When Harry Met Sally. Pretty Woman. My Best Friend’s Wedding. What do these movies have in common? Well, first off, these are all solid films. But they are also pretty well-known romantic comedies. They’re classics you’ve probably seen multiple times, and if not, you have a decent idea of the plot line. Sometimes we just need a good, new romantic comedy. There may not be many in theaters at any given time, but there are quite a few movies that were released under the radar that you might not have had a chance to watch. Get your TV ready, grab some popcorn, and check out some of the best romantic comedy movies you’ve never seen.
Penelope tells the story of a girl of that very same name from a high society family who is looking for a suitor for her happily ever after. Well, actually her mother is the one who wants her to find a suitor. And Penelope is cursed. And has a pig snout. Have we lost you yet? A strange premise, but Penelope is a whimsical romantic comedy that sweeps you up into the magic of the story. The cast includes Christina Ricci, who plays the lead role of Penelope, along with James McAvoy and Peter Dinklage. With such big names, it seems odd that the movie fell under the radar, but it came out in 2006, before Dinklage’s now well-known role of Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, and McAvoy’s film Atonement had just come out. Another big name in this movie? One of our favorite rom-com ladies, Reese Witherspoon.
Fun fact: Penelope was the first movie from Witherspoon’s production company, Type A. In addition, she plays a supporting character in the movie. And it’s not like the Witherspoon we’ve seen before. Speaking with Seventeen, she described her character, saying, “I got to run around the streets of London on that Vespa [motorbike] and got to wear the funny hair, and just be ballsy and funny.” Any involvement from Witherspoon, and we’re in. The film is feel-good and good for you. Not only does it have romance, but it offers a great message of self-love, too. Witherspoon addressed the topic, explaining, “There’s all sorts of different definitions of beauty and that it’s about finding what makes you unique. It’s important to really know yourself.”
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
A movie about a governess and a singer in the 1930s, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day tells a tangled tale about a famous singer named Delysia who needs a social secretary and ends up with a nanny, played by Frances McDormand. McDormand’s character, Miss Pettigrew, gets in way over her head and caught up in the hectic life of Delysia, played by the always-fabulous Amy Adams. Delysia is juggling three men and depends on Miss Pettigrew’s help to sort out her crazy, high society-filled life. The film has the same screwball comedy humor found in movies from the 1930s and 1940s, and Adams and McDormand are pros that fit perfectly together. Time Out London reviewed the two actresses, saying, “Adams is adorable as the wide-eyed would-be starlet, with McDormand spot-on as the sensible half of the odd couple.” And if you want even more Miss Pettigrew, start out with the book, written by Winifred Watson, then dive in and watch the movie. Romantic and hilarious, this film truly fits the rom-com genre.
Mr. Right (2015)
Martha is a girl who goes through a breakup when she finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Low and behold, the next day she runs into Francis, a guy she has an immediate connection with and starts to fall for. Typical romantic comedy, right? The perfect guy is just around the corner. But did we mention that Francis is a hitman? Oh, and that he is having trouble with a mob family? Not quite your classic rom-com, but that is what makes Mr. Right so great.
The plot and writing are quirky, and the two leads, Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell, are phenomenal. The New York Times described the film as having “Fred Astaire flavor” and had only good things to say about leading lady Kendrick. “Now, with the slick, frenetic confection Mr. Right, she dips into that tricky genre, the hybrid action thriller and romantic comedy — and scores again.” It shouldn’t shock us that Kendrick is fantastic in this movie, as she has been in pretty much every other film she’s done, but this movie slipped by us, and we have to give her some major props for her work here. Another fun fact about Kendrick? Katie Nehra, who plays Kendrick’s character’s best friend in the film, revealed this to Hollywood Life about her witty co-star: “We had so much fun, and she’s a great improviser, so we would improvise in scenes and that’s always nice.” How can we play Kendrick’s best friend? We’ll be at the next audition!
Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)
Not your typical romantic comedy, Celeste & Jesse Forever feels unique because it feels real. This film tells the story of a married couple who decide to separate, but want to continue being friends throughout the process. They blur the lines of still living together for some time while also trying to date and see other people. Although the movie has some dramatic moments, Celeste and Jesse have the same sense of humor, and we see that consistently throughout the film. Their relationship is complicated, as any real relationship is. The New York Times‘ review of the film is spot on when it says that the writers of this film, Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, “have righted the sex imbalance of the bromance with a story about two people who, together and alone, express an ideal rarely seen in American movies: a man and woman whose equality is burnished in friendship, not just in bed and marriage.”
