Romantic comedies: you know them, you love them. The genre has been around forever and has resulted in all kinds of stories that have warmed millions of hearts. Just as with all forms of art, there was an easily identifiable “golden age” of romcoms: Dynamic duos like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, the iconic teen movie/classic lit retelling subgenre and too many people living in fancy New York apartments while working for newspapers or magazines are just a few trademarks of the late ’80s-early 2000s era. Whether you come for the love stories, the humor or the soundtracks, there’s something for everyone in romcoms. Unfortunately, nowadays, good romcoms are few and far between. Some have even gone so far as to declare the genre dead, but I disagree — here are five of my favorite romantic comedies that were made in the last decade.
“Love, Rosie” (2014)
I have been in love with this movie ever since I first watched it. Rosie (Lily Collins, “Emily in Paris”) and Alex (Sam Claflin, “Me Before You”) have been best friends since childhood, but could they be something more? The film, based on Cecelia Ahern’s novel “Where Rainbows End,” follows Rosie and Alex from their high school days well into adulthood, the paths they take and the many, many times they almost end up together. It’s a “will they/won’t they” of epic proportions. The friends-to-lovers trope is one of my favorites to read, and though I will admit that, in this particular story, the slow burn drives me insane. But of course, it is worth it in the end. But because it takes the pair so long to confess their true feelings, we see them develop as unique individuals outside of their relationship. Plus, it’s a decent book-to-screen adaptation, if that appeals to you. If anyone can find me a DVD copy of this movie, I will love you forever.
“Set It Up” (2018)
This Netflix flick is the perfect example of a modern romcom. Harper (Zoey Deutch, “Not Okay”) works for sports journalist Kirsten (Lucy Liu, “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”), while Charlie (Glen Powell, “Top Gun: Maverick”) is the assistant to Rick (Taye Diggs, “Rent”), a venture capitalist. Both Harper and Charlie are overworked, so they hatch a plan to make their demanding bosses fall in love and get themselves some well-deserved free time. It works, perhaps better than they expected. Part of what makes “Set It Up” so enjoyable is its realistic feel. Maybe the “‘Parent Trap’-ing your bosses to get them laid” aspect isn’t too real, but the characters are real, and far from perfect. Deutch and Powell have a very casual chemistry; it’s easy to believe that their characters are genuinely falling for each other. The growth that they both show in their careers and their relationships, is entertaining as well. This movie feels very reminiscent of many iconic romcoms that have come before it, and I hope that it continues to get the attention it deserves.
“Crazy Rich Asians” (2018)
Based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name, “Crazy Rich Asians” follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, “Hustlers”) as she travels to Singapore with her longtime boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding, “Last Christmas”). What she doesn’t know, however, is that Nick comes from a rich family, and his mother (Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”) is hard to win over. Everything about this movie is gorgeous: the cast, the location and the glamour of the “crazy rich” lifestyle. But behind that facade, there is so much modernity and vulnerability in the characters. Rachel is the epitome of a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man (even though she has one), and is graceful, even towards those going out of their way to exclude her. Nick remains in her corner, even when doing so conflicts with his family. The film is a landmark for Asian American representation as well, an upward trend that will hopefully continue. Every day that passes without an update on the sequel I die a little inside, but I’m still holding out hope.
“Isn’t It Romantic” (2019)
This movie is truly underrated; I can’t recommend it enough. Natalie (Rebel Wilson, “Pitch Perfect”) has hated romantic comedies ever since she was little, because she finds them unrealistic and because none of the leading ladies ever look like her. These details are the perfect precursor for this movie’s plot: Natalie gets mugged, which sends her to an alternate reality where she is the lead in her own romcom. Suddenly, every trope she’s ever mocked happens to her, but at least she has a handsome love interest in Blake (Liam Hemsworth, “The Hunger Games”). The film has been met with mediocre ratings since it was first released in 2019, but my best friend and I saw it in the theater and laughed out loud the entire time. The way that it pokes fun at romcoms while simultaneously being one makes the chaos both hilarious and wholesome. Plus, seeing Natalie grow to love herself and appreciate happy endings is a satisfying arc.
“Someone Great” (2019)
It might seem contradictory to include a movie about a breakup in a list of my favorite romcoms, but “Someone Great” belongs on this list. Jenny (Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”) is a music journalist about to move across the country for her dream job — but is dumped the day before she leaves by her longtime boyfriend, Nate (LaKeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”). The film follows Jenny and her best friends, Blair (Brittany Snow, “Pitch Perfect”) and Erin (DeWanda Wise, “She’s Gotta Have It”), on their one last New York City adventure as Jenny comes to terms with her breakup. Netflix calls the movie “a hilarious and heartfelt story of friendship, love, and what it means to let go of your twenties and enter adulthood,” a description that could not be more fitting. The relationship that this movie focuses on may not be everlasting, but that won’t stop viewers from laughing, crying and aww-ing as if it were a more traditional romcom.
Romantic comedies may not be made as much as they were 30 years ago, or met with as much commercial success, but the genre is far from dead. These new romcoms are more modern than they might appear. It would be easy to write off romcoms as the same stories over and over again: boy meets girl, they fall in love, there’s some kind of conflict, they kiss and make up by the end. That may be true to a certain extent, but that formula is part of what makes them so beloved to audiences. Knowing how the story will end brings us comfort. And yet within their predictability, we still see female leads that stand on their own, male leads who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, positive character growth both in and out of a relationship, and more. Romcoms are not only here to stay, they’re evolving.
All of this isn’t to gloss over the issues still prevalent in romantic comedies — the largest one being the lack of diversity in characters and storylines, something that became glaringly obvious to me when I realized that nearly every film I consider a “favorite” features mostly straight white leads. However, change appears to be on the horizon, with movies like “Fire Island,” “Father of the Bride” (2022) and “Always Be My Maybe” both subverting the classic elements of the genre and being met with positive reviews. Romantic comedies give us the “warm fuzzies” and justify our desire for sweeping love stories by showing them on the screen. They may be predictable, but they’re still modern in their own way. Long live the romcom!
Daily Arts Writer Hannah Carapellotti can be reached at email@example.com.