Romantic comedies, or rom-coms, are a genre of movies that combine humour and romance to tell stories of love and its complications.
They usually feature a couple of protagonists who meet, fall in love, face some obstacles, and eventually overcome them to achieve a happy ending. Rom-coms are popular among audiences of all ages and backgrounds, as they offer escapism, entertainment, and inspiration for finding or keeping the one.
But with so many rom-coms out there, how do you choose which ones to watch? How do you find the ones that will make you laugh, cry, and swoon? How do you avoid the ones that are clichéd, predictable, or just plain bad?
To help you with this dilemma, we have compiled a list of the 10 best romantic comedies of all time, based on critical acclaim, audience ratings, and cultural impact. These are the movies that have defined the genre, influenced generations of filmmakers and viewers, and made us believe in the power of love. Whether you are looking for a classic, a modern, or a quirky rom-com, you will find something to suit your taste and mood in this list.
So grab some popcorn, a cosy blanket, and your significant other (or your best friend, or your cat), and get ready to enjoy the best romantic comedies of all time!
The Best Romantic Comedies of all time
10. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
This is the oldest movie on our list, but also one of the most timeless and sophisticated. The Philadelphia Story stars Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite who is about to marry a dull but respectable man. However, her plans are disrupted by the arrival of her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), and a charming reporter, Macaulay Connor (James Stewart), who are both determined to win her back.
The movie is full of witty dialogue, sparkling chemistry, and hilarious situations, as Tracy tries to figure out who she loves and what she wants. The Philadelphia Story is a masterpiece of screwball comedy and a showcase of the talents of its three legendary leads.
9. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
This is the movie that launched the careers of Steve Carell and Judd Apatow and ushered in a new wave of raunchy but heartfelt rom-coms. The 40-Year-Old Virgin follows Andy Stitzer (Carell), a shy and nerdy guy who has never had sex, and his friends who try to help him lose his virginity. Along the way, he meets and falls for Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mother who has issues with intimacy.
The movie is full of hilarious and outrageous scenes, such as the infamous waxing sequence, but also has a lot of heart and sweetness. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a movie that celebrates love in all its forms and proves that it’s never too late to find it.
8. Love Actually (2003)
This is the ultimate ensemble rom-com, featuring a star-studded cast of British actors and multiple interlocking stories of love and romance. Love explores the different aspects of love, from the passionate to the platonic, from the hopeful to the heartbreaking, from the festive to the tragic.
The movie follows various characters, such as the newly elected Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who falls for his assistant (Martine McCutcheon), a writer (Colin Firth) who falls for his Portuguese housekeeper (Lúcia Moniz), a married man (Alan Rickman) who is tempted by his secretary (Heike Makatsch), and a widower (Liam Neeson) who helps his stepson (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) woo his crush.
The movie is full of memorable moments, such as the airport chase, the cue card confession, and the singing of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Love Actually is a movie that will make you laugh, cry, and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
7. Knocked Up (2007)
This is another Judd Apatow gem, starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl as two unlikely parents-to-be. Knocked Up follows Ben Stone (Rogen), a slacker who has a one-night stand with Alison Scott (Heigl), a career-oriented woman who gets pregnant as a result. The movie chronicles their awkward and hilarious attempts to get to know each other and prepare for parenthood while dealing with their respective friends and families.
The movie is full of crude humour but also has a lot of heart and realism. Knocked Up is a movie that tackles the challenges of relationships, responsibility, and growing up, with a lot of laughs and charm.
6. Clueless (1995)
This is the movie that made Alicia Silverstone a star and introduced us to the world of Cher Horowitz, a rich and popular Beverly Hills teenager who loves shopping, matchmaking, and meddling in other people’s lives.
Clueless is loosely based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma, and follows Cher as she tries to improve the lives of her friends, such as her new project Tai (Brittany Murphy), her ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd), and her crush Christian (Justin Walker). The movie is full of witty and quotable dialogue, colourful and stylish outfits, and catchy and nostalgic songs. Clueless is a movie that captures the spirit of the 90s and celebrates the joys and pains of being a teenager.
5. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
This is the movie that asked the question: “Can men and women ever just be friends?” When Harry Met Sally… stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as Harry Burns and Sally Albright, two friends who meet, part, and reunite over 12 years. The movie explores their evolving relationship, from their initial dislike to their platonic friendship, to their eventual romance.
The movie is full of witty and realistic dialogue, written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, and features one of the most iconic scenes in rom-com history: the fake orgasm at Katz’s Delicatessen. When Harry Met Sally… is a movie that examines the complexities of love and friendship, and proves that sometimes, the one you’re looking for is right in front of you.
4. Pretty Woman (1990)
This is the movie that made Julia Roberts a superstar and paired her with Richard Gere in one of the most successful and beloved rom-com of all time. Pretty Woman follows Edward Lewis (Gere), a wealthy and cynical businessman who hires Vivian Ward (Roberts), a charming and vivacious prostitute, to be his escort for a week. The movie shows how they develop an unexpected and genuine connection, as they learn from each other and challenge each other’s assumptions.
The movie is full of memorable scenes, such as the shopping spree, the opera, and the necklace. Pretty Woman is a movie that reimagines the Cinderella story and shows that love can transcend social barriers and stereotypes.
3. The Princess Bride (1987)
This is a movie that combines romance, comedy, adventure, fantasy, and fairy tale in one delightful package. The Princess Bride is based on the novel by William Goldman and follows the story of Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright), two lovers who are separated by fate and must overcome various obstacles to be reunited.
The movie is full of unforgettable characters, such as Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), Fezzik (André the Giant), and Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), and features some of the most quotable lines in movie history, such as “As you wish”, “Inconceivable!”, and “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” The Princess Bride is a movie that appeals to all ages and tastes and celebrates the power of storytelling and true love.
2. Groundhog Day (1993)
This is a movie that takes a simple and ingenious premise and turns it into a brilliant and hilarious comedy. Groundhog Day stars Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a cynical and arrogant weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. However, he soon discovers that he is stuck in a time loop, and has to relive the same day over and over again.
The movie shows how he tries to cope with his situation, from exploiting it to escaping it to improving it, and how he gradually falls in love with his producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell). The movie is full of clever and funny scenarios, as Phil experiments with different actions and outcomes, and learns to appreciate life and love. Groundhog Day is a movie that combines humour and philosophy and shows that every day is a new opportunity to change and grow.
1. The Apartment (1960)
This is the movie that tops our list, and for good reason. The Apartment is a masterpiece of comedy and drama, written and directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. The Apartment follows C.C. Baxter (Lemmon), a lowly and lonely office worker who lends his apartment to his superiors for their extramarital affairs. However, he soon falls in love with Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), an elevator operator who is having an affair with his boss, J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), a ruthless and married executive.
The movie is full of sharp and witty dialogue, touching and heartbreaking moments, and superb performances by the two leads. The Apartment is a movie that exposes the dark side of corporate America, and the human cost of ambition and greed. It is also a romantic comedy that celebrates the resilience and dignity of ordinary people, and the hope and joy of finding true love.
These are the 10 best romantic comedies of all time, according to us. Of course, you may have your favourites, and we respect that. After all, love and laughter are subjective, and everyone has their taste and preferences. But we hope that this list has given you some ideas and inspiration for your next movie night, or your next romantic date. Whether you are single, in a relationship, or somewhere in between, we hope that you find the movie that makes you happy, and the person that makes you happier.
Thank you for reading, and happy watching!
Researched by Chioma Iloh Sandra