[Note: This post has been updated to reflect reader response and my own second thoughts.]
Will the decade of 2000-2009 come to be seen as the last heyday of the traditional rom-com, before the genre turned truly 21st Century (Hello, Her)? Only time will tell, but in the meanwhile, as an adjunct to my Top Ten Romantic Comedies of the pre-war period and post (those two lists can be found in an earlier post), here's an attempt to identify the ten romantic comedies from the past decade that are most likely to endure.
The list is not a reflection of the Top Ten money-making rom-coms of the 2000s, nor the Top Ten most critically acclaimed - though movies representative of both categories are in the mix. To forestall the list’s most obvious criticism, let’s reiterate: it’s my contention that a romantic comedy is defined as a comedy whose central story question is “Will these two people become (or remain) a couple?”
Romantic comedies that are hybrids, i.e. integrating other genres, are fair qualifiers, including rom-coms that are dramedies, so long as their endings are essentially upbeat, even if fraught, as opposed to tragic (having the couple literally end up together is not the point – otherwise the acknowledged classics Annie Hall and Shakespeare in Love wouldn’t be classified as rom-coms, yet they assuredly are).
It’s too soon to fairly assess the 2010 decade (two-thousand teens?), so such canon-worthy greats as Silver Linings Playbook await future acknowledgment. The list is chronological and entirely subjective. Let the carping begin.
1) High Fidelity
2) Bridget Jones's Diary
3) Lost in Translation
4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5) Shaun of the Dead
7) The 40 Year Old Virgin
8) Knocked Up
10) (500) Days of Summer
Runners-Up (An Additional 10):
The list's most significant Glaring Omission is the most successful romantic comedy in the history of the genre: My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a movie that not only hasn't worn well with time, but barely passes muster as an actual romantic comedy, since its romance is cursory at best (the movie's arc is really "girl meets boy, girl loses family, boy and girl get family").
The most Controversial Judgment Call? Love Actually, a movie reviled as much as it is beloved, and too conflicted and uneven even on its own terms to make the final cut.
In the category of Popular Faves (Deserving of Dutiful Nods): bromantic rom-com Meet the Parents, top star vehicle The Proposal, male POV hits Hitch and Wedding Crashers. Sleepers: The maligned Nancy Meyer’s Something’s Gotta Give, the ebulliently entertaining fairy tale Enchanted, and the artsy farce Vicki Cristina Barcelona. Best Foreign Rom-Com of the decade: Amelie.
I’m fully prepared, meanwhile, to defend my lockout of some other obvious contenders. Such hits as The Holiday (treacle) and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (really?) have been snubbed with impunity. I welcome comments from both the outraged and the like-minded, while hoping that those in search of a more contemporary romantic comedy to snuggle up with on this Valentine Day’s eve will find cheer, poignancy, and romantic stimulation in the 20 suggestions offered here.