall: While Woody Allen might be a polarizing filmmaker, this Oscar-winning story about a neurotic guy in New York (isn't that nearly all of his films from the 70s?) is surely one of his most timeless films. The dry and witty script about a comedian falling in love with the ditsy Annie has quite a few humorous surprises. Allen repeatedly breaks down the fourth wall in film by addressing the camera and including the audience in the story.

6. Love Actually, About a Boy, Notting Hill (Hugh Grant): A three-way tie starring the most adorable droopy-eyed British actor out there. While each of these films has a certain romantic charm to them, that charm likely stems from Grant's witty characters. About A Boy is a great character study of a man seeking meaning for his life and relationships; Notting Hill is just plain cute with Julia Roberts as the love interest; and Love Actually is a many-faceted star-studded story about the complexities of love.

5. The Philadelphia Story: With James Stewart, Cary Grant, and Katherine Hepburn, this 1940 romantic comedy has presence. Quick-firing dialogue and outlandish situations make for a great classic film. Hepburn is a rich spoiled heiress about to enter her second marriage, while Grant and Stewart play her ex-husband and a reporter determined to help her find true love. Do yourself a favor and rent this film for a date night.

4. Say Anything, High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank (John Cusack): John Cusack is the perfect romantic every-man. He's not this studly sexy guy that you date for a month; he's the guy you bring home to your mom and marry. Even in Gross Pointe Blank, where he's an assassin that kills people for a living, people just like him. Really, I heart John Cusack. The scene in Say Anything with Lloyd Dobler holding the stereo over his head is classic.

3. Amelie: Who knew that a romantic comedy could be one of my all-time favorite films? But this quirky little French movie about a sparkling young girl in France is simply enchanting. Amelie will make you smile, and what better background for finding love than the lovely neighborhoods of Paris?

2. Roman Holiday: Katie and I love Audrey Hepburn. She radiates with grace and charm, and this film set in the city of Rome captures her at her best. Hepburn won an Oscar for her portrayal of a young princess who sneaks out for a day to see the sights of Rome. Gregory Peck is an American reporter who just sees a story as he tags along with the princess, until his heart is enamored by the end of the day. The chemistry between Peck and Hepburn is surprisingly vivid--he was 13 years her elder--and the comedic moments make me smile every time. One of the Maywards' favorite films.

1. City Lights: From 1931, this silent Charlie Chaplin film is a timeless classic. A kind-hearted tramp falls in love with a beautiful blind flower girl. She's struggling financially, but through a series of events, the tramp befriends an eccentric millionaire and does his best to raise the money for an expensive medical procedure to fix her eyes. Chaplin communicates so much without words; his comedic timing is nearly flawless. It's simple, captivating, and inspirational to so many future romantic comedies.

What's your favorite romantic-comedy that should be added to this list?


  1. My favorite Hugh Grant movies are Notting Hill and Mickey Blue Eyes.

    Amelie is a good choice.

    I guess when I think of romantic comedies, I don't really go by their cinematic quality, but more of their enjoyability. For example, on my list I would have to include 10 Things I Hate About You.

    I'd also have to stick The Princess Bride, Sleepless in Seattle, and Some Like it Hot on there. Good list!

  2. Cam, I agree, there's a mix of enjoyability and quality in my list--though for me, the two are intertwined. With romantic comedies, the definition is so vague. There are great films that contain both romantic and comedic elements that just don't seem to truly fit the genre: Lost in Translation, Juno, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, even WALL-E. It was a difficult list to make.

  3. wow! great list! love all the movies mentioned, especially Roman Holiday, City Lights, Notting Hill, Amelie and While you were sleeping. :)