Romantic Comedy

"You don't want to be in love... you want to be in love in a movie."

Romantic comedy, aka "rom-com", is a genre in which the development of a romance leads to comic situations.

Since all it says on the tin is "love" and "laughs", the genre provides large meadows for the screenwriters to frolick on. Many writers over the cinema history have pushed and blurred the lines of romantic comedy.

Many rom-coms use a set of certain tropes. Many feature two more or less equal protagonists with one slightly more equal than the other. The story may start with one character being dumped/divorced/widowed. His/her friends and family urge him/her to find someone. The protagonist may agree to go on several blind dates. At some point, they meet our second protagonist. Usually, the second character isn't an obvious match for the first; maybe she's wild and crazy and he's a CPA. Or he's rich and she's poor. A romantic comedy usually provides a victory of love against all odds.

Every story needs a conflict, and since rom-coms are driven by the quest for love, the conflict derives from the obstacles to the quest. This could be the apparent incompatibility of the leads: mutual Love at First Sight is rare. The two characters will spend a good part of the movie fighting their obvious attraction. Eventually, they'll realize they're perfect for each other. Or, something will pop up; maybe a Three's Company kind of misunderstanding, or a revelation in the third act about one of them lying. One of the two characters will storm off in a huff. Or the couple is already married for some reason, and the conflict comes partially from different expectations and misunderstandings.

The climax of a rom-com requires the satisfactory recognition of love: the other chases after the love interest and does something really romantic to win them back. The reconciliation scene ends with the two characters reunited in a romantic embrace. Often ends in a wedding.

Tropes typically employed in a romantic comedy are covered in:

The usual rom-com main characters are covered in Love Interests. It is becoming increasingly common for one or both protagonists to be Adorkable. Characters that often occupy the stratosphere around the rom-com protagonists include: Beta Couple, Deadpan Snarker, Pet Homosexual, Plucky Comic Relief. The main characters are typically employed in a Rom Com Job.

See also Romance Arc, Rule of Romantic, and compare with the Bromantic Comedy.


  • Bringing Up Baby
  • It Happened One Night
  • My Man Godfrey
  • Ninotchka
  • Top Hat
  • His Girl Friday adds a curve in that the romantic protagonists are divorced as well as former boss and prize employee (editor and ace reporter).
    • A similar situation is found in the '50s musical comedy Kiss Me Kate, where the divorced protagonists falling back in love are, respectively, the director and leading lady in a modern adaptation of an earlier example of the Romantic Comedy genre, Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
  • 1981's Arthur was an intentional throwback to these, and a very successful one.
  • 1972's Whats Up Doc was an earlier one.
  • 1951's Singin' in the Rain is an even earlier throwback, also very successful.
  • Leatherheads was also a throwback. Except it didn't work too well.
  • The Runaway Bride strays deep into screwball territory, although it is more serious in some respects than most - the protagonists' psychological hang-ups are explored and e. g. the father's drinking problem is not done for laughs.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a modern incarnation, but the threat of war on the horizon casts a shadow over all the gaiety.
Manhattan Love Story is a Romantic Comedy TV series.

Alternative Title(s):

Rom Com