Romantic comedies ruled the film landscape of the 1980s and 1990s, but by the 2000s, the boy-meets-girl-and-wins girl trope faded in popularity and gave way to more raucous physical comedies and predictable box office wins. The rom com concept had been on life support until the latter part of the 2010s when creative storytelling and compelling characters helped reignite an interest in the genre.
Here are my top 5 favorite romantic comedies from the past 2 decades and “meet cute” moments that made us fall head over heels for their characters, just like they fell for each other.
Love Actually (2003)
The best romantic comedy of the early 2000s and a perennial holiday classic kicks off our list. Love Actually intertwines more story lines than I can recount, but somehow weaves them all together to pull off a film that keeps audiences believing in love. This British rom-com boasts one of the most star studded casts’ of any film of the past 20 years and keeps moviegoers clinging to each of their storylines. From the prime minister of the UK falling for a potty-mouthed member of his staff, to an over-the-hill rockstar developing a bromance with his portly manager, this film has it all. It’s loaded with laughs, love, and plenty of “meet cute” moments that will tug on your heartstrings.
Here is my favorite “meet cute” moment of the film between the king of rom-coms, Hugh Grant, and his doe-eyed love interest played by Martine McCutcheon.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Jason Segal is left heartbroken after his celebrity TV girlfriend (Kristin Bell) dumps him. To escape his agony, he takes a solo vacation to Hawaii only to find himself staying at the same hotel as Bell and her new mega-rockstar beau (Russell Brand). Hijinks ensue while being trapped on an island with his ex and her sex-addicted lover. The future looks sad and lonely for Segal until he happens upon a caring and charming hotel receptionist played by Mila Kunis. What happens on the island stays on the island, so you’ll have to check out the film to see how things turn out.
In the meantime, here is the the trailer:
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
My personal favorite rom-com of the past decade intertwines multiple love stories between seemingly random characters whose lives all end up intersecting in the final act. The movie boasts an all-star cast and concentrates on the love story between Steve Carell and his broken marriage to Julianne Moore. It simultaneously uncovers a parallel love story between their daughter, Emma Stone, and playboy, Ryan Gosling. Their younger son even has his first brush with love and heartbreak in this “all in the family” style rom-com.
The “meet cute” moment where Gosling approaches Stone for the first time at a bar is hilarious and it is obvious they will end up together by the end of the movie (after getting past a few hurdles of course).
The Big Sick (2017)
Not only is the Big Sick one of the most surprising romantic comedies of the past decade, but it also happens to be based on a true story. The screenplay was written by the real-life husband and wife team of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. The story revolves around their blooming romance, which is interrupted by a serious illness, leaving Gordon’s character in a coma. While most rom-coms are lighthearted and cheery, this film is a bit unconventional due to the gravity of Gordon’s sickness. However, Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, who plays the sickly love interest, keep us laughing throughout, while their love story unfolds despite the darker storyline.
This is the “meet cute” moment when Nanjiani first approaches Kazan after one if his comedy sets where she has been heckling him from the audience. The chemistry between them is palpable as they can’t stop flirting with each other from the start.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
This film helped cement the recent growing interest in romantic comedies and shows that the genre is very much alive and well. It became the highest-grossing rom-com of the past decade (surpassing 2009’s the “Proposal”), while featuring a primarily Asian cast in the leading roles.
The love story pairs Contance Wu and Henry Golding, who are from different social circles and economic backgrounds. Of course Wu’s character has no idea of Henry’s real identity, which he has been hiding from her. With their obvious differences and his affluent family’s attempts to keep them apart, will their love be strong enough to overcome all the barriers between them?
Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t employ a traditional “meet cute” moment because the couple in the love story is already together at the start of the film. However, they have a lot to learn about each other as Golding’s character has been hiding his wealthy family’s namesake from his girlfriend for fear she might not love him for who he is. This scene is the first sign that there is more to Golding than Wu knows about and it proves to be an exciting moment for her.