Best Romantic Comedies
There are a ton of romantic comedies out there, but these are some of the best G, PG, and PG-13 entries, arranged so the four-star films are on top, and the rest in descending order. Families with younger children might begin with The Parent Trap or The Court Jester, while those with children resistant to romance (i.e., boys) or “old” movies might start with films that blend romantic comedy with adventure and action, like Blended, Father Goose, or Donovan’s Reef, then try a screwball comedy in color like What’s Up, Doc? or a film like Roxanne that throws in more comedy than romance.
Some Like It Hot (1959, B&W, 120 min., PG, trailer) ****
Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe star in this Billy Wilder farce, set in the ‘20s, about two musicians who, after witnessing a mob hit, dress in drag and join a women’s band headed for a Florida gig to save their skins. And comic romances follow.
Annie Hall (1977, C, 93 min., PG, trailer) ****
Manhattan comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) finds quirky companionship and maybe true love with a ditsy, free-spirited nightclub singer (Diane Keaton) in this intellectual comedy that revels in its own self-consciousness. Kid-friendly, but all but teens will be bored.
It Happened One Night (1934, B&W, 105 min., G, trailer) ****
When an heiress (Claudette Colbert) runs away from a high-society marriage and the whole country is looking for her, a reporter (Clark Gable) tries to get an exclusive by hooking up with her on the road, but ends up getting a lot more than he bargained for in this screwball comedy.
Bringing Up Baby (1938, B&W, 102 min., G, trailer) ***1/2
A screwball comedy featuring Cary Grant as a paleontologist whose attempt to secure a donation for his museum and research is detoured and possibly derailed by an heiress (Katharine Hepburn) and her pet leopard, Baby.
His Girl Friday (1940, B&W, 92 min., G, trailer)*** 1/2
This screwball comedy is based on a play by Ben Hecht and stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as reporters and former marrieds, he alone and she ready to remarry. Except an escaped prisoner gets both their journalistic juices flowing again, and threatens to get them back together, as well.
Roman Holiday (1953, B&W, 118 min., G, trailer) ***1/2
When a princess (Audrey Hepburn) wants to experience life outside her royal routine, she falls in with a newspaperman (Gregory Peck) and his photographer (Eddie Albert), and the three of them have what the title implies.
Sabrina (1954, B&W, 113 min., G, trailer) ***1/2
Audrey Hepburn plays a chauffeur’s daughter who falls in love with the playboy of the family (William Holden), while his older brother (Humphrey Bogard) might be the better choice. Another Billy Wilder comedy is heavy on the romance and lighter on the comedy.
The Philadelphia Story (1940, B&W, 112. Min., G, trailer) ***1/2
Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart star in this triangular romantic comedy about a woman’s ex-husband who turns up right before her remarriage.
What’s up Doc? (1972, C, 94 min., G, trailer) ***1/2
This remake of Bringing up Baby stars Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, with Streisand every bit as ditzy and screwball as Katharine Hepburn. Good for all ages.
The Goodbye Girl (1977, C, 111 min., PG, trailer) ***1/2
When Marsha Mason’s actor boyfriend dumps her she thinks it can’t get worse, until she learns he sublet their apartment . . . to another actor (Richard Dreyfuss). Racy in spots, but the presence of a 10-year-old girl makes this one a comedy the kids can relate to.
Teacher’s Pet (1958, C, 120 min., G, trailer) ***1/2
Clark Gable is a hardened newspaper editor who thinks journalism can’t be taught, and Doris Day is a college professor who teaches journalism. When he goes to her class to give her the “real” deal, he chickens out and pretends to be a student instead. Complications arise when sparks start to fly.
Pillow Talk (1959, C, 102 min., G, trailer) ***
Rock Hudson plays a playboy songwriter who sings to his conquests, much to the annoyance of the woman who shares his party line (Doris Day). When he decides to romance her for the fun of it, he ends up falling in love with her . . . and can’t figure out how to tell her who he really is. Best of the Hudson/Day comedies.
Father Goose (1964, C, 118 min., PG, trailer) ***
An action-filled romantic comedy that’s the best place to start if you have young children. Cary Grant is a boozing charter boat captain who’s perfectly happy avoiding World War II in the Pacific, until he’s tricked into being a coastwatcher and his life gets complicated when he rescues a pretty teacher and the seven girls in her charge. Opposites attract, but the kids factor into it in a fun way, and the war provides some suspense.
The Court Jester (1955, C, 101 min., G, clip) ***
Not a romantic comedy per se, but a family comedy with romance in it, and a fun movie for all ages. Danny Kaye plays a carnival performer who does impersonations, only he ends up being mistaken for an assassin as he performs at the king’s palace, and is later mistaken for being the Robin Hood style hero who’s fighting the king’s tyranny.
Notting Hill (1999, C, 124 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
When a bookstore owner chances to meet a famous American actress, his life takes a big turn. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts star in this saucy comedy that does have a few racy moments in it, despite the rating.
The Proposal (2009, C, 108 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
Sandra Bullock stars as a corporate exec who coerces her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her so she won’t be deported. But what starts out as a paper only affair turns into something more when his family in Alaska wants to meet her, and they have to play things out because immigration is keeping an eye on them.
