They may have a reputation for being far-fetched and laughably cheesy, but there's a reason why the rom-com genre is having a huge surge in popularity these days. From To All The Boys I've Loved Before to Crazy Rich Asians, these feel-good movies are fun, light-hearted, and incredibly addicting. Not to mention, getting so deeply invested in the characters gives us a break from our own lives and, best of all, they make our hearts melt in a puddle of feels. But while we do love to indulge in these heartwarming fairytales, it's especially satisfying to see well-executed rom-coms that don't rely on the same hackneyed tropes.
Even with the rising popularity of romantic comedies, it's pretty rare to see unique and relatable love stories that don't feel predictable or formulaic. Sure, they may not have as many laughs and they're not guaranteed to leave us feeling all mushy on the inside, but they do offer more unique perspectives and show viewers that they're not alone in their relationship struggles. Plus, they reveal that not every successful romance requires a young damsel in distress, a stunning makeover, or even a perfect Prince Charming. See some of the most underrated rom-coms that deserve more credit.
This charming rom-com has a pretty unique storyline, but more importantly, it poses an interesting question about soul mates: Is it better to choose who you want to be with or to let technology decide your perfect match? The protagonist, Oona, lives in a world where everyone has a digital clock implanted on their wrist that counts down to the moment when they'll meet the love of their life. However, Oona unfortunately has a blank TiMER, which forces her to venture out on her own to find the person she's meant to be with.
Although it's a sci-fi rom-com, the film shows how our culture's obsession with finding "the one" can affect our own outlook on love and how we choose to pursue it. That slightly ambiguous ending was also a reminder that not everyone's fortunate enough to get closure or a perfect ending.
We swear, the movie isn't as corny as the title sounds. It focuses on the Borgens, each of whom learn some difficult truths about love. Bill is the veteran dad and writer who's struggling to get over his ex-wife while having a "friends with benefits" relationship with his neighbor. Then there's his cynical and intelligent daughter Samantha, who sticks to having one-night stands because a serious relationship would lead to getting hurt. Meanwhile, her little brother, Rusty, is a shy high school kid who can barely work up the nerve to pursue his crush.
It's the kind of rom-com that'll make you chuckle in one moment and have you feeling super emotional the next, but each of these stories feel so real and the characters are actually relatable. Tara Brady from Irish Times described it as "the heartfelt indie-schmindie piece that The Perks of Being a Wallflower desperately wanted to be but wasn't."
Fox Searchlight Pictures
When high-school senior Greg is forced by his mom to make friends with Rachel, a girl who's been diagnosed with leukemia, he begrudgingly starts to spend some time with her. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start, but over time, they form a pretty close friendship. After introducing her to Earl, his longtime coworker that he makes short films with, Greg and Earl decide to create a special film about Rachel as a tribute to her before she dies. In the process though, he learns to be a little less selfish and realizes that he's developed feelings for her.
Yes, it has a few cliches (and the film even calls itself out on this), but still, it showed just how painful and confusing it can be when you're young and dealing with death. As movie critic Theresa Smith said: "There is whimsy, but also a grounded realism in the idea that life is a journey and not always a smooth one."
Was anyone else relieved to see a YA film that finally included main characters that looked and acted like real teenagers? In The Spectacular Now, a popular boy and party animal named Sutter falls for the good girl, Aimee, but their relationship isn't exactly smooth-sailing. Sutter has self-destructive tendencies and suffers from a drinking problem, and Aimee is dealing with a bit of peer pressure on her end. They don't necessarily get their happily ever after, but the end scene does suggest that there's a glimmer of hope for the two. For once, we got an honest look at what it's like to be a real teenager in love.
Eva is a middle-aged masseuse and divorced mom who agrees to go on a date with Albert, even though she's not very attracted to him. When they go on their date, however, it goes really well and they start seeing each other. It isn't until after they start dating, however, when Eva realizes that her newest BFF, Marianne, is actually Albert's ex-wife. Eva decides to keep her friendship a secret and also refrains from telling Marianne that she's dating her ex. But that quickly backfires when Albert catches them together.
