Trying to verify the author of a quote — and said quote’s exact wording — can feel just about impossible. I don’t understand it. With all the information we have, how can we not know for sure, for sure if Mark Twain said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” or “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”?
Either way, that quote has been on my mind as I’ve thought about the state of romantic comedies. Everyone says it, right? That “they just don’t make romantic comedies anymore”? We all know it and complain about it, right before we watch Sweet Home Alabama for the 47th time. Some of us (ahem) even write blog posts about it.
Yes, it’s true. I have long lamented the loss of my beloved romantic comedy genre of movies. I’ve griped and whined about how Hollywood just doesn’t care about people like me — people LIKE US — who want smart, sweet, reasonably realistic, and funny movies about people who meet cutely and, despite ensuing hijinks, fall in love. IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?
I thought it was. But then — THEN! — a few things changed my mind.
- First, I stumbled onto a super cute romcom on Netflix. Starring Chris Evans.
- Secondly, I followed a trail of clicks to some exciting trailers on YouTube.
- And finally, I decided to dive head first in my new quest to discover just how NOT DEAD romantic comedies are.
(Also, I have to admit that when I started really thinking about it, we HAVE had some great romcoms in the last ten years. To name just a few you might have forgotten? Crazy Stupid Love. 500 Days of Summer. The Proposal. 27 Dresses. About Time. Silver Linings Playbook. Adventureland for the stoners. Warm Bodies for the zombie fans. See?)
Anyway, prompted by Captain America himself and the promise of real, live romcoms coming to a theater near you and me soon, I embarked on a journey to discover what romantic and comedic gems we’ve all been missing. And now I’m here to share what I’ve found. Are you ready?
Okay, first up: the movie with Chris Evans is called, Before We Go. Two beautiful blonde people meet in New York City and spend the night on missions to salvage relationships they have with other people. But yes, of course, they develop feelings for each other. They have chemistry and quippy dialogue, and I watched the whole thing with a smile. (You can watch it on Amazon Prime or Netflix.)
Now, a warning. These romantic comedies that you’ve most likely missed might not have the stereotypical happy ending that you expect. Everything might not be tied up in a bow when the credits roll. But I promise I won’t recommend or even mention a movie that has an unhappy or completely cliffhanger-ish ending! (I actually watched nearly twice the number of movies I’m sharing here, but they didn’t all make the cut. We might want light, fluffy films, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for garbage!) I am, however, including a few movies I didn’t love. Because you might! And they do meet the romantic and comedic (and recent and you-probably-haven’t-seen-it) criteria.
Back to the list. In alphabetical order, here are more than a dozen romantic comedies you might not have seen yet!
Begin Again: Mark Ruffalo is a washed-up music exec, and Keira Knightley is an aspiring singer-songwriter. They meet, they make music, and it’s just lovely. The story isn’t strictly a romance, but romance is part of the story. (You can watch it on Amazon Prime.)
Big Sick: Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl date. Boy and girl break up. You’d think that’s it, but in this based-on-real-life story, the girl gets very sick before anyone knows she broke up with her boyfriend, and he spends a lot of awkward, quality time with her parents while she’s in a coma. It sounds sad, but while it is intense at times and moving in many others, it’s also warm and sweet. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
Cuban Fury: An overweight, middle-aged British man — who was once a childhood salsa champion — falls for his American boss (Rashida Jones). When he finds out that she’s learning to salsa, it reignites his love of dance. If you like So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars, I’m betting you’ll love this adorable movie as much as I did. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
Definitely, Maybe: Ryan Reynolds tells his daughter the story of how he met her mother. Yes, that description is reminiscent of Ted Mosby and the girl’s mother is not necessarily who he ends up with. But I promise this is less goofy than HIMYM and much sweeter. It feels real and a bit raw, and unrelated to the romance, it portrays the disillusionment of your twenties that resonated with me. It’s one of my favorite movies ever. (You can watch on Amazon Prime.)
