The Best 21st Century Romantic Comedy

The Best 21st Century Romantic Comedy ...

There are people out there who will tell you that they don't like romantic comedy. These same people may as well admit that their hearts are no longer beating as their hearts once did. You shouldn't be their friend.

Romantic comedies are as old as the movies themselves. Generation after generation, audiences have sought out stories about the universal appeal (or agony) of love. And they’ve often wanted to laugh at it. When two characters—typically as photogenic as a camera lens demands—can generate real heat onscreen, and often channel that into knowing humor for the viewer, it's more tangible than any visual effect.

Despite some studios' attempts to drown the genre in the bathtub, rom-coms have endured in the 21st century, resulting in smiles and tears. Below, in alphabetical order, are some of our favorites from the previous 20 years.

13 Years After 30 (2004)

Do you like Big but find it hasn't aged as well as you hoped? If so, 13 Going on 30 is the unproblematic alternative for you!

Jenna (played as an adult by Mark Ruffalo) wishes that she would be "flirty, 30, and thriving" as she navigates her life as an "adult" with some 13-year-old flair (sleepovers and dance routines).

Jenna Garner is fantastic as she captures the knife's edge of teen emotions in a convincing way—full of joy one moment and dread and despair the next. Definitely a true warm hug of a film, Elizabeth Donoghue

Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunrise (1995) was never intended to be a decades-spanning romantic saga or trilogy. It was a quixotic love story told in miniature where two tourists—the American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and the French Céline (Julie Delpy)—share one meaningful night together in Vienna. The audience decides whether or not they will ever see each other again after the dawn breaks. They agree to meet each other in six months.

Before Sunset was a pleasant surprise, and it was of the most lovely nature. It answers many of the tricky questions Sunrise left open to viewers' interpretations—did either party show up in Vienna six months later, did Jesse consummate their relationship that night, and did they ever write?—but when Céline arrives at Jesse's book tour stop in Paris, what initially appears to be a chance to reconnect becomes something more significant.

Before Midnight, a bitter, more tragic comedy from Jesse and Céline, would be reteamed once more in 2013, but this charming stroll along the Seine offers a warm, sunny comedy that will leave you thirsty for more. – David Crow

The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick from 2017 may be the second best rom-com about a person in a coma (While You Were Sleepingis definitely tops), but it's certainly the finest rom-com based on a true story. In this sharp, funny feature, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani show their real-life experiences.

Nanjiani plays a version of himself, with Ruby Sparks' Zoe Kazan serving as his now-wife Emily, who was placed in a medically induced coma during their early relationship. Kumail gets to know her parents and the result is funny and funny with a wicked edge.

Michael Showalter, the creator of Search Party, directs a talented comedy cast, which includes Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily's folks, from a well-crafted script that feels modern and refreshing. –Louisa Mellor

Asians who are crazy rich (2018)

Romantic comedies became rare and rarer among Hollywood studios' output (as you can probably tell from this list). It's odd because audiences still love them, especially when they're as good as Crazy Rich Asians, the box office sensation of summer 2018; Jon M. Chu's adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel of the same name is a stunning throwback to the genre of romances Hollywood used to churn out by the dozen in its golden age.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) gets a week in Singapore with her studly perfect boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding). Unfortunately, the otherwise perfect beau neglected to mention that Nick's family is rich. Like crazy rich. This includes a first-generation Chinese-American daughter of a disadvantaged immigrant mother (Michelle Yeoh).

Crazy Rich Asians is a laugher that explores the tensions and difficulties of 21st century globalism as it clashes with old-fashioned expectations and beliefs in families. But most of the time, it's just a laugher with a lot of legitimate guffaws as well as a glossy travelogue sense of showmanship as it spends time with the rich and famous of Southeast Asia. –

(2011).Crazy, Stupid, and Love

I Love You, Philip Morris, Crazy, Stupid, and Love, is a hilarious and genuinly sexy comedy with a deceptively sophisticated script by Dan Fogelman and clever direction by duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Cal, a middle-aged man, has an affair and wants to get a divorce. Jacob is a pick up artist, but he meets a girl who might make him change his mind about Emma Stone's Hannah. – Rosie Fletcher


There have been other romantic adaptations of Jane Austen's Emma, but this side of Clueless, you will not find one more funnier than this. Music video director Autumn de Wilde's first feature film focuses on the com and lets the film more or less take care of itself (which it more or less does as a result of Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn playing the leads).

Taylor-Joy plays Emma Woodhouse, the queen bee in her small country village, and Flynn plays Mr. Knightley, the story's moral compass who's initially seen by Emma as a dreadful person. However, in this adaptation, Mr. Know-it-All Knightley isn't quite as in control as he appears.

