What are the best rom-com movies? Romantic comedies have had cinema-goers swooning and sighing since the 1920s. It’s a genre that is often seen as corny or “for women only”. But it’s given rise to some of the biggest stars in cinema history.
Everyone from Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant to Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant have all been part of the rom-com movies phenomenon. And, with streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus all continuing to deliver the goods by way of original content or classics, it seems we’re not quite ready to fall out of love rom-com movies just yet.
So, what are the best rom-com movies of all time? Do you prefer ones that make you laugh; cry; wish that you could take your glasses off and suddenly be the hottest person in school? There’s something for everyone in this list.
The best rom-com movies are:
- Sleepless in Seattle
- Love, Actually
- Bridget Jones’s Diary
- My Best Friend’s Wedding
- The Philadelphia Story
- Crazy, Stupid, Love
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
- The Shop Around the Corner
- The Big Sick
- Roman Holiday
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
An early 90s Nora Ephron classic, Sleepless in Seattle bagged two of the biggest stars of the day – Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan – and cast them as “star crossed lovers” who were simply meant to be. It has all the ingredients of a proper rom-com – a grieving widower, an adorable but plotting child, an unhappy career woman who just needs to be shown love. Yes, it’s cheesy but it absolutely works. The tension throughout the film, as you desperately will Hanks and Ryan to finally meet, is palpable. It’s a really well-executed love story.
Love, Actually (2003)
What rom-com movies list would be complete with Richard Curtis’ Love, Actually? The huge ensemble cast, including everyone from Alan Rickman to Bill Nighy, tackles a series of interwoven stories about love. It contains the famous Hugh Grant dance sequence and the Andrew Lincoln stalker-but-sweet “to me you are perfect” cue cards. It’s a properly joyous festive watch full of fun and – you’ve been warned – lots of emotional moments. We defy you to watch the scene where Emma Thompson receives a Joni Mitchell CD and not weep.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones was a new millennium icon for single women in their 30s. Brought to life by Renee Zellweger and based on Helen Fielding’s novel, the film gave us the battle of the British pin-ups in the form of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. There’s a lot of relatable content here – okay, so we might not have two cinema heart throbs fighting over us, but plenty of people watching the film identified with Bridget’s honesty, loneliness, and outright confusion as she tried to navigate the dating scene. And, of course, the film now lends its name to a certain type of large underwear that most won’t admit to owning.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Another bumper 90s cast here, with Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett, and Dermot Mulroney taking on the lead roles in this “screwball” style romance. Julianne (Roberts) and Michael (Mulroney) once promised that, if they were still single by a certain age, they would marry each other. Well, guess what? Julianne is still single but Michael is getting married. (These pacts definitely only exist in movies, right?) This film contains one of the best restaurant sing-a-longs you’ll ever see and is such gloriously good fun that you can overlook all the cliches.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
A Hollywood classic from 1940 by way of the George Cukor rom-com, The Philadelphia Story. Starring as ex-husband and wife, Katharine Hepburn is at her acerbic, nonchalant best whilst Cary Grant is as suave and charming as you’d expect. James Stewart stars as a journalist sent to cover Hepburn’s second marriage and – you guessed it – Cary Grant has turned up just in time to cause mischief. Starring the biggest, most bankable box-office stars of the day, the film is peppered with witty one liners, with Hepburn in particular being almost impossible to keep up with.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Who knew Steve Carrell was hot? Walking slow-mo into a bar, accompanied by Goldfrapp’s ‘Ooh La La’, suddenly we all realised that he was so much more than the goofy characters he usually plays. Again, there’s a really nice ensemble cast here, including Julianne Moore and Ryan Gosling, but this is a film that feels less cheesy or cliched than the usual rom-com, despite adhering to many genre tropes. This is about finding your confidence again after a life changing series of events. It’s also about Ryan Gosling’s oiled up six pack. Make of that what you will.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
What is it about rom-coms, particularly British ones, and massive ensemble casts? This is Hugh Grant at his 90s bad-boy best, as he discovers the course of true love over the course of the titular social events. It has cheesy rom-com dialogue about kissing in the rain, sure, but it also has the truly moving delivering of Auden’s ‘Stop All The Clocks’. Sure, it can be a bit formulaic at times with all its near misses and bachelor life cliches, but it remains one of the most watchable rom-com movies ever made.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Original really is best when it comes to this 1940 classic. James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are the two feuding gift shop employees who are actually falling in love with each other when they become anonymous pen pals. It’s so beautifully done – Stewart and Sullavan really are perfect for each other, both in their hyperbolic hatred and ravishing romance. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch – a man whose bread and butter was rom-com movies such as Heaven Can Wait and Ninotchka – the film is sure to warm even the hardest of hearts. Who can resist James Stewart at his gawky best?
The Big Sick (2017)
Based on the real-life love story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick is a thoroughly enjoyable and endearing watch. You might think that starring in your own love story could go horribly wrong, but Nanjiani is excellent here. Yes, the circumstance of their love is dramatic, but this film is refreshingly free of cringe-worthy genre stereotypes. It handles cultural expectations sensitively (albeit humorously) and offers a very different take on contemporary
romance. For a low budget indie, the supporting cast includes big names such as Ray Romano, Bo Burnham, and Holly Hunter.
Roman Holiday (1953)
It’s your totally standard love story. Sheltered princess (Audrey Hepburn) falls in love with roving reporter (Gregory Peck). The stunning backdrop of la città eterna gives this sweeping romance some of the most iconic scenes in rom com history, most notably the gelato on the Spanish Steps. Directed by William Wyler and written by Dalton Trumbo, it’s got dual identities, rallying against your fate and family, thrilling moped adventures and blush inducing romance. Hepburn and Peck are simply delectable together. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
That’s date night sorted for the next ten weeks! If you want to explore some other genres, why not check out our list of the best alternative comic book movies.