AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — What do we look for in a perfect romantic comedy? Whether it’s the pairing of two actors that have explosive chemistry or the necessary cringe factor that makes the spine tingle, this list of the 10 highest-grossing romantic comedies proves there’s a special sauce in each that, for lack of a better explanation, simply works.
10. ‘Sex and the City’ (2008) – $152 million
The “Sex and the City” movie continued to follow the adventures of four women in the Big Apple after the TV series ended. The long-term relationship between Carrie, portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, and Big, portrayed by Chris Noth, kept audiences on their toes, as the movie showed Big’s doubts about marriage and Carrie’s friends consoling her after her relationship falls apart.
The franchise repeatedly showed horrible dating experiences that created an entertaining watch while having audiences decide which character they inhabited the most. It also gained major media attention because of the personal relationships between the main actresses: Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall. The first “Sex and the City” movie made a splash, garnering around $152 million and making it the 10th-most successful romantic comedy of all time.
9. ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996) – $153 million
In the romantic sports movie “Jerry Maguire,” the main character, played by Tom Cruise, must explore his options after being fired as a sports agent from his company. Maguire starts his own agency and begins to represent quarterback Rod Tidwell, portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. Maguire then meets and falls in love with single mother Dorothy Boyd, portrayed by Renée Zellweger.
As film critic Roger Ebert said, “There are a couple moments in Jerry Maguire when you want to hug yourself with delight. One comes when a young woman stands up in an office where a man has just been fired because of his ethics, and says, yes, she’ll follow him out of the company.”
Directed by Cameron Crowe, “Jerry Maguire” does not fall short on star power with Bonnie Hunt, Regina King and Kelly Preston co-starring in the film.
8. ‘The Proposal’ (2009) – $163 million
A Sandra Bullock rom-com just makes sense, and in the film “The Proposal,” the chemistry between Bullock and Ryan Reynolds is unmatched. Bullock’s character, Margaret, receives notification that her visa renewal application has been denied, which prompts her assistant Andrew, portrayed by Reynolds, to grudgingly ask her to marry him so she can obtain her green card — but not before insisting that Margaret beg him first.
Between the random rendition of “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock and the sweet sight of Betty White and Bullock dancing in the woods, this rom-com will have you laughing with joy. Reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and Rotten Tomatoes highlighted the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds, while audiences counted this one as a win in the rom-com world.
7. ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (2018) – $174 million
With a diverse cast that leaps off the screen and chemistry between characters that are fit for a science lab, “Crazy Rich Asians” tells the magnetic story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor, and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) as they navigate a world in which his wealthy family does not accept their relationship. Mainly set in Singapore, the story explores the impact that both family and money can have on a young couple along with creating a world of vibrancy and color to reveal a dream rom-com.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 91% positive rating with one critic summarizing the formula that made this film a success: “The ‘fish out of water,’ ‘meet the parent,’ and ‘rags meets riches,’ story elements have been done many times before. This film simply does them better.”
6. ‘There’s Something About Mary’ (1998) – $176 million
The romantic-comedy “There’s Something About Mary” drew audiences into the story with its wacky moments. Ben Stiller’s character Ted transforms from an obsessed-with-Mary nerdy teenager in the ’80s to an obsessed-with-Mary adult in the ’90s. As he quits his job and pursues Mary in Miami, hilarity ensues as Mary discovers the ridiculous lengths and lies multiple men around her will go to in order to gain her affection.
With a surprise appearance from football legend Brett Favre and an off-the-wall scene (or several of them) that left audiences gasping, the film earned positive reviews, including one from The Guardian which stated, “The film is completely fearless in its pursuit of laughs — no subject is taboo.”
5. ‘Pretty Woman’ (1990) – $178 million
The powerful chemistry between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere created an enticing and unconventional love story in the film “Pretty Woman.” Roberts played Vivian, a sex worker who meets Edward, a “corporate raider” played by Gere, on Hollywood Boulevard. Edward offered Vivian $3,000 to play his girlfriend for a week at multiple corporate events and, throughout the week, their connection grows stronger as life stories are revealed.
Critics like Roger Ebert noted that, on paper, the subject matter seems greatly intense yet the film produced the gentle vibes of “The Princess Bride.” He even said the film “glows with romance.”
4. ‘Hitch’ (2005) – $179 million
In the rom-com “Hitch,” Will Smith plays a professional “date doctor” who coaches men with low self-esteem on ways to connect with women in the hopes of establishing long-term relationships. In the process of helping a client, Hitch falls in love with Sara, portrayed by Eva Mendes, but continues to keep his career a secret. Hitch eventually begins to understand his own relationship problem, and thus a successful rom-com is born.
Audience reviewers noted the excellent characters and great dialog within the film, while James Berardinelli from the Reel Views said that the movie had a sense of humor that many rom-coms lack.
3. ‘What Women Want’ (2000) – $182 million
This one may come as a surprise, but the romantic comedy “What Women Want” has clinched one of the top three spots on the list. In the film, a chauvinistic advertising executive, played by Mel Gibson, suffers a freak accident that gives him the ability to hear what women around him are thinking after he loses a promotion to a woman.
Reviews for the film were mixed, with one critic on IMDB noting that the film brought the laughs, and another critic from DecentFilms Reviews (via Rotten Tomatoes) saying the movie wants to “please male viewers” and described scenes in which Gibson hears women’s thoughts as “superficial,” “silly” and “embarrassing.”
With a cast that included Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, and Alan Alda, “What Women Want” ultimately went on to gross around $179 million and establish a rom-com title that will be remembered forever.
2. ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ (2005) – $186 million
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt developed chemistry both on- and off-screen as they portrayed a couple whose marriage was starting to suffer in the film “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Not to spoil the movie, but both are working as contract killers for firms that assign them to kill the same individual, which makes the relationship more complicated. The film tosses out the conventional ideas of a rom-com and features action-packed scenes and fierce moments that kept audiences entertained.
Roger Ebert continued to place a spotlight on the immediate chemistry between Jolie and Pitt, stating, “What matters is the ‘chemistry,’ a term that once referred to a science but now refers to the heat we sense, or think we sense, between two movie stars.”
1. ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ (2002) – $241 million
Opa! “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” proved you don’t need a massive budget to claim success, as the small independent film tops the list as the highest-grossing rom-com of all time.
Written by and starring Nia Vardalos, this rom-com is centered on Toula, a Greek-American woman who falls in love with an Anglo-American man. Throughout the film, Toula makes major discoveries about her relationship and her cultural identity. Vardalos channeled her own experiences when writing the screenplay, adding comedic touches and family stories that audiences could connect with.
Co-produced by Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, along with a cast that included John Corbett, Andrea Martin, and Joey Fatone, this film combined hilarious one-liners and a gentle emotional tone to create what many moviegoers considered to be the perfect romantic comedy.