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Film: When Harry Met Sally
The poster so nice, they used it twice.

I'll have what she's having.

Harry Burns and Sally Albright first meet when they share a drive from college in Chicago to New York City. He's seeing her friend Amanda and comes on to her; she turns him down but says they can be friends. He points out that the guy friend will always be attracted to the female friend and want to sleep with her, thus they decide not to be friends. They revisit the question five years later when they are both taken and run into each other in an airport, once again resolving that no, they cannot.

Five years later, both of them re-meet after having been dumped by their other halves, and become friends. They resolve to just be friends... for most of the movie they succeed in this. Their relationship has little sexual tension, and is punctuated by extended conversations where they discuss love, friendship, scatological humor and Casablanca. The Aesop seems to be that people really need friendships- the nonsexual comfort zone Harry and Sally establish with each other is what allows them to move on from their failed relationships. To each other, in case you haven't figured that out yet.

In terms of the Romantic Comedy genre, this movie's main contribution was its popularization of Contemplate Our Navels as a form of Character Development and emotional connection — Harry and Sally are defined almost entirely by their interactions with each other. What external factors do exist they usually discuss with each other directly and personally.

Viewers familiar with the modern Rom Com may be caught off-guard, as this movie lacks the High Concept and Hotter and Sexier tropes the genre is famous for. There's almost no sex or even provocative clothing. There's vastly more scenes of people in bed, alone, wearing pyjamas and talking on the phone than getting their sex on. The "R" rating was likely due to the famed restaurant scene and couple of swearwords.

Billy Crystal and director Rob Reiner recently appeared in a spoof trailer on FunnyOrDie.com for When Harry Met Sally 2, where Executive Meddling has turned a continuation of the original film into a shameless cashing in on the vampire craze.


I'd like some Trope on the side:

