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Film / When Harry Met Sally...

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The poster so nice, they used it twice.

"I'll have what she's having."

A 1989 Romantic Comedy directed by Rob Reiner, written by Nora Ephron, and starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

Deadpan Snarker Harry Burns (Crystal) and Wide-Eyed Idealist Sally Albright (Ryan) first meet in 1977, 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 happen to find themselves sharing an airline flight, once again resolving that no, they cannot.

Five years after that, they 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.

In 2011, Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner appeared in a spoof trailer on for When Harry Met Sally 2, where Executive Meddling has turned a continuation of the original film into a shameless cashing in on the then-current vampire craze.

I'd like some Trope on the side:

  • '70s Hair: In the opening scene, set in 1977, Sally's hair is styled after that of Farrah Fawcett. It was the most widely-copied women's hairstyle of the era.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Harry offers to do the "traditional Christmas grovel" in apology.
  • Alliterative Name: Harry's ex, Helen Hillson. However, there's a bit of Values Dissonance here because 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. Twenty-five years later, a woman keeping her own name still isn't that common, but it's not a red flag.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Harry is based on a Jewish man (Rob Reiner) and played by a Jewish actor (Billy Crystal); however, there's not much evidence in the story for Harry being Jewish.
  • 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?
  • Arc Words: "Men and women can never be friends."
  • Author Avatar: Harry was somewhat based on Rob Reiner, who was depressed, cynical, and neurotic, but with a big heart underneath, like Harry Burns in the film. The character of Sally was somewhat based on screenwriter Nora Ephron. Ephron was optimistic, cheerful, loved control, and was the type of person who was "just fine" with everything, like Sally Albright.
  • 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.
  • Beta Couple: Jess and Marie.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Blind Date: Harry and Sally set one up for each other with their respective best friends. Jess and Marie wind up falling for each other instead.
  • Brick Joke: During the closing Framing Device, Harry is defending Sally's Overcomplicated Menu Order tendencies, having given in to her particular quirk.
  • Briar Patching: Harry is the undisputed master.
  • The Cameo: The director's mother Estelle Reiner as the "I'll have what she's having" lady.
  • Catchphrase: "You're right. You're right. I know you're right," for Marie.
  • 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. Either that or she did know, and was just cracking a joke.
    • Earlier, when Sally tells Alice and Marie that she and Joe have broken up, Marie's response is, "You mean Joe's available?"
  • Damned by Faint Praise: What Jess mistakenly thinks applies when Harry mentions that the girl he wants to set him up with Jess on a blind date (i. e. Sally) has "a good personality".
  • 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 she has her moments too.
  • 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.
  • Fake Orgasm: Harry and Sally are in Katz's Deli and argue about whether men can tell if a woman is faking. Sally claims that they can't, and to prove her point, she fakes a loud orgasm on the spot, which is convincing enough for one lady bystander to famously respond, "I'll have what she's having."
  • Fan Myopia: In-universe. Jimmy Breslin is pretty much the reason why Jess became a writer, but never mind.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
    • Harry's confession that his dates always end with him desperate to put 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:
  • 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 respective dates... and then diving head-first into the nearest cab together.
    • 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)
  • 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.
  • Jewish Complaining: While it is never explicitly stated that Harry is Jewish, he does find ways to complain about the most inane things, like Auld Lang Syne.
  • Joisey: During his doomed date with Marie, Harry reveals his birthplace: Haddonfield.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: The titular characters briefly perform karaoke in an electronics store, which is one of the many moments that showcase their chemistry. The fun moment is interrupted by Harry's ex Helen, arriving with a new man on her arm.
  • Kavorka Man:
    • Harry must be a walking petri dish of venereal disease by this point. (Sally lampshades)
    • Husband #3 cannot keep track of his past conquests when relating his story. His wife does, though.
  • 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.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Discussed in the beginning, with Harry admonishing Sally for never having had great sex... with a guy named Sheldon.
    Harry: A Sheldon can do your income tax. If you need a root canal, Sheldon's your man. But humping and pumping is not Sheldon's strong suit. It's the name. Do it to me... Sheldon!"
  • Love Epiphany/Race for Your Love: Harry's running through the streets on New Year's Eve.
  • Loving Details: During Harry's Love Confession at the end, he lists several of Sally's small quirks as things he loves about her.
  • 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!"
  • New Year's Kiss: Near the end of the movie, Harry tries to reconnect with Sally one more time, fighting with her while everybody else at the party counts down to the New Year. They end up falling back in love and kissing while everybody around them sings "Auld Lang Syne."
  • 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 perky and obsessive with structure, while Harry is morbid and obnoxious.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: Sally's Establishing Character Moment is this order in a diner:
    Sally: I'd like the chef salad, please, with the oil and vinegar on the side. And the apple pie a la mode.
    Waitress (writing): Chef and apple a la mode...
    Sally: But I'd like the pie heated, and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side. And I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it's real. If it's out of a can, then nothing.
    Waitress: Not even the pie?
    Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.
  • Precision F-Strike: It's truly startling when Sally drops an F-bomb.
  • Picky Eater: Sally, a trait shared by Nora Ephron herself. Years after the movie came out, when Ephron was on a plane and ordered something very precise, the stewardess looked at her and asked, "Have you ever seen the movie When Harry Met Sally?"
  • Production Foreshadowing: Harry is seen reading Misery. This would be Rob Reiner's next film.
  • The Quiet One: "I'm Ben Small, of the Coney Island Smalls."
  • Rapid-Fire "Yes!": During the restaurant scene where Sally fakes an orgasm, she repeatedly yells "Yes!" near the end.
    Nearby customer: I'll have what she's having.
  • 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.
    • The crowd doing the wave during an intensely emotional conversation was something that actually happened to Reiner.
    • And Sally's habit of ordering belongs to Nora Ephron.
  • 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, juxtaposed with the previous year when Harry helped her carry a tree. It's tough to go it alone.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: In early 2004, the film was adapted for the stage in a Theatre Royal Haymarket production starring Luke Perry and Alyson Hannigan. Molly Ringwald and Michael Landes later replaced them for the second cast.
  • Second Love: Harry and Sally become friends once their respective relationships have ended.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation:
    • Arguing over whether Ingrid Bergman should have stayed with Humphrey 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!"
  • Self-Plagiarism: Prior to the wedding, Marie tells Sally that Harry was seeing an anthropologist. Sally asks her what she looks like and Marie responds with "Thin. Pretty. Big tits. Your basic nightmare." This line also appears in Nora Ephron's book Heartburn, which was published in 1983.
  • Serious Business: Jess gets very competitive when playing Charades.
  • Sex Changes Everything: Harry's theory that men and women can't be friends because sex always gets in the way.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Skewed Priorities: Harry's ex-wife waited a week to tell him she wanted a divorce because she didn't want to ruin his birthday.
  • 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 (three components, but four people, the middle two sharing a bed) 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.
    • The entire diner after Sally's 'orgasm'.
  • 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.
  • 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!
      Sally: They don't make "Sunday".
      Harry: Why not?
      Sally: Because of God.
  • Tongue Twister: "But I would be proud to partake of 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.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: Sally's response to Harry's Love Confession at the end.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Harry is a bit too quick in agreeing with Sally that it was a mistake to have sex with her.


Video Example(s):


I'll Have What She's Having

Sally shows Harry how it's done.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / FakeOrgasm

Media sources: