May 2, 2015

The 10 Best Romantic Comedies

It really is staggering to think about how much time I've spent in my life watching bad rom-coms. When I think of adding all the tens of thousands of minutes I've used watching From Justin to Kelly, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, or whatever this was, and then think about the fact that I could probably be a professional artist or something by now if I had used that time more wisely, it makes me shed a little tear. A few tears, actually. The movie poster of From Justin to Kelly also makes me cry a little, but for a different reason.

That got me thinking: are there actually good romantic comedies out there? Does such a thing exist? How do I separate my own guilty pleasures from what is actually a good movie? I mean, I will watch Leap Year and Sweet Home Alabama every time they are shown on TV (which is a lot, actually), but are they actually good romantic comedies? Or, more likely, are they predictable and cheesy, but happen to star extremely attractive men? (Say, two men who are in my Top 5? Ahem.)

So after a lot of soul searching, and grimacing through lists of movies I've watched, I have come down to the top 10 romantic comedies. (Oh, and a disclaimer. I've never watched Annie Hall, which many people think is the romantic comedy of all time, but I seriously doubt a movie about a relationship between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton would crack my list.)

10. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

This movie was such a surprise hit because it played on a common theme: crazy families. Anyone who doesn't find their family overbearing and embarrassing (at least at times) is probably one of those insufferable people who can't stop talking about how great their family is.  

I know there are some people who don't like Nia Vardalos, but there is something awkwardly funny about her. She reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld. And I find her charming enough that I sat through both My Life in Ruins and I Hate Valentine's Day. (They were both not as bad as anything starring either Katherine Heigl or Kirsten Bell.)

9. The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

This movie combines two of my favorite things: romance, and the 1800's. Except it's a comedy and not the usual dramatic fare expected of a period piece. It's so good I can overlook Frances O'Conner as the main love interest. She'll always be the dowdy Fanny Price to me.

But as much as I love Colin Firth, the scene stealers in this movie are Reese Witherspoon and Rupert Everett. She is a completely wacky character with the complete self-assurance that only comes from being very young, and it's refreshing to see Everett in an actual romantic role, even if it is still not the lead.

8. Keeping the Faith (2000)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: is there any part Edward Norton can't play? I honestly never thought I would enjoy a Ben Stiller movie so much, but this is before he started basically only making Meet the Parents sequels.

Besides, a movie about a rabbi and a priest? The jokes write themselves. 

7. Down With Love (2003)

I love Ewan McGregor. I'm pretty sure everyone does. I love him even more when he sings. If you didn't fall in love with him when he sings Elton John's Your Song to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rougue, then you must have a heart of stone. On first glance, the thought of Ewan McGregor playing a womanizer seems a bit strange, but he pulls it off with such charisma I practically wanted to name my kid Catcher after watching this movie. (Not that I want my son to be a womanizer. I just want him to embody the spirit and song of Ewan McGregor. Is that too much to ask?)

This movie does a wonderful job to taking a tongue-in-cheek look at sexism in the 60's and manages to turn it into something rather romantic. And did I mention Ewan McGregor sings?!?

6. Bull Durham (1988)

I'm sure there are a number of men out there who will argue that this is a sports movie, lest they be caught watching a rom-com on their own with their buddies, but make no mistake: this is a movie about romance. Romance with baseball, and with Susan Sarandon, who plays pretty much the best cougar of all time.

Add to that the fact that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins got together after this movie? It's impossible not to love.
5. Clueless (1995)

It might not be the ultimate romantic comedy, but it is the quintessential movie of the 90's. The amazing banter between Cher and Josh make you remember what it was like to be a teenager. And you almost forget about the awkward fact that they used to be related at one point.

They manage to showcase a number of different relationships and relationship problems while keeping it hilarious and fresh, through the eyes of 16-year-olds. Besides, if you don't watch this movie, how else will you be excited every time you see Elisa Donovan (aka Amber) in a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie?

4. Love, Actually (2003)

Other than the fact that movie is set around Christmastime, I'm not really sure why this is considered a Christmas movie. It's really just an ensemble romantic comedy. An ensemble romantic comedy that spawned a legion of horrible attempts to capitalize on holidays, but the best and original one anyway.

The only thing holding this movie back from a higher spot on the list is, as with all ensemble movies, not all story lines are winners. Everyone has a favorite couple (um, Colin Firth and the Portuguese girl, obviously) and no one's is that random porn couple. Or that guy who goes to Wisconsin. They really bring the movie down a little. 

3. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) 

Yes, I am biased toward anything remotely resembling a Jane Austen book, but the clever spin on making the heroine a total loser adds so much to its humor and relatability to the audience. Every single person in this movie, right down to the gay best friend, is perfectly cast. Anyone who tries to claim Hugh Grant is at his best as an ultimately soft-hearted cad (like in About a Boy, Two Weeks Notice, 9 Months, etc.) is wrong. He's best as just a cad. No soft heart, no inner layers. 

2. Coming to America (1988)

Pretty much the only argument against this movie would be that it's not a "proper" romantic comedy. Sure, it doesn't fit the traditional mold of what you might expect from today's rom-coms, but it involves a main storyline of chasing love and laughs along the way, which I think is pretty much the basic requirement for the category.

This was Eddie Murphy's prime and it's movies like this that has built up the amount of goodwill that allowed him to make movies like Norbit or The Adventures of Pluto Nash. I mean honestly, can anyone who has watched the movie not recall at least a dozen quotable lines? "What is that, velvet?"

1. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

This movie basically set the prototype of what a typical rom-com should be, in my book. The fact that a movie which stars Billy Crystal as a romantic lead with someone as attractive as Meg Ryan can be believable is a testament to its script. Honestly. 

It's as if the movie voices exactly what you're thinking about relationships: whether men and women can be friends, why people get divorced, and of course, can men tell if women are faking it. (Hint: no, they can't. Or the egos won't let them believe otherwise.)

**With 3 movies in the Top 10 list, it seems Colin Firth is the ultimate romantic comedy actor.**

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