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What Are the Best Romantic Comedies Of All Time?

Which titles in the genre can succeed for both men and women?

PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!


June 10, 2014 - 4:46 pm

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: Questions To Figure Out Makes Some Adaptations Succeed and Others Fail5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Last Week’s Pop Culture Debates focused on video games, so it seems only reasonable that this week should go in the opposite direction: so how about a week of discussing the best/worst/over/underrated in romantic movies and books?

Do the 5 movies embedded in this post crack your top 10 list?




PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates Features a new prompt each weekday to weigh the good, the bad, the overrated, the unbelievable, and the amazing throughout the worlds of books, film, and TV. We can't figure out how to build a greater pop culture until we dissect the mess we already have. Want to contribute your perspective to the debate? Email PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle with your take: DaveSwindlePJM [@] Image via shutterstock/ DarkGeometryStudios

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All Comments   (13)
All Comments   (13)
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Donovan's Reef
(more recent)
Only the Lonely
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
any Thin Man movie
The Princess Bride
Roman Holiday
Napoleon Dynamite

37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Soap Dish (Sally Field, Kevin Kline) .. The Best!
Grosse Point Blank (Minnie Driver, John Cusack)
A Fish Called Wanda (Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese)
Kate and Leopold (Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman)
Strictly Ballroom (Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice)... a Perfect Rom Com!!
Quartet (Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney)
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Heh. Hadn't thought about Strictly Ballroom for this list. Good choice, but something about the plot is my own reason for being favorably disposed toward it (spoilers): Boy is in a skill based competition. His father used to compete but brought unspoken shame upon the family. Boy is on his way to becoming a master of the skill, but learns another technique. He is told he is not to use this new technique because it goes against the skill as taught, and further learns his father's disgrace was that he, too, had gone against the orthodoxy. In the end, boy uses elements of the new technique to innovate his old technique and win the day. In other words - it's the same plot as about one fourth of all HK martial arts movies from the Bruce Lee era.

I guess this is what seperates a romcom from a chick flick: It's accessable to guys. (See also: how Casablanca is a love story men wouldn't be ashamed to watch.)
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
French Kiss (1995)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Stardust (2007)
Father Goose (1964)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

French Kiss is the best overall for casting, acting, writing, and directing. Princess Bride and Stardust made my list for the well-done fairy tale style stories with good surprises and imagery in the movies. Father Goose made it because to me it's the best movie of its time to not seem terribly dated and contain enough comedy and romance. The Last of the Mohicans is a bit out of place because of the lack of comedy, but it has one of the most tragic romantic endings I've seen in a movie.

Honorable mentions:

His Girl Friday (1940)
The African Queen (1951)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Romancing the Stone (1984)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Once (2006)
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good list. I'd add Ninotchka, starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas (Ernst Lubitsch directed this before he did The Shop Around the Corner). Also the Frank Capra film It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. And finally Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Love Actually
Notting Hill
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great romantic comedies? Is that a trick question?

Nine out of ten romantic comedies are straight-ahead, unapologetic chick flicks. Chick flicks, as a species, follow a general pattern:

1. Girl pines for her soul mate, while all around her, her girl buddies have guys. She can't be too beautiful. This is important. You can be too beautiful to make it in chick flicks. I used to call it the "Meg Ryan" Rule: no actress more beautiful than Meg Ryan can make a living in chick flicks. Meg Ryan appears to be gone now, but the mantle keeps bouncing around. Sandra Bullock, perhaps? She might be the exception that proves the rule. Reese Witherspoon? Drew Barrymore? Renee Zellweger? A chick flick actress must be what I call "girl pretty" -- that is, girls think she's pretty, but guys are mostly unmoved.

2. Handsome man appears. Seems almost perfect. Helps if he's rich or a European prince. He doesn't need to have much of a character development. Mostly, he's a prop.

3. Misunderstanding and soul-searching. Maybe she thinks he loves another woman. Maybe she's trying to succeed in her career and is afraid that falling in love at this time of her life will keep her from achieving her goals. Maybe she doesn't think he respects her goals. This leaves her free to behave bitchily. That's allowed. She's allowed to abuse him, and he's permitted to take the abuse like a man and still have undying love for her.

4. Reconciliation. On her terms. Why, he may be a Danish prince with more money than Warren Buffett and more charisma than Jesus, but he just can't be happy until his darling says yes.

The moral of the story is that an occasionally bitchy woman who is less than beautiful (since that describes 99.9% of women movie-watchers, that's quite a market) she can still bag Prince Charming.

That said...

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" wins the prize for sheer wittiness.

Apostic called My Man Godfrey a romantic comedy. Funny, he's right, but I never thought of it that way. I don't see anything remotely romantic about William Powell's Godfrey, and he so clearly dominates the picture, I never thought of it as more than a William Powell tour de force. It helped, though, that Carole Lombard was in that movie, the perfect foil to Godfrey's rare moments of befuddlement.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Heh. I was a teenager when I first saw Godfrey and thought it was awesome. Loved the way Powell could cooly insult others -- sometimes subtly enough to not be perceived by the victim -- plus Lombard's innocent sexiness. But now that I'm forty years older, something about the sexual tenson with the older guy in close proximity to the childlike young woman strikes me as kinda creeepy....
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Shakespeare In Love
Love Actually
French Kiss
Roman Holiday
The Princess Bride

37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Along with Amélie (2001) (my personal favorite) and Annie Hall (1977), I would stand by the following as conversation provokers. (Caveat: To argue some of these are/aren't romcoms is like arguing if Die Hard is/isn't a Christmas movie):

My Man Godfrey (1936) - Sneaky class comedy
Carefree (1938) - Almost a scifi romcom
Ball of Fire (1941) - Gary Cooper as a nerd in love? Who knew?
Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) - Burgess Meridith as a romantic lead? Again, who knew?
The Princess Bride (1987) - Has all that kissy stuff...
When Harry Met Sally (1989) - Opposites attract slooooowly
Groundhog Day (1993) - Man beaten into romantic submission. On second thought...
Much Ado About Nothing (1993) - Ur template romantic comedy of errors with a fun cast
Shrek (2001) - "I was supposed to be beautiful." "You are beautiful." Gets me every damn time.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) - Cross-cultural sleeper hit. Prolly works better on a small screen.

Hon mentions:

A Night At the Opera (1935) - Has a romcom in it, but on the whole, not a romcom.
The Taming Of the Shrew (1976) - Done as hardcore commedia dell'arte slapstick. Not really a movie, though, but rather a filmed stage version. See also: the parody version of the play as an episode of Moonlighting. Both are more fun than that Burton/Taylor version by Franco Zeffirelli.
The Goodbye Girl (1977) - I remember liking it. Can't remember why...
Coming to America (1988) - This should've been an epic romantic comedy. Alas, the romance was not as memorable as the rest of the clever, carefully constructed elements.

Interesting that my list has a large gap between the 1940s to the 1970s. I blame Hollywood phoniness of the 1950s and its backlash pesimism/cynicism of the 1960s.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's right, woodchuck-chuck-chuckers ... it's Groundhog Day!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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