  • '70s Hair: Sally is sporting Farrah hair in college.
  • Alliterative Name: Harry's ex, Helen Hillson.
    • Values Dissonance: Harry mentions that she's keeping her maiden name (presumably for business purposes) during his engagement. This is clearly meant as foreshadowing since Helen's not that into Harry and will ditch him at the first opportunity. In a post-feminist world, taking your husband's last name isn't really a qualifier.
  • Analogy Backfire: Harry articulating why enough time has passed that he can ignore having sex with Sally that one time. Also a hint that he's sliding back into his old, insufferable self.
    Harry: You know how a year to a person is like seven years to a dog?
    Sally [beat] Is one of us supposed to be a dog in this scenario?
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Sally cracks her hand on Harry's face at Jess and Marie's wedding. Ooph.
  • Arc Words: "Men and women can never be friends."
  • Backhanded Apology: A famous one delivered by Harry at the end.
  • Backhanded Compliment: Lampshaded by Sally when Harry compliments her on being less "uptight" than she used to be.
    Harry: Alright, you're still as tough as nails.
  • Bad Date: Harry and Sally spend a good deal of time talking about these. Mostly played for comedy, but can get dramatic, too.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: Helen, true to her profession, suggests a 'trial separation' from Harry. They can still date each other. ("Like this is supposed to cushion the blow.")
  • Beard of Sorrow: Harry has had a few weeks' growth by the time of his divorce.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Blind Date
  • Break Up Make Up Scenario
  • Briar Patching: Harry is the undisputed master.
  • California Doubling: They drive off the University of Chicago campus on the south side to New York.... via a picturesque segment of Lake Shore Drive headed toward the south side [Did they have to visit a friend at Northwestern, Depaul or Loyola first?]
  • The Cameo: The director's mother Estelle Reiner as the "I'll have what she's having" woman.
  • Catchphrase: You're right. You're right. I know you're right."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Harry roping Sally into singing a show tune duet. He apparently bought the karaoke machine, because he uses it to serenade Sally in apology later.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Harry's hypothesis on why men and women can't be platonic.
  • Child Hater: Harry getting into a spat with a kid at the ballfield.
    Kid: (Big jerk.)
    Harry: (Little creep.)
  • Comically Missing the Point: Sally loudly fakes an orgasm in the middle of a restaurant, and a patron thinks something Sally ate was just that good.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: Played for Laughs on the plane, when Sally fails to escape Harry's recognition.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harry more than Sally, but Sally has her moments
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Arguments with Harry usually devolve into this.
  • Everyone Can See It: Most notably mentioned in the post-sex phone call scene.
  • Eye Take: During a montage, there is a quick scene of a Chinese restaurant. Sally gesticulates wildly as she's describing her order, and the waiter shares one of these with Harry.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: "Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth."
    • Not just the title couple, but one of the old couples.
    • Couple #4 is an inversion; they were born in the same building, worked in the same office, and never met once (until a fateful elevator ride in another city).
  • Faux Documentary: The interviews with elderly married couples that are sprinkled throughout the movie. The stories were based on real-life couples, but portrayed by actors.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Couple #3 engage in this.
  • Follow the Leader: When Harry Met Sally shares more than a few similarities with Annie Hall and Manhattan.
  • Foreshadowing: Helen opting to keep her surname. (It should be noted that plenty of happily-married women keep their surname, but it's definitely meant to be ominous here.)
    • Also, Harry's confession that his dates always end with him desperate to pull his clothes on and flee out the door.
  • Freak Out!: Harry has a meltdown after bumping into his ex and her new boyfriend at The Sharper Image. Sally seems to be showing more maturity than he — that is, until she hears about Joe's engagement.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: "It just so happens that I have had plenty of good sex!" [cricket chirp]
  • Funny Answering Machine: In reverse. Harry fills up Sally's machine with profuse apologies.
    *beep* "Hi, it's me! It is the holiday season and I thought I'd just remind you that this is the season for charity and forgiveness. And although it's not widely known, it is also the season of groveling. So if you felt like calling me back, I'd be more than happy to do the traditional Christmas grovel."
    • And in the next scene:
    "The fact that you're not answering leads me to believe you're either (a) not at home, (b) home but don't want to talk to me, or (c) home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy. If it's either (a) or (c), please call me back."
  • Gallows Humor: Harry peruses the obituary section when hunting for apartments.
    "Mr Kline died yesterday, leaving behind a wife, two children, and a spacious three bedroom apartment with a wood burning fireplace."
    • Later, he makes the mistake of cracking wise about Ethiopian food in front of his date. "We order two empty plates, and then we can leave."
  • Gilligan Cut: "If she wants to call me, she'll call me. I'm through making a schmuck out of myself!" [cut to Harry singing karaoke to Sally over the phone]
  • Girl of the Week: The other people Harry and Sally briefly date (Julian; "Aunt" Emily in particular)
  • Hello, Attorney!: Helen.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Sally can't recall the name of her room-mate in college. A scene later, she shames Harry for forgetting her name, too.
    Harry: Riiiight, I remember her, Amanda Rice—
    Sally: Reese.
    Harry: —Amanda Reese, that's what I said. (changes subject)
    • Jess and Marie promising not to ditch their dates... and then diving head-first into the nearest cab.
    • Jess and Marie being woken up by a pair of desperate phone calls.
      Jess: (to Marie) No one I know would call at this hour.
      (Harry calls, Jess picks up)
      Jess: NO ONE I KNOW WOULD CALL AT THIS HOUR!
