The best romantic comedies on Netflix

The best romantic comedies on Netflix

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Clockwise from top left:Can’t Hardly Wait (Screenshot); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Netflix); Silver Linings Playbook (Screenshot); The Incredible Jessica James (Photo: Netflix); Someone Great (Photo: Netflix); The Lovebirds (Photo: Netflix); Safety Not Guaranteed (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left:Can’t Hardly Wait (Screenshot); To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Photo: Netflix); Silver Linings Playbook (Screenshot); The Incredible Jessica James (Photo: Netflix); Someone Great (Photo: Netflix); The Lovebirds (Photo: Netflix); Safety Not Guaranteed (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the title at the top of each slide for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Netflix list, but we decided romantic comedy films deserved their own spotlight since they are often not included on our year-end lists as much as other genres. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is classified by Netflix as a rom-com (2) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (3) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Netflix announces new additions to their library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Hulu. And if you’re looking for a non-romantic laugh, check out our list of
the best comedy movies on Netflix.

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2 / 16

The Artist

The Artist

Jean Dujardin
Jean Dujardin
Photo: The Artist

Jean Dujardin brings his usual million-dollar smile to the role of a silent-cinema star who’s on top of the world until the advent of talkies, which he dismisses as a fad, leaving the world to pass him by. Meanwhile, a starstruck fan he meets in a crowd (Bérénice Bejo) rockets to stardom, but never forgets her crush on him, and continues to admire him from afar (and sometimes a-near) as he slides toward irrelevance. By nature, The Artist is a charming romance, in which two naturally winning people are denied what they want just long enough to make audiences feel satisfied when everyone’s needs are finally met. It’s a beautifully shot, beautifully acted piece of fluff. [Tasha Robinson]

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3 / 16

Always Be My Maybe

Always Be My Maybe

Ali Wong and Randall Park
Ali Wong and Randall Park
Photo: Ed Araquel/Netflix

Rom-coms have the tricky task of straddling the “rom” and the “com” part, with a lot of star-steered vehicles leaning toward the former. Always Be My Maybe thankfully focuses on the latter; there are a lot of laughs packed into its friendship-becomes-something-more story. In keeping with the Netflix rom-com tradition of encouraging new talent, ABMM offered Fresh Off The Boat director Nahnatchka Khan her film directorial debut; Grimm scribe Michael Golamco wrote the screenplay with the movie’s stars, Ali Wong and Randall Park. The film smartly kicks off by showing the pair as adorable childhood best friends, so that we’re rooting for them right out of the gate. [Gwen Inhat]

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4 / 16

Can’t Hardly Wait

Can’t Hardly Wait

Lauren Ambrose and Ethan Embry
Lauren Ambrose and Ethan Embry
Screenshot: Can’t Hardly Wait

While every one of Can’t Hardly Wait’s characters can be defined by two or three words—the tortured geek (Charlie Korsmo), the misunderstood prom queen (Hewitt), the evil jock (Peter Facinelli), the doleful protagonist (Ethan Embry), the Janeane Garofalo type (Lauren Ambrose), the white homeboy (Seth Green), and more—it’s refreshingly fast-paced. For starters, it’s a true ensemble piece: Set mostly during a single house party the night of high-school graduation, it cuts effortlessly from wacky situation to wacky situation, with various characters getting drunk, finding love while locked in a bathroom together, unleashing inner rock ‘n’ rollers, seeking revenge, ending and beginning relationships, and trashing the home of a peripheral character’s parents. The film deserves credit, both for its breezy pacing and its uncommon tendency to make its characters smarter and geekier than they might have been. [Stephen Thompson]

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5 / 16

The Incredible Jessica James

The Incredible Jessica James

Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams
Photo: The Incredible Jessica James/Netflix

