Romantic comedies, aka rom-coms, are the perfect movies to put on when you want to curl up with someone special, with the family, or even on your own. But they can also be pretty hit-or-miss. So which rom-coms are worth watching?
To help you skip the duds and get to the good stuff, we’ve combed through Netflix to find the absolute best choices the service has to offer.
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Jerry Maguire (1996)
“You had me at hello.” It’s one of the most romantic lines ever delivered in a film. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, and Cuba Gooding Jr. won for his role as wide receiver Rod Tidwell in this rom-com/sports drama. But the film centered around the title character, played by Tom Cruise, Tidwell’s sports agent. After Maguire ventures out on his own, he finds himself struggling to make it with Tidwell as his only major client. Feeling he deserves more, Tidwell puts his confidence in Maguire to get him a hefty new contract (“show me the money!”). But a side story is Maguire’s burgeoning relationship with Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) and her young son. Whether you saw it back in 1996 or not, this is a rom-com worth watching again and again.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Stars: Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Director: Cameron Crowe
Runtime: 138 minutes
The Lovebirds (2020)
Getting decent reviews since it was released in late May, this film stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as a couple on the brink of breakup. After they witness a murder, they decide to go on the run to avoid being blamed for something they didn’t do. Forced to stay together under such unexpected circumstances, they begin to reconnect in new ways. The two stars are lauded for their performances and chemistry. As a follow-up to The Big Sick, which got rave reviews, this isn’t director Michael Showalter’s best project (he did, after all, co-create the Wet Hot American Summer franchise). But it’s a worthy watch for a fresh and modern take on the typical rom-com.
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae
Director: Michael Showalter
Runtime: 90 minutes
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
This movie may not be technically classified as a romantic comedy — it’s more of an action-comedy with a romantic foundation. And in our book, that’s a pretty great mix. Based on the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the title character (Michael Cera) has to battle his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes before he can win her heart. As a slacker musician, he has his work cut out for him as he fights everyone from a Hollywood actor to a super-powered vegan. Released in 2010, the film has garnered a cult following for its savvy mix of comedy, surrealist action, and heart.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Stars: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Edgar Wright
Runtime: 113 minutes
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
If you’re looking for something different from the typical sappy rom-com, this classic Mexican erotic drama mixes a unique and compelling story with liberal sex scenes. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Roma), it’s a coming-of-age tale about two teenage boys who go on a wild ride with an unhappily married woman. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdú, it was released in English-speaking markets in 2002. The film, which translates to “And Your Mother Too,” earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Runtime: 106 minutes
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Although its premise is fairly bleak, Silver Linings Playbook is one of the more refreshingly honest, realistic romantic comedies you’ll find. The movie follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a man who has lost everything, including his house, his job, and his wife, and has spent the last eight months living in a state mental institution on a plea bargain. Determined to recapture his life, Pat sets out to reunite with his wife and put everything back to how it was. His parents, with whom he’s living now, would prefer if he just put his energy into being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. When he meets his eccentric neighbor Tiffany, he enlists her help to get his wife back. But Tiffany wants something in return: Pat’s participation in a couples dance contest that Tiffany is devoted to winning.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Director: David O. Russell
Runtime: 122 minutes
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Written and directed by Spike Lee, this film helped launch his career back in 1986. In the Mama Mia-like premise, a young woman is dating three men at the same time, each very different from one another. She likes them all for different reasons and thus finds it difficult to commit to just one. Far ahead of its time, the film is more about self-love than anything else. Follow it up with Lee’s 2017 modern series adaptation of the film, also available on Netflix.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Terrell
Director: Spike Lee
Runtime: 85 minutes
Sleeping with Other People (2015)
This 2015 film might actually be considered the antithesis of rom-coms. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet, and Adam Scott, it’s about a woman suffering from sexual addiction who has a budding friendship and casual relationship with a man who has commitment issues. Heralded for its fresh and witty dialogue, the film features cheating, hook-ups, and a lot of back and forth. But in the end, it’s a compelling love story that’s well worth the ride.
