For decades, romantic comedies were derided as unserious “chick flicks,” as if that was a bad thing. But in recent years, the moviegoing public and critics alike have finally come around to celebrate the rom-com in all its frothy, silly, heartwarming glory. In the midst of an anxiety-producing pandemic, not to mention a contentious election cycle, it’s more enticing than ever to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and watch beautiful people fall in love with each other.
In compiling our list of our favorite romantic comedies you can stream right now, we tried to span the history of the genre, which arguably originated with Shakespearean comedies, saw a boom in the ’90s, and is being reinvented today. Of course each era of rom-com has its queens, and we’ve represented them all below. From the Audrey Hepburn’s understated elegance to Sandra Bullock’s down-to-earth charisma, from the sultry Katharine Hepburn to the bubbly Julia Roberts, we dare you not to fall in love with at least one of these charming leading ladies.
10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You is one of the best entries in the teen-rom-com-based-on-classic-literature genre (see also: Clueless, She’s The Man). Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger star as Kat and Patrick, high school versions of the sparring couple in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, with Larisa Oleynik (aka Nickelodeon’s Alex Mack) co-starring as Kat’s younger sister Bianca, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt new student Cameron who’s smitten with her. All four teen actors do an excellent job of bringing those outdated characters to life (I went to Shakespeare camp, don’t @ me), but Ledger in particular is endlessly charming in his breakthrough role.
10 Things I Hate About You is streaming on Disney Plus.
13 Going on 30
Were one to claim that 13 Going on 30 is the best romantic comedy ever made, there’d be slim argument against it. The movie is a charm on all fronts, from its cast — the winning Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo — to its premise, which involves Garner’s 13-year-old self wishing to become “30 and flirty and thriving” is magically granted. Part of the fun is watching Garner embody a teenager in an (high-powered corporate) adult’s body, but the real appeal is, of course, in watching two people who have always loved each other finally work up the courage to realize it. —Karen Han
13 Going on 30 is streaming on Starz.
The Big Sick
Based on star Kumail Nanjiani’s real-life love story with his wife and cowriter Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick hits classic rom-com beats (the meet-cute, the emotional breakup, the montage of unsuitable suitors) but puts a new spin on the formula: Emily (Zoe Kazan) goes into a coma after the aforementioned breakup. Kumail bonds with Emily’s parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) while she’s in the hospital, and as he learns more about her he falls more deeply in love with her. Directed by Wet Hot’s Michael Showalter, it’s sweet, funny, and personal, with some great supporting roles filled by Nanjiani’s fellow alt-comedy stars like Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant.
The Big Sick is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Bringing Up Baby
Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and a leopard — what’s not to love?
Bringing Up Baby is streaming on HBO Max.
Crazy, Stupid, Love/Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Steve Carell’s kicked off his post-The Office career by playing the leading man in two rom-coms: Crazy, Stupid, Love and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The former sees Carell as a recently divorced dad navigating the dating scene with the help of a smooth talking Ryan Gosling. The latter, Hustlers writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s feature debut, is a rom-com take on a disaster movie. Carell and Keira Knightley play neighbors who meet three weeks before a humanity-ending asteroid hits the Earth. They’re both delightful, showing off Carell’s everyman charm.
Crazy Stupid Love is streaming on Hulu.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is perhaps the sweetest of the Judd Apatow-produced comedies, thanks in large part to the sensibilities of writer and star Jason Segel. He plays a TV composer, Peter, whose girlfriend, the titular Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) and the star of the show he works on, abruptly dumps him. When he heads to a Hawaiian resort to try and forget her, Sarah shows up with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). With the help of a cute receptionist (Mila Kunis) Peter eventually gets over Sarah and writes his Dracula puppet musical, and Segel would go on to write and star in The Muppets (2011.)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is streaming on Hulu.
The Half of It
Netflix has produced several teen rom-coms (see To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before below) but it’s queered take on Cyrano de Bergerac is one of its best. That’s thanks to director Alice Wu, who treats her teen subjects with the utmost tenderness. From our review:
With The Half of It, Wu has crafted a love story that tackles love in all senses, not just romantic, prioritizing not just who gets to kiss who, but what each character hopes and dreams for. They’re so well-realized that watching The Half of It feels like the beginning of a new relationship. It’s exciting, enticing, and filled with hope for what comes next — in this case, seeing what else Wu has up her directorial sleeve.
The Half of It is streaming on Netflix.
He’s Just Not That Into You
The format that launched a thousand bad rom-coms is perfected with He’s Just Not That Into You, which follows several disparate-but-interconnected couples and singles as they navigate their love lives. (Very loosely) based on the self-help book of the same name, He’s Just Not That Into You is more focused on portraying the anxieties, misunderstandings, and frustrations that come with dating and relationships — and of course giving (almost) everyone a happy ending — than doling out actual advice.
He’s Just Not That Into You is streaming on Peacock.
