Girl meets boy on OkCupid. Girl and boy both like to travel. Girl decides to trek around the world with boy. This really happened. Six weeks after an inaugural OkCupid date, Clara Bensen and Jeff Wilson set off to visit eight countries in 21 days, wearing only the clothes on their backs the day they first met. Sound like the plot of a rom com? Just you wait, because Clara and Jeff’s story is being turned into a film called No Baggage.
Dramas and horror films are the usual based-on-a-true-story suspects. They’re ripe with drama and reality, not the impossible whimsy of love atop the Empire State Building. But we did some digging, and it turns out there are some rom-coms rooted in reality. (Yes, two of them star Drew Barrymore, why do you ask?) Here are some of our favorite romantic comedies based on true stories, inspired by real events or based on real people.
1. The Vow
The story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter is one of real, true love. On their way to visit family after their first Thanksgiving together, they were in a tragic car accident that left Krickitt in a coma for months. She lost all memory of the previous 18 months—including her relationship and marriage with Kim. With bravery and patience they rebuilt their romance, wrote the book The Vow and saw their story come to life through Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams (who are wonderful, by the way). “It’s strange to think of our marriage being portrayed as a remarkable love story, when, for us, we just did what we said we would do—keep our vows,” says Kim.
2. 50 First Dates
After suffering two car crashes, Michelle Philpots has lived without a short-term memory since the mid ’90s. A combination of 50 First Dates and Groundhog Day, Philpots now wakes up every morning and thinks it’s 1994. But unlike Drew Barrymore, Philpots is aware of her condition—and, luckily, her relationship with her husband. She carefully uses Post-It notes, reminders, and phone alarms to stay ahead of her condition.
3. How Stella Got Her Groove Back
The vacation romance shared by Stella and Winston is based on the true story of Terry McMillan and Jonathan Plummer. Just like in the movie, 40-something McMillan met 20-something Plummer on a beach vacation in Jamaica, and the two found love and a happy ending. Though where the movie ended, the real story continued: Later, McMillan found out Plummer was gay, and claimed he was only using her to get out of his home country.
4. Steel Magnolias
Okay, this one isn’t really a romantic comedy, but I had to include it. You might not have known Steel Magnolias was based on a true story (like I didn’t), but now that you do, you’ll love it even more (like I do). Robert Harling wrote the film based on his sister, Julia Roberts’ Shelby. His sister really battled diabetes, and she really left behind a husband and a two-year-old son Robert. Steel Magnolias was Roberts’ breakthrough role, and Harling’s homage to his sister.
5. Julie & Julia
This movie is a pretty accurate telling of Julie Powell’s rise to blogdom. She did attempt to cook all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she did turn her blog into a book and she did parlay it into a second. Julie & Julia leaves out the messy aftermath of Powell’s newfound fame, though, including dueling affairs. Meryl’s Julia Child is spot on, though. Would you expect anything less?
6. Riding in Cars With Boys
Did you know this Drew Barrymore and Brittany Murphy film is adapted from Beverly Donofrio’s memoir of the same name? The plot of both the book and the film centers around an unexpected pregnancy and the changes that come with being a young mom. Donofrio, whose book has been translated into 15 different languages, actually served as a producer on the movie.
7. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Toula and Ian’s story doesn’t mirror Nia Vardalos and husband Ian Gomez’s word for word, scene for scene—rather, it’s a hilarious combination of incidents that have happened throughout her life. But it does include real details of Vardalos’ eccentric family and her courtship with a non-Greek. “I took my real-life family (I do have 27 first cousins) which on a scale of one to ten is an 11. I took my real-life marriage which is a 12. I turned them both up to 20,” Vardalos said in an interview. “[I] Took my mom, grandmother, some of my aunts and squished them into the character of the mother.”