For one, it's amazing to see romantic leads that look like real people, rather than young supermodels. An older attractive woman falls for a balding guy who isn't conventionally attractive, and honestly, that alone feels pretty true to real life.
Wallace, a med-school dropout, has never had a single successful relationship. It seems like everyone he knows is already partnered up and he's had no such luck. But when he finally decides to put his love life on hold, he meets and becomes close friends with an animator named Chantry, who lives with her boyfriend Ben. They have strong chemistry from the start and begin to develop feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Chantry's relationship with Ben becomes strained due to his work commitments. When they split, however, Chantry isn't exactly eager to go running into Wallace's arms, which forces them both to rethink whether or not they're meant to be more than friends.
This film gave us a break from the typical rom-com formula by giving us realistic characters who don't look like they work out five times a week. They're refreshingly average and they remind us that turning friendships into something more can get quite complicated.
Yes, we'll admit that there are cliches and it does feel a bit predictable, but the fact that it focuses on older people makes it all the more refreshing. Jane, a successful bakery owner, reunites with her ex-husband after they attend their son's graduation ceremony. Though they had split up as a result of the husband, Jake, cheating and moving on to marry a younger woman, he and Jane start an affair after they have dinner together. They were middle-aged divorcees who truly believed that they moved on with their lives but throughout the film, they fell in love all over again. It's adorable, but not so cheesy that it's eye-roll worthy.
Barry is a lonely entrepreneur who suffers from social anxiety, has violent outbursts, and constantly endures emotional abuse from his sisters. In a desperate attempt to cope with his loneliness, he calls a sex operator, but that quickly goes south when the person decides to blackmail him and sends over her men to try and get his money. Just when it seems like all hope is lost, however, one of Barry's sisters sets him up with a quirky, attractive woman named Lena. The two hit it off, but their relationship is threatened when those henchmen show up to collect.
Though it's not the typical mainstream rom-com that Adam Sandler is known for, it's by far one of his best. It's a bit more whimsical and unconventional, but with some dark undertones. But what truly impressed us was its accurate depiction of how deeply one can be scarred by their anxiety, loneliness, and abuse, — and how that, in turn, affects relationships.
As Kate Muir from The Times put it, it's an "updated - and raunchier - take on the When Harry Met Sally rom-com premise," which explores whether a girl and a guy can truly remain just friends. In Sleeping With Other People we meet Elaine and Jake, who both have a history of failed relationships because of their infidelity. Years after losing their virginity to each other in college, they reunite at a sex addicts meeting, but rather than sleeping together, they agree to try to keep things platonic and become close friends. That's easier said than done, however because they realize they've fallen for each other. The undeniable chemistry between Elaine and Jake is one that's often felt by real-life BFFs, but for certain friendships, dealing with that attraction is not always so simple.
20th Century Fox
A veterinarian named Abby hosts a radio show called "The Truth About Cats and Dogs." When she gets a caller named Brian one day, there's an instant connection between the two, but when he asks her to describe herself, she decides to catfish him by describing her more attractive neighbor, Noelle. Panicked and too self-conscious to show Brian how she really looks, she actually talks Noelle into taking her place. The problem, though, is that Noelle begins to fall for Brian too. Yes, we'll admit that Brian is incredibly slow and naive for not catching on to what was happening, but it speaks to how gullible people can be when they're trying to find love, doesn't it?
If you want a rom-com that will take you on an emotional roller coaster, then this one just might be it. When Alex kisses his best friend Rosie at a party when she's drunk, she tells him the following day that she wishes it never happened. But Alex misinterprets her statement to mean that she just wants to be friends, so as a result, he goes after someone else. This causes them both to pursue different relationships and they drift apart, but years later, after they reunite at Rosie's dad's funeral, Alex confesses through a note that he still loves her. Rosie doesn't get to read this note until after Alex gets married to someone else... So it's not until he gets a divorce that they finally get together. Literally, so complicated.