Dorfman in Love: I know. The name is ridiculous. And the premise (single woman cat sits for her unrequited love) is straight-up TV movie. But Sara Rue is irresistible (at least, to me), and she redeems both the title and the plot of this cute movie. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
Drinking Buddies: This movie. You guys. It got all the press and reviews and kudos when it came out, largely because a lot of the dialogue was completely unscripted and improvised. While the actors — like their characters in the movie — drank a whole lot of beer. I don’t know. Apparently this movie falls under the category of “mumblecore” film. That is a thing I’d never heard of before, and after this movie, I can’t say I love it. Anna Kendrick is absolutely realistic, Ron Livingston is weird, Olivida Wilde is crazy beautiful and her character is frustratingly selfish, and Jake Johnson basically plays a slightly more mature version of his New Girl character. Also, an entire scene from the movie is an exact replica (fine. exaggeration.) of a New Girl episode. That’s weird, right? I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t enjoy it much either. (If you’ve seen this, please tell me what you thought! I’ve been dying to talk to someone about it ever since I watched it. WHY IS IT that I have so much more to say about this movie I didn’t even really like than all the others?!) (You can watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime.)
How to be Single: This R-rated comedy is about single people, some of whom end up finding romance. It stars Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson, and it’s fine. I watched it on a plane and kind of forgot that it even existed until I began making this list. I liked it much more than the trailer made me think I would. Then again, I was on a plane. (You can watch on Amazon Prime.)
I Hate Valentine’s Day: Did you like My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Do you like Hallmark movies? Well, this is neither of those things, but it’s a mash-up of those basic ideas. Nia Vardalos and John Corbett are reunited in this by-the-book but still super cute romantic comedy. (You can watch on Amazon Prime.)
Man Up: I’d seen ads for this movie before and simply did not buy the idea of Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. But out of all the movies I watched simply for this post, I think I liked this one the most. A man mistakes a woman for his blind date, and they have an amazing connection. Of course romcom hijinks ensue when the truth comes out, but this London-based movie just leans into the cliches in the most fun way. Just thinking about this makes me want to watch it again. (You can watch on Amazon Prime.)
Nobody Walks in LA: When I was in seventh grade my friend Jeremy said he wanted to make movies. Later he moved to California when his parents divorced and his dad moved. Fast forward a couple of decades and what do I see on Facebook? That my friend Jeremy is INDEED making movies! Most of them seem to be horror flicks, but this quiet little story about friends (who might be more? or might not?) talking and walking around L.A. is right up my alley and just lovely. And the fact that it exists, as proof that dreams come true, is just one of my favorite discoveries. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
Non-Transferable: Get this plot — a woman plans an elaborate European vacation for her boyfriend and herself, but he dumps her. Because all the tickets and reservations are in his name, she hops on Facebook, finds another man with the same name, and invites him on the trip. Of COURSE he’s not a psycho killer and of COURSE they fall in love. It is just as ridiculous as it sounds! And it’s cheaply made. So why did I bother including it here? I’ll tell you. The main character is played by Ashley Clements, who also starred in the web series, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. Did you watch that? It’s a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice — a classic I DON’T EVEN LIKE, but I watched every single episode of this series the day it was released. As a web series, the majority of the time you just watch Clements’ face and listen to her tell her story. I realize now that her acting was at least a good part of what compelled me to watch that first series. And I remembered that, fondly, in one scene toward the end of this movie when the main character’s face shows an overwhelming amount of emotion. One scene. One actor and her face. That’s why I’m including this. Also, I mean, it did make me laugh a bit and it did have a smidge of real(ish) romance. So there. It’s on the list. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
One Small Hitch: I found this one on Netflix a while back, and to be honest, I’ve watched it three or four times. A girl pretends to be engaged to her brother’s best friend — yes, that is basically all it took to hook me. The actors are cute, and I believed their bickering and their chemistry. I have no defense; I simply like it. (And, let’s be real here: If you love Leap Year and Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and 99-cent romance novels from Kindle [LIKE I DO], then you’re going to like it, too.) (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Absolutely nothing about this movie sounded appealing to me. But my best friend and I happened to have a night to go to the movies back in 2011, and this was the only thing out. So we saw it — and were so very pleasantly surprised. It’s not really about fishing; it’s not really about the Yemen. It stars Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, and they are lovely. It is lovely. It’s a lovely movie. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
Set It Up: This is the Netflix Original that everyone’s been talking about. Two overworked assistants scheme to get their demanding bosses to fall in love and therefore ease up on their workload. Of course the assistants end up falling for each other. (Spoiler alert? Have you seen a romantic comedy?) The plot is predictable, but the characters are realistically flawed and endearing and the dialogue is spot on. I’ve watched it twice, and I guarantee I’ll watch it many more. (You can watch on Netflix.)
