The 20 Best Romantic Comedies Streaming on Netflix Right NowReading Time: 8 minutes
If you can’t be with the one you love, love the movie you’re with.
Romantic comedy is one of cinema’s oldest and most reliable genres for good reason: Real-life romance is complicated and sometimes exhausting. That can be true for characters in movies, too, but their problems are generally funnier than our own and, anyway, they’re not our problems. We’re comforted either because we know everything will work out fine for our cinematic counterparts—or because we know we won’t have to deal with the hilarious and/or poignant consequences of interacting with other humans.
In that spirit, these are some of the best romantic comedies currently streaming on Netflix, with everything from Hallmark-esque comfort food to more complicated comedies that don’t shy away from drama.
Violet Jones (Sanaa Lathan) spends her life in near-terror of rain, for fear that her rigorously straightened hair will be ruined. That hair is a signifier in every aspect of her life, straightening sessions even having been a way to bond with her demanding mother (Lynn Whitfield). Following a breakup with her boyfriend because of her exacting nature (particularly regarding her hair), she experiments: different colors that her friends object to; a natural style that renders her either invisible or the subject of derision; she even shaves her head at one point, which only gets her invited to a cancer support group. Director Haifaa al-Mansour’s movie makes a great point about the fraught nature of Black hair, particularly when that hair belongs to a woman. Meeting a salon owner in the middle of a freak out, Violet begins a slow journey to learning to love herself, her hair, and maybe the hot salon owner (Lyriq Bent).
Romantic comedies are often (not always) comfort food, and so we often find familiar plots: Here, longtime friends who’d lost touch (Ali Wong and Randall Park) reconnect after a falling out years before. She’s a successful celebrity chef and engaged; he’s fixing air conditioners with his dad, which is how the two meet up. Nahnatchka Khan (creator of Fresh Off the Boat) brings a light touch here, and Wong and Park have great chemistry; they’re joined by a fun supporting cast that includes a really funny turn from Keanu Reeves playing himself.
Just a typical boy-girl meet-cute kinda thing, except the boy here is R (Nicholas Hoult)—and it’s just ‘R,’ because he’s a zombie who can’t remember his name. Eating brains enables him to briefly feel what it was like to be human, but he finds himself drawn to Julia (Teresa Palmer), a survivor of the zombie apocalypse whose very presence reminds him of what it used to be like to have a beating heart. It’s sweet! Really.
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Some of the best romantic comedies involve a slightly outlandish scheme, and this reliably charming Netflix original has one of those great setups: Two overworked assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) come up with the idea that, if they can get their bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) laid, they’ll be less interested in stressing out their employees. So the two harried assistants plan to set their bosses up, which, not unexpectedly, goes very comedically awry in pretty much every way. Naturally these things never work out as planned, and the romance in the offing is not the one that anyone had expected.
Though Numa Perrier’s film hits plenty of the traditional rom-com beats, lead Gabrielle Union provides the spark that ignites the whole film (based on the Tia Williams novel). She’s never been better than she is here, playing Jenna, a woman in her 40s making a clean break of a long-term relationship and taking on a high-profile, high-stakes career in beauty journalism—only to wind up in a one-night stand with Eric (Keith Powers), 15 years younger and the son of her boss.
Writer/director Alice Wu made a splash with her queer classic Saving Face way back in 2004. Her long-awaited follow-up, a comedy-drama inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac, is better. Here, friendless high schooler Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis, from ‘Nancy Drew’) is tasked with writing love letters to her crush, Aster (Alexxis Lemire), on behalf of a football player named Paul. There’s plenty that’s familiar here, but Wu makes everything feel fresh and fun.
One of the most iconic and memorable rom-coms of the 1990s might be new to many American viewers, who are missing out on a movie that’s both wonderfully goofy and deeply poignant in the best tradition of the genre. Shah Rukh Khan plays Rahul Khanna, best friends in college with Anjali (Kajol), but smitten with Tina (Rani Mukerji). Rahul and Tina get married and time goes by, but Tina always feels a little bit guilty, like maybe she got in the way of something. With little time left to live following complications in childbirth (did I mention there’s also drama here?), Tina writes her daughter a series of letters—the last one asking that she make sure that dad and Anjali reconnect.
Indian director Ritesh Batra (The Sense of an Ending and The Lunchbox) brought together screen legends Robert Redford and Jane Fonda for this well-received romantic drama from a top-rate director. Despite the ominous title, it’s a quiet and sweet film that’s worthy of its stars. It’s not really a comedy, so I’m cheating a bit by putting it here, but it’s got such a satisfyingly light touch that it hits most of the same buttons as more straightforward rom-coms.
Everyone has their own favorite take on the immortal Jane Austen novel (well, at least, anyone with the taste to peruse a romantic comedy movie list—it’s a form that Austen pretty much invented). The television version from the 1990s is justifiably beloved, but this Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen version from director Joe Wright is top-tier, playfully (and controversially) changing up some of the book’s details in order to tell a full story within the length of a feature film, largely by focusing in on the central romance. What it lacks in Austen-style wit and commentary, it makes up for in general swooniness.
