The romantic comedy genre has earned itself an undeservedly bad reputation. While Hollywood has produced a variety of boring, formulaic ‘chick flicks’ over the years, it has also produced a number of incredible romantic comedies that have managed to transcend the genre and become recognised as film masterpieces that will be remembered as some of the finest films ever made. This top 10 will list the top 10 romantic comedies of all time.
10 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004
Charlie Kaufman is, quite possibly, the most creative screenplay writer working in Hollywood today. Kaufman’s debut film, ‘Being John Malkovich’, put him on the map when it hit cinema screens in 1999. The film, a story about a group of friends who discover a secret cupboard that allows them to enter the mind of actor John Malkovich, showed off his creative flair and talent for writing compelling movies around strange concepts.
In 2004, Kaufman turned his attention to the romantic comedy genre with ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. In typical Kaufman fashion, ‘Eternal Sunshine’ wasn’t a standard romantic comedy. The film told the story of a couple, played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, experiencing trouble in their relationship. Wanting a fresh break from each other, the two decide to have their memories of each other erased using a special new memory removal technique.
Kaufman’s screenplay was inspired and director Michel Gondry directed the film with his trademark flair. Carrey and Winslet delivered fantastic performances for the film too, with Carrey in particular delivering one of the finest performances of his career.
Eternal Sunshine was a huge hit with critics who scored it 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences loved the film too, and they rated it highly. The film is currently sitting on an 8.4/10 score on imdb.com.
9 – Pretty Woman – 1990
‘Pretty Woman’ transformed actor Richard Gere’s image and career overnight. Following the film’s release, he became the female embodiment of the ideal man and women all over the world fell head over heels for him. Pretty Woman told the story of Edward Lewis, played by Gere, a powerful businessman who needs the services of an escort for some social events. After hiring prostitute Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts, Lewis soon finds himself falling in love with Ward, leading to all manner of complications.
Pretty Woman had it all: great acting from its two leads, a stellar script from J.F. Lawton, and brilliantly understated direction from director Garry Marshall.
While the film fared decently well with critics who scored it a middling 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film found itself an audience with lovers of the romantic comedy genre. Today, Pretty Woman is considered one of the best romantic comedy films ever made.
8 − 10 Things I Hate About You −1999
‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. A comedy, the play told the story about the romantic mishaps of a group of friends living in Verona. 1999’s ’10 Things I Hate About You’ adapted Shakespeare’s masterpiece to a modern setting. The film told the story of a group of teenagers struggling with the trials and tribulations of teenage love. It starred Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a number of other young actors who have since gone on to have great success in Hollywood.
10 Things I Hate About You was an incredibly well written film. Writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith did an excellent job translating Shakespeare’s play to the modern era without sacrificing any of the elements that made Shakespeare’s play so great. The film was also well directed by Gil Junger and it featured stellar performances from its entire cast, with Ledger and Gordon-Levitt being particular standouts.
While critics only scored the film a middling 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences loved the film and went to see it in huge numbers. The film is currently rated at 7.2/10 on imdb.com
7 – High Fidelity – 2000
Nick Hornby’s book ‘High Fidelity’ is generally considered one of the finest British novels ever written. Released in 1995, the book quickly sold a million copies worldwide and critics named it one of the best books of the year. In 2000, director Stephen Frears was given the difficult task of adapting Hornby’s novel for the big screen. He enlisted four writers to translate the film – D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg – while also bringing in Hornby as an adviser. The result was one of the sharpest, well written, well put together romantic comedies ever made.
High Fidelity told the story of Rob Gordon, played by John Cusack, a record shop owner undergoing a midlife crisis following a break up with his girlfriend, Laura. The film followed Gordon as he examined his life in a bid to discover where it all went wrong. Cusack was perfect as Gordon. He embodied Gordon completely and delivered one of his best performances to date. Supporting actors Jack Black, Iben Hjejle, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Cusack, and Todd Louiso were also great in the film.
High Fidelity was reviewed well by critics who scored it an impressive 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film currently has a 7.6/10 rating on imdb.com.
