Entertainment

34 Things That Happen In Every Single Romantic Comedy Ever

Columbia Pictures

There is a certain solace that comes with romantic comedies, a genre designed to comfort you with its predictability. When you buy that Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan/Sandra Bullock ticket, you know that the same rom-com tropes will be waiting for you, like Jake Ryan and an inexplicably acquired birthday cake. Except you're not shocked: if you've seen one, you've seen them all (or rather, I've seen them all).

Yes, maybe there are variations of that formula, with the 2000s featuring more and more films that warp and subvert the genre's biggest cliches. Yet, even when you're trying to be adorably postmodern, they hit a lot of the same notes and the song always ends up sounding a whole lot like Norah Jones. Weird.

The pain is knowing that real life doesn't operate that way, that mistakes can't be cured by a rambling speech, and that your best meet-cute was when you ran into that one dude on Bumble at Barnes and Noble by accident (and yet he still won't schedule a real date). But, hey, let's revel in all those notes that sound so sweet in the moment, because, even if you can't get the guy, at least we can feel happy for Meg Ryan.

1) The Airport Confrontation

It doesn't have to be an airport. It's just that 93 percent of the time, it's at the very least on the way to an airport, if not in it. Apparently, heartbreak makes people want to flee the country on the immediate, and this leads to at least one party running through JFK trying to stop you before you get on that flight. Incidentally, this is used a bit less in a post 9/11 world, because everyone knows it now takes a fortnight to get through security.

Giphy

2) The Ben & Jerry Solution

More cost-effective and less glamorous than a flight, you have to at least have one scene of our downtrodden heroine making love to some ice cream post break-up. It's not always the Vermont-based brand; that's just the ice cream of choice, because eating a whole pint versus a carton is, like, a respectable choice when it comes to self-loathing.

Giphy

3) The Sexy Warpath

Cool news, we're moving past witty banter and getting wild all over someone's pre-war apartment. Here, I'm referring to that kiss that usually leads to boinking, and sometimes it'll just fade to black. Usually, though, rom-com couples love leaving a destructive warpath the first time they have sex, obliterating everything until they tumble to bed.

Which, incidentally, makes me so mad. If you knock over my antique mirror, we are not having sex. I will be cleaning up the shards and disposing of your carcass after I kill you. It's Art Deco!

GIPHY

4) The Broken Best Friend

Rom-com besties manifest in a few ways, but this is an especially popular pick. If you have a really career-centric, somewhat put-together protagonist, give her a sobbing best friend to take care of.

GIPHY

5) The B-Plot Couple

It's always good to have a secondary couple around to compare to the main pair in rom-coms. Sometimes, they're a pre-existing couple that's mutual friends with the A-Plot pairing, but my favorite trope is when they're the best friends of the two protagonists who fall in love along the way. Think Marie and Jess in When Harry Met Sally: used well, it's a plot device that facilitates the main romance by showing another love story. Used cheaply, it's a last-minute plot device that wraps things up so nobody dies alone.

Giphy

6) The Cinderella Fantasy

Rom-coms, in essence, are just the big sisters of fairy tales. They are really wound up on promoting quick — and, OK, occasionally unhealthy — relationships, punctuated by some unrealistic sense of "Happily Ever After." But some take the princess fantasy very literally, having men of good fortune save their (very often, but not always, lower class) love interests.

Giphy

7) The Undercover Cutie

Deception, even benign deception, is really big in the rom-com world. This strain of it is usually tied to our Journalist Queens and Kings, where a journalist has to infiltrate some unfamiliar sphere for a story. Of course, nobody can keep up the rouse for long, and that usually bleeds into a...

Giphy

8) The Drama-Inciting Fall Out

This occurs approximately half an hour before the movie ends, give or take 15 minutes depending on the pacing. It could be a break-up between the two characters if they're dating, or it could be the huge reveal that the wayward rebel you've come to begrudgingly love has been courting you as a bet the whole time. Most often, it's messy and public and safe bet is that it'll happen on prom night.

