The best-reviewed lists we normally publish involve thousands of movies sorted by Adjusted Tomatometer to best distill the professional critics’ consensus, a soothing balm of agreement in the internet age.
This is not that kind of list.
This is 100 Essential Comedy Movies, funny flicks hand-picked by Rotten Tomatoes editors to best represent our tastes and, hey, probably yours, too. (We also did an Essential 200 Movies.) The only caveat for our comedies list: Every movie needed to be 60% (Fresh) or higher. That’s it. You’re still here? It’s over! Go read.
All credits go to IMDb user: gibboanx
New millennium, new technology. Film cameras were the standard way to shoot a movie for over a century, and now they to had to make space for upstart digital. Without digital cameras, zombies would’ve stayed dead; 28 Days Later was only possible with how quick and easy it is to set up with them. Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) certainly benefited from the new technology.
Movies were also used to absorb our collective trauma. We escaped into magic and wonder in the months after 9/11 with Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, while we celebrated the end of the Great Recession by getting the hell off this planet with Avatar. And speaking of those series, we didn’t want their installments taking up all the spots on this list, so one movie representing the whole franchise was chosen for those worthy.
And your vast comic-book trivia knowledge became a social asset, not a bullseye for beatings. Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man 2 opened up new ways of connected storytelling (and money making). And it wasn’t just superheroes making the leap to the mainstream. Fanboy culture, the internet, and sites like the one you’re reading now helped bring “genre” movies to the cultural forefront: zombies (28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead), sci-fi (Avatar, Serenity), horror (The Descent, Saw), and fantasy (Pan’s Labyrinth).
Meanwhile, under-served voices started to make some noise in the mainstream with films led by females (Mean Girls, Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham, Twilight), made African-American filmmakers (Love & Basketball, Barbershop), and featuring Asian-American stars (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Better Luck Tomorrow). And that’s not including the increasingly easy access to international material like City of God and Let the Right One In.
And we still haven’t touched upon Pixar’s golden age (WALL-E, Finding Nemo), Hollywood finding the formula for comedies perfectly balanced between smart and dumb (The Hangover, The 40-Year Old Virgin), or that the Fast & Furious series got its humble beginnings here. A lot happened in this decade: Discover it all with the 140 Essential Movies of the 2000s!
Hooking up? No problem. “Meet cute” at the book shop? Happens all the time. Finding the right one, falling in love, and getting married? What else are you gonna do? But compiling the ultimate list of the Freshest romantic comedies? It’s complicated.
For our list of the 150 best romantic comedies of all time, we searched high and low throughout movie history for every permutation of (hilarious) courtship and love captured on camera. We have the dazzling wit of the early studio system (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby), the realistic cynicism of the ’70s (Annie Hall, The Goodbye Girl), and the sweeping romance in-between (The Apartment, Roman Holiday). There was plenty to find in the John Hughes, teen-driven era (Say Anything…, Pretty in Pink), and the bubbly ’90s decade that followed (Groundhog Day, Four Weddings and a Funeral, While You Were Sleeping). Then we dabbled in 21st century raunch (Knocked Up) and twee ((500) Days of Summer), leading into our current era of new voices declaring that they too are entitled to their own messy relationship stories (The Big Sick, Crazy Rich Asians).
The only stipulation for a rom-com to get a shot at love on this list was achieving a minimum of 20 reviews, before we sorted it all by Adjusted Tomatometer. And because we want you feeling red, and not seeing red, we want to prepare you for some of the relatively low placements for beloved classics like Pretty Woman, Love Actually, and Sleepless in Seattle. The Tomatometer, just like the heart, does not deceive.
Ready to dive into the sea of love? Then continue on with open arms into Rotten Tomatoes’ 150 best romantic comedies of all time!