(Photo by Sarah Shatz/Netflix)
Author Jenny Han is an expert on crushes, romances and meet-cutes. In addition to other titles in her catalog, her To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before book trilogy is an international best-seller that has inspired three Netflix movies – the last of which, To All the Boys: Always and Forever, was released February 12 on the streaming channel. Peppered with references, both vague and blatant, to its rom-com ancestors, the films follow Lana Condor’s high schooler Lara Jean Covey and her commitment to baked goods, her sisters, and, eventually, her near-perfect boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo).
So it isn’t really a surprise that Han is frequently asked about her favorite romantic comedies.
“I’ve gone back and forth over it, but for me, my favorite that I can turn on and it puts me in a good mood and it’s just comforting is Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Han says of the Renée Zellweger film. “I think it’s a gold standard. And I mean, there’s a reason she (Zellweger) was nominated for an Academy Award for that.”
And, as anyone who has read Han’s books or seen the To All the Boys movies knows, she says she “love(s) love triangles.” Han says that the one in Bridget Jones particularly works because the two potential suitors, Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy and Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver, both “feel like legitimate options, even though Daniel is a cad.”
This isn’t to say that Han has seen every romantic comedy ever. She tried watching Broadcast News on a plane and failed and says that “I don’t think I fully appreciated” Heartburn because she saw it as a kid when a friend’s older sister had rented it. Han remembers that she “drifted away from the television” thinking that the relationship dynamic between Meryl Streep’s Rachel Samstat and Jack Nicholson’s Mark Forman “seems messed up.” (She was not wrong.)
It’s even debatable whether or not those two movies are even romantic comedies – something that also happens a lot to movies about teens.
“For instance, I would say that Breakfast Club gets shelved in romantic comedy,” Han says. However, “I don’t really think it’s that romantic. I think, with a teen love story, oftentimes it’s a lot more about their whole life and family and stuff. And I think, oftentimes, with adult romantic comedies, it’s really more about the romance. And so I think coming-of-age can be shelved also in romantic comedy.”
Read on for a list of some movies (and one TV show!) that are some of Han’s favorite romantic comedies – even if her definition of the term may be up for debate.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Chemistry is great. It’s really romantic. I am obviously a Mark Darcy kind of person. I love Mr. Darcy. But I will admit, though, that Bridget and Daniel’s first kiss? It’s better than her first kiss with Mr. Darcy, I think, just for chemistry reasons.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Tom Hanks is just so, I don’t know. He’s so charming in it. And then she’s [Meg Ryan] at the top of her game, too. And it’s crazy because they’re only, I think, on screen together for three or four minutes. So you’re left wanting more. You’re like, “What next, what next?” when they go down the elevator [at the end of the movie]. But it’s just really smart. I love [director and co-writer] Nora Ephron.
You've Got Mail (1998)
[Nora Ephron] a New York lady, a New York writer, and I appreciate that about her. For You’ve Got Mail, which is another one of my favorite rom-coms, I know that she used to go to Books of Wonder, which is a kid’s bookstore on 18th Street [that serves as the model for The Shop Around The Corner, the store that Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, runs]. She used to go in there quite a bit for, I think, her kid or her nephew or something. And I remember I had gotten a job there when I was right out of college because I wanted to have that Kathleen Kelly/The Shop Around The Corner experience. I think they said Meg had done a shift there once, and so did [co-star] Steve Zahn, just to get the vibe of working in that kind of store.
It Happened One Night (1934)
It’s one of the first black-and-white movies I’d ever seen, and I felt like, “Wow, okay. So black-and-white movies aren’t boring.” Because it was so electric, and I love the zingers back and forth and the dialogue.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Philadelphia Story I love. And again, I think, I just like really complicated stories. That one’s like a love square, which is fun.
It’s funny how a lot of films aren’t exactly romantic comedies, but they get shelved there because there’s no other space for them. But I would put Amelie as a favorite romantic movie. I don’t know if it’s a romantic comedy. It has the twisty, fun, game-playing.
[Romain Duris’s Alex Lippi] gets hired to break up [Vanessa Paradis’s Juliette Van Der Becq’s] engagement. It was fun, with these mechanisms and stratagems.
Notting Hill (1999)
I remember watching Notting Hill and being really wowed by it, which actually stands up pretty well. Notting Hill has a pretty big gesture at the end when he [Hugh Grant’s William Thacker] goes to the press conference [for Julia Roberts’ actress, Anna Scott]. But it’s funny because when he goes to make the grand gesture, it’s all hopping in a car, and everyone’s running there, and you got the music, and then he gets there and he gets very small. He’s like, “Oh, excuse me.” He gets small in the acting of it, where it’s not the big, big gesture. It feels like a small moment, but maybe that’s why it feels really real.
Groundhog Day (1993)
I think it is [a romantic comedy]. I mean, it is about him trying to get her to love him every day.
Oftentimes British humor and romance is less sentimental. It’s wry and it’s a little more, I don’t know, self-deprecating and not as prone to the big grand gestures. Maybe a little bit smaller and more real. Fleabag is a perfect example of how I think Brits do [romantic comedy] so well, which is almost toning it down [and] bringing it to this really human level and still making your heart soar.