Romantic Comedies. Some people absolutely love them and herald performances by some of the greatest actors of all time as the focal point of their value. Other people completely despise them as vacuous, lowest common denominator trash designed for nothing more than selling tickets. The truth is that something between these two points of view is predominantly true and that romantic comedies like most other genres have their highs and lows, some cracking films and some Hallmark nonsense. In this article, I am going to highlight some of the great Rom-Com performances from brilliant actors over the last three decades. So if you the kind of person that hates this genre, next time you have to watch one of these types of films you can at least grab a good one! Let’s dive in.
Sure there are a bunch of Rom-Coms that are far from great films. But scattered amongst all of these will-they-won’t-they stories are a plethora of brilliant performances from sensational actors. If you know where to look the best Rom-Coms are easy to find.
#1 Love Actually
Love Actually is all around! No, but seriously, parts of this film have not aged well and have been written about and critiqued by far better writers and thinkers than me! The reason it makes my list is that tucked in this film are some truly wonderful performances from some of the most brilliant actors of this generation. Alan Rickman wonderfully side-eyes his way through a nuanced performance, Emma Thompson mixes strength and vulnerability, Liam Neeson shows he is more than an action guy in a nice jacket, the kid from Game of Thrones (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is just sensational at a very young age and Hugh Grant dancing down the stairs is straight-up iconic. Don’t get me wrong it does have its fair share of problems, but in the right lens has enough positive qualities to warrant a re-watch.
#2 The Holiday
Yeah look – I am as surprised as you are to see this film on the list. But even though its scores on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes are pretty terrible, this film has a couple of hugely redeeming qualities. The first is Kate Winslet, although her character is exceptionally frustrating for the majority of the film her performance and craft in the last third is absolutely sensational, particularly the confrontation scene with her and Rufus Sewell, who is a criminally underrated actor. The other factor that puts this onto the list is Jack Black. Jack Black is a brilliant actor to watch to see how to make just colossally large choices and pull them off. He is a true wild card and his energy and timing here bring the film to life wonderfully.
#3 10 Things I Hate About You
Okay, now we are getting into the good stuff. 10 Things is a brilliant movie and I won’t hear a word otherwise. Let me take you back to 1999, Heath Ledger is a drop-dead handsome, Sinatra singing bad boy playing out the Taming of the Shrew with Julia Styles who while also being drop-dead beautiful (it’s the 90s – even the extras could be on the cover of Parisian fashion magazines!) gives the kind of ‘screw you’ energy that is so damn relatable in the modern world. She is frankly a damn icon in this film. Joseph Gordon-Levit plays a loveable geek to aplomb and the soundtrack here is the sort of sensational 90’s angst that will make you want to grab your skateboard and paint your nails. Worth more than a rewatch, buy a copy and thank me later.
#4 Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
The most contemporary entry on our list is a joyful queer romance set in an Australian high school. Sophie Hawkshaw and Zoe Terakes play the titular roles in a criminally underrated Aussie Indie classic. Terakes particularly as the high-school badass shines in this wonderful queer romance as does Julia Billington in the role of Ellie’s dead aunt or more appropriately ‘Fairy Godmother’ as she prefers to be called. The plot here has a swathe of great twists and turns, the dialogue is wonderfully written and snappy as hell. It’s also shot really beautifully and features a range of brilliant Aussie actors as well. If you can find a copy I would heartily recommend a watch!
#5 When Harry Met Sally
From the uber-contemporary to a 90’s classic. When Harry Met Sally is straight-up iconic and while predominantly brilliant, again some parts of this film have not aged well. The vast majority is still a wonderfully rapid-fire, comedy filled, exhilarating romance. One of the very best will-they-wont-they films sprinkled full of scenes where the three leads in Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and Carrie Fisher all absolutely shine. There is a lot to learn here from how to follow an intention, a masterclass in listening and bold choices, particularly from Ryan who doesn’t necessarily get the credit she deserves. Carrie Fisher is brilliant here and lightyears away from her sci-fi work providing a grounded and captivating performance to compliment the other two leads. This film is also chocka-block full of classic one-liners and brilliant comedic timing.
#6 500 Days of Summer
Another oft-maligned gem, the birth of the manic-pixie-dreamgirl trope is far from a perfect film, but is indisputably charming as all hell. It is a great examination of placing people on pedestals, unrequited affection and idyllic love in a 2009 that seems like a lifetime ago and yet, alarmingly familiar. Zooey Deschanel excels in her peak role, while Joeseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a breakout performance that will establish him as one of the great actors of his generation and far more than some geeky kid in a high school rom-com. Seriously, watch his work in this movie, the guy really has chops! Deschanel too, she is aloof sure but charming, funny and with powerful emotional connection and real depth too. Worth a watch if you haven’t yet!
There you have it folks, a little taste of some brilliant rom-com’s spanning nearly thirty years! All of these films have their drawbacks, like any movie, but the actors here pull off some truly brilliant work that is worth watching for any aspiring actor. Even in the moments that might not be the best writing, seeing great actors take these scripts and bring them to life in such a way that really touches your heart, even decades after their release, is something to behold! Enjoy!