Cinematic Universe,  Entertainment,  Film

The Romantic Comedy Cinematic Universe

Photos courtesy of Castle Rock Entertainment, Nelson Entertainment, Touchstone Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Warners Bros. Pictures.

Romantic comedies (also known as romcoms or rom-coms) have been around for decades. This genre of film is a sub-genre of comedy that focuses on a lighthearted, humorous plot line that’s centered on romantic ideas. Rom-coms are a specific genre of comedy films as well as romance films. This genre is classified as two separate ones rather than an entirely new genre.

Decades Worth of Romantic Comedies


In 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s premiered in theaters. The film was one of the most notable films to come out of the 1960s. It follows a woman named Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), a naive and eccentric individual who falls in love with a struggling writer (George Peppard). The film received 5 Academy Award nominations and became a one of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic roles.


In 1978, Grease premiered in theaters. The premise follows a greaser named Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and an Australian transfer student named Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) who form a romantic bond with one another. This film does depict themes that may not be widely accepted today. For example, Sandy changing herself to impress a man wouldn’t sit well with audiences today.


The 1980s was a decade full of romantic comedies. Pretty in Pink was released in theaters in 1986. It was directed by Howard Deutch and written by John Hughes. It stars Molly Ringwald as Angie, an outcast who frequently hangs out with her boss (Annie Potts) or her nerdy best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer). She falls for rich kid Blane (Andrew McCarthy) and learns that dating someone in a different social sphere isn’t easy. Pretty in Pink is a cult classic and was one of the many Brat Pack films that came out of this decade. 

In the same decade, Mystic Pizza was released in 1988. The premise follows two sisters Daisy (Julia Roberts) and Kat (Annabeth Gish) and their best friend Jojo (Lili Taylor) who work in a pizza shop in Mystic, Connecticut while finding love and finding themselves. It’s not appreciated enough. I love this film because it explores the lives of all three young women and how different their lives are.

Lastly, When Harry Met Sally… was released in theaters in 1989. The film follows Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) from the time they meet through 12 years of chance encounters in New York City. The film became a cult classic and was different from the other rom-coms that we released in the 1980s. The story is much more complex and answers the question: “Can men and women ever just be friends?” This film is one of my favorite films of all time. It never fails to make me laugh and there are so many iconic scenes.


The 1990s featured a few notable rom-coms. 10 Things I Hate About You was released theatrically in 1999. It stars Julia Stiles as Kat Stratford, an irritable teenage girl who finds herself entangled in a romantic scheme that becomes much more than a business deal that she isn’t even aware of. For Kat’s younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), she can’t date until Kat does. This is when the scheme begins and Kat meets the charming Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). Meanwhile, new kid Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) falls head over heels for Bianca. Similar to rom-coms in the 1980s, most rom-coms in the 1990s centered on teenage love. This film is a cult classic. There are so many great scenes. The chemistry between Ledger and Stiles is so good. 

An underrated rom-com from this decade is While You Were Sleeping. It was released in 1995. It follows Lucy (Sandra Bullock), a transit authority token collector, who saves a man’s life and follows him to the hospital. Peter (Peter Gallagher) is in a coma from the accident. A nurse overhears Lucy talking to herself and assumes that she’s his fiancée. This is when things get a little crazy. Lucy meets Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman) and it gets even more complicated from there. This is definitely one of my favorite rom-coms because it’s just charming, funny, and entertaining. The music is so iconic. I just love the story.

Lastly, Reality Bites is one of my favorite films of all time. It was released in 1994. The premise follows a group of college graduates. Lelaina (Winona Ryder) wants to be a filmmaker. She decides to make a documentary of her life and her friends post-graduation. Vickie (Janeane Garofolo) works in retail and Sammy (Steve Zahn) attempts to come out to his parents. Leilana’s love life becomes complicated when she meets Michael (Ben Stiller) while maintaining a love-hate relationship with Troy (Ethan Hawke).


The 2000s is when rom-coms started to branch out into different storylines not just focusing on teenagers. 13 Going on 30 was released in 2004. The film follows teenager Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) who magically transforms into a 30 year-old version of herself (Jennifer Garner). This is a cult classic and I laugh every time I rewatch it. Jenna learns that growing up isn’t easy and that adulting isn’t as glamorous as she thought it was.

27 Dresses is an underrated rom-com from the 2000s. It was released in 2008 and follows Jane (Katherine Heigl), a bridesmaid who always puts others needs before her own until Jane’s younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) falls for Jane’s boss George (Edward Burns) and entangles herself with reporter Malcolm Doyle (James Marsden). This film is one of my favorites because it’s poignant, funny, and has a great cast. The story is charming and entertaining.

Lastly, He’s Just Not Into You was released in 2009. It’s up there with 27 Dresses for me. It features an ensemble cast including Jennifer Aniston, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck, Justin Long, and Busy Phillips. The story follows intertwining stories about love and its complexities. Again, another charming and funny take on traditional rom-com storylines.


I’m not sure whether the 2000s or the 2010s was my favorite decade for rom-coms. The 2010s kicked up a notch. In 2011, Crazy, Stupid, Love was released. The film has an all-star cast including Steve Carrell, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and more. This film is one of my favorites of all time. The camaraderie and interweaving of stories is so clever. It’s so funny and witty.

In 2010, Flipped was released. The brilliant mind of Rob Reiner brought this adorable story of young love to the big screen. I love this film. It’s not a typical rom-com as it has some dramatic elements woven in it. It’s love at first sight for Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) when she meets her neighbor, Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe). The film is from both of their perspectives which is interesting as most rom-coms are usually told by one perspective.

Lastly, in 2011, Just Go With It was released. The film is one of my favorites of all time. I know I’ve been saying this for every film but this one has been one of my favorites for years. It follows Danny (Adam Sandler) who drags along his assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), her kids (Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck) into a web of lies he told to impress his much younger girlfriend Palmer (Brooklyn Decker).

The Evolution of Romantic Comedies

Over the last six decades, the romantic comedy genre has evolved quite a bit. The core of the genre is still the same but storytelling has changed. This genre has changed as each year has brought new technology and ways of telling these stories.

Rom-coms in the 1960s and 1970s may be frowned upon now because of the references made and the tropes used. The 1990s and 2000s is when the genre truly took shape into what we know now as predictable and cliché storylines. The 2010s brought us modernized versions of the rom-coms we had in the 1990s and 2000s.

These predictable and cliché storylines are what make this genre so enjoyable. The light comedy with a touch of romance make this genre one of my personal favorites.

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