Watching countless movies (321 according to the amount I’ve rated on IMDb) alone in my room has taught me a number of life lessons. The most important one has been that romantic comedies, 95% of the time are horrible. This is bumped up to 100% of the time if Julia Roberts is involved.
Spending the rest of my free time surfing the internet alone in my room has also taught me many important life lessons, one of those being that everyone is lazy and would rather read in list form whenever possible so lazy ladies and gentlemen I present the 12 good romantic comedies of the last 10 years.
Hitch came out in 2005 and stars Will Smith, Eva Mendes, and Kevin James (in the funniest thing he probably will ever do). I’ll start off by saying up front I would not watch Hitch again. It is with out a doubt the most generic movie on the list. However it is miles ahead of any rom-com from the last 10 years that isn’t on the list which is enough to merit inclusion. Hitch (Smith) is a date doctor. He knows women and knows how to make relationships happen. The movie does fall into typical rom-com cheesy-ness at times and Will Smith does carry the movie most of the time. There is also a massive character contradiction where at one point Hitch refuses to work with a man because he is not interested in developing a relationship with a woman, just in getting her in bed. But a few scenes earlier Hitch did just that. But overall Hitch made for some genuine laughs, had a mostly strong script, and James and Smith had good chemistry. If you’re a guy and you have to watch a generic rom-com for date night, I’d recommend it. In that situation, whatever you do, do not have her watch…
Ted came out in 2012 and stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and Seth MacFarlande (who may have thought he was still Peter Griffin). I had some questions in putting this in the category of romantic comedy especially when I left I Love You, Man off the list because it was more about the relationship between Jason Segel and Paul Rudd than Paul Rudd and Ann from Parks and Rec. But then I watched Ted again and realized it was justified. The whole conflict in Ted happens because Lori (Kunis) wants John (Wahlberg) to kick his best friend Ted (MacFarlane) out of their apartment so John can get his life together and they can move on with their relationship. Since the relationship was the driving force of the movie its a rom-com. Now that thats out of the way, Ted did have a difficult premise to pull off. Not because one of the stars was a talking teddy bear that sounded like Peter Griffin, but because if you were told you could have a teddy bear like Ted or a girlfriend that looks like Mila Kunis you’re not gonna really struggle with making that choice. But you do end up buying Johns actions because you buy that he does love Lori but also that Ted is his best friend. However, you don’t end up hating Lori either because its obvious Ted isn’t the best influence on Johns life. Overall Ted is nothing more or less than a very funny movie (and I’m saying this as an avid Family Guy hater). Its loaded with reference humor which I love and has enough totally random and ridiculous moments and premises that are believable (in the movies universe) that kept me laughing from beginning to end.
10. Lars and the Real Girl
Lars and the Real Girl came out in 2007 and stars Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, and Paul Schnelder. The story centers around Gosling who plays Lars Lindstrom, a quiet man from a small town who doesn’t seem to have many close relationships. Lars then decides to fix that and orders one of those blow up dolls over the internet and falls in love with her. Thats the short of it, and honestly the premise alone would be enough to land it on this list, even if it did fall flat on its face as it seems it should. I mean come on, there have been very few original romantic comedies well… ever. And this is one of them. Gosling saves the movie in his portrayal of Lars as he is able to strike a balance in keeping Lars from becoming cartoonish while still keeping the movie at a near constant laugh-out-loud level. Its also a very heartwarming story. As Lars works up the courage to introduce “Bianca” to the rest of the town his relationship is met with unexpected, genuine support and Lars begins to finally blossom which helps bring home the great message the movie sends. Theres a lot to be gained from acts of kindness.
