Romantic comedies always do a good job of depicting realistic female characters with substance. Hahahaha JK: women in rom-coms are usually two-dimensional manic pixie dream girls or girls next door who need to be taught how to have fun. But just because a movie infuriates me as a feminist doesn't mean I haven't watched it 12 times, sobbing my eyes out regardless.
Here are my favorite rom-coms for when I feel like crying and then smashing something, like my TV, or the patriarchy.
1. When Harry Met Sally
“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way," says Harry (Billy Crystal) in When Harry Met Sally, and then the whole movie debates, and ultimately proves, his point.
The idea that no woman could ever be appealing to a man for non-sexual reasons is pretty sexist. Likewise is the idea that no man could overcome his animal lust to see a woman as a worthy platonic companion.
But this movie is so charming and relatable I can watch it and re-watch it and even concede that fine, maybe it is a little tricky for (straight) men and (straight) women to be friends.
2. Bringing Up Baby
This 1938 classic deserves acclaim because of Katherine Hepburn's role as maybe the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl (as the AV Club explains: "that sentient ray of sunshine sent from heaven to warm the heart and readjust the attitude of even the broodiest, most uptight male protagonist.") She's flaky, has a pet leopard, and won't leave this hot scientist hunk played by Cary Grant alone.
This movie is hysterical and fun and, in some ways, ahead of its time even if it does make me mad as a feminist that this character can't even stand up without a man's guidance.
If I had a time machine, I'd go back to 1938 and tell women: "It gets better! Not your depiction in movies though, sorry, that will stay the same."
3. Pretty Woman
This iconic movie changed the game for anyone who has ever been given side eye while shopping in a fancy boutique, thanks to the scene where Julia Robert's character returns to a store where she was treated rudely, this time with unlimited cash.
There are other reasons to love this movie: the clothes, the snappy dialog, the relatively progressive depiction of a sex worker, Richard Gere, Richard Gere, etc.
But from a feminist angle, the rich-man-saves-poor-woman scenario is tired. I'm still holding out for the sequel: Smart Woman which ends with her climbing up the fire escape to rescue herself.
4. Annie Hall
Diane Keaton's wardrobe alone, and that lobster scene, make this movie worth watching over and over again. But for some reason every time I watch a Woody Allen movie, my feminist alarm bells go off.
Take your pick! There's a whole buffet of reasons to feel awkward as a feminist watching any Woody Allen movie. At least Annie Hall doesn't involve a relationship with an underage woman (like Manhattan) or a woman getting murdered (too many to list). Silver linings.
5. Love Actually
This movie may be one of the most iconic rom coms, but it's pretty obvious it was written by a dude. I don't know what makes me sadder, the fact that there are so few female characters of substance in this movie, or the fact that the men keep declaring their undying love for women they barely know, but who look good from a distance.
All I know is love is not logical. Like my love for this movie, which I will watch every Christmas as long as I live.