In the ’80s and ’90s, the romcom was not just meaningless box office fluff. The romcom of our youth captured the Zeitgeist of the era.
From the distinctive characters (“what we found out is that each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… and a basketcase”)
to the highly-repeatable one-liners (“Bueller?”)
to the heart-fluttering catches (“she’s fallen for you, Ronald Miller, can’t you see?!”)
and the angst-ridden losses (“it just wasn’t meant to be, Ducky”),
The ’80s and ’90s GOT romance. Because, see, it’s not just boy-gets-girl, it’s the human experience – it’s messy and terrible and wonderful and it changes us forever.
Therefore, the following romantic comedies streaming on Netflix right now are essential homework for life.
1. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
A modernization of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this is quintessential ’90s. All the major players, the fashion, Heath Ledger. Oh, and plot holes galore.
2. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
A story about a nerd (Patrick Dempsey) at a high school in Tucson, Arizona who gives a cheerleader (the late Amanda Peterson) $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. The writing is top-notch, the character development heart-wrenching.
3. Chasing Amy (1997)
A male comic artist, played by Ben Affleck, falls in love with a lesbian, played by ’90s It-Girl Joey Lauren Adams. Though not the most nuanced take on the queer perspective, the film embodies the ’90s wave of political correctness and identity politics. Plus, Kevin Smith’s writing totally holds up.
4. Clueless (1995)
Perhaps the most quotable movie of all time, the screenwriting rises to excellence. Not one word is wasted, this entire film.
5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller MADE the ’80s. Though romance is not the main plot point here, it does factor in, in a most swoon-worthy way. Each time he glances into the camera, we swear Matthew Broderick is looking straight at US.
6. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1985)
Hands-down (or up, jazz hands!), this movie has the wildest, most accurately absurd ’80s fashion. And Helen Hunt’s character’s rebellion, hinted at with her hair accessories (grasshopper hat, ‘coon hat, dinosaur clips, airplanes fashioned into a bow), goes beyond mere entertainment, into feminist protest.
7. Gross Pointe Blank (1997)
One of the best scripts in comedy, this film was fashioned as an ’80s revival. Sort of as if Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler, grew up to be a professional assassin named Martin Blank. But Martin’s highschool sweetheart was Debi Newberry, played by Minnie Driver, and that’s who he’s after here. The comedy is sharp, and the love story so tender, it slays us every time.
8. The Princess Bride (1987)
So much more than a rom com. The tagline calls it a “Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure,” and yes, it is classic, and yes, it is high adventure, in storytelling. An entire world of reasons lands this movie at number 88 on AFI’s 100 greatest film love stories.
9. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
The synopsis of this film is golden. Sandra Bullock plays Lucy, a Chicago Transit Authority token collector. We’re hooked right there. Then, we’ve got Peter Gallagher as Peter, who Lucy rescues from the path of an oncoming Chicago ‘L’ train. Are you sold yet? Hold on. At the hospital, a big misunderstanding ensues, and the family comes to believe that Lucy is Peter’s fiancee. Lucy maintains the lie through Peter’s coma, as she grows closer and closer to the family. And then she meets his brother, played by a very swoon-worthy Bill Pullman. And the rest is classic romcom history.