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The 50 best romcoms of all time

Love – it’s a funny old game. Or at least it is in these films. Here's Time Out's definitive list of the 50 best romcoms.

By Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Tom Huddleston, Kate Lloyd, Phil de Semlyen and Alim Kheraj

Like cargo pants and saying ‘as if!’ to people, romcoms were huge in the ’90s, but fell sadly out of fashion in the 2010s. Now, though, that drought looks to be over. Thanks in part to Netflix, we’re in the middle of a romcom revival, with films like ‘Always Be My Maybe’ and ‘Set It Up’ inspiring mainstream Hollywood to start making romantic comedies again.

From Nora Ephron classics to Richard Curtis movies that are so-very-British (and so-very-funny), we’ve put together 50 of the most hilarious romantic comedies and bittersweet romances that’ll leave a lump in your throat and tears rolling down your cheeks.

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best romantic movies 

bridget jones diary, best christmas movies
Photograph: StudioCanal/ United International Pictures

50. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Film Comedy

‘Bridget Jones, wanton sex goddess, with a very bad man between her thighs…’

Double-Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger did her very best British accent for this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s newspaper-column-turned-bestselling-book about a loveable but perpetually single thirty-something living in London. It features Hugh Grant as a slimy love rat and Colin Firth as an uptight lawyer, and the script was co-written by Richard Curtis, so it obviously checks all the oh-so-English romantic comedy tropes, from incongruous shots of London to an outlandish garden party (tarts and vicars, fyi). But it’s Zellweger who drives this vehicle, bringing more charm and verve to the film than both those Brit romcom royalties. Long may she reign (although not for the sequels…).

Buy, rent or watch ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’


47. It’s Complicated (2009)

Film Comedy

‘Here comes your ex-husband. Uh-oh, not the best time to be feeling groovy!’

It was refreshing to see three older actors – Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin – dominating this story of a well-heeled suburban woman and matriarch caught between her charming but hard-to-trust ex (Baldwin) and a potential sweet new love (Martin).

Buy, rent or watch 'It's Complicated'


46. Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

Film Comedy

‘You’re terrible, Muriel.’

This Australian movie seems frothy on the surface, but its story about an ugly duckling who's obsessed with Abba also deals with darker issues like psychological abuse and low self-esteem.

Crazy Stupid Love
Ben Glass / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

44. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Film Comedy

"F**k! Seriously? It's like you're photoshopped!"

Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Julianne Moore star in this bitingly funny modern romance about what life looks like after a marital crisis. This big-named cast deftly steer this film from satire to farce, with an ending that'll definitely hit you in the feels.

Buy, rent or watch 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'


41. Roxanne (1987)

Film Comedy

‘Finally, a man who can satisfy two women at the same time!’

Steve Martin’s finest hour as a romantic lead – which is impressive, considering he’s saddled with a four-inch prosthetic conk. Wittily reinventing ‘Cyrano De Bergerac’, this graceful comedy has all kinds of fun exploring the complex nature of desire, and comes out firmly on the side of the unconventionally attractive.

Buy, rent or watch 'Roxanne'

40. Something Wild (1986)


‘Charlie, attempt to be cool.’

Jonathan Demme’s brilliantly unpredictable comedy starts out as old-school screwball with an emphasis on the screw, as street-smart Melanie Griffith sweeps straight-laced Jeff Daniels off to a motel for a night of passion. But when she takes him home to meet the folks – and the psychotic ex – things take a deliciously dark turn.

Buy, rent or watch 'Something Wild'

39. Jamón, Jamón (1992)


‘My son will not go out with that girl. Her mother’s a whore!’

Blending sex, love, humour and cooked meat (the title means ‘Ham, Ham’, and refers to the supposed flavour of the heroine’s nipples), this giddily erotic Spanish comedy launched the careers of both Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

Buy, rent or watch 'Jamón, Jamón'


38. Heartbeats (2010)

Film Drama

‘I love you. I really want to kiss you. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.’

He’s now one of the best-known young directors in the world, but French-Canadian Xavier Dolan was a 21-year-old outsider when he made this smart, artsy tale of two friends – a girl and a guy – who both fall in love with the same person.

Buy, rent or watch 'Heartbeats'


36. Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Film Comedy

‘Hard work being in love, eh? Especially when you don’t know which girl it is.’

Glasgow – city of romance? Perhaps not, but Bill Forsyth’s timeless story of one lanky, lovelorn teenager’s fixation on the new girl in school still manages to be both dryly hilarious and heartwarmingly sentimental.

Buy, rent or watch 'Gregory's Girl'

Julia Roberts as Anna Smith in Richard Curtis’s Notting Hill
Photograph: Universal Pictures

34. Notting Hill (1999)

Film Romance

'After all... I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.'