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Ironically, it proves Harry's point that sex ruins friendships. Not that Harry feels very victorious about it.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Sally fakes one in the middle of a crowded deli to prove a point to Harry.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Battery-operated pith helmet! With fan.
    Sally: [wearing hat] Why is this necessary in life?
    Harry: Also makes great fries.
    • Grieving over his ex, Harry finds himself watching reruns of Leave It to Beaver on Telemundo. By his own admission, he's not a well man.
      "Buenos dias Señor Cleaver. ¿Donde esta Wallace y Theodore?"
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Sally hearing the news of her ex's engagement.
  • Insistent Terminology: The official title of the film is When Harry Met Sally..., including the ellipses.
  • Joisey: During his doomed date with Marie, Harry reveals his birthplace: Haddonfield.
  • Kavorka Man: Harry must be a walking petri dish of venereal disease by this point. (Sally lampshades)
  • Lost Love Montage: Harry flashes back to his times with Sally on New Year's Eve. The montage is so powerful, it drives him to sprint across the city to reunite with her.
  • Love Epiphany / Race for Your Love: Harry's running through the streets on New Year's Eve.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Played with, but mostly played straight.
  • The Matchmaker: Jess and Marie.
  • Meaningful Name: Sally Albright, Harry Burns.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Sally and Harry sport the classic "L"-shaped bedsheet.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: After Harry reveals that his wife's been cheating, Jess all but breaks the fourth wall. "I'm a writer, I know dialogue, and that was particularly harsh!"
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Harry, especially as a young man.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Harry's MO.
    Sally: You know, I'm so glad I never got involved with you. I just would have ended up being some woman you had to get up out of bed and leave at 3:00 in the morning and go clean your andirons...
  • Opposites Attract: Sally is perpetually perky, Harry is death-obsessed.
  • Oral Fixation: Harry and his grape seeds. [*ptooey*]
  • The Quiet One: "I'm Ben Small, of the Coney Island Smalls."
  • Precision F-Strike: It's truly startling when Sally drops an F-bomb.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The movie was based on Director Rob Reiner's own dating experiences and frustrations (he was recovering from a divorce just as Harry was), and, as he was single at the time, originally Harry would not get with Sally at the end. The decision of the happier ending where they get together apparently was a result of Reiner meeting and eventually marrying a woman during the film's production.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: Harry confiding about his divorce in the least-intimate setting possible: a football game. The crowd roars each time Harry shares a new revelation.
  • Recurring Riff: "It Had To Be You" pops up all over the place — it's practically the theme song for Harry and Sally's relationship.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After the falling-out with Harry, we see Sally stumbling around town with a Christmas tree she can't manage. It's tough to go it alone.
  • Second Love
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Arguing over whether Ingrid Bergman should have stayed with Bogart in Casablanca.
    • At the very end, Harry questions the message of "Auld Lang Syne".
      "Does that mean we that should forget old acquaintances or does it mean that if we should happen to forget them, we should remember them? — which is impossible because we already forgot them!"
  • Serious Business: Jess gets very competitive when playing Charades.
  • Sex Changes Everything
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: ..And back to Slap, again.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Harry mistakenly sings a song from Oklahoma! in a department store, summoning his ex-wife and her boyfriend over. "Surry With a Fringe on Top" continues to blare over the awkward silence.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Over the closing credits of Casablanca. "Best last line of a movie ever!"
    • Later used to even better effect with a four-way split screen call when Harry and Sally simultaneously call Jess and Marie.
  • Status Cell Phone: Harry has a fake plastic car phone, just so he can fake talking on it, to look rich and important when someone else is talking on theirs.
  • Stepford Smiler: Throughout the film, Sally claims to be totally over her commitment-phobic boyfriend. That is, until he promptly proposes to somebody else. Cue explosion.
  • Stunned Silence: After their first meal together, Harry stares at Sally like she's from Mars.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: High-maintenance women, and low maintenance women.
    Sally: ...And Ingrid Bergman is low maintenance?
    Harry: An L.M. Definitely
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Post-coital Harry in Sally's bed. Harry looks like he's just seen 'Nam.
  • Toilet Seat Divorce: The wagon wheel coffee table. From Hell.
    • Inverted, with Harry transferring his own pent-up rage toward his ex on Jess and Marie.
    • Not one to take chances, though, Jess bins the table.
    • Sally's boyfriend in college broke up with her because she wore panties embroidered with the days of the week. And "Sunday" was missing. J'accuse!
  • Tongue Twister: But I would be proud to partake in your pecan pie.
  • Unsatisfiable Customer: Sally is the Berlin Wall of gourmets. Everything needs to be separate.
    Harry: "On the side" is a very big thing with you.
  • Wedding Day: Marie and Jess's, where Harry and Sally have a post-sex fight.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: Sally's response to Harry's Love Confession at the end.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Harry's a bit too quick in agreeing with Sally that it was a mistake to have sex with her.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Marie has a long-term affair with the married Arthur. Sally continually reminds her that Arthur is never going to leave his wife; Marie always agrees, but a few scenes later, she's discussing him yet again...

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alternative title(s): When Harry Met Sally
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