Giphy

9) The Easily Solved Misunderstanding

What we're talking about here are those tiny misinterpretations that keep the two protagonists from being together, when really it would be fine if they took 0.05 seconds to confront it properly. Bu,t no, they bottle it up, and someone ends up wasting their frequent flier miles in a huff.

Giphy

10) Endearing Clumsiness

For whatever reason, rom-com heroines don't know how to do simple things like walking without tripping, or tripping without breaking a femur. Adorable?

Giphy

11) Hate At First Sight

This is a fun way to drum up sexual tension, by having the two main characters loathe each other initially. The attraction is there; someone just needs to cave in first.

Giphy

12) High-Stakes Gambling

AKA "The Bet." You know this trope. You know how many teen movies from the last 30 years have been anchored by this trope, and it's even bleeding into adult films (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days pairs this against its feisty journalist protagonist). Much like the unmasking of the Cutie Undercover, this always gets revealed in a problematic way.

GIPHY

13) The Hot Mess Protagonist

We've gotten a few more variations over the past few years, but rom-com heroines largely tend to be either poised, career-oriented, and beautiful or a Walking Disaster who needs to learn to be less of a Walking Disaster by the end of the film. Three movies deep, and it seems like Bridget Jones has learned nothing, but at least she claimed some handsome bedfellows along the way.

Giphy

14) "I've Been Here The Entire Time"

AKA the Slighted Bestie, although they don't have to formally be friends. If it's a woman, she's the gorgeous yet bespectacled girl who sits in the wings while you pursue the popular girl. If it's a man... well, same concept with a lot more favor-doling and sensitivity, and sans glasses. Occasionally, this is literally uttered in a heated confrontation, but that isn't mandatory. Very often, the protagonist can wise up on their own, albeit 3/4th into the film.

Giphy

15) Geometric Love

Love triangles. They're a big thing in pop culture. Like, if memory serves it was the entire foundation of Gossip Girl (well, that or headbands). Anyway, one of the most popular kinds features the Slighted Bestie versus a more glamorous Alpha Love Interest (a handsome co-worker, the quarterback, etc). If the alpha turns out to be an Obvious Cad, then favor goes to the former. Unless you're in a John Hughes film, in which you will not be going home with Molly Ringwald, but you will be rewarded with a Consolation Blonde.

Giphy

16) The Grand Gesture

It's John Cusack with his boombox over his head, Jake Ryan showing up in the church with sexy red car, Patrick Verona singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" on the bleachers. It's the kind of thing you re-watch again and again at age 12, and subsequently don't have a healthy relationship for the next two decades. Because men don't do this in real life unless they're trying to make a viral video, and you do not want to end up with the man who makes a viral video.

GIPHY

17) Irrational Forgiveness

Like, come on. If a man drove my business into the ground, the one tangible tie I had left to my dead mother, I would not be so keen on forgiving him. But you will every time, because it's scripted, and it's Tom Hanks.

Giphy

18) It's Always Raining

A very masculine way of showing pain (they don't really eat ice cream like we do) is having at least one scene of them moping in the rain. Bonus points if it's John Cusack.

Giphy

19) And/Or It's Just Jane Austen

Closely tied to another upcoming trope, yet I do believe this merits its own section. Penny for your thoughts: all rom-coms are the descendants of Jane Austen novels. Really, the woman was writing her own verbose, 500 page-long chick flicks before Nora Ephron was even a concept. This, however, is especially true for films like Clueless and Bridget Jones's Diary, which are essentially just remakes of Emma and Pride & Prejudice.

Giphy

20) The Journalist Queen

There are a handful of rom-com-approved jobs for our adorable protagonist, but apparently publishing is where it's at. Never Been Kissed, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Beauty and the Briefcase, 13 Going On 30, and even the very subverted Trainwreck — it happens all the time. Naturally, this trope has ruined me probably for life, because I have approximately none Matthew McConaugheys chase after me. I've also never slept with the subject of my piece, but, hey, ethics are whatever.

Giphy

21) Modern Reboots

She's All That is just Pygmalian. 10 Things I Hate About You is just Taming of the Shrew. You've Got Mail is just Parfumerie. If it ain't broke, just modernize it (well, within reason, because the idea of AOL seems pretty archaic in itself at this point).