9. Friends with Benefits
Friends with Benefits came out in 2009 and stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. This movie came out around the same time as No Strings Attached which starred Milas Black Swan costar Natalie Portman and her future boyfriend/That 70s Show costar Ashton Kutcher. I just found that to be kind of funny. This movie is a lot better though. For starters Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake have better chemistry than any two leads in a rom-com on this list. In fact, probably better than any duo on the list. The banter they have is believable and pretty funny. Also the movie has some inside jokes that I found to be very entertaining. Both Jamie (Kunis) and Dylan (Timberlake) were given a lot more depth and development apart from eachother than I had anticipated. It spends more time developing both leads, particularly Dylan in ways that I didn’t expect which was very refreshing. Also since I do truly hate rom-coms, I appreciated that this one took time to explicitly make fun of them so it gets points for that. This isn’t by any means a deep movie, but the strong on screen chemistry, good writing, likeable characters, and self-awareness it shows all help deliver a very solid picture.
8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
FSM was released in 2008 and stars Kristen Bell, Jason Segel, Mila Kunis (again I know, last time I swear), and more importantly Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. FSM follows a simple premise. TV score composer Peter (Segel) is dating TV starlet Sarah (Bell). Sarah dumps Peter. Peter gets sad. Peter goes on vacation in Hawaii and happens to stay at the same hotel where Sarah and her rockstar boyfriend Aldous Snow (Brand) are also staying. Russell Brand provides the best performance and offers the most laugh-out-loud moments, especially when on screen with Jonah Hill who works at the hotel and is a Snow fan-boy. Segel wrote the script and worked in some pretty clever jokes and jabs at pop culture. Snow obviously is a parody of self-indulgent overly “cause driven” pop stars. Segel also makes fun of crime scene shows (Peter and Sarah work on one at the start of the movie). Despite this the movie doesn’t rely on too many pop-culture references and is a stand alone comedy. However, I was most impressed with the character construction. None of the main characters are one-dimensional, even Sarah and Aldous who are supposed to be shallow. They also aren’t cartoonishly overstated. Well, except for Aldous Snow but he is an ex-drug addict, sex addict rockstar so he may be more realistic in that role than I realize. The major differences between Rachel (Kunis) and Sarah are represented in very subtle ways which I found refreshing and all characters were likeable which doesn’t usually happen in any movie. That contrast between Rachel and Sarah was very important in helping the movie accurately illustrate the difficulties in moving on. Sarah is a shallow spoiled brat deep down. Rachel is a sweet, charismatic girl who sees the good in people. But Peter still finds it hard to forget Sarah Marshall. I thought this was played beautifully. All in all Forgetting Sarah Marshall didn’t have the greatest premise in the world but the execution was near perfect and made the whole movie very original. It was much more subtle than a typical comedy but was also funnier than a typical comedy which is hard to pull off and proves that less is more.
7. Wedding Crashers
Wedding Crashers first crashed theaters (see what I did there?) in 2005 and stars Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Isla Fisher. Full disclosure, I haven’t seen Wedding Crashers in a very long time. However, I do remember how funny it was. Without a doubt it is the funniest movie on this list. Vince Vaughn is, in my opinion, one of the funniest people making movies and was when Wedding Crashers came out. The riffs he goes on had me laughing harder than I do in many movies. Of all the movies on this list, this one along with Ted is the least romantic and could be argued to not be an actual rom-com. But this isn’t your list is it? John (Wilson) and Jeremy (Vaughn) crash weddings to hook up with girls. They have a big list of rules on just how to do this. However, when they crash the Cleary wedding, Wilson breaks one of them when he falls for Claire (McAdams) who is already spoken for. This rom-com is one I found to be somewhat split. While Claire and Johns storyline has plenty of funny moments, it holds most of the romance. On the other hand, Jeremy and Gloria (Fisher) bring up most of the comedy end as they are without question the funniest two characters. In short it plays out just how you’d think it would, but that doesn’t make it less entertaining.
