In a world of perpetual stress, we need pick-me-ups wherever we can get them — and rom-coms, for many, can satiate that hunger. The beauty of the rom-com is that, although the term itself may read fairly straightforward, there is debate over what specifically constitutes as a rom-com.
For the sake of argument, we're going to go with the American Film Institute’s broad definition of a romantic comedy: “a genre in which the development of a romance leads to comic situations.” If we're sticking with this description, this leaves many movies available to select.
Although chatter about the "death" of the rom-com seems perpetual, this exhaustive list of classics can otherwise prove that, although the 1980s to '90s rom-com era truly was golden, rom-coms are certainly not dead (and hopefully never will be).
If you have a voracious craving for meet-cutes, witty banter and a mix of plots that will ultimately make you question the validity of your own relationships — look no further. Here is a definitive list of what TODAY thinks are the best rom-coms of all time, ranked in no particular order.
‘La La Land’ (2016)
Known for its sweeping score and whimsical cinematography, “La La Land” is a film beloved by many. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play two young performers trying to make it as an actress and a jazz musician (respectively), and fall in love as their friendship grows.
For a truly cinematic experience, we recommend viewing “La La Land” with the lights off, a big bowl of popcorn and a box of tissues at the ready (IYKYK.)
‘Always Be My Maybe’ (2019)
Have you ever had a lifelong friend people assume you’ll end up marrying? This is the not-so-unfortunate case for Marcus (Randall Park) and Sasha (Ali Wong). As they reconnect their friendship in their adult years, they start to wonder if perhaps their friends were right all along.
‘Along Came Polly’ (2004)
Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) has played his whole life safe — in fact, he's literally made a career out of assessing risk. But when Polly (Jennifer Aniston) collides with him on the street after Reuben is unexpectedly cheated on, Reuben starts to let down his guard big time.
‘Someone Great’ (2019)
Starring “Jane the Virgin”‘s Gina Rodriguez, this Netflix rom-com is about one last night in New York after a devastating breakup with her nine-year boyfriend. This story touches on what it means to let go of your twenties, the power of friendship and the importance of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” (Again, IYKYK.)
Adam Sandler is no stranger to a rom-com, including the likes of “Spanglish” — a frankly underrated movie. Flor (Paz Vega) and her daughter emigrate from Mexico and move into the home of a chef (Sandler) and his insecure wife. This one will actually make you LOL, we promise.
'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' (2003)
New York's resident "how to" journalist Andie Anderson, played by Kate Hudson, takes on a new assignment at work: An article entitled "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." When Andie sees Benjamin Barry, played by none other than Matthew McConaughey, at a bar one night, she targets him as her prey. Chaos and romance ensue.
'Bridget Jones’ Diary' (2001)
Bridget Jones, played by Renee Zellweger, is ... messy — and she's also an unforgettable heroine. Between wearing inappropriate office clothes to work, sleeping with her boss and generally just having lots of chaotic energy, she's the heart and soul of the film. When she eventually has to choose between her boss and a family friend (Hugh Grant and Colin Firth) on her journey to find love, things get even zanier. You don't want to miss this classic, irreverent British rom-com, or its sequel.
'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' (2008)
Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) thinks he scored big time by landing superstar bombshell and actress, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) — until Sarah breaks up with him in that infamous breakup scene (IYKYK). Peter takes a solo trip to Hawaii to forget about Sarah — but oh wait! She's also vacationing in Hawaii, with her new boo Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). So the whole "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" thing becomes pretty hard — until he meets Rachel (Mila Kunis).
Not everyone is a dating pro — and Hitch (Will Smith) plans to capitalize off of this lack of finesse. Smith stars in this irreverent rom-com alongside Kevin James and Eva Mendes as New York's "date doctor," a man on a mission to help the clueless men of New York be less clueless. When Hitch sets on a mission to help Albert (James) win his dream girl, Allegra (Amber Valletta), gossip columnist Sara (Mendes) hears about this "date doctor" — what she doesn't realize is that she's dating him herself.
'The Wedding Planner' (2001)
Jennifer Lopez has worn many wedding dresses in rom-coms over the years. But in "The Wedding Planner," she plays a woman who's more concerned with making other people's wedding dreams come true. Over the course of the movie, she learns to put her own needs first.