Giphy

22) Make-Overs

I mean, come on, we can't let our dowdy (and, again, very occaisionally lower-class) heroine be held back by a pair of paint covered overalls. A Hollywood make-over is always a welcome trope to rom-coms, and sometimes you even get a whole wardrobe montage for free.

Giphy

23) The Support Group

The female equivalent usually exist to unfailingly get their friend through their heartbreak, drink cocktails, and host adult sleepovers (which is weird you're in your 20s, why are you hanging out wearing face masks). The male equivalent usually has at least one straight-laced, monogamous soundboard and a more excitable, perpetually horny devil-on-your-shoulder type friend. But, even going outside these lines, the point is that friends only exist in rom-coms to serve as emotional support for the couple in question. You'll be lucky if you see them having lives outside of that.

GIPHY

24) To Be Continued

If you're going for a bittersweet route where the couple we root for does not end up together (how very postmodern), you'll probably still throw in a last-minute meeting that ensures that life and love does go on. Like, you can't entirely bash the hope out of your audience, you know? That's what that Grand Gestures are for.

Giphy

25) The Tamable Shrew

Pretty In Pink's Andie Walsh is probably the trope codifier of this teen film-friendly character, although Laney Boggs and Kat Stratford are solid follow-ups. Ultimately, despite their independent ways, they always fall, and fall hard, for this one guy's charm and persistence.

Giphy

26) A One Day Whirlwind Courtship

This doesn't literally have to mean "one day," although those movies exist. I just mean that rom-com time and real life time are two very different things, you can go from zero to in love and married very quick.

Giphy

27) The Sardonic Best Friend

Sometimes she's evil, sometimes she's quirky, sometimes she likes to party hard. She is a more interesting, more exciting foil to our leading lady, and, more often than not, true American heroine Judy Greer (or Zooey Deschanel, when she was more dead-pan and less adorkable).

Giphy

28) The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Or Boy, If It's Equal Opportunity)

Speaking of which, I don't revel talking about this trope because it has touches of sexism in it. However, how many mopey protagonists have been coaxed out of their Sadcave by a whimsical, free-spirited, Smiths-loving girl (or boy, whatever). All I'm going to say is that, while these people exist, their spontaneity is not here to serve you, and also that loving The Smiths means that you live in the Sadcave, not the other way around.

Giphy

29) Mutually Beneficial Dealmaking

Weirdly enough, fake-dating someone to elevate your social status is highly effective. I mean, it all falls apart somewhere around the second act, but more often than not you get to ride off on a lawn mower together.

Giphy

30) "My Last Chance!"

Whatever the situation may be, this is the heroine's "last chance" for romance. It's what Julia Roberts utters in the trailer before "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind plays. And that's an understandable fear, because, according to Hollywood, actresses age in dog years, so, by the time you're 33, you might as well be put out to pasture.

Giphy

31) The Obstacle Significant Other

Is she that gorgeous blonde cheerleader that's at your crush's side, or the stunning fiancée you didn't know he had? I wouldn't worry, because, if you're starring in a rom-com, it's only a matter of time before she's donezo. (Unless you're Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding. Sorry, babe, can't win 'em all.)

Giphy

32) The Obvious Cad

He's that football star or charming businessman that the leading lady will fall for before realizing he's a first class douche (and she should go after her much hotter waiting-in-the-wings guy). The audience, of course, will realize he's a jackass long before she will, and it'll be painful to watch the entire time.

Giphy

33) Repressed Attraction

Much like we notice the Obvious Cad, we can definitely see the longing from all those well-placed held gazes and irrational flickers of jealousy. Our leads don't. Regardless, it'll probably take a while until we get to your "Oh my God, I love Josh!" realization.

Giphy

34) The Kiss To End All Kisses

You know what? It's just good form to end on a kiss, and one so magnificent that entire world will applaud. Nothing is more important than the love you have found. Nothing is more beautiful than swapping spit with that dude you met 48 hours ago.

Roll credits. Wipe tears. And then watch another one.

Giphy
134