Writer-director Jim Strouse (People Places Things) nails the trendsetting speech patterns and whip-smart witticisms familiar to listeners of Jessica Williams’ podcast with fellow comedian Phoebe Robinson, 2 Dope Queens, and writes Williams as a confident, charismatic young woman who rocks the hell out of a jumpsuit and who’s incapable of living on anyone’s terms but her own. Chris O’Dowd and Williams play well off of each other, conveying the stages of a new relationship from awkward first date to first big fight with an easy and believable chemistry. She plays well off of Lakeith Stanfield as well, in recurring interludes where Jessica imagines getting the last word with her feckless ex, which add a welcome dash of surrealism to the proceedings. The film does contain a few truly funny bits, like Jessica’s gift of a homemade child’s guide to dismantling the patriarchy to her conservative pregnant sister, making it feel like an enjoyable hangout with a funny friend throughout its 85-minute running time. [Katie Rife]

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6 / 16

The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani
Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani
Photo: The Lovebirds/Netflix

In terms of plot, The Lovebirds is nothing new. In fact, it’s simply the latest in a recent series of films, like Date Night and Game Night and Keeping Up With The Joneses, about a couple coincidentally caught up in wacky but legitimately dangerous criminal activity. In this case, it’s hipster creatives Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) who get pulled into a blackmail ring after they accidentally run over a cyclist with their car in the midst of a relationship-ending fight. Add a New Orleans location that isn’t especially necessary to the story and a dinner party full of judgmental friends (and one hunky coworker), and the Mad Libs card is pretty much filled out. The dialogue is the real star here—that, and the chemistry between the leads, of course. [Katie Rife]

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7 / 16

The Lovers

The Lovers

Tracy  Letts and Debra Winger
Tracy Letts and Debra Winger
Photo: The Lovers/A24

Azazel Jacobs’ The Lovers is set in the sort of unremarkable, average, suburban America that is rarely depicted in American movies in anything but a negative light, usually as a place where dreams go to die. So one of the unexpected virtues of this small, thoughtful film is how it resists treating these surroundings as soul-crushing or as a symbol of the failure of middle-class mores, all while telling a story about disaffection and the yearning to escape—a ballet of ordinariness that uses a nostalgic, waltzing score (by longtime Jacobs collaborator Mandy Hoffman) to reveal the internal melodrama of middling lives and longings. Its central characters, Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts), are fiftysomethings whose dull marriage reached a dead end long ago. Both are carrying on affairs—she with writer Robert (Aiden Gillen), he with dance teacher Lucy (Melora Walters). And just as they are about to finally leave one another for their respective paramours, they find themselves re-sparking their relationship. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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8 / 16

The Prince & Me

The Prince & Me

Julia Stiles and Luke  Mably
Julia Stiles and Luke Mably
Screenshot: The Prince & Me

Stiles made her breakthrough with Shakespeare adaptation 10 Things I Hate About You, a teen-friendly update of The Taming Of The Shrew, then played Ophelia to Ethan Hawke’s slacker prince in Hamlet, as well as the Desdemona character in O, Tim Blake Nelson’s controversial update of Othello. Here, Stiles romances a less melancholy but still conflicted Danish prince in The Prince & Me. Luke Mably plays that Shakespeare-quoting prince, a dreamy tabloid fixture who foregoes Monaco and southern France for that den of vice known as Wisconsin after he watches a commercial for a Girls Gone Wild!-like tape set in America’s Dairyland and mistakes it for a sociological study. Of course, if a guy is looking for tawdry affairs, being a prince couldn’t hurt, but Mably still sees fit to hide his royal origins when he falls in love with Stiles, a self-professed farm girl whose life, like Mably’s, is dominated by preparation for a future rife with responsibility. Complications ensue as Stiles struggles to find a balance between pursuing her calling and meeting the demands placed on the partner of a monarch in waiting. The film, perhaps inevitably, cops out on dealing with them fully, but it’s refreshing to watch its assertion that being a princess is no substitute for being a woman in control of her own destiny. [Nathan Rabin]