6. Crazy, Stupid, Love
Crazy, Stupid, Love hit theaters in 2011 and stars Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, and Emma Stone. Jacob (Gosling) is pretty much the opposite of how he was in Lars and the Real Girl. He’s well dressed, interesting, and picks up as many women as Barney Stinson but in much more believable ways. When Cal (Carell) gets dumped by his wife Emily (Moore) he starts frequenting the bar where Jacob hangs out. Jacob in the end decides to take Cal under his wing and teach him how to not be so pathetic. During this teaching period Jacob delivers a line about the battle of the sexes that just might be the best line in any of these movies. Of course just when Cal is getting on his feet, Jacob meets Hannah (Stone) and starts to need Cals help since actual relationships are more his area. Combined with sub-plots involving Cals son and his babysitter pretty much anyone can relate to Crazy, Stupid, Love. That said, most guys will relate because most of them think they’re as suave and well dressed as Ryan Gosling in this movie but still the movie is highly relatable, very funny, and feel good but in a realistic non-cheesy way. Very well written.
5. (500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer came out in 2009 and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, and an amazing soundtrack. In short Summer (Deschanel) doesn’t believe in true love and Tom (JGL) is in love with her. Never a good situation to be in. The story telling in the movie is great, jumping around in time and showing you where it is by posting how many days it has been since Tom first met Summer. Its a very original rom-com because, as the narrator tells you at the beginning of the movie, this is not a love story. While Friends with Benefits overtly made fun of rom-coms and said up front it was trying to avoid their cliches, (500) Days of Summer does that more quietly and with a little more success. I don’t think a romantic comedy that doesn’t feature a traditionally inanimate object has ever been this original in premise or execution. (Well maybe one has been.) It maintains realism better than most movies while still managing to be more entertaining than most movies. It follows no formula, doesn’t pound you over the head with conventionally “good” or “evil” characters (it executes the subtly of FSMs character building but does it better). Most importantly its heartbreakingly relatable to anyone who has ever been led on or has been the more loving half of a relationship. If you have been in that situation before as I have then there really isn’t a more relatable movie or a more accurate depiction of romance to relate to.
Beginners began in 2010 (these just come to me) and stars Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent. With FSM and (500) Days of Summer I emphasized subtly of character. No movie has done that better than Beginners. However, Beginners does it so well that it almost gets disqualified from being a romantic comedy for lacking comedy. The jokes are there, they’re just not the focus of the movie. Beginners is without a doubt the most complex movie on this list. It tells three different stories. It flashes back to Olivers (McGregor) relationship with his mother growing up. During this time it also shows how his mother struggles through a marriage that only works on one level. In the second story it is revealed that this is because Olivers father Hal (Plummer) is gay, and at age 75, months after the passing of his wife and just after finding he has terminal cancer, he is ready to explore his homosexuality. The final story follows Oliver and Anna (Laurent) and the development of their relationship. Beginners really explores how our past experiences give us our motivations and dictate our perception of situations and our decision making. More importantly, it shows that that we need to recognize when this causes us to go down an unhappy path and to catch ourselves when this occurs and let go of our past even though this makes us beginners at anything. Love or life.
3. Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linkings Playbook came out in 2012 (hard to believe because in it the Eagles are supposed to be good) and stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver. All four of the stars were nominated for an Oscar making it I think the third movie ever to be nominated in every acting category. So to say the acting is good is an understatement. Chris Tucker was a bit mis-cast but otherwise its overall the best acted movie here by a good stretch. The weird thing for me is, as high as I’ve ranked this movie, it is the only one that didn’t live up to my expectations. Of course I expected most of this list to be horrible and SLP had a huge amount of hype so that does explain why. The only other gripe I have is this movie has a dance scene at the end. I hate dance scenes but they danced to the White Stripes at one point so that made it alright. Those two gripes aside, this was a very enjoyable movie. Pat (Cooper) and Tiffany (Lawrence) are both bipolar. Pat lives with his parents (De Niro and Weaver) and is trying to get his life together. Even though Lawrence won the Oscar for her role, Cooper is the main character. The premise of the movie is original enough but what really won me over was how they handled the romantic aspect. Or how the author of the book did I guess, I haven’t read it so I can’t speak for how accurate the interpretation is. For most of the movie Pat and Tiffany are building a relationship without it being apparent to either of them. Pat spends most of the movie trying to figure out how to win his ex-wife back. I really enjoyed how they worked the romantic part of the movie which bumped it up a few spots. Its very well written as well, the script takes full advantage of Cooper and Lawrences comedic talents.