Table 19: I’ve heard this described as a bomb for Anna Kendrick, but I liked it. She plays a single woman invited to her ex-boyfriend’s brother’s wedding. She was supposed to be the maid of honor; now she’s relegated to Table 19 — the place they put all the oddball, obligatory invites (including Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson). This movie is awkward but also funny, and I might be biased because I also watched this one on a plane (and was therefore basically held hostage) — but I liked it. (You can watch on Amazon Prime.)
The Decoy Bride: I’ve seen this movie on a couple “overlooked gems” lists. It’s Scottish. It’s about two people pretending to be a couple. It takes place on a pretty island. Oh! And it stars David Tennant, for you Doctor Who fans! But the thing is … I didn’t love it. Other people seem to, though, so give it a try! (You can watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime.)
What If: I wasn’t sure if I could take Daniel Radcliffe seriously in a romantic comedy. I mean, he is Harry Potter and THAT IS ALL. But this movie about friends who become more is very cute. It’s very British. And I loved it a lot. (You can watch for free on Amazon Prime.)
When We First Met: This is the second Netflix Original romantic comedy that was released this summer. It stars the obnoxious guy from Pitch Perfect (Adam Devine) and the annoying-to-me actress I know from White Collar and the Percy Jackson movies but you might know from Parenthood or True Detective (Alexandria Daddario). And I didn’t hate them through the whole movie. But I didn’t love them the whole time, either. Devine plays a guy in love with his best friend (Daddario) who magically goes back in time for a second (and third and fourth…) chance at avoiding the friend zone. It’s…kind of icky. And Devine is DEFINITELY annoying in at least 50 percent of the movie. But there are moments and characters that I liked. So, it’s okay. But not great. And I really wish it didn’t come last in this alphabetical list! (You can watch on Netflix.)
I can’t end on that note, so I’ll give you a bonus list. If you like teen romantic comedies, you might like these!
- The DUFF — Supposedly ugly girl gets makeover from her next-door neighbor, who happens to be her childhood friend and current popular guy. Reminiscent of She’s All That and way better than you think it will be. (Amazon Prime)
- Edge of Seventeen — Awkward teen flounders when her best friend starts dating her brother. Coming of age, romantic comedy, and Woody Harrelson as a cranky but sneakily compassionate teacher. (Amazon Prime)
- The Kissing Booth — A Netflix original movie about a girl who falls for her [male] best friend’s brother. Cute, although it includes 100% more sex than the teen movies of our day. (Netflix)
- The First Time — Speaking of teen sex… but if you can get over that, this movie is actually really cute and fairly realistic with some snappy dialogue I enjoyed. (Netflix or Amazon Prime)
- Sing Street — Irish teen forms a band to impress a girl. Set in the 80s. Adorable with a fantastic soundtrack I immediately downloaded. (Amazon Prime)
So, there you have it. Rumors of the romantic comedy’s death have been greatly exaggerated! And to top it all off, you can see two new book adaptations on Netflix this week that meet your romcom need (The Guernesey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and To All the Boys I’ve Loved) or go to the theater to see a new actual, real-life romantic comedy there (Crazy Rich Asians, also based on a book)!
EDITED TO ADD: Since this post was published, I’ve watched a couple other rom coms you might have missed… (So, yes, this is really a list of 26 rom coms!)
Plus One: Starring Jack Quaid (Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid’s son!) and Maya Erskine, this friends to morrrrrre than friends movie is raw and real–and funny and touching. It’s also rated R for language and a sex scene, so head’s up as you watch these two friends attend wedding after wedding together. Watch on Prime.
The Wedding Year: This one has a similar plot to Plus One, but is different enough to warrant its own watch. Two young people start dating, then realize they’re invited to a ton of upcoming weddings. Will going to all the events make or break them as a couple? (I mean, I’m telling you it’s a rom com, so you can probably guess. But you might be a smidge surprised in the way they get there.) Rated R for language and drug use. Starring Sarah Hyland from Modern Family and Tyler James Williams. Watch on Prime.
What’s the best romantic comedy you’ve seen lately?
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