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9 / 16

Safety Not Guranteed

Safety Not Guranteed

Aubrey Plaza
Aubrey Plaza
Screenshot: Safety Not Guranteed

Substituting charm, and sometimes quirk, for special effects, the no-budget time-travel caper Safety Not Guaranteed squeaks by on goodwill and guarded expectations. Aubrey Plaza plays a Seattle magazine intern whose interest is piqued by a classified ad looking for a time-travel partner. “This is not a joke,” it reads. “Bring your own weapons.” (The ad duplicates an Internet-famous real-life counterpart.) Although naturally skeptical—this is Aubrey Plaza, after all, to whom eye-rolling comes as naturally as breathing—Plaza sees a chance to land her first story, and she sets out to track down the person who placed the ad, but her trip is hijacked by a staff writer (Jake Johnson) whose old flame happens to live in the small town where the ad originated. As expected, the would-be time-traveler turns out to be a trifle unbalanced, but fortunately (at least for meet-cute purposes), he comes not in the form of a filthy basement-dweller, but the more attractive shape of Mark Duplass, whose implausible obsession has its roots in past tragedy. He’s also trying to reunite with a long-lost love, although in his case, it’s a little more complicated than simply looking her up. [Sam Adams]

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10 / 16

She’s Gotta Have It

She’s Gotta Have It

Tracy Camilla  Johns
Tracy Camilla Johns
Screenshot: She’s Gotta Have It

In the first three minutes of She’s Gotta Have It, writer-director-star Spike Lee offers up a Zora Neale Hurston quote, a plaintive jazz score by his father Bill, artful photos of New York street life by his brother David, and sumptuous black-and-white footage of bridges and brownstones, shot by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson. In 1986, few American independent films looked and sounded as distinctive as She’s Gotta Have It, and Lee upped the ante further by seeming to promote a theretofore-unrecognized new Harlem Renaissance. From the jump, She’s Gotta Have It announced that it wasn’t going to define black life in terms of crime and poverty, just as it wasn’t going to bind independent filmmaking to moribund realism. Tracy Camilla Johns plays a young commercial artist juggling three boyfriends: genteel professional Tommy Redmond Hicks, preening model John Canada Terrell, and Lee, a livewire bike messenger. (Johns also has a predatory lesbian friend… best forgotten.) The movie tries to compensate for its lack of story by promising a frank look at female sexuality, but the title tells the tale: When it comes to its central idea, She’s Gotta Have It is more leering than revelatory. Luckily, Lee has more on his mind than just making some nebulous points about gender relations. She’s Gotta Have It is a calling-card film in the best sense of the term, in that it doesn’t just show what Lee can do, but what anyone can do. [Noel Murray]

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11 / 16

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper
Photo: Silver Linings Playbook

Based on Matthew Quick’s novel, Russell’s new film, Silver Linings Playbook, is about a couple of head cases whose romantic chemistry stabilizes their brain chemistry. It’s the perfect material for Russell, who not only deals perceptively with the dizzying swings of manic depression, but makes it the fabric of a big, generous, happy-making ensemble comedy. Pushing his usual smug cheeriness to the brink of derangement, Bradley Cooper stars as a former substitute teacher who’s just spent the last seven months in a mental institution for assaulting his wife’s lover. He’s released almost certainly too soon to his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) in suburban Philadelphia, and he begins obsessing unhealthily about straightening up and winning his wife back. When he meets Jennifer Lawrence, a young widow with a similarly absent social filter and compatible antipsychotics, the two enter into uneasy friendship premised on an arrangement. Russell brings these high-strung characters together in a harmony of comic dysfunction that few other filmmakers could achieve without the film falling into chaos. He may be guilty of angling toward a crowd-pleasing finish, but resistance is futile. [Scott Tobias]

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12 / 16

Someone Great

Someone Great

DeWanda Wise, Gina Rodriguez, and Brittany  Snow
DeWanda Wise, Gina Rodriguez, and Brittany Snow
Photo: Someone Great/Netflix

This NYC-set heartbreak story is written and directed by Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and stars Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise as three longtime best friends. When Rodriguez’s Jenny gets dumped by her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (LaKeith Stanfield), she suddenly has to take inventory of her life, evaluate what she wants, and reflect on nearly a decade of memories she built with a person who suddenly can’t be a permanent part of her life anymore. It’s one of the genre’s most gutting and complete portraits of a breakup and its sticky, chaotic aftermath. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]

