It’s been 25 years since When Harry Met Sally charmed cinema-goers. Since then, the rom-com has slowly lost its spark.
Hollywood screenwriters, like Nora Ephron who single-handedly reinvented the genre with her When Harry Met Sally screenplay, mastered the art of the romantic comedy with a delicious mix of a fast-paced and funny plot-lines, with pull-at-your-heart-strings desire between the protagonist and, usually her, love interest.
While the modern heyday of movie treasures like Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, John Cusack and Julia Roberts in the late 1980s and 1990s provided a seamingly endless stream of light hearted but sassy movies, the dawn of a new millennium saw the quality dissipate – rather rapidly.
Despite valiant efforts from Bridget Jones and several Kate Hudson flicks, gaudy Adam Sandler movies and the inexplicable rise of Katherine Heigl firmly stomped on any hopes for a rom-com rebirth.
Is there any hope for the film category? There’s certainly a lot in the back catalogue.
Here are The New Daily’s top 25 romantic comedies of all time:
1940 – The Philadelphia Story
The original screwball comedy of remarriage. Pairing Katherine Hepburn with Cary Grant and James Stewart means this fabulous film still has as much oomph as when it was released almost 75 years ago.
1959 – Some Like It Hot
Many romantic comedies from 1950s and 1960s have not stood the test of time but this classic, with the sizzling Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, is legendary.
1977 – Annie Hall
Woody Allen’s masterpiece makes both the list for romantic comedies and just plain comedies. It may end on a bittersweet note but this telling of the death a romance is exquisite.
1977 – The Goodbye Girl
This gorgeous 1970s rom-com with Richard Dreyfus and Marsha Mason was written by US playwright Neil Simon. Mason plays the unlucky in love single mum who takes in a precocious, but ultimately loveable, roommate.
1984 – Sixteen Candles
You might be wondering where Molly Ringwald’s Pretty in Pink fits into this list. It doesn’t. Sixteen Candles trumps it every time.
1989 – When Harry Met Sally
Screenwriter Nora Ephron reinvigorated the genre with this blockbuster. Director Rob Reiner casting Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as the friends who have a love-hate relationship secured its success.
1989 – Say Anything
The teen couple, magically portrayed by John Cusack and Ione Skye, steam up every scene of this Cameron Crowe 1980s picture.
1990 – Pretty Woman
As well as catapulting Julia Roberts to superstardom, Pretty Woman hit the jackpot with a plot that sees a beautiful hooker swept off her feet by a handsome, rich lawyer – well played, Richard Gere.
1992 – Strictly Ballroom
Probably the most successful Australian rom-com ever made, Baz Lurhmann’s Strictly Ballroom is as fun today as it was when it opened in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes in 1992.
1993 – Sleepless in Seattle
The teaming of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who was undoubtedly the Queen of the genre in the 1990s, made this super sweet film a worldwide phenomenon.
1994 – Four Weddings and a Funeral
Everything about this Richard Curtis-written iconic film works, even if you don’t like Hugh Grant or Andie MacDowell. We especially love watching the romantic leads stumble along with other lovers before finally falling into each other’s arms.
1994 – Muriel’s Wedding
Another Australian treasure, Muriel’s Wedding is the hilarious story of a wedding-obsessed woman who wins in life despite the odds being stacked against her.
1994 – Reality Bites
This one might catch you off guard as a romantic comedy, but the Ben Stiller directed Reality Bites is really just the story of a boy and girl who struggle to get it together. It’s very funny and by the end of the film you are desperate for Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder to work it out.
1995 – While you were Sleeping
Following on from the success of Speed, Sandra Bullock seemlessly moved into romantic comedies as the girl next door, taking over from Meg Ryan. Here she falls in love with a man in a coma and tells his family she is his fiance.
1997 – My Best Friend’s Wedding
At the height of her fame, Julia Roberts was the unlucky in love beauty who tried to win her best friend’s heart on the eve of his wedding to another woman.
1999 – 10 Things I Hate About You
Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You straddles teen flick and rom-com perfectly. Heath Ledger also became a huge star on the back of its success.
1999 – Notting Hill
The movie star and the fop. Notting Hill had the irresistible combination of unattainable beauty, the hapless man in love, and an excruciating housemate who accidentally threatens to ruin it all.
1999 – Never Been Kissed
Drew Barrymore has starred in plenty of romantic films but none stand up as well as Never Been Kissed. She portrays the dorky lead so well you can hardly believe she will ever get the guy.
2000 – High Fidelity
Another John Cusack vehicle, there’s more to come … Based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel, High Fidelity takes the view of the man who has lost the love of his life and traverses his own romantic history to figure out what went wrong.
2001 – Bridget Jones’s Diary
Everywoman Bridget Jones plays out our own fears and fantasies in this female-favourite film. Based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary is the quintessential chick flick.
2001 – Serendipity
This John Cusack-Kate Beckinsale movie is all about a star-gazing couple who never seem to be in same place at the same time.
2002 – Sweet Home Alabama
Reese Witherspoon is the city slicker who returns home to Alabama to divorce her first husband. Instead she is swept back up in the town where she spent her youth.
2006 – The Holiday
Using the tried and tested formula of the slow-burn love story, The Holiday has an all-star cast and often gets criticised for being too schmaltzy, but it’s still beloved.
2007 – Waitress
A cute and quirky indie romance, Waitress gathered a cult following after its release. Keri Russell is the struggling pregnant waitress who can cook a mean pie, while still managing to fend off every man in town.
2013 – Enough Said
James Gandolfini’s penultimate role saw him unusually cast as the romantic lead opposite Julia Louis-Drefus in a story of a second chance at love.
What’s your favourite romantic comedy? Tell us below.
With Susannah Guthrie