'50 First Dates' (2004)
What would you do if you found out the girl you wanted to date had short-term memory loss? That's exactly what Henry (Adam Sandler) tries to figure out in this hilarious rom-com as, day after day, he attempts to win over Lucy (Drew Barrymore).
'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' (2002)
Toula's (Nia Vardalos) large Greek family wants her to get married — but Ian Miller (John Corbett), a long-haired American, was not who they had in mind. Toula must convince her traditional Greek father that her non-Greek, vegetarian fiancé is good enough for her — which proves to be hilariously difficult. The third movie is in the works.
'Something’s Gotta Give ' (2003)
Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton star in this summer-set rom-com. When Erica, an accomplished author, notices that her daughter's boyfriend is old enough to be her father, chaos ensues in their beautiful summer home in the Hamptons. This Nancy Meyers movie practically invented the Coastal Grandmother aesthetic.
'When Harry Met Sally' (1989)
Fans of Nora Ephron know that this flick, which was directed by Rob Reiner, is among her greatest screenwriting triumphs. Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) start an unlikely friendship when driving from Chicago to New York right after graduating college. Over the course of about 15 years, Sally and Harry individually go through marriages, bad break-ups, good times and bad, and still remain loyal friends to one another — until one night, Sally takes their friendship to the next level. This irreverent romance holds many of cinema's most iconic lines ("I'll have what she's having").
'Brown Sugar' (2002)
Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs) both witnessed the birth of hip-hop on a New York street corner at a young age, which solidified their long-lasting friendship and life paths. 15 years later, she is a revered music critic and he's a music executive. Both come to realize that their true life passions will only come to the surface by remembering what they learned on the street corner as kids — and maybe by getting on a deeper level with each other.
'The Big Sick' (2017)
"The Big Sick" is one of those rom-coms that gives you big, obnoxious belly laughs and some seriously lengthy sob sessions all within ten minutes. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan star in this film, centered around the two of them navigating their cross-cultural relationship — until Emily (Kazan) becomes life-threateningly ill. Based on Nanjiani's real-life courtship with his wife Emily V. Gordon, this flick perfectly combines the fanciful and exciting parts of love with the harsh realities that sometimes come with it.
"Ugh, as if" you would skip this rom-com. This classic flick starring Alicia Silverstone as Cher quickly became a cultural cornerstone for its hilarious one-liners and larger-than-life characters. And technically, it's a Jane Austen adaptation, so you can feel extra intellectual while watching.
'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (1994)
"Four Weddings and a Funeral" centers around Charles and his pals, who attend (you guessed it!) four weddings and a funeral throughout the duration of the movie. Hugh Grant is at his floppy-haired finest as he tries to romance Carrie (Andie MacDowell), the hard-to-get American.
Loretta Castorini (Cher) is a bookkeeper from Brooklyn, going through the motions of preparing to marry her dull boyfriend, Johnny. When he goes to visit his mom in Sicily, Loretta has to deliver the news of their impending wedding to his estranged younger brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage). The connection she doesn't have with Johnny, she finds with Ronny — and then some. Fall in love with the silliness and sweep-you-off-your-feet romance of "Moonstruck."
'Notting Hill' (1999)
She's just a girl, he's just a boy — only it's not that simple. Julia Roberts plays an actor who develops a connection with a London bookseller (Hugh Grant). Can sheer affection bridge the gap of status and celebrity? This rom-com is sure to hit every mark you need it to. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant romance? Check. Beautiful scenery of London? Check. Romantic scenes that could make you cry? Check.
'My Best Friend’s Wedding' (1997)
You know when that really awkward moment occurs when your best friend gets engaged and then you realize you're in love with him? That's exactly what happens to Julianne (Julia Roberts) in this subtly subversive rom-com. It might not give you the ending you're expecting, but it'll give you something true.
'500 Days of Summer' (2009)
Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is elusive, flighty and absolutely alluring and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) makes it his mission to win her over. The ending is one you're likely to debate, and the movie — especially Tom's pursuit of Summer — is one you're likely to analyze.
