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Romantic Comedies

Movies | By Nicholas for The Top 13 on February 11, 2010

With Valentine's Day rapidly approaching, we here at The Top 13 thought it would be appropriate to count down the best romantic comedies, which meant sifting through a lot of dreck. The best "rom-coms" are those that toe the difficult line between laughter and true, emotional heft. Much like its polar-opposite, horror, romantic-comedy is an extremely easy genre to make money in, but it takes a true genius to deliver a masterpiece.

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Annie Hall

1

Annie Hall

1977

Critically speaking, the sub-genre of romantic comedy is pretty much universally reviled, but with his 1977 film Annie Hall, Woody Allen both established himself as a force to be reckoned with and put forth what was, in many ways, a defense of the genre. In fact, this witty, meta-textual masterpiece is a direct antecedent to many of the films on this list. Technical bravura aside, though, Annie Hall is simply a spectacular film filled with great performances and whip-smart writing that meditates on remarkably mature notions of love.

When Harry Met Sally

2

When Harry Met Sally

1989

When Harry Met Sally truly revolutionized the mainstream romantic comedy in a way that art house fare such as Annie Hall could never hope to achieve. Rob Reiner's film is crude, quick, and immediately funny, but even still, it managed to cleverly level the playing field for men and women by reversing many of the expected roles and dynamics. What's more, thanks to effusive performances by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, the film stays afloat in spite of its sometimes trite dialogue.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

3

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

2004

Post-Annie Hall, two approaches seem to have emerged when it comes to the romantic comedy: the pure, fluff comedy, and the romantic dramady; Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine falls squarely into the latter camp. Thanks to a wonderfully dark and convoluted script from post-modern master Charlie Kaufman and what is easily Jim Carrey's most straight-faced performance to date, our readers actually named it one of the best dramas of the decade. As such, it's not exactly the ideal "date movie," but it is a near perfect distillation of modern love and relationships with its fair share of real laughs, all of which makes it a great romantic comedy.

Roman Holiday

4

Roman Holiday

1953

Perhaps the most traditional romantic comedy on this list, William Wyler's Roman Holiday is the film that introduced audiences the world over to Audrey Hepburn, here in the role of a princess on vacation. Gregory Peck, who plays opposite Hepburn, turns in a predictably strong performance, ensuring that the whimsy of the film stay ever-so-slightly grounded. Even still, the film is pure fantasy, but it's a fantasy that's wonderful to get swept up in.

Groundhog Day

5

Groundhog Day

1993

Critically underrated at the time of its release, Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day has gone on to rightfully claim a spot as one of the best comedies of the past twenty years. And though its "stuck-in-a-time-loop" concept could have come off as overwrought, Bill Murray pulls it off perfectly. Allowing Murray's character Phil Conners to reenact a single day over and over again, his ultimate change of heart, and eventually successful courtship of Rita (played by Andie MacDowell) seems more realistic than most romantic comedies.

Secretary

6

Secretary

2002

This twisted, sadomasochistic take on the romantic comedy from Steven Shainberg is oddly endearing, which is in no small part thanks to extremely charismatic performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. Their relationship, first as Boss and Secretary and then later as Dom and Sub, feels amazingly raw.

Hannah and Her Sisters

7

Hannah and Her Sisters

1986

Nearly ten years after Annie Hall came out, Woody Allen released this powerfully female take on romance and the bonds of sisterhood. In some ways, this film can be seen as a return to a more traditional romantic comedy structure, but the genius-filled ensemble cast make Allen's already strong script seem positively Altman-esque in both scope and tone.

Something's Gotta Give

8

Something's Gotta Give

2003

Smack in the middle of Nancy Meyers' five-film long, mediocrity-filled directorial career lies this under-looked gem of a comedy. Meyers' otherwise drab, semi-autobiographical script is brought to life by positively luminous performances from Diane Keaton, who plays an aging divorcee, and Jack Nicholson, playing something of an elderly lothario. In fact, Keaton's performance earned her a much-deserved Oscar nomination, as well as a Golden Globe win.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

9

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

2008

The Apatow crew has consistently produced the best out-and-out comedies of the past decade, but director Nicholas Stoller's debut feature, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, was the best of the bunch. Written by and starring Jason Segel in the lead role, the film is at turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, but without ever slipping into the trap of sentimentalism.

The Princess Bride

10

The Princess Bride

1987

The Princess Bride is pure, unabashed fluff from one of the American masters of fluffy cinema, Rob Reiner (in his second appearance on this list). What makes this fantasy style romantic comedy so spectacular, though, is Reiner's willingness to play with the conventions of the genre and screenwriter/novelist William Goldman's deft touch for subverting fantasy and adventure tropes. Even without the meta-theatrical criticism, though, this is a lovely and hysterical film.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

11

Breakfast at Tiffany's

1961

Audrey Hepburn's second entry on this Top 13 has a great deal in common with the first (Roman Holiday). In both films, Hepburn plays a woman swept off her feet by an older man, but here, director Blake Edwards gives us a much more mature, assured Hepburn (not to mention one who wines and dines a fair share more). The result, as time has shown, is positively iconic.

City Lights

12

City Lights

1931

When City Lights was released in 1931, many viewed it as Charlie Chaplin kicking and screaming in the face of technology. Sound had officially arrived in Hollywood three years earlier, but Chaplin chose to produce and release the film without recorded dialogue. As it turned out, the film would end up being considered one of his best, and it remains one of the best romantic comedies ever made.

Knocked Up

13

Knocked Up

2007

Another team Apatow home run, this time with Apatow himself at the helm, Knocked Up is a comedy tour-de-force. The film manages to contain all of the emotional gravitas of a drama without sacrificing a single, riotous laugh. In fact, both we and our readers ranked it as one of the best comedies of the decade.

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Comments Leave a comment

stillathreat ★★

Something's Gotta Give is beyond awful and When Harry Met Sally is irritating. I've never seen City Lights or Roman Holiday, but the other nine movies on this list are good.

8:05 AM   Feb 11, 2010

tonydie 

Just this scene alone from Manhattan would place that movie on my list and easily replace ones like Secretary and Knocked Up - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5owXCZ0CDg

9:08 AM   Feb 11, 2010

plouise 

Great choices! I love seeing Secretary on your list... Gyllenhaal and Spader were fabulous in this film. The only one of your choices that I really did not like when I saw it was Forgetting Sarah Marshall...maybe I need to watch it again.

9:29 AM   Feb 11, 2010

ajay ★★

Princess Bride is the best. I'd also bring City Lights up. I haven't seen When Harry Met Sally or Something's Gotta Give, but I'm surprised they're included. Maybe I should see those.

8:54 PM   Feb 11, 2010

holmessss 

Most of the movies on this list could only barely be considered Rom-Coms in the popular sense of that term I think (and I mean that as a compliment, as many of these are great movies). In the more traditional Rom-Com ouevre I would say 4 Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, About a Boy, and Love Actually are well done. Chick flicks which, although undeniably cheesy, are not without some wit and charm. Wait, crap, those all have Hugh Grant. I'm now wondering what that says about me...

1:09 PM   Feb 17, 2010

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