Becky: A movie! That's your problem! You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.
A 1993 Sleeper Hit* which infused a fluffy Romantic Comedy with a degree of Postmodernism. As director/co-writer Nora Ephron put it, "Our dream was to make a movie about how movies screw up your brain about love and then if we did a good job, we would become one of the movies that screwed up people's brains about love forever." The film stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, in their second screen pairing (preceded by Joe Versus the Volcano and followed by You've Got Mail).
Hanks is Sam Baldwin, a recently-widowed architect from Chicago who's trying to start life anew in Seattle with his eight-year-old son Jonah (Ross Malinger). Jonah's idea for helping his father find a new wife involves calling a radio talk show on Christmas Eve and putting Sam on the air. Annie Reed (Ryan), a Baltimore news reporter who's engaged to the pleasant-but-bland Walter (Bill Pullman), happens to tune in to the show and falls in love with Sam. Sam and Annie then spend the rest of the movie trying to find reasons not to meet. You can guess what happens at the end.
This film provides examples of:
- Adorably Precocious Child: Jonah is absolutely adorable, and way too smart for his age.
- Adult Fear: Losing one's spouse.
"What if something happened to you? What if I couldn't get to you? What would I have done? You're my family. You're all I have."
- Sam's desperation to find Jonah after the latter sneaks off to New York City is wrenching.
- Your fiancee suddenly leaving you because she decided she found someone better.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: DREAMS COME TRUE's "Winter Song" is the theme song for the movie in Japan, although the lyrics are in English.
- Annoying Laugh / The Hyena: That horrendously annoying woman Sam dates. Jonah even says she sounds like a hyena.
- Artistic License Geography: Annie manages to follow Sam and Jonah from Lake Union to Alki Beach despite them being in a boat while she's in a car. This either requires Annie managing to guess where Sam and Jonah are headed and drive at improbable speeds, or have an amphibious rental car.
- Big "WHAT?!": Spoken by Jessica's mother when she and Sam ask Jessica where Jonah went and she says, "He's on his way to New York".
- Bratty Half-Pint: Yeah, Jessica's Mom needs to have a talk with her about nearly every civility you can name. She rivals Nick Sitcom brats for pushiness.
- Creator Cameo: When Annie is in the kitchen in the middle of the night listening to the 'best of' radio callers, the caller 'Disappointed in Denver' is voiced by director Nora Ephron.
- Dead Person Conversation: Maggie appears to Sam on New Year's Eve to share a drink with him.
- Disposable Fiancé: Walter, possibly the most disposable of all disposable fiancés.
- Distant Prologue: The opening scenes establish the death of Sam's wife and his decision to move to Seattle. After the intro, the time stamp informs the viewer that it's 18 months later.
- Door-Closes Ending: After Annie, Sam, and Jonah get on the elevator, the doors close and we cut to the outside of the Empire State Building.
- Happily Married: All dialogue makes it obvious that Sam and his wife were this.
- Held Gaze: The Anniversary Edition DVD cover shows Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan looking into each other's eyes like this because it is the quintessential "romantic" pose.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Annie comes clean to Walter, he is understanding and mentions that their relationship wouldn't be fair if she doesn't feel that he is the right person. He says this despite the fact that he genuinely loves Annie.
- Kids Play Matchmaker: Jonah sees how sad his widowed father is, and calls a talk radio show to find him a wife. Many many women mail letters, but only one really connects with him. He (and his friend) spend the second half of the movie trying to get them together.
- Love at First Sight: Sam's reaction when he sees Annie.
- Manly Tears: Played for laughs, when Sam and Greg tear up while reminiscing about The Dirty Dozen.
- Sam seems quite close to tears of relief when he finds Jonah at the end of the film.
- Mistaken for Romance: Annie sees Jonah and Sam embracing a woman and assumes she's Sam's new girlfriend (it doesn't help that her hairstyle is identical to Victoria's, whom she saw in a photograph). It turns out she's Sam's sister, come to town for a visit.
- The Mountains of Illinois: In 1993, Seattle had a bus tunnel, not a subway.
- No Romantic Resolution: What happens after they meet?
- Parent with New Paramour: At one point, Sam dates a woman who Jonah hates. Conversely, without even having met her, he readily declares Annie as "my new mom."
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Annie is guilty of a long string of bad behavior, including emotionally cheating on her fiancee and eventually last-minute dumping him with little fanfare or care for his feelings. But since she's the female protagonist of a romantic comedy of course all her actions are considered justified in the pursuit of True Love.
- Race for Your Love: Annie tears across New York City to reach Sam at the Empire State Building.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Nothing is really wrong with Walter and Victoria. That they are perfectly decent human beings makes you feel a little sorry for them.
- Second Love: Annie will be this to Sam.
- Sexy Shirt Switch: A deleted scene from the original script has Sam having a fantasy about Annie dressed like this.
- Skyscraper Messages: The finale puts a giant red heart shape on the four sides of the Empire State Building.
- Stalker with a Crush: Annie looks Sam up on the hi-tech 90's computer and pretty much stalks him through the city.
- Starts with Their Funeral: The opening sequence is of Maggie's burial.
- Tempting Fate: Sam's last line of the prologue is to declare, "This kind of thing doesn't happen twice", referring to great love he had for his wife, in response to his sister's insistence that he'll meet someone eventually. Sure enough, his reaction when he sees Annie shows that he's wrong.
- Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Annie and Walter celebrate New Year's Eve in Baltimore. The next scene is of Sam and Jonah doing the same thing in Seattle, which is three hours behind Baltimore. In fact, many scenes between the two cities imply that it's the same time in both places. Quite glaring considering that in an early scene, Jonah explicitly says, "It's not that late in Seattle". (When he calls the radio show).
- The Unfair Sex: Annie is seen committing acts (such as lying to obtain personal information, and improper use of security access) to locate more information on the Baldwins. If committed by a man, these acts could easily be a horror movie, but because Annie is an attractive woman, the movie pays scant attention to the ethical issues behind these actions.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Victoria?