Groundhog Day (1993)
This comedy classic was released in 1993, the same year as ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, when the Hollywood rom-com was at the peak of its powers. Director Harold Ramis’ film has many of the traditional rom-com ingredients, but also offered a different spin on the genre, with grouchy TV weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) caught in a time loop which caused him to relive the same day over and over again. Murray’s sharp-tongue stops the film ever getting too sweet, which helped its mass appeal. The movie had a huge impact on popular culture, with a generation of filmmakers inspired to be more playful with the rom-com formula, and ‘groundhog day’ even entering the English lexicon as a term for a repetitive situation.
Palm Springs (2020)
Speaking of the influence of ‘Groundhog Day’ on popular culture, ‘Palm Springs’ certainly owes its existence to the 1990s’ classic. But ‘Palm Springs’, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as the romantic leads, is also a sharp — and original — comedy in its own right. And released amid Covid lockdowns, this movie about living the same 24 hours on repeat resonated with its audience in a whole new way.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Written and directed by generational talent Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Adam Sandler in a role that really showed off his acting chops, ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ is a rom-com like no other. It’s eccentric, edgy, and incredibly awkward — and is certainly too offbeat for some folks’ tastes. But for indie film fans who like their love stories the weirder the better, it’s off-kilter rhythm gets hearts dancing.
The Big Sick (2017)
This gem of a movie is based on the real-life love story of the film’s co-writers, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani — with the ‘Silicon Valley’ star also the romantic comedy’s leading man. Eight months into their courtship, therapist-turned-writer Gordon was put into a medically induced coma, leading to Nanjiani getting to know his girlfriend’s parents at her hospital bedside. The Judd Apatow-produced film is packed with smart laughs about the cultural challenges faced by the Pakistani-American couple, and proves there is still originality to be found in the rom-com genre.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
This romantic comedy, by the terrific writer/director David O. Russell, is big on heart and refreshingly light on the formulaic pitfalls that can blight the genre. It was an Oscars juggernaut, rare for a rom-com, with eight nominations across all the major categories, winning a Best Actress gong for Jennifer Lawrence, who stars alongside Bradley Cooper as the romantic leads. Its depiction of mental illness is thoughtful and tender, and the results are authentic and beautifully bittersweet.