6 – Love Actually – 2003
Writer/director Richard Curtis is one of the greats of the romantic comedy genre. Over his career, he has directed and written some of the greatest romantic comedies ever made. Love Actually, released in 2003, is one of Curtis’ best. Featuring an all star cast containing some of the best actors and actresses in British cinema, the film told the story of four couples struggling with their love lives in the run up to Christmas. Curtis delivered an excellent script for the film and he directed it well. He managed to extract great performances from the film’s cast too.
Love Actually fared decently well with critics who scored it 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences loved the film, however, and rated it at 7.7/10 on imdb.com.
5 – Four Weddings and a Funeral – 1994
Prior to his success with ‘Love Actually’, Richard Curtis made a name for himself writing a number of successful TV shows and movies, including 1994’s ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Filmed on a tiny budget of only $4.5 million, Four Weddings followed the exploits of Charles, played by Hugh Grant, as he fell in love with Carrie, played by Andie McDowell, during their chance meetings at four weddings and a funeral.
Four Weddings was an unexpected success. It reviewed incredibly well with critics who scored it 96% and it earned more than $245 million on the worldwide box office, making it the most successful British film of all time. It is currently rated at 7.1/10 on imdb.com.
4 – When Harry Met Sally… – 1989
The romantic comedy genre was in the middle of a lull in the 80s. To the dismay of film lovers everywhere, Hollywood had taken to releasing boring and formulaic romantic comedies that failed to grow the genre in any meaningful fashion. 1989’s ‘When Harry Met Sally…” changed things. Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally followed the lives of two friends, played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, who feared that sex might ruin their relationship. Ephron’s script was witty and tight, and Crystal and Ryan were perfect as Harry and Sally, the two main leads. Their chemistry together was electric and they were exciting to watch.
Critics, on the whole, enjoyed the film, scoring it a high 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was well received by audiences too, who declared it one of the best films of 1989.
3 – Annie Hall – 1977
Woody Allen has had a long and illustrious career. The writer/director has released dozens of films over past five decades, many of which are considered some of the finest films ever made. 1977’s ‘Annie Hall’ is arguably the best film in Allen’s filmography. Written, directed, and starring Allen, Annie Hall saw Allen playing Alvy Singer, a comedian who falls in love with Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton. While most romantic comedies shied away from the reality of relationships, Annie Hall laid bare the truth about love. Allen and Keaton’s chemistry was incredible, and the pair were a joy to watch onscreen. Allen’s direction was also picture perfect, with a lot of visual flairs and unique cinematic devices being used to tell the film’s story.
Annie Hall was well reviewed by critics who scored it an incredible 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences have similarly rated the film highly, too, with an 8.2/10 score on imdb.com
2 – Bridget Jones’s Diary – 2001
Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary, was a huge hit all over the world. The novel, written in the style of a personal diary, detailed the exploits of Bridget Jones, a thirty year old woman struggling with single life in London. The novel went on to sell more than 2 million copies worldwide and spawned a number of follow up novels. 2001’s ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ saw Fielding’s novel being adapted for the big screen. Director Sharon Maguire tapped actress Renée Zellweger to play the eponymous main character, while Hugh Grant and Colin Firth were brought in to play her two love interests. Bridget Jones’s Diary perfectly captured the feel of the novel it was based on, and Zellweger delivered an excellent performance as the titular main character.
Critics enjoyed the film scoring it 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. Zellweger, in particular, received a huge amount of praise from critics which eventually earned her a nomination for ‘Best Actress’ at the 2002 Oscars. While the film failed to capture the attentions of male audiences, it was hugely popular with female audiences all over the world. Today, the film is generally considered one of the best romantic comedies ever made.
1 – Amélie – 2001
Amélie was an unexpected delight when it hit cinema screens in 2001. The film, directed by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, had been picking up some fame and notoriety on the European indie film circuit, but few expected it to live up to the hype. In the end, Amélie didn’t just live up to the hype – it surpassed it.
Amélie starred French actress Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain, a quiet and shy waitress living in Paris. The film followed Poulain as she helped the people around her while discovering the joys of love. Amélie is the perfect romantic comedy. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet perfectly captured the beauty of Paris, while writer Guillaume Laurant’s dialogue was a joy to listen to. Audrey Tautou delivered arguably the best performance of her career too, as did her supporting cast.
Amélie has gone on to become a film classic and a favourite of film lovers all over the world. It currently enjoys an 8.5/10 rating on imdb.com and is generally considered by many to be the best romantic comedy ever made.