Romantic comedies have changed significantly over the years.
The days of formulaic stories starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, with Judy Greer as the best friend, are gone.
And that’s a good thing. The traditional rom-com got old, and cheapened the great ones like “Moonstruck,” “Working Girl,” and “Say Anything.”
As our culture changes, so does the entertainment. Over the past decade, rom-coms have advanced their premises, the stories they tell, and the message they send. Judd Apatow’s comedies, while vulgar, have a romantic element and an underlying message about life. The Oscar nominee “The Big Sick” (produced by Apatow) tells the story of a budding romance and a girlfriend in a coma but also captures what living in the US as an immigrant from Pakistan is like.
Romantic comedies have also made their way onto television, which has allowed the genre to take more time to tell its stories and develop characters.
Here are the seven best modern romantic comedies:
7. “The Lobster” (2015)
“The Lobster” is a dark take on the rom-com with sci-fi elements and social commentary. Those are a lot of things to pack into a rom-com. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star as single people in a society where single people have an expiration date to find someone to be with. If they don’t find anyone, they turn into an animal of their choice. With its dark, bitter take on mankind, “The Lobster” proves that rom-coms can be absurd, have sci-fi elements, and have a poignant message.
6. “Obvious Child” (2014)
“Obvious Child” follows a woman who gets pregnant from a one-night stand and chooses to get an abortion. The movie makes a typically sad story – usually saved for gut-wrenching, hard-to-watch dramas – into an adorable story about a budding romance. It makes the abortion a side story and not the main reason the movie exists. The film is filled with sweet and funny little moments that capture the awkwardness of a new romance. The movie also showed Jenny Slate, who had a brief stint on “SNL,” to be a promising actress with some serious talent.
5. “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)
“Silver Linings Playbook” takes characters with mental illness seriously by portraying them as protagonists and not side characters there for cheap laughs or tears. The smart and fast dialogue showed that anyone could be a hero and that a story about broken people didn’t have to be sad. The movie has dramatic elements, of course, but the performances and chemistry from Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Julie Weaver, and Robert De Niro turned a good screenplay into an excellent movie.
4. “Knocked Up” (2007)
“Knocked Up” paved the way for explicit comedy that told emotional human stories. The writer and director Judd Apatow established this signature style with “Freaks and Geeks” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” but “Knocked Up” is his best work to date. It’s a vulgar comedy, but at its heart it’s a story about growing up.
3. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008)
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is another successful R-rated rom-com, like “Knocked Up.” Instead of going for typical rom-com tropes, it develops each character, even Kristen Bell’s Sarah Marshall, who starts as a villain but ends as a sympathetic character. The film’s twist: that Jason Segel’s Peter was a terrible, inattentive boyfriend, provided a refreshing take on the genre. The Muppet Dracula musical also helped make it truly memorable.
2. “The Big Sick” (2017)
Better than any other rom-com in recent memory, the Oscar nominee “The Big Sick” finds the light in the dark. A movie about a girlfriend in a coma – and a man risking cutting ties from his family to be with her – delivers some of the biggest laughs of any movie in years.
Along with being funny and romantic, the movie, based on a true story, captures the lives of immigrants in the US. It also captures one of the best depictions of the beginning stages of a romantic relationship.
1. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (2015-)
On top of being a romantic comedy, the show is a musical that explores gender stereotypes, its diverse cast, and mental illness. Each episode has one to three comedic musical numbers. Adam Schlesinger, who composes and cowrites lyrics, is the bassist for Fountains of Wayne, the band that gained fame from the early-2000s hit “Stacy’s Mum.”
Even the show’s more dramatic episodes are a delight to watch, and make it a serious competitor for the best show on television. Its comedic aesthetic emulates the weird, pop-culture-centric humour of Tina Fey’s “30 Rock,” but for a slightly younger audience. Its excellent cast and star (cocreator) Rachel Bloom keep a potentially tired premise alive every week, and it truly goes places you’d never expect.
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