How to live your life like a romantic comedy

Ten steps to becoming a real-life romcom romancer

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Everyone loves a good romcom. But how many of us use them as our Bible for everyday living? Too few! And yet, within these seemingly ordinary films lie everything you’ll ever need to know about finding a partner, winning their heart and living happily ever after.

Here are Time Out’s ten rules for living and loving like you’re the star of your very own romcom.

  • Love the one you hate

    As seen in...
    You’ve Got Mail’ (1998), ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ (1940), ‘The Proposal’ (2009), ‘His Girl Friday’ (1940), ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934).

    In the movies...
    Hatred turning to love is the oldest plotline in the romantic game. Shakespeare got there first, as usual, with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, and it also featured in the first ‘proper’ romcom, ‘It Happened One Night’.

    It’s played to perfection in both ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ (the old ‘secret pen-pal is actually your hated work colleague’ routine, we’ve all been there) and that film’s web-savvy remake, ‘You’ve Got Mail’, in which Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star as rival bookshop owners unknowingly carrying out a heated email romance.

    In real life...
    Pick the person you despise most in the world – that vicious racist down the street, your bitchy school maths teacher, your sweaty, hands-on boss – and snog the crap out of them. Marital bliss awaits!

    Love the one you hate
  • Remember that neurosis is sexy

    As seen in...
    Annie Hall’ (1997), ‘Manhattan’ (1979), ‘When Harry Met Sally...’ (1989), ‘50 First Dates’ (2004), ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ (2002), ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (2012).

    In the movies...
    If romantic movies have taught us anything, it’s that the dames can’t get enough of average looking guys with major psychological hang-ups and thick-rimmed specs (weirdly, it doesn’t seem to work when the genders are switched. Funny, that).

    Woody Allen is the past master in this department – his Alvy Singer in ‘Annie Hall’ remains the poster child for adenoidal oddballs punching above their weight. But the success of last year’s ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ proved that a lack of social skills and a dependence on prescription medication is just as attractive as ever.

    In real life...
    Guys, get weird. See an analyst, dress badly, stop shaving and start gobbling those downers. Pretty soon you’ll be beating the ladies off with a stick (admittedly, some of them will be hallucinations).

    Remember that neurosis is sexy
  • Stalking leads to romance

    As seen in...
    Say Anything’ (1989), ‘While You Were Sleeping’ (1995), ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940), ‘The Graduate’ (1967), ‘Addicted to Love’ (1997).

    In the movies...
    Nothing says ‘I love you’ like dangerously obsessive behaviour. Just ask John Cusack, whose character in ‘Say Anything’ turns up at his girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night blasting out Peter Gabriel from a boom box.

    Luckily she decides to keep that restraining order in her pocket, and the scene went on become one of the iconic images of romantic love. Dustin Hoffman goes even further in ‘The Graduate’, busting up his ex’s wedding and hauling her off to a life of bourgeois suburban angst. Ah, l’amour!

    In real life...
    Tread carefully. Flowers, chocolates, the occasional text message – fine. Midnight visits, wedding interruptions, pretending to be somebody’s significant other while they’re in a coma – not so cool.

    Stalking leads to romance
  • Never pass up a song

    As seen in...
    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (1986), ‘The Wedding Singer’ (1998), ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ (1999), ‘High Fidelity’ (2000), ‘Music and Lyrics’ (2007),‘Once’ (2006).

    In the movies...
    Spontaneity is key to a healthy love life, and nothing screams ‘I’m a live wire!’ like suddenly bursting into song. Even disregarding the entire musical genre – it doesn’t count if everyone’s doing it – there are still loads of examples on offer.

    Matthew Broderick rocks Chicago to its roots in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, Jack Black channels Marvin Gaye in ‘High Fidelity’ and Heath Ledger makes his whole high school swoon in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’. The girls don’t seem to be quite so into it – their songs tend to be a touch more acoustic and lovelorn, a la ‘Once’ – but we urge them to up their game.

    In real life...
    Opportunities for tune-busting are relatively hard to come by – karaoke is disqualified for the same reason as musicals, and if you sing unaccompanied it just sounds weird (think of Rick Moranis in ‘Parenthood’). So you’re left with two options: crash the stage at gigs, or start a band of your own.

    Never pass up a song
  • Prostitution is glamorous

    As seen in...
    Pretty Woman’ (1990), ‘True Romance’ (1993), ‘Risky Business’ (1983), ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961), ‘Moulin Rouge!’ (2001), ‘Trading Places’ (1983).

    In the movies...
    It’s not called the oldest profession for nothing: since the dawn of time, folks have paid good money to feel less alone. But only in the movies does this lead to real-life romance.

    Obviously it helps if, like Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman’, you’re a high-flying exec with a credit card and a sports car. But it can work for ‘ordinary’ folks too, like geek icon Christian Slater in ‘True Romance’, whose date-for-hire turns into an on-the-spot proposal.

    In real life...
    Whichever side of the sex-trade transaction they’re considering being on, readers should follow their own moral compass. But we doubt many marriages begin with a card found in a phone box.

    Prostitution is glamorous
  • Cool is not cool

    As seen in...
    Pretty in Pink’ (1986), ‘Amélie’ (2001), ‘Clueless’ (1995), ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001), ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ (2008), ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ (2012), ‘Gregory’s Girl’ (1981).

    In the movies...
    Oh, the cool people, with their good looks and leather jackets and their fancy French cigarettes. Well actually, the movies reassure us, they’re probably really boring, and quite possibly mean and stupid, like Russell Brand in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ or Hugh Grant in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’.