'The Best Man' (1999)
Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) is a shy writer and the best man at the wedding of Lance (Morris Chestnut) and Mia (Monica Calhoun). As reticent as he is in real life, he's vocal in his writing: In his forthcoming book, Harper chronicles his college life with his friends in a less-than-perfect light. Bad timing. As the wedding weekend nears, scandalous secrets begin to reveal themselves.
'Sleepless in Seattle' (1993)
Another Nora Ephron triumph, this story features Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as two singles looking for love across the radio waves. Sam (Hanks) is a widower — and his son is worried about him. Jonah (Ross Aaron Malinger) calls a talk radio station to find a new wife for his dad. Annie (Ryan) hears Sam get vulnerable on the radio, and quickly falls for him, despite living on the other side of the country.
'Jerry Maguire' (1996)
Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has it all: he's a successful sports agent making his way up the ladder. But when he suddenly gets fired, he goes through a crisis and decides to start his own firm, with only one employee (Renee Zellweger) helping him keep his business afloat.
'10 Things I Hate About You' (1999)
"10 Things I Hate About You," based loosely on Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," is a teen rom-com starring Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik. Kat and Bianca (Oleynik and Stiles) are the high school's most guarded girls, with an overprotective dad to blame. When Bianca wants to start dating, the father strikes a deal: Bianca can date when Kat, the more rebellious and difficult of the sisters, starts too.
'13 Going on 30' (2004)
Have you ever woken up one day only to find you've become your 30-year-old self out of nowhere? No? Well, that's precisely what happens to Jenna (Jennifer Garner) in this time-bending movie. Jenna wakes up to find herself not only in her 30-year-old body but also in her dream job and her dream apartment. What she also finds, however, is that she has no prospects for love — until she runs into her childhood best friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo).
'Crazy, Stupid, Love' (2011)
This eminently quotable rom-com features a line-up of A-listers (Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore) all navigating the messy, crazy (and stupid!) world of dating. After Emily (Moore) asks Cal (Carrell) for a divorce, Cal looks to his new friend Jacob (Gosling) to help him navigate the dating world.
'Crazy Rich Asians' (2018)
Rachel (Constance Wu) accompanies her perfect boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to a family wedding in Singapore. She's shocked when she arrives in Singapore and finds out that Nick's family is extremely wealthy, and that some of the women in his life (like his mom, played with Michelle Yeoh), would do anything to break them up. With its extravagant visuals, "Crazy Rich Asians" is a portal into another world — but the family dynamics might strike you as relatable.
'Love Actually' (2003)
Love it or hate it, "Love Actually" is a rom-com legend — simply for how divisive and enduring it's become since its 2003 release. A movie of intertwining stories, actors like Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightly, Colin Firth and Liam Neeson play characters trying to navigate the complexities of love in the midst of the holiday season.
'The Holiday' (2006)
This Nancy Meyers movie features two women who swap houses and in doing so, get a new lease on life. Cameron Diaz's Amanda leaves L.A. for Iris' (Kate Winslet) cottage in England, where she mourns her breakup. When they both meet local men (Jude Law and Jack Black) in their respective places and eventually fall in love, the two women must decide what they'll do when they eventually must return home.
'You've Got Mail' (1998)
Another Nora Ephron film, "You've Got Mail" features the classic combo of Ryan and Hanks on a journey toward love in the lovely city of New York. Ryan, who plays small business owner Kathleen, meets Joe (Hanks) — and realizes later that he owns Foxbooks, Kathleen's store's biggest competitor. In a tale of irreverent competition and a slow-burning romance, this flick is perfect for those who love a classic, perfect rom-com and the Hanks-Ryan combo.
'Pretty Woman' (1990)
This modern Cinderella story features Julia Roberts as Vivian, a sex worker who ends up in the right place at the right time. That right place ends up being the hotel room of business mogul Edward (Richard Gere), who helps her see her full potential.
'27 Dresses' (2008)
This movie takes "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" to a literal level. Katherine Heigl plays Jane, whose closet is full of bridesmaids dresses — 27, to be exact But, along with her committed bridesmaid-dom comes a longing to find love for herself. When a charming journalist (James Marsden) uncovers Jane's bridesmaid escapades, he pursues her story — and, in turn, her.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com