'Notting Hill' might be schmaltzy and incredibly twee, but there's something eternally charming about '90s Hugh Grant, all floppy hair and stuttering awkwardness. Here, unbeknownst to him, he falls for an American movie star, played by Julia Roberts, after a chance meeting in his travel bookshop. Their compatibility is questioned, with the will-they-won't-they culminating in a hilarious dash through London for the film's great romantic gesture.

Buy, rent or watch 'Notting Hill'

Photograph: Hector Alvarez

33. Long Shot (2019)

Film Comedy

‘Honestly, this has been like the best few weeks of my entire life.’

Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen star in Jonathan Levine’s not so subtle political comedy about a humourless and unlikeable politician’s candidacy for US President. Theron plays Charlotte Field, the acting Secretary of State, who is vying for the presidency after her boss (Bob Odenkirk), a dim president whose only qualification for the job is having portrayed one on TV, decides to step down. In a bid to make herself more likeable, Field’s team hire a left-leaning journalist, Fred Flarsky (Rogan), as her speechwriter. As these two outsiders spend time together a connection builds and, well... you can guess the rest. What elevates this film is its balance of irreverence, the performances from the cast and the chemistry between its two leads, despite how unmatched they seem on paper. 

Buy, rent or watch ‘Long Shot’


31. Top Hat (1935)

Film Drama

‘In dealing with a girl or horse, one just lets nature take its course.’

This musical comedy is inarguably one of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' finest. The humour's charming, the art deco set is stunning and there's tangible sexual tension in the dance scenes.

Buy, rent or watch 'Top Hat'

30. The Wedding Singer (1998)


‘I know you’re shy and I know you’ve been hurt, so I’m going to make this really easy on you. If you come upstairs, you’re gonna get laid.’

While the title of this film suggests it probably stars Julia Roberts and/or Hugh Grant, this silly romcom actually stars Adam Sandler and a very sweet Drew Barrymore. He’s a broken-hearted wedding singer, she’s a waitress who’s engaged to a douchebag. They fall in love, obvs. 

29. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Film Comedy

‘I just met a wonderful new man. He’s fictional but you can’t have everything.’

This 1930s-set Woody Allen film tells of a woman (Mia Farrow) who falls in love with a character (Jeff Daniels) who steps out of the screen at the cinema, only to find herself also being wooed by the actor playing said character (also Jeff Daniels). It’s one of Allen’s most original stories.

Buy, rent or watch 'The Purple Rose of Cairo'


28. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)


‘I thought it was just an act, but you really are sweet as fucking pie, aren’t you?’

What’s that – a teen movie that challenges gender roles? Impossible! Natasha Lyonne (now famous from ‘Orange is the New Black’) plays a gay cheerleader sent to conversion camp to ‘cure’ her homosexuality only to fall in love with a fellow camper. This cult hit also stars Ru Paul. 


26. Say Anything (1989)


‘I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.’

It’s the film that made high-schoolers think that standing on someone’s lawn holding a boombox was the ultimate declaration of love. A baby-faced John Cusack stars as a wannabe kick-boxer who falls for a straight-A student.

25. His Girl Friday (1940)

Film Comedy

‘You’ve got an old fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, till death do us part.’

The fastest and funniest screwball comedy of them all. Rosalind Russell is the ace reporter whose lethally charming ex-husband (Cary Grant) just won’t take no for answer. Will she marry her dull-as-ditchwater fiancé or go back to Cary? What do you think?

Buy, rent or watch 'His Girl Friday'


24. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Film Comedy

'Basically you're saying marriage is just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation.'

Boy meets girl. Well, actually, boy meets several girls and, um, well, things, erm, get fairly awkward. Then boy meets the girl and after much flirting, some killer gags and Hugh Grant at his most charmingly bumbling and foppish… well, you know the rest. A strong supporting cast and a tear-jerking funeral scene give it all extra heart.

Buy, rent or watch 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'

23. The Apartment (1960)

Film Comedy

‘When you’re in love with a married man, you shouldn’t wear mascara.’

Talk about office politics. Jack Lemmon plays a white-collar worker pimping his flat to his bosses, who use it for their illicit affairs (well, it’s cheaper than a motel). Shirley MacLaine plays the lift girl he has his eye on. ‘The Apartment’ may be bitter and nihilistic, but its heart is firmly in the right place.

Buy, rent or watch 'The Apartment'


22. Guys and Dolls (1955)

Film Drama

‘Your eyes are the eyes of a man who’s in love, may they gaze evermore into mine…’

Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra star in the coolest musical on the block. The duo play NYC hustlers who lay bets on whether Brando can seduce pious Salvation Army girl Jean Simmons. It’s the movie that brought us the song ‘Luck Be A Lady’, so that’s surely reason enough to watch it. 

