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The best romantic comedies are without a doubt the ones that have the best chemistry between the lead actors. Without great chemistry, a movie is almost sure to fall flat, but when wonderful chemistry is there, the movie is generally conceived as being good, even if the story is not perfect.
Sometimes all it takes is one look, no more than a quick glance, or a wry smile for the chemistry between two actors to shine through. Other times, a meet-cute seals the deal. Either way, when you see great chemistry, you know it’s working, and you immediately fall in love with the characters as you watch them fall in love with each other. So, we've taken a look at some of the big screen's great romantic couples over the years.
Friends With Benefits (Mila Kunis And Justin Timberlake)
2011’s Friends With Benefits follows a pretty standard blueprint, and the title says it all, but Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake have fantastic chemistry though out the film. There is nothing groundbreaking about the movie, but that doesn’t matter, because again, it’s all about that chemistry.
It’s easy to believe two beautiful people like Kunis and Timberlake could follow a path to love like the one in Friends With Benefits and the way they light up at the right times, especially in the somewhat ridiculous (but still incredibly cute) finale when a flash mob (remember those?) leads to a proposal at Grand Central Station. If their connection in that moment doesn’t bring tear to your eye, you’re far too cynical!
Pretty Woman (Julia Roberts And Richard Gere)
Pretty Woman, the 1990 classic starring Julia Roberts as a hooker with a heart of gold who falls in love with a millionaire playboy with commitment issues is one of the most enduring movies of the genre and indeed of any genre. Even to this day, it’s one of, if not the, top ticket-selling rom-com of all time.
The film launched Julia Robert’s career into the stratosphere and her on-screen chemistry with Richard Gere, despite the significant age gap, was pretty amazing. They play off each other so well, rolling back and forth with their feelings for each other, but connecting in every way. They returned to the screen together nine years later in Runaway Bride and while the movie wasn’t nearly as good, the chemistry still was, proving how strong it really was in Pretty Woman.
When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan And Billy Crystal)
No list of rom-coms would be complete without Rob Reiner’s 1989 classic, When Harry Met Sally, written by the late, great Nora Ephron. The film practically defines the modern rom-com, even thirty years later. Sure, it’s a really funny script with some absolutely memorable scenes, but it’s the chemistry between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal that really makes the movie pop.
Harry and Sally are the typical archetypal rom-com couple who begin the movie by hating each other, but gradually come to realize they are actually in love with each other after a series of relationships-gone-wrong. It sounds cliché today, and it kind of was even during its day, but it’s an undeniably brilliant movie. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan set the standard for rom-com couples for years to come.
You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks And Meg Ryan)
Billy Crystal is not the only actor that Meg Ryan had amazing onscreen chemistry with. In the '90s, she made three great rom-coms with Tom Hanks, showing over and over how good they were together. The first, 1990’s Joe Versus The Volcano wasn’t a great movie, but it had its moments, and it definitely brought together two great actors who clearly worked wonderfully together.
The second, 1993’s Sleepless In Seattle, was a much sweeter story and much better movie than Joe Versus The Volcano, but the actual scenes with both actors together were limited, as the characters were separated by thousands of miles for most of the movie. The third, 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, brought everything together, a likable movie with a wonderful dynamic between Ryan and Hanks’ characters that ends the way we want rom-coms to end, with a triumphant, over-the-top gesture of love.
Destination Wedding (Keanu Reeves And Winona Ryder)
Okay, 2018’s Destination Wedding is not the best movie in the world, or even the best rom-com on this list, but for millions of GenXers, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder coming together and falling in love is something they have always wanted, nay, NEEDED. And their chemistry, despite the movie's weaknesses, is undeniable. That's what this list is all about.
The movie follows a predictable path, with two characters who immediately dislike each other only to find themselves forced to interact repeatedly at a wedding of mutual friends. Eventually, after many verbal jabs, uncomfortable interactions, awkward physical contact, and backhanded insults, they fall in love. Yeah, not the most original story, but Keanu and Winona just WORK, and that alone makes the movie worth a Netflix binge.
As Good As It Gets (Jack Nicholson And Helen Hunt)
It’s rare for both the lead actor and the lead actress to win Academy Awards for the same movie. Incredibly, it’s only happened seven times in history and the most recent was in 1997, when Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both won for As Good As It Gets. That tells you right there how good their performances were together.
Jack Nicholson plays one of the greatest misanthropes in film history and Helen Hunt plays the only person on earth willing to put up with his nonsense. As such, she is his waitress every day when he comes into her diner for breakfast. The unlikely couple are brought together by Nicholson's neighbor, played by Greg Kinnear, who is determined come hell or high water to make Nicholson's character a good person, which includes getting Hunt to fall for him. Spoiler alert: it works.
Crazy Rich Asians (Constance Wu And Henry Golding)
Crazy Rich Asians was the surprise breakout summer blockbuster rom-com of 2018. Based on a 2013 book, Crazy Rich Asians, like most rom-com, isn’t a complicated story. It’s the classic Romeo & Juliet-type of story that we've seen over and over. A man from one background and a woman from a very different one that fall in love (and stay in love) despite external pressures by friends and family.
Constance Wu and Henry Golding are PERFECT together in this movie. Their motivations are completely believable and their performances are both wonderful, winning multiple awards for the film and the actors themselves. They worked so well together, it’s taken no time for Warner Bros. to plan not one, but two sequels to be filmed simultaneously. It certainly says a lot when a rom-com gets the Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Matrix two-at-once treatment.
Since the beginning of film, there have been rom-coms. Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard’s chemistry in Breakfast At Tiffany’s is legendary. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn translated their rea- life romance to the big screen in Overboard with wonderful success. While the stories can be trite, or at least uncomplicated, that doesn’t matter when there is undeniable chemistry.
Which Rom-Com Leads Have Great Chemistry?