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott
Director: Leslye Headland
Runtime: 95 minutes
Groundhog Day (1993)
This classic 1993 fantasy comedy, directed by Harold Ramis, isn’t your traditional rom-com. Much of the film focuses on Bill Murray’s character of Phil Connors, a grumpy weatherman who’s annoyed with having to be on location in a small town to report on the annual Groundhog Day event. After something happens that causes him to re-live the same day over and over again, however, he starts to realize how a change in his attitude has a domino effect. Most notably, in how it pertains to his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), whom he develops a romantic interest in. While it isn’t an in-your-face rom-com, the subtle yet touching love story is heartwarming.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Director: Harold Ramis
Runtime: 102 minutes
Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird is one of the most mature movies about first love that you’ll find. Driven by powerhouse performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as a mother and daughter who can hardly live in the same house yet deep-down are terrified by the impending adventure of college, Greta Gerwig’s take on the last year of high school is beautiful, profound, and very, very funny. Ronan plays Lady Bird, an intrepid, bright Sacramento high schooler who keeps looking ahead to college on the East Coast as life keeps on happening right in front of her. From navigating her rocky relationship with her mother to the trials of first love, there’s so much Lady Bird has to learn.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Timothee Chalamet
Director: Greta Gerwig
Runtime: 93 minutes
About Time (2013)
Starring Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson, and Bill Nighy, this 2013 British film blends traditional rom-com themes with a sci-fi twist. The film follows Gleeson as a young man who discovers he can travel through time. In doing so, he hopes to change his past to improve his love life, taking us on a journey of his most poignant moments and deepest regrets. Also featuring Margot Robbie and Vanessa Kirby, the film is a bit sappy, but great performances and an intriguing plot carry it through for a heartwarming watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Director: Richard Curtis
Runtime: 123 minutes
Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Comedian Ali Wong both wrote and stars in this 2019 film as Sasha, a woman who reunites with Marcus (Fresh Off The Boat‘s Randall Park), a childhood friend and one-time fling, when she returns to her hometown of San Francisco. There’s clear chemistry between them but Sasha has a demanding career and the timing is always off, especially when Marcus discovers Sasha’s new celebrity love interest: Keanu Reeves (yes, he’s in the movie!) Will they finally realize they’re meant for one another? The film has been almost universally liked, and praised for its ability to layer typical rom-com tropes with “smart social commentary.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Keanu Reeves
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Runtime: 102 minutes
Following the success of the 2018 teen rom-com To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this sequel continues to tell the love story between Lara Jean and Peter, who are now a full-fledged couple. It covers all of the necessary ingredients for a teen rom-com, including all the firsts (kiss, date), the supportive friends, and the trials and tribulations of navigating a new relationship. This Netflix original has been well-received, referred to as an “amiable postscript to its predecessors, and a “swoonworthy sequel.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Stars: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo
Director: Michael Fimognari
Runtime: 101 minutes
Ali’s Wedding (2017)
This Australian film from 2017 is one of the, if not the first, Muslim rom-coms. The story follows Ali, a musically inclined young Muslim man struggling with his desire to be with one woman when he has been promised to another by his family. The film touches upon universal ideas about relationships that anyone can relate to despite the very specific and cultural setting.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Osamah Sami, Helana Sawires
Director: Jeffrey Walker
Runtime: 100 minutes
Sure, this 2005 film didn’t exactly garner the best reviews. But if you’re looking to sit back with a typical rom-com, this one is about as predictable as they come. Will Smith is Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, who has made a profession out of helping men woo women. Surprise, surprise, he’s a serial dater himself who has never settled down. As he helps a client named Albert (Kevin James) build the confidence he needs to approach an attractive woman, he also finds himself falling hard for a woman (Eva Mendes.) The movie oozes the right mix of sweet and funny, with a worthwhile message of just being yourself, even if it’s presented in the most cringeworthy way. You know exactly what will happen in the end, but it still pulls you in.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James
Director: Andrew Tennant, Andy Tennant
Runtime: 120 minutes
It’s difficult to believe this cult classic coming-of-age teen comedy is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Alicia Silverstone stars as Cher, a rich, stuck-up, materialistic high schooler in Beverly Hills who decides to give a frumpy, shy girl at school a makeover. The central story is loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, and while friendship is at the heart of the film, it’s also a very subtle romantic comedy with a sweet ending that you might (or might not) see coming. Look out for memorable performances from Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, and the late Brittany Murphy as well. This successful film not only spawned everything from a sitcom to books (and a reported upcoming remake), it’s also considered to be one of the best teen films ever.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd
Director: Amy Heckerling
Runtime: 97 minutes
Dustin Hoffman stars in this gender-bending rom-com about an actor who, after having trouble with his reputation, decides to take on a new identity as a woman in order to book gigs. As the most profitable film of its year of release, it was also nominated for an incredible 10 Academy Awards, though Jessica Lange was the sole winner, for Best Supporting Actress. One of several films named into the National Film Registry, it’s Hoffman like you’ve never seen him.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning
Director: Sydney Pollack
Runtime: 116 minutes
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
You can’t go wrong with a cast as talented as the one in this film. Set in the ’90s, Will (Reynolds) tries to help his 11-year-old daughter understand his pending divorce by telling her the story of his past romances. Except he doesn’t explain which woman in the long and winding story is the one who eventually becomes her mother until the very end. It’s a totally sugary-sweet story about love and romance, both lost and found.
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Derek Luke, Abigail Breslin, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz
Director: Adam Brooks
Runtime: 111 minutes
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Nineties rom-coms were defined by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and this film, a massive commercial success, is an adorable one that takes viewers back to the simpler days of dating. After being widowed for a year, Sam goes on a radio talk show to discuss how he misses his wife and attracts the attention of plenty of interested women. One is Annie, who is already in a relationship but feels a connection. She throws caution to the wind and decides to write Sam a letter (yes, pen to paper) asking him to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. It’s a predictable story, but the series of chance encounters and sheer persistence of a child make for an intense love story.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Ross Malinger, Gaby Hoffmann, Rob Reiner
Director: Nora Ephron
Runtime: 105 minutes
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
This film is inspired by a joke classified ad that ran in a 1997 edition of Backwoods Home Magazine asking for someone to “go back in time” with the person who claimed to have done it already “once before.” Anyone who responds, notes the ad, will get paid but must bring their own weapons. Wait, what? This hilarious rom-com sees a curious team at the magazine investigate the want ad, though one man has an ulterior motive: An excuse to visit the town to seek out a long-lost love. And so, the adventure begins.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Kristen Bell, Jeff Garlin, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Runtime: 86 minutes
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