Movie Feature

A Bluffer’s Guide to: Romantic Comedies

By Travis WongMovies - 04 June 2012 10:07 AM | Updated 11 August 2014

A Bluffer’s Guide to: Romantic Comedies

Knowing your way around romantic comedies is an underrated life skill. This seemingly trivial proficiency can help you strike up good conversations about relationships, and appear sensitive and funny at the same time — qualities we could all surely use more of.

But who has the time to keep up with all the rom-coms that stream into the cinemas.

So here’s a list of films to help you bluff your way through this genre of movies, so you’ll know the best make up and break up lines, and how to tell the difference between Jennifer Aniston and Meg Ryan.

Getting past the friendship thing

'When Harry Met Sally' redefined what a romantic comedy could be. Though sex is oft discussed, it's never shown

‘When Harry Met Sally’ (1989)

The story: Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but fear sex could ruin their friendship.

Why: Every heterosexual being knows how it goes. You’re good friends with someone of the opposite sex, who could potentially become a partner, but you risk ruining the friendship by trying to turn it into something more. So should you or shouldn’t you? Well, that theme is well-explored in this Rob Reiner classic, which was penned by Nora Ephron.

Most memorable scene: Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene in a restaurant. Try it and surprise your friends. 

Quote of the film: “It is so nice when you can sit with someone and not have to talk.” – Harry


Know the classics

'The Apartment is the perfect fusion of drama and comedy, perfectly blending the two genres to create a wonderful movie

‘The Apartment’ (1960)

The story: CC Baxter (Jack Lemmon) tries to rise in his company by letting his executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own, with Fran (Shirley MacClaine), ensue.

Why: The romantic comedy, like love, is hardly a new invention, and there are old rom coms that can still hold their own today. Directed by Billy Wilder, this classic showcases Lemmon as a typical loner who meets the fragile Fran, who is in turn being given the run around by her boss Mr. Sheldrake. With sharp writing, flawed yet endearing characters, this Oscar winner carries a hard dose of reality in its message of true love.

Quote of the film:  “When you’re in love with a married man, you shouldn’t wear mascara.” ­– Fran

Most memorable scene: At the end, when Fran goes to Baxter’s apartment after he has declared his love for her and popped a bottle of champagne, and tell him to just “shut up and deal”.


Do it like the British

'Four Weddings and a Funeral' launched the rom-coms with ensemble cast movie trend

‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ (1994)

The story: Commitment-fearful bachelor Charles (Hugh Grant) has to consider whether he can commit to the gorgeous Carrie (Andie McDowell) after meeting her on several occasions.

Why: You know the type. The suave playboy who flits from woman to woman, running off when there’s even a whiff of commitment (god forbid, marriage) in the air. A film that helped establish the bedroom-eyed Grant and showed the British film industry a way to crack the market without spending gazillions, this wry comedy has its share of wonderful moments, including a chain of “F***” from Grant and a very moving funeral scene, amidst some great British comedy.

Most memorable scene: Hugh Grant’s Best Man wedding speech, with the right mix of awkwardness and humour.

Quote of the film: “What’s bonking?” – bridesmaid. “Well, it’s kinda like table tennis, only with slightly smaller balls.” – Scarlett, Charles’ flatmate


Get the music right 

John Cusack plays a record store owner who passes time by making "top five" lists. He has top five reasons for EVERYTHING

‘High Fidelity’ (2000)

The story: Rob (John Cusack), a record store owner and compulsive list maker, recounts his top five breakups, including the one in progress.

Why: From a male perspective, there’s possibly no movie that comes close to matching ‘High Fidelity’’s insight into how a guy feels after he loses a girl he thought he didn’t like. While his ex, Laura (Iben Hjelje), is casual about their failed romance, Rob ends up moping as he sees her running off with other suitors. And of course there’s all the great music that underlines the movie. If you’ve ever fumbled around making a mixtape for anyone, trying to put in the right tracks to show your music cred, you’ll be able to relate.

Most memorable scene: When Rob makes a proposal to Laura in a café. It’s a sweet little speech that shows Cusack at his best. Though the scene in the shop where the guys display their rock snobbery is also pretty great.

Quote of the film: “What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, figuratively thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” – Rob


Go French!

We fell in love with the quirky Audrey Tatou ever since we laid eyes on her in 'Amélie'

‘Amélie’ (2001)

The story: Amélie (Audrey Tautou), an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.

Why: Jean Paul Jeunet, who made the underrated ‘City of Lost Children’, threw in magic realism and colour-soaked visuals to present the story of a level-headed woman with a childlike innocence. When she falls in love with Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), however, she can’t tell him her feelings and stages elaborate stunts to let him know the truth. Set against a colour-soaked version of Paris that appears filtered through Instagram, ‘Amélie’ is a story of love in a city that just breathed romance and whimsy in every frame.

Most memorable scene: Amélie helps a blind man, narrating everything she sees to him. It’s a scene of pure cinematic joy that not just captures Amélie’s character, but the wonders of Paris itself.

Quote of the film:  “It’s better to help people than garden gnomes.” – Amélie


You need some Woody

The most influential romantic comedies ever, and possibly Woody Allen's greatest film

‘Annie Hall’ (1977)

The story: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).

Why: Allen has made numerous comedies about love, but few hit home as much as this Oscar winner. As the poster for this movie says, it is a “nervous romance”, which sums up the story of an awkward, still-young Jew trying to win the heart of the kooky Annie Hall. Undoubtedly, Allen drew some of the material from his own life, in particular his relationship to Keaton, and in terms of wise, kooky humour this is definitely Allen’s best and most nostalgically romantic.

Most memorable scene: When Annie says hello to Alvy and tries to form a connection. It perfectly captures the awkwardness of trying to speak to someone you like, trying to keep a conversation from deflating like a leaky beach ball.  

Quote of the film: “That sex was the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.” – Alvy Singer


Some things are better left forgotten 

Director Michel Gondry gives a good balance of comedy, high concept and emotion in the off-kilter classic 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)

The story: Jim Carrey stars as Joel Barish, a man who is informed that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their relationship erased by a weird scientist. Not to be outdone, Joel decides to have the same procedure done—to hilarious, and touching, effects.

Why: You would think that romantic comedies have done it all, but this low-key comedy with science fiction elements covers ground that other don’t, and captures how painful love can be while still being funny. Directed by Michel Gondry and based on a script by Charlie Kaufman, this kooky and weird love story has an almost mournful quality. When Joel wants his memories of his relationship removed, he undergoes a truthful and beautiful journey into the relationship between him and his free-spirited ex, Clementine. Yes, some things you just want to forget. 

Most memorable scene: When Clementine and Joel are under the bed sheets and she opens up about her childhood and being ugly. Not surprisingly, Joel begs to keep this memory.

Quote of the film: “If you’re arty, you can quote the Alexander Pope’s poem ‘Eloisa to Abelard’:  ‘How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d’. Or just go with ‘Random thoughts for Valentine’s day, 2004’. Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.” – Joel Barish

Extra Credit: ‘There’s Something About Mary’, ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’, ‘My Sassy Girl’, ‘500 Days of Summer’, ‘Knocked Up’