20. The Lady Eve (1941)

Film Comedy

‘I’ve got some unfinished business with him – I need him like the axe needs the turkey.’

Henry Fonda is a fabulously rich snake expert who falls into the clutches of sexy gold-digger Barbara Stanwyck in this ferociously funny battle of the sexes. A glittering screwball comedy from the master of the form, Preston Sturges, ‘The Lady Eve’ is near perfect.

Buy, rent or watch 'The Lady Eve'

Photograph: MGM

19. Moonstruck (1987)

Film Comedy

‘Snap out of it!’

Cher gives an Oscar-winning performance in Norman Jewison’s film about a 37-year-old widow who falls in love with her fiancé’s young hot-headed brother, played by a wounded and grunting Nicolas Cage. Not only does the film never mention the age gap between the two romantic leads, but Jewison is loose-handed with genre, adding sprinkles of magical realism to what is otherwise a kitchen-sink comedy about two New Yorkers who fall in love. It’s wickedly funny and romantic as hell.

Buy, rent or watch ‘Moonstruck’


18. I Know Where I’m Going! (1947)


‘They’re not poor, they just haven’t got money.’

A headstrong young woman (Wendy Hiller) knows exactly what she wants: she’s heading to the Hebrides to marry a reclusive tycoon twice her age. But nature, wise locals and Roger Livesey as a young naval officer get in the way in this near-perfect loch-side romance.

17. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Film Comedy

‘Men are horrible, vain and conceited. They have hair all over their bodies.’

Ingmar Bergman isn’t the first name that trips off the tongue when considering the great romcoms, but before he got all gloomy and existential the Swedish master turned out this hilarious and bawdy country-house farce.


16. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)


‘I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a handbag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.’

It was loosely remade as ‘You’ve Got Mail’, but we urge you to check out the infinitely superior original, a tale of loathing turning to love between the employees of a glamorous department store in pre-war Budapest.

Buy, rent or watch 'The Shop Around the Corner'

15. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Film Comedy

‘It isn’t that I don’t like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I’m strangely drawn toward you. But – well, there haven’t been any quiet moments.’

Hepburn! Grant! Leopard! The ultimate screwball comedy, this story of a down-to-earth gal, a dippy scientist and a stray big cat named Baby is sheer, ridiculous fun from start to finish.


13. Ninotchka (1939)

Film Comedy

‘I’m so happy, I’m so happy! Nobody can be so happy without being punished.’

‘Garbo Laughs!’ proclaimed the posters, advertising the fact that one of Hollywood’s most austere stars had made her first comedy. As a Soviet attaché who falls for a down-to-earth American businessman, Greta Garbo mocks her own ice-queen persona throughout this flawless political satire.

Buy, rent or watch 'Ninotchka'


12. The Big Sick (2017)

Film Comedy

'So... to fully know I love someone, I have to cheat on them?'

Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, the real-life couple who penned this film, give us a Pakistani-American culture-shock romance that isn’t awash with clichés. We meet Emily (Zoe Kazan plays Gordon’s on-screen surrogate) and Kumail (Nanjiani playing a version of himself) just before Emily falls into a coma. Suddenly for Kumail, there’s heartache, hospitals and parents to deal with.

Buy, rent or watch 'The Big Sick'

11. Clueless (1995)

Film Comedy

‘Why should I listen to you, anyway? You’re a virgin who can’t drive.’

This satiric look at LA high school might be full of frenemies and makeovers, but at its heart, it’s a cute love story. Sure, it’s a slightly perverse tale of romance between Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and her step-brother (Paul Rudd), but it’s cute nonetheless.

Buy, rent or watch 'Clueless'


8. Show Me Love (1998)


‘Is it true you’re a lesbian? If you are I understand, ‘cause guys are so gross. I’m also going to be one, I think.’

This sweet and moving Swedish coming-of-age tale tells of two teenage girls, bored out of their minds by life in their small town, who gradually come to realise the best thing going for them is each other.


5. Groundhog Day (1993)


‘I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It’s inspiring.’

Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman who’s trapped living the same day every day in this nightmarish fantasy-comedy. He’s forced to re-examine his priorities until he realises he’s in love with his news producer.

Buy, rent or watch 'Groundhog Day'


3. Harold and Maude (1971)

Film Comedy

‘A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt.’

This cult comedy follows a romantic relationship between a suicide-obsessed teenager and an 80-year-old woman he meets at a funeral. The film's dark humour and daring subject matter still feel taboo.

Buy, rent or watch 'Harold and Maude'


1. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)


‘I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’

We dare you to try and think of a romcom scene that’s more iconic than Meg Ryan pretending to orgasm in a diner. The tale of two enemies turned friends turned potential lovers asks the question: can guys and girls just be mates?

Buy, rent or watch 'When Harry Met Sally'


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