Valentine’s Day Time Machine: 5 Decades of Romantic Comedies

What is a romantic comedy? Well, according to Wikipedia, they are “films with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles.” Snore.

How about, “movies that make you laugh and swoon.” Nailed it.

Now “romcoms” have been around for a good long time. It’s easy to combine humour with romance since real life is a little more that way, than those big sweeping epics. For example, how relatable was Titanic or Gone with the Wind? Unless you’ve been on a doomed 1912 pleasure cruise or you’re the daughter of a plantation owner during the American Civil War, I’m going to go with a big “no.” And that’s what comedy does to a love story, it highlights the funny little things, making situations relatable and timeless. To get you up to speed on the evolution of the romantic comedy, check out some of the best films from the last five decades:


The Apartment (1960) – I’ve always liked Jack Lemmon. If you’re looking for a loveable “gee whiz” everyman (which doesn’t seem to exist in films anymore), this is your guy. It’s pretty easy for most guys to see themselves pinning for a girl that has eyes for someone else, even if that someone else is an ass. You know you’re better than him and you know you’d treat her amazing, if only she’d notice. Thanks Shirley MacLaine. Thanks for nothing.


Annie Hall (1977) – this was my first real exposure to the dialogue (and mind) of Woody Allen. Though it might not be the most romantic film, it certainly makes up for it in the sharp wit and comedy department. Really, your just here to listen to Allen and Diane Keaton speak, bouncing off each other rapid fire as they try to keep their relationship from falling apart. Probably will be a little too realistic for some but still worth a watch.


Roxanne (1987) – In 1897, Edmond Rostand wrote a play about the adventures of Cyrano De Bergerac, a French man with an extremely long nose and extremely romantic heart. The story goes that his crippling self-doubt forced him to use a dreamy guy as his mouthpiece to share his feelings for the woman he loves. Replace the French guy with Steve Martin, Paris for Nelson, B.C. and the love interest with Daryl Hannah.


Groundhog Day (1993) – What if you had to replay the same day, over and over, until you got it right? That would suck. And this premise has also been used over and over in movies and TV, sometimes better than others. This is one of the best. Bill Murray is fantastic as a weatherman who first is trying to understand his situation to embracing it. Andie MacDowell isn’t such a bad reason to unbend space and time.


High Fidelity (2000) – No one quite does love-screwed slacker like John Cusack. The man perfected the role in movies like The Sure Thing, Say Anything and Better Off Dead but amazingly caps off his run with this salute to music snobs, the 90s and the suckage of dating (yep, I actually wrote, edited and approved the word “suckage”)

Did I miss a few? Hell yes. It was incredibly hard to pick one romantic comedy out of each decade, especially the 00s and 80s. To get you in the Valentine’s Day mood, share your favourite romantic comedy (sorry, The Notebook doesn’t count. Too romancey, not enough funny) and what makes it so good.

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