The romantic comedy has a branding problem. En vogue since nearly the beginning of cinema, the ‘80s and ‘90s proved to be the genre’s heyday: when romantic comedies could not only top the box office but nab critical praise and Oscar nominations to boot. But the aughts brought with it largely a slew of passable, derivative films that betrayed better, earlier influences, and after more than a handful of high profile disappointments, the genre remains, at least in the mainstream, on what amounts to genre life support.
But to think the genre is dead would be totally incorrect. The romantic comedy is alive and well, particularly in the indie sphere, where ambitious new filmmakers are carving out their space in the industry by placing fresh spins on the well-worn genre. And while the divining logic as we continue into the 21st century seems to largely be adapt or die, that doesn’t mean the century hasn’t produced some stellar examples of the traditional rom com, from the unabashedly faithful (the charming Just Friends) to the darkly strange (hello, Secretary).
In honor of the genre that seems increasingly on the verge of making a comeback with each passing year, we’ve compiled our 26 favorite of the century so far.