    Far better to take a leaf out of ‘Pretty in Pink’ star Molly Ringwald’s book and be all shy and creative, or take the Audrey Tautou ‘Amélie’ route and just baffle potential suitors into submission with your doe-eyed gnomic wisdom.

    In real life...
    This is one of the few cases where movie reality actually changed the world: in the mid 1990s, all that big hair and fast cars was replaced by thick specs and backpacks, and geek chic was born. We’re still living with the consequences.

    Cool is not cool
  • Embrace the supernatural

    As seen in...
    Groundhog Day’ (1993), ‘What Women Want’ (2000), ‘Splash’ (1984), ‘Shallow Hal’ (2001), ‘Mannequin’ (1987), ‘Ghost’ (1990).

    In the movies...
    Sometimes, movie characters need a little push from beyond to get their love lives back on track. Whether it’s going through the same day over and over until you get it right (‘Groundhog Day’), reading a lady’s most intimate thoughts (‘What Women Want’), hooking up with a mermaid (‘Splash’), getting in touch with your beloved after their tragic death (‘Ghost’) or, um, finding fat girls attractive (‘Shallow Hal’), folk in the films are happy for things to get spooky, so long as it gets them laid.

    In real life...
    Unless you’re a professional ghost hunter or medium, we’re not sure how useful this is. But hey, there’s no harm in keeping an eye out for unexplained events, and if possible turning them to your advantage.

    Embrace the supernatural
  • Get old – and get busy

    As seen in...
    Mamma Mia!’ (2008), ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ (2003), ‘Manhattan’ (1979), ‘Sex and the City’ (1998), ‘Bull Durham’ (1988), ‘Hope Springs’ (2012), ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ (1995).

    In the movies...
    The myth persists that the movies are all about worshipping youth, and perhaps that was once true. But in this enlightened age, we’re all totally comfortable with the fact that middle-aged and even elderly people have active sex lives.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt if they look like Susan Sarandon (‘Bull Durham’) or Clint Eastwood (‘The Bridges of Madison County’), but the movies can open their hearts to the occasional oddball, too (Woody Allen is a case in point). Queen of the scene has to be Meryl Streep, whose turns in ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Hope Springs’ gave much-needed encouragement to sex-crazed seniors of both sexes.

    In real life...
    Well, that embarrassing auntie at the wedding now has as much chance of hooking up as the bridesmaid, so that’s one in the eye for age inequality.

    Get old – and get busy
  • Move far, far away

    As seen in...
    Sleepless in Seattle’ (1993), ‘Going the Distance’ (2010), ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ (1994), ‘Serendipity’ (2001), ‘What Dreams May Come’ (1998).

    In the movies...
    You only want what you can’t have – but somehow, in the movies, this isn’t a diagnosis of a deep-seated psychological problem, but a promise of happiness everlasting, once the stars finally align.

    Your beloved may be miles away (‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘Going the Distance’), they may be married to an elderly aristocrat in a kilt (‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’), they may even be dead (‘What Dreams May Come’), but that just means they’re playing hard to get. Love will conquer all! Honest.

    In real life...
    As soon as you find yourself the slightest bit attracted to someone, get as far away from them as possible. Quit your job, move to another city, marry someone else, but whatever you do, get the hell out of there. It’ll work out.

    Move far, far away
  • Run, damn you, run!

    As seen in...
    Pretty much every romantic comedy ever made.

    In the movies...
    The moment of realisation strikes. You love this person. But wait! They’re on their way to the airport/wedding/party/university/European cooking school/walkabout! There’s only one thing to do… run!

    Classic examples include Billy Crystal dodging traffic in ‘When Harry Met Sally...’, Alicia Silverstone surrounded by fountains in ‘Clueless’, Woody Allen breathlessly bothering a teenager in ‘Manhattan’ and seemingly every episode of ‘Friends’. But our guilty favourite isn’t from a ‘proper’ romcom at all, it’s Paul Hogan using commuters as stepping stones in ‘Crocodile Dundee’ (1986). All together now: ‘She’s not going to marry Richard!’.

    In real life...
    Somehow, it never quite happens this way – realisations of love tend to come when the person in question is actually in the room (which makes sense, if you think about it). But, hey, if you ever find yourself having a long-distance romantic revelation, you know what to do…

    Run, damn you, run!

Love the one you hate

As seen in...
You’ve Got Mail’ (1998), ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ (1940), ‘The Proposal’ (2009), ‘His Girl Friday’ (1940), ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934).

In the movies...
Hatred turning to love is the oldest plotline in the romantic game. Shakespeare got there first, as usual, with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, and it also featured in the first ‘proper’ romcom, ‘It Happened One Night’.

It’s played to perfection in both ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ (the old ‘secret pen-pal is actually your hated work colleague’ routine, we’ve all been there) and that film’s web-savvy remake, ‘You’ve Got Mail’, in which Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star as rival bookshop owners unknowingly carrying out a heated email romance.

In real life...
Pick the person you despise most in the world – that vicious racist down the street, your bitchy school maths teacher, your sweaty, hands-on boss – and snog the crap out of them. Marital bliss awaits!

Now see how the professionals do it...

The 100 best romantic movies

We’ve brought together 101 experts to choose the 100 best romantic movies ever made. These are people who know romance, from filmmakers and actors through to critics and journalists.

There is something here for all lovers. Smash-hit chick flicks. Romcom faves. Forbidden love. Epic tales of lovers washed away by the tide of history. 1980s teen classics that you still see through 15-year-old eyes. Heartbreaking films that we defy you to watch without sobbing.

Check out the 100 best romantic movies

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The 100 best romantic movies

Ever wondered about the best romantic films ever made? We spoke to over 100 experts and came up with the very best smooch-fests of all time.

Discover the 100 best romantic movies

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