Just as this movie quietly tackles topics past romantic comedies have not, it also seemed to be released quietly, with many not knowing when the film came out. The casting choices were on point, with Rashida Jones playing the practical Celeste and Andy Samberg playing the relaxed artist, Jesse. We have an inside look at their relationship and because of that, we are able to experience the joys and heartache the characters feel. It’s a great movie to watch when you do want a laugh with a taste of reality, found in a genre in which we normally experience escape instead of the real world.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Another film that feels similar to the reality vibes of Celeste & Jesse Forever has to be The Spectacular Now. But instead of a married couple going through a separation, we follow two teens, Aimee and Sutter, who are experiencing first love. The casting of this movie is absolutely perfect, with Shailene Woodley playing book-smart Aimee and Miles Teller playing the more street-smart, partying Sutter. Though very different, they have a connection that draws them together. While we see the dramatic moments that follow young love, we also see the beauty of it. Teller’s character brings humor to many scenes, making it easy to see why Woodley’s character falls for him. Although not the most well-known film, it became a favorite among critics and its audience. As The Washington Post commented, the movie “proves that revisiting reality can be so much more powerful than avoiding it.” The reviewer went on to say, “The movie captures the raw excitement and heartbreak of adolescence so completely that it manages to replace a seen-it-all jaded heart with the butterflies that accompany fresh experiences.” Be sure to also check out the book of the same name that this movie is based on, written by Tim Tharp.
For this one we’re throwing it back, all the way to 1963. Charade is a film starring two of the most well-known actors in film history, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. But it seems to be one of those hidden gems that not everyone knows about. Hepburn plays Regina “Reggie” Lampert, a widow who is put in a tough spot when it’s discovered that her recently deceased husband had worked with three other men to steal a fortune and then abandoned them to keep it all for himself. Those men are now back because they think Reggie knows where the fortune is. Grant’s character comes in to help Reggie, and the audience continues to learn surprises about him throughout the film. Charade is a fun movie that’s full of suspense, along with the comedy and romance we’re wanting to see. It’s fun to watch and be transported into the world of the ’60s. And we’d be lying if we said Hepburn’s clothes weren’t a great reason to watch. Seriously, every outfit is fabulous. If you want to see an oldie but a goodie, check out this movie.
Friends With Kids (2011)
Just like many others on this list, Friends With Kids is an unconventional romantic comedy. The film was written, produced, and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt, who also starred in it. The story follows two friends, Julie (played by Westfeldt) and Jason (played by Adam Scott) who start to notice that once their friends have kids, they never seem to be around anymore, and their marriages suffer. The two friends decide to have a child together and then decide to find who they want to marry. As you can imagine, the plot thickens and we see how that decision not only affects Julie and Jason, but their couple friends as well. Westfeldt explained to PopSugar where this plot idea came from. “I mean, so many people in my life at this point have made that profound life change and transition to becoming parents. And I think everybody handles it a little differently… It was really a tapestry of all of those things that I’ve observed, and then I just added make-believe to it.” The film has an impressive list of stars (many who were also in the fantastic film Bridesmaids), including Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, and Megan Fox. But as Rolling Stone says, Westfeldt is the one who steals the show. “In front of the camera and behind it, she’s the live current that pulls us in and makes us care.”
America’s Sweethearts (2001)
America’s Sweethearts is a top romantic comedy pick due to its stellar cast. Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, Julia Roberts, and Billy Crystal star in the film. Seriously, could it get any better? The film follows Crystal’s character, Lee Phillips, who is a film publicist and is given the task to promote a film starring two actors who were together and are now going through a split. These actors are played by Zeta-Jones and Cusack. Roberts comes in as Zeta Jones’ sister and assistant. The film reminds us of some real Hollywood love stories and breakups we’ve seen in the tabloids, and we can’t help but think these have inspired the movie a bit. With Crystal’s ever-present humor and Zeta-Jones, Cusack and Roberts’ per-usual fantastic acting chops, it’s a movie you can’t help but sit back and enjoy.
Never Been Kissed (2009)
We have to include a solid 1990s romantic comedy movie on this list. In Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore stars as Josie Geller, a copy editor at the Chicago Sun-Times who goes undercover at a high school to show parents what happens in their kids’ lives. Still having never had a real relationship, Barrymore’s Geller has to go through the high school experience all over again and has some not-so-pleasant flashbacks to her own high school years. This time around, though, she falls for the English teacher, played by Michael Vartan, and as any good romantic comedy promises, chaos ensues. Barrymore brings laughs to the film, but it’s really David Arquette, playing Barrymore’s on-screen brother, who delivers the comedy. He also ends up going back to high school, but he’s doing it as his second chance of making it big on the baseball field. It’s a feel-good film that at the very least it should be checked out for its fabulous ’90s fashion and music. Roger Ebert described it well when he said, “Never Been Kissed is not deep or sophisticated, but it’s funny and big-hearted and it wins us over.” Indeed, we are officially won over.