On May 25th, Vogue published a list of the 51 Best Romantic Comedies of All Time. That’s right- all time.
And of course I take exception to it, to put it mildly. Maybe I’m holding Vogue to unreasonable standards- it’s not AFI or anything- but the fact remains that of their 51 all time best romantic comedies, I agree with exactly eleven.
Why so few? First, tell me if you think The Graduate is a romantic comedy. (Hint: it’s not). How about Bridesmaids? Is Bridesmaids even romantic (No, seriously, asking- I couldn’t get through the first ten minuets it was so crass). And those are the two problems. The majority of movies are either 1) not romantic comedies or 2) not good, not to mention not the ‘best of all time’.
But of course this is all just opinion. If I were to make a list of what I think are the best romantic comedies (of all time), it would be the list that follows. The ones in italics are those I share with Vogue.
- The Philadelphia Story, 1940: One of the greatest.
- Sleepless in Seattle, 1993: I was blown away the first time I watched this.
- Annie Hall, 1977: If you can stomach Woody Allen for an hour and a half.
- Roman Holiday, 1953: Pretty tops. Also a great film to make you want to travel.
- The Princess Bride, 1987: A fantasy-romcom mashup.
- Groundhog Day, 1993: I could watch this over and over again. 😛
- Pretty Woman, 1990: It has it’s issues but it’s an excellent example of the genre with a lot of common tropes.
- Bringing Up Baby, 1938: My leopard brings all the boys to the yard.
- 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999: The best of the teen romcoms.
- When Harry Met Sally, 1989: It is a great disappointment to me that there aren’t more Meg Ryan films quite like this one and Sleepless in Seattle.
- Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1994: And of course the funeral is for the best character.
- It Happened One Night, 1934: And this is where we get into my own. Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, whose role created a mini trend for men’s trench coats.
- Sabrina, 1954: Relish seeing Humphrey Bogart act buttoned up and dopey because it’s rare. Also Audrey.
- Much Ado About Nothing, 1993: This scene.
- Love in the Afternoon, 1957: Why is there so much Audrey on this list?
- Paris When it Sizzles, 1964: I don’t know, I thought it was just a lot of William Holden?
- The Shop Around the Corner, 1940: Or maybe Jimmy Stewart?
- Here Comes Mr. Jordan, 1941: This is the strangest premise: a boxer dies too soon due to a mix up in heaven and gets to adopt the body of a millionaire playboy.
- Midnight, 1939: Claudette Colbert is hired by a husband to break up his wife’s affair with another woman. But her own romantic complications ensue.
- It’s Love I’m After, 1937: Leslie Howard and Bette Davis seem like an odd match. But it works soooooo well.
- Ball of Fire, 1941: It’s like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves if the racy Barbara Stanwyck were Snow White and the dwarves were sheltered bookish professors.
- What’s Up, Doc?, 1972: Had to include a Barbra Streisand.
- Some Like It Hot, 1959: Two male musicians witness a mob hit and must disguise themselves as female members of an all-women band. Marilyn Monroe is there too.
- Big, 1988: Just kind of ignore the fact that he’s a young boy in an adult body if you don’t want to get the creeps. Otherwise it’s great!
- Charade, 1963: More Cary Grant and of course, more Audrey.
- Priceless, 2006: The only non-English film on this list, which suggests I need to do more exploring. Absolutely very funny.
You may notice that I left off romantic comedy musicals, which I feel are a rather different beast that deserves a list of its own. So that explains some of my differences with Vogue. Additionally after making this list it’s pretty clear I lean more toward the classic screwball romantic comedies. Vogue had a few examples, but I kind of go all in for them.
I don’t think a lot of current romantic comedies are very good. But I have a lower tolerance for body humor and gross out gags than a lot of people, I think.
So in the end, can I come to any conclusions about what, to me, makes a good romantic comedy? Generally yes. Besides qualifying as romantic comedies (by being both comedic and romantic) what makes one really good is, I think, being easy to watch, a little fanciful/serendipitous, tongue in cheek, and having the humor to laugh at itself.
Any big ones I’m forgetting? What do you think are the ingredients in the ultimate romantic comedy?