People watch movies for many reasons: to feel, to be entertained, to learn. However, sometimes you’re just looking for some good old fashioned wish fulfillment. Romantic comedies are the ultimate fantasy. Boy meets girl, hijinks ensue, you know the drill. Big gestures are made and bold proclamations of love are said. This isn’t real life, and we know it. However, for two hours or less, we buy it hook, line, and sinker. The beats are familiar, but we’re still waiting for that final kiss. We don’t get to see the real life that starts after “I love you”, but that’s not why we watch. What happens after “I love you” is sitting next to us on the couch. No, we watch for the magic. For the fireworks.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, check your cynicism at the door, and check out these romcoms that are presently available for streaming.
You’ve Got Mail (Amazon)
Under the direction of Nora Ephron, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have great chemistry and charm to spare as business rivals, friends, and eventually lovers. Ephron creates a fantasy version of New York: beautiful and enchanting, but maybe not a New York that really exists.
While You Were Sleeping (Netflix)
Sandra Bullock stars as a lonely ticket collector who saves a man (Peter Gallagher) who is pushed onto the train tracks. After a misunderstanding at the hospital, his rambunctious family thinks she is his fiancée. Trouble occurs when she falls in love with his brother, winningly played by Bill Pullman.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (Netflix)
Everywoman Bridget Jones, played with a pluck by Renée Zellweger, is continuously on the path of self-improvement, to less than stellar results. Torn between two very different men (Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, England’s romcom kings), Bridget really just wants someone who likes her just the way she is. Bridget Jones’s Diary was nominated for multiple BAFTAs and Golden Globes, and garnered Zellweger her first Academy Award nomination.
What If (Amazon)
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan prove to be a perfect match in this whimsical romance. While it often walks the line of millennial hipster twee, the strength of its cast keeps it grounded with an easy chemistry. Maybe Daniel Radcliffe can avoid the frustration of typecasting.
The Apartment (Netflix)
Legendary director Billy Wilder is at his best in this award winning film, which won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Art Direction, and Film Editing at the 1961 Academy Awards. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star in this film full of complications, both business and romantic.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Netflix)
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a cream puff of a movie, focusing on the whirlwind friendship of a down-on-her-luck governess, Francss McDormand’s Miss Pettigrew, and an immature aspiring actress, Amy Adam’s Delysia. While they both find true love along the way (Ciarán Hinds and Lee Pace, respectively), the focus is just as much on female friendships and growing up.
Before he was a curiosity, Nicolas Cage romanced Cher in this romantic comedy about finding passion and not settling for less. Set in working-class Brooklyn, Moonstruck tells the story of Loretta, a tough and practical widow, who falls in love with her fiancé’s volatile brother, Ronny. Moonstruck won Best Screenplay, Actress (Cher), and Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis) at the 1988 Academy Awards.
10 Things I Hate About You (Amazon)
A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You is a quintessential teen movie: parties, prom, ill-advised bets, and misunderstandings abound. It also fully introduced the world to Heath Ledger, for which we will be forever grateful.
Cary Grant and Sophia Loren are two of the most iconic movie stars of all time, so Houseboat is worth a watch. Grant stars as a widower with three young children who decides to get away from the hustle of Washington, DC, so he impulsively purchases a houseboat. Loren shines as a privileged woman looking to escape her overwhelming family, so she takes a job as their nanny. Put two people with that much charisma in close quarters and how can you expect them not to fall in love?
Four Weddings and a Funeral (Netflix)
Richard Curtis is renowned for writing some of the most famous romantic comedies of all time, and Four Weddings and a Funeral is considered by many to be his best. Over the course of the five social events, Hugh Grant, at his most foppishly charming, must decide if he’s actually found true love with Andie McDowell (an American! The horror!) and whether that love is worth disrupting his comfortable bacherlor lifestyle. Four Weddings and a Funeral was nominated for 2 Academy Awards, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay in 1995.
When Harry Met Sally (Amazon)
Can men and women be just friends? While you may disagree with its conclusion, When Harry Met Sally is still considered a classic in the genre. The evolution of the relationship between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as they wander around New York, ruminating on the nature of relationships, is a benchmark for the romantic comedies that followed. When Harry Met Sally was nominated for a handful of Golden Globes and BAFTAs, as well as the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1990.
Hitch features Will Smith at his most charming as “date doctor” Alex Hitchens. Hitch helps hopeless men woo the women they love as a business, but he eventually finds love himself with Sara, a prickly gossip columnist played by Eva Mendes. Hitch also features a great performance from pre-Paul Blart Kevin James.
They Came Together (Netflix)
And for a little counterprogramming, you can check out this star-studded (Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders) takedown of the rom-com genre (and most specifically, You’ve Got Mail) from Role Models and Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain. It may mock the genre’s tropes, but it’s still got a romantic relationship at the heart of it and it’s still funny, so it still fits in this category.