De Wilde, an American director, draws an outsider's fascination with Austen's satirical ability more closely than most adaptations. The dresses, the houses, the cast (Mia Goth, Callum Turner, Gemma Whelan, all the cool kids) – LM

Enchanted (2007)

Enchanted was released at a critical time during the 2000s when Disney felt compelled to obsess over its unreported tragedies (as opposed to whitewashing them as now): It is a throwback to Disney's finest animated fairytales and a self-deprecating rom-com adaptation.

Enchanted is the rare film that eats its cake, yet only a handful of them have a charming performance as Amy Adams as Giselle. Giselle hails from a two-dimensional, hand-drawn world when magic summons her to Mid-2000s NYC, right down to Dr. McDreamy himself as her love interest, Patrick Dempsey.

Giselle's irrepressible goodness melts the jaded hearts of Dempsey's single-dad divorce lawyer. But really it's just a showcase for Adams to go the whole Snow White across Central Park, as well as an opportunity for James Marsden to steal a few scenes as her picture perfect Prince Charming, who's come to Manhattan to find her and crush every MTA bus that gets in his way. – DC

(2013) Enough Said

Enough Said, starring Nicole Holofcener, combines two of HBO's greatest actors: James Gandolfini, who revolutionized television as the head of The Sopranos, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who rewrote Emmy history during her presidential run on Veep. They play Albert and Eva, who are both divorced, middle-aged parents of college-age children, and who seem to be doing nothing about it. They begin the conversation asking the same question: what is

From the start, Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini have a great bond. They are funny, awkward, and completely believable. It captures our insecurity, shame, and small victories, and makes us root for Albert and Eva as a couple. Gandolfini's last feature performance is a bleak prognosis, and he is just beginning to freely demonstrate his potential. – Tony Sokol

Fever Pitch (2005)

Fever Pitch, a 2005 film, is a love letter to both America's pastime and its own nature. Fever Pitch, as a book, has a happier ending than its makers anticipated.

Ben Wrightman is a Boston Red Sox fan (changed from Arsenal Football Club from the British iterations) who understands what's really important in life. But what sets Fever Pitch apart from its romcom competitors is that it happened to be shot during the final season when the Red Sox won their first World Series Championship in 86 years, breaking "The Curse of the Bambino."

(2022) Fire Island

Five gay guys getting married in Pride and Prejudice are a perfect match for director Andrew Ahn and screenwriter-actor Joel Kim Booster's Fire Island, a clever, funny, and sexy romantic comedy that deserves much more attention.

Fire Island, a smart update on Jane Austen's famous tale of money, class, a hot-but-uptight millionaire, and the girls who fall for them, takes the reader's action from an English country village to a famous New York state LGBTQ+ holiday spot.

It's not an Austen parody, but a bona fide romantic comedy that uses the bones of one story to tell another. Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and Howie (Bowen Yang) are two Asian-American best friends who are facing significant changes. Their new family, headed by Margaret Cho's mother hen Erin, is on the verge of being forced to disband, forcing them to make some drastic changes.

Sarah Marshall is a well-known author.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an all-time great romantic comedy (and probably the greatest comedy from Super-Producer Judd Apatow's prolific mid-aughts run) because it understands something fundamental about romance. It's not just the warm fuzzies of pure affection; it's also the devastating, gut-churning feeling of total and complete denial when that love comes to an end.

Jason Segel plays Peter Bretter, an unmotivated TV writing schlub who has somehow dated Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) for five years. He purchases a ticket to a Hawaiian resort to do what the title of the film promises. Unfortunately that proves to be a challenge because Sarah is also at the same resort with her new boyfriend, international rock sensation Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

Forging Sarah Marshall is riotously funny, intensely relatable, and has far more male genitalia than one might expect from a mild mannered romantic comedy. – AB

High Fidelity (2000)

Ron Gordon, John Cusack's main protagonist in High Fidelity, is a selfish asshole. Both Cusack and director Stephen Frears know this, and he wrote the book. That truth wasn't lost on Nick Hornby either, who wrote it. It's moving, if not entirely redemptive.

Laura (Iben Hjejle) dumps Ron for many good reasons. The trick of the film, though, is that it takes Ron most of the picture to explain why he left him flat as he returns to college and finds out why he all left him flat. It also becomes a good excuse for actors to come on and steal a few scenes, such as Lisa Bonnet and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

All that being said, your favorite scenes will always be Ron hanging out at his record shop (remember those?) with Jack Black and Ted Louiso as aging hipsters with the most obscenitiesous musical tastes. – DC

How to Lose a Guy in ten days (2003)

To many, Matthew McConaughey will always be the king of early 2000s romantic comedy films (Failure to Launch, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) but watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and you'll wonder why he kept getting booked.