2. Garden State
Garden State came out before Kick Starter existed in 2004 and stars Natalie Portman, the films writer/director Zach Braff, and the only existing soundtrack that is better than the one from (500) Days of Summer. Garden State is about Andrew (Braff) a 20-something year old who returns home after 9 years for his mothers funeral. While at home he takes a vacation from the anti-depression medication his father has given him and begins to reconnect with old friends and discovers love through Sam (Portman). Braff penned a great script. A fantastic one actually. He and Jason Segel proved that TV actors can make it big in more ways than one. Garden State is several levels above Forgetting Sarah Marshall though. Upon its release many said Zach Braff was the new Woody Allen and that Garden State was as generation defining as Fight Club. Since Braff had to open a Kick Starter nine years later to make a follow up I’m not so sure about the first comparison but the second is right on the money. Garden State had plenty of classic scenes, a great soundtrack, great acting, great chemistry, great writing, great directing, great everything. But it really spoke to teenagers and young adults. It was about much more than discovering love and its meaning and place. It showed what its like to be a young adult with your whole life ahead of you, staring out at this empty space and not knowing what to fill it with. That that idea and the frustration that comes with it is what universally spoke to a generation just as Fight Club spoke to the one before. This made Garden State transcend the rom-com genre and become a universally relatable movie outside the idea of love.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2004. Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Frodo. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind beats out every other movie in original premise. When Joel (Carrey) and Clementine (Winslet) watch their relationship fall apart they decide to each decide to erase the other from their respective memories. It also wins out in the originality of story telling and direction. As memories are being erased we follow Joel through his relationship with Clementine and watch how their relationship unfolded in out-of-sequence memories. The procedure is done while the subjects are sleeping and I can’t help but feel Christoper Nolan took found some ideas for Inception in this movie. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind doesn’t have the greatest acting, greatest script, greatest chemistry, funniest dialogue or greatest one liners. Thats what makes it all the more impressive. There is nothing flashy about it in truth. Of course it is very entertaining, and has it funny moments. Overall though its just an incredibly original story that sends the message that every relationship has a beauty worth remembering.
Honorable Mentions/Why That One Isn’t Here:
I Love You, Man (2009. Jason Segel, Paul Rudd)
Very entertaining movie that could be a date-night type movie. Focus isn’t on the romantic relationship though.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999. Heath Leger, Julia Styles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Miles better than Hitch, not nearly as good as Ted. Would have been between them on the list for managing the difficult task of being a decent high school movie if it came out four years later.
Choke (2008. Sam Rockwell, Anjellica Huston, Kelly Macdonald)
The only other movie based on one of my favorite authors book (Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club). This would have replaced Wedding Crashers as the funniest movie on the list, Sam Rockwell is perfect. But the romantic element wasn’t quite present enough.
Four Christmases (2008. Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn)
Another very funny movie, but again I didn’t see it as really being a “romantic” comedy.
Midnight in Paris (2011. Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams)
A lot of people think this is a romantic comedy for some reason. I see it as neither. However it is a very good movie.
Shaun of the Dead (2004. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost)
Come on. Yeah some say this is a romantic comedy. No, Simon Peggs got more pressing matters.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010. Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Her?)
One of the best movies of 2010. Why its not here? The world isn’t ready for Michael Cera to be a romantic lead.
Juno (2007. Ellen Page, Jennifer Garner, The Bluths)
The relationship is more of a subplot.