Donovan’s Reef (1963, C, 109 min., PG, trailer) ***
A rollicking post-WWII comedy-romance featuring John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and Jack Warden as former shipmates, two of whom stayed on the island they helped liberate. Things get complicated when a proper Boston woman (Elizabeth Allen) arrives to try to get a father she’s never met to give up his interest in the family fortune—and meets her match.
The Wedding Singer (1998, C, 95 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
This one’s for older children. Adam Sandler stars as a wedding singer whose zest for life takes a tumble when he’s jilted. But when he meets a waitress (Drew Barrymore) about to marry the wrong person, he’s determined to keep her from making his kind of mistake.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002, C, 95 min., PG, trailer) ***
When a plain-looking Greek woman (Nia Vardalos) falls for a non-Greek (John Corbett), her father (Michael Constantine) and the rest of the traditional family struggle with her choice . . . and he struggles to fit in as they plan their wedding.
50 First Dates (2004, C, 99 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
Drew Barrymore stars as a young woman with short-term memory loss who thinks each day is the one before the accident she had. Enter Henry (Adam Sandler), who falls for her and tries to woo her all over again, day after day, under the watchful eyes of her Hawaiian protectors.
Dave (1993, C, 110 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
Kevin Kline stars as a temp agency worker who is hired for top-secret work: to impersonate the president, who is in a coma, hopefully good enough to convince the president’s wife (Sigourney Weaver).
The Parent Trap (1961, C, 129 min., G, clip) ***
A good bet for small children. This one stars Hayley Mills in a dual role as twins split up as babies when their parents (Brian Keith, Maureen O’Hara) divorced. When the girls meet at summer camp and figure things out, they switch places hoping to convince their proper Bostonian mother and California rancher father to get back together again.
Lover Come Back (1961, C, 107 min., G, trailer) ***
An ad man (Rock Hudson) has a campaign for a product that hasn’t been invented yet, and ends up romancing a rival (Doris Day) while pretending to be the inventor.
Roxanne (1987, C, 107 min., PG, trailer) ***
Steve Martin is engaging as a long-nosed fire chief in this modern retelling of the Cyrano tale, with Daryl Hannah the object of his desire and Rick Rossovich the young man he ends up helping “woo” her.
French Kiss (1995, C, 111 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
When Meg Ryan’s fiancé breaks off the engagement because he met someone in Paris, she fights her fears of flying and heads to Paris hoping to win him back. While a charming petty crook (Kevin Kline) tries to help her, it’s clear he has other ideas.
Move over Darling (1963, C, 103 min., G, trailer) ***
Doris Day stars as a woman who returns unexpectedly years after she’s already been declared dead from a plane crash in the Pacific, and her return home comes at an awkward time: just as her husband (James Garner) is about to remarry someone else (Polly Bergen).
Hitch (2005, C, 118 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
Will Smith is the date doctor, a guy who works on referrals only, helping clients to overcome their awkwardness with women in order to get the woman of their dreams to marry them. While helping Kevin James with his romance, the date doctor finds himself attracted to a gossip columnist (Eva Mendes) who’s trying to find out who this date doctor guy is.
You’ve Got Mail (1998, C, 119 min., PG, trailer) ***
A lighter remake of The Shop around the Corner starring Meg Ryan as the small bookstore owner and Tom Hanks as the son of the big chain that’s trying to put her out of business . . . something they don’t know about each other as they fall in love over the Internet.
Moonstruck (1987, C, 102 min., PG, trailer) ***
Cher agrees to marry a man but finds life complicated when she ends up falling for his brother (Nicolas Cage) instead. For older kids.
The American President (1995, C, 114 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
A widowed president (Michael Douglas) ends up falling for a lobbyist (Annette Bening) and vice versa.
Warm Bodies (2013, C, 98 min., PG-13, trailer)***
A zombie rom-com for families with teens who are into the whole vampire love thing. After a highly unusual zombie saves a living girl from an attack, the two begin an unlikely relationship that could transform the entire lifeless world.
Legally Blonde (2001, C, 96 min., PG-13, trailer) ***
A sorority girl is determined to get her boyfriend back, even if that means following him to law school and showing him she’s not some dumb blonde.
Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964, C, 120 min., G, trailer) ***
Roger Willoughby is the world’s expert on fishing, and his customers at Abercrombie and Fitch swear by his books. Trouble is, he’s a phony, and stands to become exposed when his boss enters him in a fishing tournament, where he meets a pretty publicist (Paula Prentiss).
The Sure Thing (1985, C, 100 min., PG-13, trailer)***
A college student drives across country to visit a friend and bed a “sure thing,” but a coed he shares a ride with has him rethinking things in this sweet Rob Reiner comedy.
Blended (2014, C, 117 min., PG-13, trailer)***
Two divorced single parents are forced by strange circumstances to take a “blended” vacation in Africa together, and the parents soon bond with their counterparts children . . . and eventually each other. Silly but satisfying.
What If? (2013, C, 98 min., PG-13, trailer)***
A young man with a string of failed relationships forms an instant bond with a young woman who happens to have a boyfriend, so of course they become best friends. But what if he had met her when she was single?