It's a movie filled with frustrating misunderstandings that cause Alex and Rosie to continually miss their chance at being together. But hey, sometimes it does take an unplanned pregnancy, toxic relationships, and failed marriages for people to realize who they're truly meant to be with.
It's hard to watch this film and not just melt. We meet an adventurous 10-year-old named Gabe, who tries to pursue his first love and classmate, Rosemary. Lucky for a young Josh Hutcherson, he gets to spend quality time with her and they even share their first kiss. The lovestruck Gabe has tons of questions about what's really happening as their relationship continues, but he doesn't get to explore it for much longer because learns that Rosemary will be moving away. This pushes him to make one last desperate attempt to win over his crush, but things don't exactly go his way. It's the most adorable story about young love and how confusing it can feel when you experience it for the first time.
Ryan Reynolds's character Will's 10-year-old daughter Maya asks to hear the story of how her parents, who are now divorced, first met, so Will presents her with a mystery by talking about three of his main past loves. In the process, he switches their names and desperately tries to keep his stories PG-13 for his kid. But by the end, Maya has to guess which of them he wound up marrying. As she listens, though, she figures out that love can be complicated an that maybe there's still time for her dad to get his happily ever after.
It's not the kind of rom-com that'll have you doubling over with laughter constantly, but it definitely rises above the typical love story without being too cheesy. It begins with a divorced dad talking to his daughter about his past and as it goes along, we actually start to see a bit of hope for the future Will.
This truly felt like a love letter to girls with overprotective and overbearing moms everywhere. In the film, we meet Milly, who recently broke up with her now-ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, her two sisters are happily married and her mom, Daphne, is really concerned that Milly may never find the right guy. So of course, this inspires her to put a secret ad in the paper and then orchestrate a random meeting between Milly and her guy of choice (because what loving mother wouldn't?). However, things go a bit differently when Milly also meets a different guy that she has great chemistry with. We know that parents (usually) mean well when they meddle in their kids' love lives, but good intentions don't always change the amount of damage that's done as a result.
Some might argue that it's not a real rom-com, since there's also a focus on mental illness and Benny and Joon's relationship as siblings. Still, the connection between Sam and Joon is just precious. They meet for the first time after Sam, a relative of Benny's friend, moves in (because of a lost bet). The two oddballs connect immediately and fall in love, much to the dismay of Benny. When he tries to put an end to it, Sam and Joon try to run away together. Later, Joon has an episode on the bus and the couple's plan goes haywire as they're forced to confront Benny once again. It's only then when the siblings realize that, perhaps, it's time for them to be independent.
It's an unconventional and quirky love story, but still so heartwarming. We especially love that both parties weren't defined by their mental illness.
From the moment their friendship began as kids, Julien and Sophie have been participating in a risky game where they dare each other to do increasingly outlandish things, regardless of the consequences. And as they grow older, their dares get even more dangerous, but really, they're just going out of their way to hide how they really felt about each other. After Sophie has a near-death experience during their game, their friendship takes a 10-year hiatus and they both end up marrying different people. But then they agree to continue the game as adults, and for their ultimate dare, they kiss and embrace while standing in a construction pit being filled with cement.
Both characters are rather childish and unlikeable, so most rom-com lovers might not connect with this one. But you've got to admit, it offers a rather unique (and twisted) take on relationships.
When aspiring comedian Kumail approaches Emily after one of his shows, the two immediately hit it off. They have a one-night stand that turns into a relationship, but Kumail's family (who are clueless about Emily) continue to try to set him up with Pakistani women. Kumail's fear of his family's reaction puts a huge strain on his relationship with Emily, which soon leads to a breakup. But when Emily gets really sick, he bonds with her family and they take a deeper look at their cultural differences.
The film is loosely based on Kumail and his real wife, so it makes sense why this rom-com feels so refreshing and relatable. It speaks honestly to those who struggle with trying to please their strict, traditional family while trying to follow their heart or do what's best for them.