Its a genre that needs no introduction. Since the dawn of cinema (or thereabouts), romantic comedies have captured the hearts of movie goers and offered some much-needed respite from day-to-day life. Now more than ever – in the era of online profiles, swiping right, and ghosting – we need these heart-warming (albeit unrealistic) tales of love, loss, and teenage angst. Below is a list of 10 timeless 1990s romantic comedies, one for each year of the decade, to remind us how romance looked before the internet.
Undoubtedly, romantic comedies entered their heyday the ’80s. Think Say Anything, Coming To America, Sixteen Candles, and, of course, When Harry Met Sally. But by the 1990s, movie houses had perfected the art of boy meets girl, with fresh-faced stars like Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, and Freddie Prinze Jr. quickly winning us over.
Whether its a classic make over scene, an unlikely pair falling head of heels for one another, or a hopeless group of friends muddling their way through life, the troupes seen time and again in ’90s romcoms (despite at times being fairly problematic…) are what make them so charming. So spark up your nostalgia with 10 romcoms that defined the decade:
Pretty Woman (1990)
In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts plays a streetwise sex worker hired by businessman Edward Lewis as an escort. Starring opposite already established actor at the time Richard Gere, Roberts steals the spotlight effortlessly from scene to scene, bringing warmth to her character with that iconic big smile of hers. Initially classed as a dark, gritty tale, Roberts and Gere’s chemistry quickly catapulted this movie into romcom status.
My Girl (1991)
My Girl stars a young Anna Chlumsky as Vada, the daughter of a funeral director who seeks comfort away from her morbid surroundings with best friend Thomas J., played by Macaulay Culkin. This is a sweet, touching tale of how two young souls bond through friendship and love, bringing light and humour to their lives in the moments they share together.
The Bodyguard (1992)
What happens when you pair one of the most in-demand actors of the ’90s with the biggest superstar of that same decade? A movie hit, that’s what. Kevin Costner plays a bodyguard hired to look after singer Rachel Marron, played by the late great Whitney Houston. Although the film features some quite scary parts, there are charming moments of budding love which belong firmly in the romcom category.
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Starring everyone’s favourite actor Tom Hanks and romcom veteran Meg Ryan, Sleepless in Seattle tells the tale of a widowed husband, Sam (Hanks), whose young son calls a radio station searching for a new wife for his grieving father. Playing a news reporter, Ryan’s character falls in love with Sam, even though the pair have not met. This is a sweet, miraculous tale of how love can surprise you in a period of darkness.
Four Weddings & A Funeral (1994)
The film that made Hugh Grant an international film star and forever the face of British romcoms, Four Weddings follows his character Charles who meets Carrie at a wedding. After a whirlwind night together, the pair separate only to reunite later on when Carrie introduces her fiancé Hamish to Charles. Awkward? Of course, but makes for an excellent watch as Charles discovers true love in refreshingly untraditional circumstances.
Cemented in pop culture as the movie that captured the ’90s generation, Clueless is more intelligent than its title suggests. Centred on Cher Horowitz, a rich student living in lavish Beverley Hills, the film is a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s novel Emma. A witty plot mixed with era-defining fashion choices, Clueless continues to inspire great Halloween looks to this day.
Romeo & Juliet (1996)
Who didn’t fall in love with young Leo as he gazed at Claire Danes through the glass of a fish tank? Playing star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, Dicaprio and Danes shone together as young actors on the big screen. Their chemistry and acting talents were truly undeniable, showing the audience great hints of what was to come in their future careers.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz starred in many successful romcoms during the ’90s, but this one sits head and shoulders above the rest. Roberts plays Julianne Potter, a woman who has convinced herself that she is in love with her friend Michael. The only problem is, he is marrying someone else (Diaz). Unlike other romcoms, there is no clear ‘bad guy’ here, making this much more of an interesting watch till the very end.
There’s Something About Mary (1998)
“Is that…hair gel?” Legendary words spoken from Cameron Diaz’s character Mary in this cringe-inducing comedy feature. It’s true, viewers probably remember Diaz’s raised hair flick in There’s Something About Mary more than the film itself, but don’t let that deter you. Also starring comedic genius Ben Stiller, this movie follows four men battling for Mary’s affections and failing miserably.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Towards the latter part of the ’90s, adapting Shakespeare plays into romcoms became a thing. The second of its kind in this list, 10 Things I Hate About You is based on the poet’s 16th-century tale The Taming of the Shrew. Featuring a bunch of actors we know and love today including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gabrielle Union and the dearly missed Heath Ledger, this movie breaks down the barriers of high school cliques to reveal an endearing message of true love at the end.
Love & Basketball (2000)
Starring an ageless Sanaa Lathaan as Monica Wright and Omar Epps as Quincy, Love & Basketball tells the story of two former childhood sweethearts and next-door neighbours who share a love for basketball. As the pair grow older, they each pursue basketball more seriously in high school leading into college. Although their fondness for each other continues to grow, their basketball ambitions threaten to pull them apart.