The Harold Ramis comedy is the movie that launched a thousand time-loop stories, but the heart of this one is with Bill Murray’s crusty, crotchety, emotionally closed-off weather forecaster and his producer, with whom he develops an increasing attraction. What starts out looking like a thoroughly cynical comedy about world-weary characters becomes, by the end, a surprisingly uplifting story about finding love the second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) time around.
While the rom-com is among the most thoroughly time-tested genres, there’s still room for innovation. Here, James Sweeney plays Todd, a 2-something with OCD. His fussiness had him marked as gay years before, and that’s where he landed himself, but failed relationships and an aversion to sex lead him to consider dating women. Meet-cute style, he encounters Rory (Katie Findlay), who has as much trouble connecting with people emotionally as he does physically, and the two strike up a relationship.
A high-end Hallmark movie in tone (nothing wrong with that!), A Perfect Pairing has a flawless setup: harried Los Angeles wine exec Lola (Victoria Justice) comes across a little-known family-made wine from Australia, but a co-worker steals her idea and pitches it to the boss before she can. So fed-up Lola heads Down Under to secure the client for what she hopes will be her new company. Trying to work her way in, she volunteers to cover for a missing hand at the sheep farm owned by the family. The big-city girl down-on-the-farm premise comes, of course, with the slightly cocky but increasingly charming (and often shirtless) station boss (Adam Demos) with whom she works.
Another cute rom-com involving a tough city gal, this time Gabriela (Christina Milian), who finds that her stressful job at a San Francisco wasn’t nearly as secure as she thought. Her timing’s great, though: She gets drunk and successfully enters a contest to win an inn in New Zealand (a thing that definitely happens!). So, she’s off to claim her prize, only to discover that the inn was only being given away because the owner, Jake (Adam Demos, Netflix’s go-to romantic Aussie) couldn’t get rid of it. As Gabriela works to make a go of her new business, she continues to butt heads with Jake, until the two start to develop an attraction.
I’d say to save this one for the holidays, but that season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, so I don’t know that it much matters. Not to be confused with Hallmark’s 2013 Let It Snow, which is also a Christmas movie but not particularly (or at all) diverse. Nor is this the 2020 snowboarding horror movie of the same name. Based on a novel by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle that intertwines three distinct stories, the movie involves a large and diverse cast of characters figuring into holiday romances both straight and gay, all taking place in the same small town. There’s a really solid ensemble here, which makes the movie work even in moments that feel familiar.
Sticking with Christmas for another moment: Congressional aide Erica Miller (Kat Graham) drops everything for a mission to visit a beachside Air Force base—and find reasons to defund it. She clashes with the studly pilot assigned to escort her around, who is particularly involved in one of the base’s pet projects: an annual airdrop of supplies and gifts to various Micronesian Islands. You know where this is all going, but that’s part of the fun.
High schooler Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) is psyching himself up to have sex with his girlfriend, Claire, for the first time—but something’s holding him back. Openly gay Elliott (Antonio Marziale) has an idea why Alex is so reluctant and, frankly, the audience ought to have a clue by that point, as well. It’s a perfectly sweet, good-natured coming-of-age story that has some fun with Alex’s awkward efforts to set expectations aside and just kinda be himself.
Asha (Pallavi Sharda) just broke off her engagement and left her Wall Street investment firm in favor of a Jersey City startup. Her concerned mother sets her daughter up on a dating app, and Asha acquiesces to a single date with the first match: Ravi (Suraj Sharma). It doesn’t go particularly well, but they’re both under a lot of parental pressure to get married, and Asha has about a dozen weddings to go to over the course of the summer, most of them filled with busybodies who want to see her in a relationship. So, naturally (for a movie), Ahsa and Ravi decide to play at being a couple to get people off their backs—which works out fine, until it doesn’t.
Class-busting romance is nothing particularly new, but this candid Saudi Arabian comedy-drama sees middle-class civil servant Barakah (Hisham Fageeh) strike up a relationship with Bibi, a boundary-pushing Insta celebrity. Just finding time and space to pursue a frowned-upon relationship in modern Saudi is challenging, but the movie explores the social and political obstacles with a light touch.
Imagine that everyone you’d ever had a crush on received a letter expressing your exact feelings. It’s a nightmare scenario, but a reality for shy high school junior Lara Jean (Lana Condor), who’d written the letters as a form of secret diary, only to show up at school one day to find that her little sister had mailed them all. Can you imagine? Condor is fantastic here, and the whole thing is delightful. It’s been followed by two also-very-good sequels, as well as an ongoing spin-off series (XO, Kitty).
We start out in familiar territory here: Dineo and Noni (Fulu Mugovhani and Tumi Morake, both very funny) are a couple of successful big-city women—this time in Johannesburg. Dineo is on the hunt for a long-term relationship, even after getting dumped via livestream at work, while Noni is perfectly content with one-night stands. Their romantic (and un-romantic) trials are alternately charming, horrifying, and hilarious. The heart of the movie is its two leads, and the friendship that sustains them.
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