Romantic comedies aren’t what they used to be. Scrolling through streaming services nowadays, anything new for the genre somehow just seems a little bit lacking. While films like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess is a Loser grabbed our collective attention, it seems they don’t really have what it takes to endure.
What I realised was there were three touchstones guaranteed to hook me in every single time – strong leading ladies, a deep sense of joy, and of course, a wholesome one-liner or two.
Scroll on for our list of the best timeless rom-coms you can still stream today.
Kick off your rom-com sojourn with the 1999 classic Notting Hill. A handsome bookshop owner, stunning London scenery, Alec Baldwin acting an absolute fool: what is not to love about the cheesy Britishness of it all? Our strong leading lady, Julia Roberts’ movie-star character Anna Scott, falls unwittingly for William Thacker, but breaks his heart twice before the pair can figure it out. As for joy, the scene where Anna is introduced to Will’s unsuspecting friends provides endless laughs, as does any moment when Rhys Ifans’ Spike wanders onto camera. And of course, it gave us the one-liner most film writers regret not penning themselves: “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
There’s a reason so many think pieces pop up about this film every year at Christmas, and it’s because – no matter how poorly we’ve decided it aged – it is still an iconic film. And just because it’s a series of stories, rather than one, doesn’t mean there isn’t an equally iconic leading lady. Anyone would agree that Emma Thompson’s character, Karen, shows amazing tenacity, vulnerability and love for her family. The joy of Love Actually is almost overwhelming, given that every tale told centres on love, but since you asked (no one did), we’d wager the storylines between Billy Mack and his manager, Paul, and the blossoming relationship between nude body-doubles Jack and Judy provide the fuzziest of feelings. And the iconic one-liner? Take your pick, but we’re going to go with If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around us.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Questions have been raised in the last few years pondering how well this film aged, but if we were here to make that call, Love Actually would not have made this list. Bridget Jones’s Diary (the first one, I stress) gave us the one of best leading ladies in romantic comedy history, given how easy Renee Zellweger’s Bridget is to relate to. While she constantly wants to change herself, to be better, we’re also given the perspective of Mark Darcy, who helps her realise she is loveable as her whole self, which leads us to our iconic one-slash-two-or-three-liner.
I like you, very much.
Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother and the verbal diarrhea.
No, I like you very much. Just as you are.
Stream it now on BINGE.
Sweet Home Alabama
We’re swapping out the British humour now and heading to the deep joy brought to us by the deep south. Reese Witherspoon and her perfect bob star in Sweet Home Alabama as Melanie, a fashion designer engaged to New York’s most eligible bachelor, Patrick Dempsey’s Andrew Hennings. But she must make a stop at home before their wedding to divorce the man she married straight out of high school, the eye-wateringly beautiful Jake, played by Josh Lucas. Filled with small-town charm, the story features a wholesome romance and the most convenient detail that leads to the deterioration of Melanie and Andrew’s union. This in turn, sees her running back to Jake’s capable arms in no time. And the classic line? It comes when Jake asks Melanie why she wants to be married to him: So I can kiss you anytime I want.
10 Things I Hate About You
The joy in this film exists entirely in Heath Ledger’s smile, and I won’t be told otherwise. A modern take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You is filled with an angst that endures, because we were all once as grumpy as Kat Stratford, especially during high school. We all also wish we had our hearts melted by Patrick singing ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ across a set of high school bleachers. As gorgeous as this film is, it does cheat a little, giving us an entire poem instead of just one iconic line. Re-live the cuteness below:
Stream it now on Disney Plus.
This list doesn’t follow any particular order, because we all know this is probably the best romantic comedy of all time. In the role that catapulted her career, Julia Roberts stars as sex worker Vivian, who is picked up in Hollywood by the handsome mogul Edward Lewis, played by Richard Gere, who naturally falls deeply in love with her. Julia’s natural charm and stellar comedic timing makes this film such a joy to watch, especially as we watch her poke fun at the rich who look down on her. The line she rescues him right back is also the showstopper the film needs to cement itself as “a classic”, because although Edward has “rescued” Vivian from her career, she has also rescued him from a life of tedious business deals and people who want to exploit him.
Stream it now on Disney Plus.
Never Been Kissed
I’m not Josie Grossie anymore! Would a list of nostalgic romantic comedies be complete without Drew Barrymore? While there are so many she’s starred in that could have made this one, I’m settling for Never Been Kissed because not only does it tick all the boxes, it’s completely underrated. For a fellow geek, Josie Geller is the ideal main character, because I just know that if I were to return to high school, I would have the same miserable experience as the first time around and would also need my popular older brother to help me. While it lacks one punchy line, Josie’s monologue around her ideal kiss is pretty spectacular in the way it encapsulates the pure hope of someone who is yet to experience a bad kiss, so we’re counting it!
Stream it now on Disney Plus.