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13 / 16

Straight Up

Straight Up

James Sweeney and Katie Findlay
James Sweeney and Katie Findlay
Screenshot: Straight Up

Straight Up is funnier, fresher, and more authentically yearning than many of the rom-coms that have found success on streaming platforms over the past few years. In addition to writing and directing, James Sweeney also stars in the film as Todd, smart and fastidious twentysomething who has been presumed gay for most of his life (a “Kinsey 6,” in the parlance of one running gag). Is he, though? After failing to develop any meaningful romantic or sexual relationships, Todd has started to wonder if he’s just been conforming to expectations based on his nontraditional masculinity and general squeamishness, including a case of genuine OCD. Though his only two friends assure him that he couldn’t be anything else but homosexual, Todd tentatively branches out after a library meet-cute with struggling actress Rory (Katie Findlay), whose name allows them to bond over a mutual love of Gilmore Girls. Rory, who shares Todd’s intelligence and one-ups his sometimes-mordant sense of humor, has her own reasons for feeling comfortable with a relationship that de-prioritizes physical affection in favor of talk, talk, talk. Sweeney and Findlay’s motormouthed, interlocking dialogue makes a convincing case that maybe chat could be better than sex. [Jesse Hassenger]

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14 / 16

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor
Noah Centineo and Lana Condor
Photo: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before/Netflix

Directed by Susan Johnson, To All The Boys combines the stylized cinematography of a Wes Anderson movie with the heart of a John Hughes film and the spirit of the best of the 1990s high school rom-coms. Based on the first in Jenny Han’s best-selling trilogy of young adult novels, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before centers on introverted high school junior Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), whose world comes crashing down when her secret stash of love letters accidentally make their way out into the world. To avoid dealing with the fallout from the note sent to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard), Lara Jean pulls a classic screwball comedy move and impulsively kisses another letter recipient, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Once Peter gets a handle on Lara Jean’s situation, he suggests they start fake dating each other so that Lara Jean can avoid Josh and he can win back his ex-girlfriend by making her jealous. They draw up a contract of ground rules (no to any more kissing, yes to Sixteen Candles-inspired back pocket spins), and set about duping their school—both in person and via social media. Soon enough, however, Lara Jean and Peter’s fake relationship leads to some real feelings. [Caroline Siede]

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15 / 16

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Tamara Mello, Jacqueline Obradors, and Elizabeth Peña
Tamara Mello, Jacqueline Obradors, and Elizabeth Peña
Screenshot: Tortilla Soup

With ticket prices cresting the two-figure mark, it’s curious to witness the concurrent rise in movies that fixate on the preparation and consumption of gourmet cuisine. What’s the point of ogling the delectable craft-services spreads in Chocolat, Woman On Top, and What’s Cooking? when you can actually eat a perfectly good meal for a pittance more than a ticket? The makers of Tortilla Soup, an all-Hispanic remake of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, are hoping audiences will come for the fried bananas and squash flower soup, and stay for the warmed-over family melodrama. Like all of Lee’s work, Eat Drink is well wrought and superbly acted, but it’s also his most conventional effort to date, overstuffed with draggy subplots that take too much time to resolve. For the remake, these flaws have been transposed with slavish fidelity, though director María Rispoll (Twice Upon A Yesterday) and her screenwriters streamline the plot a little and come away with a better movie than it had any right to be. Hector Elizondo leads a solid cast as a widower and world-class chef who still lives with his three grown-up daughters in Los Angeles, but worries with good reason that he may soon be left with an empty nest. Though the story is flavorless and predictable, it’s also warm, diverting, and emotionally credible, which is more than can be said for the multicultural mush of What’s Cooking? or the lite magic realism of Woman On Top. The food looks great, too, for those fetishists seeking a little foreplay before dinner reservations. [Scott Tobias]

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16 / 16