By Nicole Ackman
February is the month of Valentine’s Day and of love, so it’s the perfect time to discuss romantic comedies. Over the past few years, Netflix has produced a plethora of original rom-coms. While not all of them are top-notch quality (yes, I’m thinking of the slew of Noah Centineo vehicles they made after the success of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018)), they’ve proven themselves to be the top studio for this sort of movie.
Several of the films mentioned in this list are directed by women and even more have screenplays written by women. The films in this genre are often dismissed as “chick flicks” and not taken seriously, but making a truly good rom-com is no easy feat. It’s great to see Netflix backing so many female filmmakers and dedicating themselves to being a home for this sort of movie. Now after a couple of years of releases, Netflix has a rom-com for every possible mood.
If you want a Nora Ephron-esque rom-com set in New York City: “Set It Up” (2018)
Claire Scanlon’s “Set It Up” (2018) follows two assistants in New York City who decide to set up their demanding bosses in an attempt to get more free time for themselves. While it’s nothing that breaks convention, it does seem like a modern successor to older New York City rom-coms like “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) and “When Harry Met Sally” (1989). Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell are charming as the main couple, but Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs’s contrived romance is equally entertaining.
If you want a Christmas rom-com: “Let It Snow” (2019)
If you like watching holiday rom-coms year round, we certainly won’t judge you. Last year, Netflix released “Let It Snow” (2019), based on the young adult novel by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle, which follows multiple interwoven story lines of people in small-town Illinois on Christmas Eve. The young cast is impressive and includes some familiar faces like Jacob Batalon (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and Kiernan Shipka “(Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”).
If you’d rather see a break-up than a meet-cute: “Someone Great” (2018)
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson wrote and directed “Someone Great” (2018), a rom-com that focuses on Jenny’s (Gina Rodriguez) reaction to breaking up with her boyfriend of nine years, rather than a couple getting together. My favorite thing about it though is that Robinson credits Taylor Swift’s album “1989” with inspiring her to move past her own bad break-up and to make this film, while Swift has a song on her latest album called “Death by a Thousand Cuts” that was inspired by this movie. Talk about coming full circle!
If you want to see Keanu Reeves playing…Keanu Reeves: “Always Be My Maybe” (2019)
After watching “Always Be My Maybe” (2019) directed by Nahnatchka Khan, I feel like every rom-com would benefit from having Keanu Reeves playing an exaggerated version of himself. Ali Wong and Randall Park wrote and star in this film about childhood best friends who haven’t spoken for years after a disastrous teenage fling. When celebrity chef Sasha (Ali Wong) moves back to San Francisco, she reconnects with local musician Marcus (Randall Park). It’s a unique film, if for nothing else other than the celebrity cameo, and deliciously funny.
If you’re more interested in self-love: “Dumplin’” (2018)
You could easily argue that Anne Fletcher’s “Dumplin’” (2018) is more of a coming-of-age film than a rom-com, but it does have a cute romance plot line. Despite her mother’s reign as a beauty queen, Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald) doesn’t fit the conventional mold of a pageant girl, but when she signs up for a local Texas pageant to prove a point, she inspires other girls around her to do so as well. The film is heartwarming and features great performances from Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald and some fantastic Dolly Parton music.
If you want a period film: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” (2018)
Mike Newell’s “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” (2018) based on the novel of the same name, is the story of a young writer who visits the English island of Guernsey just after the end of World War II. Juliet (Lily James) is surprised to learn about the country’s occupation by the Nazis during the war and what the people there had to do to survive. While it certainly doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, it’s an incredibly cozy movie that celebrates how books and literature can bring people together. It has the sort of cast — Lily James, Matthew Goode, Michael Huisman, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Brown Findlay — that every British period piece dreams of.
If you want a high school rom-com: “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018) and “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” (2020)
Netflix struck gold with their adaptations of Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy. These films tell the story of Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), the middle of three sisters, who is trying to get through high school, help out her single parent father, and deal with the aftermath of the love letters she’s written to five boys over the course of her life getting mailed to them. The first film was released in 2018 and shot Noah Centineo to Internet boyfriend status almost immediately. Lana Condor, Anna Cathcart, and John Corbett also star in both films, giving some of the strongest performances in a high school rom-com since “Easy A” (2010).
The second film, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” (2020) addresses what comes after the happily-ever-after confessing your love on a lacrosse field moment as Lara Jean finds herself stuck in a love triangle between her boyfriend Peter (Noah Centineo) and an old crush John Ambrose (played by the incredibly talented and adorable Jordan Fisher). It’s Netflix’s latest release on the rom-com front and it is the rare sequel that lives up to the series’s first film, carrying on with the same charm.