Couple watching a romantic comedy in the movie theater

A couple at the movie theater (Credit: Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images)

Ah, romantic comedies—the cinematic equivalent of a warm blanket and a bowl of popcorn. Whether you’re looking to laugh, cry, or swoon, these gems have got you covered. From grand gestures that defy all logic to meet-cutes that seem too good to be true, the best rom-coms give us hope that love can be as hilarious and heartwarming as Hollywood makes it seem. Just read on for the list of the five best rom-coms of all time, as ranked by 11 experts. And if you’ve got your own opinions to share, please do so in the comments section below. 

1. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989)

First place is awarded to “When Harry Met Sally.” The Ringer raves, “When Harry Met Sally is the greatest rom-com ever made. A majority of romantic comedies set their focus on the beginning of a relationship: the exciting part. The thesis of When Harry Met Sally is that love is not about the spark, but about how you feel years down the line. And somehow, over the course of just 95 minutes, we get to see a relationship develop over the course of 12 years. It’s the rom-com every filmmaker should aspire to make, and the romance every couple should aspire to have.” 

TODAY writes, “Fans of Nora Ephron know that this flick, which was directed by Rob Reiner, is among her greatest screenwriting triumphs. Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) start an unlikely friendship when driving from Chicago to New York right after graduating college. Over the course of about 15 years, Sally and Harry individually go through marriages, bad break-ups, good times and bad, and still remain loyal friends to one another — until one night, Sally takes their friendship to the next level. This irreverent romance holds many of cinema’s most iconic lines (‘I’ll have what she’s having’).”

And Good Housekeeping seeks to answer the burning question everyone wants to know: “Can men and women ever truly just be friends? Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal’s chemistry just bleeds through the screen, and who can forget that iconic moment at Katz’s Deli? With scenes including Central Park in the fall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and plenty of bustling streetscapes, it’s also a love letter to New York City.” 

2. “You’ve Got Mail” (1998)

A classic Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fairy tale! Here’s how Vanity Fair reviews the chat box romance: “You’ve Got Mail is … the second film Ephron made with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, who circle each other easily as sparring partners Kathleen Kelly (who owns the Shop Around the Corner children’s book store) and Joe Fox (who runs the capitalist scourge Fox & Sons Books). They fall in love, using technology that would eventually put both characters out of business if cameras kept rolling for another decade: the internet. Though a film about romance in the age of America Online was always going to be hopelessly dated, it [normalized] the thrill of flirting via chat box with an anonymous stranger.” 

For more about the plot: “Joe, owner of a book superstore chain, and Kathleen, the owner of an independent bookstore, fall in love via the internet – without realising that they are professional enemies. A must-see for the sheer retro factor of an email-based romance alone. Defining moment: Every time we see that AOL logo pop up, we’re hooked tbh,” Glamour Magazine writes.

3. “Annie Hall” (1977)

According to Paste Magazine, this rom-com is award-winning and very deserving of the recognition: “The sole best picture winner in Woody Allen’s canon, Annie Hall takes its time to depict the many dissonant moments that happen in any relationship, the happy and sad, the bittersweet and the just plain bitter. Fighting over which movie to see, laughing while chasing down lobsters in the kitchen. In the film Allen encapsulates the minutiae of love, balancing highs and lows through both simplicity and narrative daring. Allen isn’t known much today as a man of wit and humor, but in this epochal romantic comedy, he plays a man perfectly matched by Diane Keaton (in her Oscar-winning performance).”

Time Out says,From the lobster scenes to Diane Keaton’s waistcoat and tie, this Woody Allen film is referenced so often in popular culture that it’s easy to forget it’s nearly 45 years old.”

4. “Pretty Woman” (1990)

An obvious pick? Vogue writes, “Is there a rom-com list that doesn’t include this movie? Here’s [the] genius with this film: They convince us the whole thing is kind of a lark. This film takes place in the late 1980s; a high-water mark in terms of the HIV crisis and a particularly dangerous time to be in sex work. That’s not on our minds when we watch this movie, though. We think about stomping divots and Richard Gere conquering his fear of heights. Such are its delights!” 

It’s better to just watch without thinking too much, according to Cosmopolitan: “If you think about the plot for too long — sex worker falls in love with arrogant rich man — it can start to feel icky. So, don’t do that! Just enjoy it for what it is: an iconic movie that showcases the uncanny charm of one Julia Roberts.” 

5. “Groundhog Day” (1993)

This is one romantic comedy people have been watching over and over again for decades. “Murray is often at his best when he plays opposite talented women. And Andie MacDowell’s kind-hearted news producer is the perfect romantic foil for Murray’s cantankerous weatherman, Phil Connors. The chemistry is tight, the attraction is believable, and the happy ending is so extremely earned that you’re left wondering why it took Phil so long to get his mind right in the first place,” Esquire writes.

Marie Claire sums it up as hilarious and moving: “This classic rom-com starring Bill Murray set the premise for a ton of modern films. Murray stars as a conceited weatherman named forced to relive February 2, aka Groundhog Day. After spending months reliving the day, Phil decides to pursue Rita and devotes the repeating day to becoming the best version of himself for her. This one features a lot of hilarious and moving moments.” ​​

Did your favorite rom-com make the list? Tell us which one captured your heart in the comments below.

Sources used to find these consensus picks

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  1. Christine Graves says:

    Don’t forget 13 going on 30. Always my personal favorite.. Speaking of camera chemistry,and best fantasy rom com, favorite actress and actor of mine.

    1. Pamela says:

      I love this one. It’s so cute!

  2. Gilbert says:

    Should have expanded this list and included The American President

  3. Tracie H. says:

    Something About Mary. Sooooooo funny and heartwarming with lots of quirky surprises along the way.

  4. Bob the Builder says:

    Two of my favorites are Serendipity and Notting Hill.

  5. Gins says:

    One Fine Day… so good!

  6. Suzie Wood says:

    Often forgotten Benny and Joon

  7. Pamela says:

    Love Actually, Pretty Woman

  8. Stephanie says:

    Dirty dancing, Pretty Woman, While you were sleeping, Runaway Bride, The Bridges of Madison County, Jerry Maquire, Ghost, Phenomenon, City of Angels