Benjamin Barry, an advertising executive, motorbike rider, and all-round charmer, has been chosen as his target, Kate Hudson (at her most effervescent), who is preparing to lose the guy. What are the odds?

It would be nowhere near as charming and funny as it is in the hands of a different cast (Kathryn Hahn in her first movie role, Thomas Lennon and Adam Goldberg as Ben's buddies), but it has stood the test of time and is highly recommendable. - ED

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

The Coen Brothers' sly and often understated sense of humor is often dismissed as "romantic comedy." That is a shame because they created one of the best pictures of the last 20 years with Intolerable Cruelty, a scathingly funny picture that is both a gentle satire of the genre and a wholehearted love letter to it.

George Clooney is Miles, the most well-known divorce lawyer in the country who has spent decades separating women from their wealthy husbands, while leaving them only pennies on the dollar. Catherine Zeta-Jones is Marilyn, the gold digging wife of a wealthy buffoon (Edward Hermann), who discovered the drug cheating red-handed. They find that the sparks begin to fly every time they exchange barbed double entendres.

The film is somewhat different and more sophisticated from the typical early 2000s rom-com, and that's to its advantage. Both characters have an acerbic cynicism that outweighs genre conventions, yet we smile as they become closer to each other during a busy weekend in the mecca of all short-term marriages, Las Vegas. It's a Coens Brothers movie!

(2016) Love & Friendship

Whit Stillman and Kate Beckinsale reteam for Love & Friendship for the first time since the cult classic The Last Days of Disco (1998), although right down to the title, Stillman takes some liberties to reveal Austen's darker side.

Love & Friendship features Austen's witty, understated humor while putting a smile on a series of funny sequences between Susan and her American conspirator Mrs. Alice Johnson (Chloe Sevigny). – DC Comics

Love Actually (2003)

Yes, we agree. Love Actually has been overplayed and oversaturated in the culture, most often by cable television, which seems to be broadcasting every December. Look back to the movie that underlies that media outburst. It exists to enliven the eye and be fondly remembered after you've blazed through its purpose with enthusiasm.

It's a good thing the film still has one of the finest British ensembles outside of Harry Potter. There's Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman, Liam Neeson, and everyone's favorite, Bill Nighy, as the old and faded rockstar who is willing to sell out his dignity for a Christmastime hit... but not his principles in matters of love!

Love Actually is a funny comedy that mixes in the late 1990s and early 2000s tropes, including a somewhat naive notion of what "love" is. It's so unabashedly sincere and flamboyant in its delivery, right down to a superb score by Craig Armstrong, that you'll want to buy it every year. – DC

Miss Congeniality (2000)

The real secret to Miss Congeniality's everlasting joy is that it isn't a rom-com story. We're including it here because it does have rom-com themes, and there is, technically speaking, a romance. Sandra Bullock plays a ruthless scruffball who must learn to respect others while she learns to be playful.

Oh, and at the end, she has a snog with her fellow agent played by Benjamin Bratt, who realizes he's got the hots for Gracie. Grown perhaps, but not changed by her experience, she immediately takes the piss chanting, "You want to kiss me... You want to love me... You want to hug me..."

(2012) Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson's films have a seasonal feel, with the exception of a few mid-summer movies, but this 2012 release is alive with a late-summer flair. Like many of Anderson's characters, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are both intelligent and wise beyond their years in many ways (but not necessarily matters of the heart). As they make their “escape” from their respective summer camps to explore together, a danger looms and the eager pursuit of

A description as this does nothing to justice to Sam and Suzy's story, or Moonrise Kingdom as a whole, but rather his demonic wit that almost always strikes out from the younger ones in his films, with a charm and wisdom that echos Charles Shulz's similarly precocious Peanuts gang. With the two young leads bolstered by talents like Anderson stalwart Bill Murray, a wonderfully menacing Tilda Swinton, Moonrise Kingdom remains one of the finest

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, based on Nia Vardalos' play, was (until 2016) the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time in the United States. She decides she wants to break away from her overbearing Greek family, get some contact lenses, and have some independence. Along the way she falls in love with John Corbett (Sex and the City's Aidan) and two worlds collide as they plan their wedding.

I can forgive the "she took her glasses off and now she's beautiful!" trope in this film. Michael Constantine as Gus, Toula's father, is a forceful presence for many immigrants' children and grandchildren. The sequel, though less well-known, is still worth a look.