Sure, it’s a Christmas movie but Nancy Myers’ The Holiday is perfect for whenever you need a warm pick-me-up, regardless of the season. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play recently-broken-up-with women who decide to swap houses over the holiday season to avoid their separate heartbreaks. Kate Winslet falls in love with Jack Black. Cameron Diaz falls in love with Jude Law. And it’s better than Love Actually — don’t @ me.
The Holiday is streaming on Amazon Prime.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Angela Bassett stars as the titular Stella, an overworked single mother who takes a much-needed vacation with her best friend (Whoopi Goldberg). There she falls in love with a much-younger man (Taye Diggs, in his feature debut.) The beautiful scenery and Diggs’ beautiful face make How Stella Got Her Groove Back compelling escapism, but it’s Bassett’s performance as the stressed-out Stella that makes it a cult classic.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back is streaming on HBO.
A movie about Charlize Theron falling for Seth Rogen could have easily fallen into the “hot lady falls for scrubby dude” trope we see over and over. But Long Shot showcases some of the best romantic chemistry of last year. The relationship between the two leads feels real, and sizzles from the very first moment they interact. Out-of-work journalist Fred Flarsky (Rogen) reconnects with his high school babysitter Charlotte Field (Theron), who incidentally is now the U.S. Secretary of State. Looking for a speechwriter to make her more relatable, Charlotte hires Fred. Their relationship evolves from aspiring presidential candidate and speechwriter, to friends with real emotional connection, to something with hints of attraction. By the time they share that first shaky kiss, it’s absolutely electric. Add the intrigue of a secret relationship, political turmoil, and a dash of crude humor, and you get the oddly heartfelt, romantic, and sexy comedy that is Long Shot. —Petrana Radulovic
Long Shot is streaming on Cinemax.
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Julia Roberts was the perfect casting choice for ’90s rom-coms like My Best Friend’s Wedding because her bubbly personality and giant smile helped conceal the fact that her character is kind of a jerk (see also: Runaway Bride, which is unfortunately not available to stream anywhere).
My Best Friend’s Wedding is streaming on Netflix.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
In the mood for a silly, fun rom-com with almost zero conflict? Based on writer and star Nia Vardalos’ one-woman play about her marriage to a non-Greek man, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is just the ticket. Vardalos plays Toula, a young Greek-American woman who meets a handsome teacher named Ian (John Corbett) and starts dating him in secret because she knows her family won’t approve. When they inevitably find out, her father (Michael Constantine) initially objects, but the family soon embraces Ian wholeheartedly.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is streaming on Hulu.
Never Been Kissed
Drew Barrymore stars as a geeky young copy editor, Josie Geller, who goes back to high school as an undercover reporter in this charming rom-com. Josie was a dork during her own high school days, but with the help of her cool older brother Rob (David Arquette) she infiltrates the popular crew and even catches the eye of the school’s heartthrob — and her hunky english teacher. Are those sexual dynamics problematic? Absolutely. But the charming performances — including stand-out supporting roles for John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon — make Never Been Kissed an easy comfort watch.
Never Been Kissed is streaming on Disney Plus.
An early, classic example of the rom-com secret identity trope, Roman Holiday stars Audrey Hepburn as a princess on a secret vacation in Rome and Gregory Peck as the reporter who offers to show her around the city while secretly writing a story about her. Naturally, they fall in love. As Hepburn’s breakout role, it established her as an elegant and charming leading lady.
Roman Holiday is streaming on CBS All Access.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Based on a 2014 YA novel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of Netflix’s most successful original rom-coms to date, garnering a sequel and catapulting stars Lana Condor and Noah Centineo to teen actor stardom. Condor stars as Lara Jean, a high-schooler who is mortified when her little sister sends out five love letters Lara Jean wrote to various crushes over the years. Centino plays Peter, one of the letters’ recipients, who agrees to pretend to date her so she can avoid the embarrassment (and make his ex-girlfriend jealous) but, of course, they fall in love instead. Centino and Condor have a lovely chemistry, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s John Corbett is perfectly cast as Lara Jean’s sweet single dad.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is streaming on Netflix.
Two Weeks Notice
No rom-com list is complete without a Sandra Bullock or a Hugh Grant entry, so we figured we’d combine the two to recommend their teamup, Two Weeks Notice. Bullock stars as Lucy, an environmentalist lawyer hired by real estate developer George Wade (Grant). George treats Lucy more like an assistant-slash-therapist than an attorney, and she soon turns in her resignation. In the two weeks that follow, George and Lucy start to realize how much they’ve come to rely on each other, and eventually declare their love.
Two Weeks Notice is streaming on HBO Max.
When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally is truly the GOAT. Written by the great Nora Ephron and directed by the great Rob Reiner, it stars the great Billy Crystal as Harry and the great Meg Ryan as Sally, with the great Carrie Fisher in a supporting role. What else can I say — it’s just great!
When Harry Met Sally is streaming on CBS All Access.