Palm Springs (2020)

Palm Springs attempted to rectify that problem by uncovering a time loophole. Not only do they go through the usual rom-com routines, but they also go through the more difficult tasks of realizing that you and your partner are changing.

As heavy as that sounds, director Max Barbakow keeps things, if not light, then always enjoyable. He brings to Nyles, who turns to empty hedonism as the only escape from the loop's tenseness. Together, the two grow to be a flawed but faithful duo. – Joe George

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

There may be a sway among Jane Austen enthusiasts, but there has never been a better depiction of Austen's most famous narrative than director Joe Wright's interpretation of Pride & Prejudice. While this 2005 film does not recreate all of Austen's subplots that many seminal miniseries versions have enjoyed, it is the screen Pride & Prejudice that remembers Austen's wit the most.

The film of Pride & Prejudice 05 is funny as it observes the Bennet household, which consists of five daughters, one wearied father (Donald Sutherland), and an indefatigable mother (Brenda Blethyn) who is determined to have all of her daughters married. It's also funny as it highlights the pressure on young people, especially women, to uphold rules of conduct in this day.

Keira Knightley's flamboyant Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfayden's ruthless Mr. Darcy are well-known for how youthful they appear; kids playing dress up in a society that barely permits them to touch hands when it's ready, and there's a climatic near-kiss captured as the sun cracks at dawn across a field, which is pure film magic. – DC

(2004) Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead, directed by Edgar Wright, is more than a zom-rom-com. It's a buddy comedy, a human tragedy, and a satire of the inhuman travesty of modern life. He's a pub-crawling, video game junkie who is constantly chastised at work and who has never promised to keep a promise in his life. Liz (Kate Ashfield) is the man who takes him off to "live

Nothing says "I love you" like a chainsaw through the mouth of a dead neighbor. Shaun crawls back to the pub for love, but also brings everyone he loves him to certain doom. It's for love, and we hope the last couple standing survives the week.

Playbook for Silver Linings (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook is a rare exception to the rule, as both a drama and a comedy, but the tenderness that flickers at the heart of this David O. Russell film is still so amazing that it's surprising that such an aggressive filmmaker would protect it. On paper (and screen) the pair appear to be a winsome Hollywood coupling, with chemistry so good you overlook the fact that Lawrence was probably a few years too young to play a bitter widow.

Silver Linings, based on a novel by Matthew Quick with the same name, depicts the messy side of a supposedly "ever after," and of living with mental illness. Both Pat and Tiffany were borderline for a while before the former discovered their wife cheating on him and the latter lost her husband to a freak accident. Together they create a bizarre harmony, as shown in one of the greatest bad dance sequences in recent memory.

The Silver Linings Playbook starts out as a quiet film that discreetly discloses its good humor and ultimately sweet disposition, and it's populated by an oddball cast of actors, providing great ensemble opportunities for the likes of Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker, and John Oritz, implying that a love story can take a village. – DC Comics

(2016) Sing Street

Sing Street so effortlessly captures the urgency of teenage romance and the unbreakable self-belief that it takes to create an original band at that age that it's almost impossible to believe it exists. With two wonderfully natural performances from its two romantic leads (Lucy Boynton as Raphina and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as "Cosmo"), Sing Street almost feels like it should plunge into saccharine romantic box-checking at any moment.

The way the film executes those rom-com elements might enliven it to near classic status, but what really elevates it above the rest is the fact that it is absolutely bangers. Those original songs, as an added bonus, reflect their respective influences and moods of the moment accurately (and the soundtrack also plays those influences with some fantastic era-appropriate tunes).

Someone Must Be Awesome (2019)

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson's Someone Great is still the best Netflix rom-com film to date, thanks to Set It Up and the first installment of the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series. However, the film is still about female friendships and the power of platonic love.

Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is heartbroken as she prepares to begin a new chapter with her friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) for a job opportunity. She's just been separated from her boyfriend of nine years in New York City.

Even though Erin and Blair's romantic relationships take different steps forward, these scenes never detract from the film's true emotional core—the developing friendship between Erin, Blair, and Jenny. Someone Great reminds us that love can come in many forms, and that romantic love isn't the only key to happiness. – Brynna Arens

(2014), They Came Together

The key to understanding something is to love it. As with David Wain's 2014 comedy They Came Together, those are looks of recognition and connections made with individuals who also understand and love these tropes. When Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) refer to New York as a third character in their relationship, they're embodying the qualities we desire in a comedy at its finest form.

The gleeful genre game does not distract from the central romance. Unsurprisingly, Rudd and Poehler make for irresistibly funny leads, each with a vulnerability that cannot be wiped out by wacky gags. (read: antagonistic couple Kyle and Karen, played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper)