Feminist romance movies for thirtysomething women sick of men's bullshit
October 5, 2018 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I love romantic movies—they're one of my favorite types of escapism, and I've seen many well-known traditional romantic comedies and almost every time-travel or travel romance I can find. Yet after a few years of heavy feminist and queer reading, the emotional labor thread, #metoo, sexually predatory politicians...I'm finding it difficult to believe in the movies' heteroromantic vision. I still want to like romance movies involving men, though. What are some actually feminist, or even quasi-feminist, romance movies I might watch after a rather trying week?

Some of my favorite romantic movies:

High Fidelity
Grosse Pointe Blank
When Harry Met Sally
The Lake House
Good Will Hunting
Groundhog Day
Moulin Rouge
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Family Man
Howl's Moving Castle
The Hunger Games
The Holiday
Ghost in the Shell
About Time
Love and Time Travel
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Sliding Doors
Brief Encounter
Brown Sugar
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Real Genius
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
America's Sweethearts
Broken English
Before Sunrise
Somewhere in Time
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Up in the Air
Lost in Translation
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A Beautiful Mind
Dead Poets Society

I know, not all of those are technically romance movies, but they all have romance involved, even though many of them have some unfortunate apologias for obnoxious or otherwise disappointing male behavior. A lot of them have dwindled in my esteem as I've found it increasingly difficult to believe in the romantic redemption and self-discovery of a difficult man story line, especially if it's just a bunch of totally hetero American white people doing their boring heteronormative American white-people thing. What else is out there?

Themes I like: travel, time travel, international intrigue, love after love, the supernatural, friends falling in love, unexpected affairs, queerness, sci-fi, Philip K. Dick, John Cusack, physics, cities, mental illness when it's discussed appropriately and accurately, ridiculously intelligent or genius-level individuals, witches and witchcraft, sex positivity, ghosts, heists, Star Trek and Star Wars universes, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peaks, Being Human, The Magicians, Black Mirror (especially, of course, "San Junipero"), virtual reality, supernatural procedurals, multiple languages and cultures, rock 'n' roll.

Themes I dislike: movies that portray a big wedding as an end goal, Miramax patriarchal bullshit, Pygmalion-style "rehabilitation of women," people having to get married because someone's pregnant, abuse, bro comedy, lowest common denominator comedy, smart women falling for stupid men, woman as eternally patient caregiver, outright horror and gore, boring historical romance in which women are oppressed creatures, twee Wes Anderson bullshit, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, colonialism, Woody Allen, stereotypes, glorification of authority and police, zombies, manic pixie dream girls, tokenism, male self-discovery through women who they leave.

Note: I've checked out the prior art here on the site, but most of the prior AskMe threads in this direction were from before 2014, so before Ferguson, the emotional labor thread, Trump's election, #metoo, etc., a string of events that have collectively dramatically changed my outlook on things. Thanks for any recommendations!
posted by limeonaire to Media & Arts (83 answers total) 161 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just watched Nappily Ever After, which was SO good and meets all of your criteria, and To All the Boys I Loved Before, which was ALSO so good and meets all of your criteria. I am a 1000% feminist killjoy and both of these were like a breath of fresh air (and both on Netflix!).
posted by stellaluna at 4:49 PM on October 5, 2018 [18 favorites]

What about some of the classic comedies of the 1930s, these all have strong women as lead characters, some of the themes you like and none that you dislike: The Front Page, Adam's Rib, The Philadelphia Story ... there are many more.
posted by JonJacky at 4:54 PM on October 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

For cities, ridiculously intelligent characters, surprising suggested sex-positivity for the time, and a great big "nope" to woman as eternally patient caregiver, I've got to plug my favourite romantic comedy: Desk Set from 1957.

If you haven't seen it, Katharine Hepburn plays the genius head reference librarian at a broadcasting network and Spencer Tracy is the efficiency expert (computer scientist, really) who's brought in to assess her office. The friction comes from the fact that Hepburn's character worries her office will be downsized with the introduction of computer automation, with the text firmly on the side of it being a bad thing if these women lose their careers, but mostly it's just about two smart, interesting, mature people finding happiness with each other.
posted by northernish at 4:57 PM on October 5, 2018 [39 favorites]

Instead of The Front Page, I was actually thinking of His GIrl Friday, a 1940 remake of the same story with Rosalind Russell.
posted by JonJacky at 5:03 PM on October 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I recently came across The Dressmaker, about a dress designer (Kate Winslet) who returns to her small Australian hometown to seek justice for being bullied. It's from 2016. There are definite romantic plot elements, but it's not a warm and fuzzy movie. I enjoyed it though.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:11 PM on October 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Truly Madly Deeply (1990).
posted by ovvl at 5:19 PM on October 5, 2018 [16 favorites]

Best answer: If you're down with the time commitment of a series, maybe give Supergirl a try. First 3 seasons are on US Netflix.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:20 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Have you seen the TV show Being Erica?
posted by willnot at 5:21 PM on October 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

In America.
Ghost Story.
posted by miles1972 at 5:25 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

You could try the 2004 BBC adaptation of North & South starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.

My personal favourite? Has to be the 2006 Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special where Dawn French's vicar meets a handsome stranger, also played by Richard Armitage, funnily enough. This gets me right in the feels everytime, which is funny because it's a broad British comedy and not necessarily played for sentiment, but it's like chocolate for my soul.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:34 PM on October 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Heads up re The Lobster: I'm not one of the people who hated it and do actually think it's an interesting movie about love, but it has some notably gory bits (gory enough that I'd wished I'd taken a bathroom break for that scene) and I would not particularly recommend it as a romance movie.

Anyway, my rec: Crazy Rich Asians.

Another rom com I recently enjoyed was Sleeping with Other People, but it might be too focused on the dude self-discovery for you; I just really enjoyed it for focusing on developing the friendship between the leads, and how it contrasted emotional and physical intimacy between two characters who have histories of relying on physical intimacy to avoid emotional intimacy.
posted by yasaman at 5:35 PM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Juno (my go-to for feminist romantic comedy)
But I'm a Cheerleader (delightful comedy about a lesbian who thinks she's straight; features RuPaul as a "ex-gay" counselor)
My Sassy Girl (both the Korean original and the American remake are good but also weird)
Big Eden (recently described to me as "a movie in which nice things happen to gay people in Montana")
Mulholland Drive (deeply weird, involves an unexpected queer romance)
posted by danceswithlight at 5:43 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Wait how am I the first person to say Legally Blonde
posted by sunset in snow country at 5:50 PM on October 5, 2018 [23 favorites]

Best answer: How am I the first person to say The Princess Bride?
posted by Dolley at 5:55 PM on October 5, 2018 [15 favorites]

>The Philadelphia Story

Well, I was shocked by the misogyny and violence and gaslighting in that movie, so ymmv...
posted by trig at 5:58 PM on October 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I would suggest some Ernst Lubitsch for you. They were made in the '30s and '40s, so not always perfectly in tune with modern sensibilities, but you can tell that Lubitsch actually thought women were human beings in their own right, a test which half of modern films can't pass. In order of my enjoyment: Trouble in Paradise (heist!), Ninotchka (which I thought was going to be all about making fun of Humorless Soviet Functionary Lady, but somehow...totally wasn't?), and The Shop Around the Corner (later remade as You've Got Mail).

From the same era, Design for Living is about Gary Cooper in a...threesome?
posted by praemunire at 6:06 PM on October 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Maybe This is 40?
posted by speakeasy at 6:08 PM on October 5, 2018

Best answer: Safety Not Guaranteed - I watched it twice in one day so I could watch with my husband.
Spring - My husband and I both loved this one.
(Also their other movies Resolution and The Endless are fantastic if you want some sci-fi with mild horror.)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (TW: All about suicide)
posted by Crystalinne at 6:09 PM on October 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: - Easy A
- Some Like It Hot (keeping in mind the era)
- It's not a romance and you've probably already seen it, but the central twosome of Spirited Away makes my heart sing
- If you're cool with gentle parodies of some of the tropes you dislike, Enchanted

I don't want to pooh-pooh someone else's suggestion, but I stopped watching Supergirl because of an infuriating love interest and general white people obliviousness in the writing, so YMMV dramatically there.
posted by bettafish at 6:16 PM on October 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

I think you would like Crossing Delancey .
posted by mefireader at 6:16 PM on October 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Roman Holiday
posted by littlesq at 6:21 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really liked the rather obscure movie Timer, and I think it checks many of your boxes.
posted by daisystomper at 6:58 PM on October 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Cold Comfort Farm
Bend It Like Beckham
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:04 PM on October 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

Sally Potter's Orlando has genderbending and heaps of androgony, but I read it as an overwhelmingly feminist film. And it's a treat to watch, too.
posted by vers at 7:19 PM on October 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Trouble with Harry - it's got Shirley MacLaine in her first role and John Forsythe (that voice!). A great black comedy, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
posted by XtineHutch at 7:30 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by mefireader at 7:36 PM on October 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

There's a romcom with Simon Pegg that was surprisingly good (called Man Up according to google!) ..and 13 going on 30 but that might already be on your list. What about Slumdog millionaire? Rust and Bone? I like french ones too...somehow I always feel subtitles add a little more "je ne sais quoi" and allow me to feel a little bit better about the romcoms!!! But honestly, I feel the same way you do and am now really searching my brain for appropriate films!
posted by bquarters at 7:43 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: TV show but based on the things you say you enjoy I think you might really like Ghost Whisperer. Like a lot. I just watched it for the first time this year and was surprised by how much I liked it and how actually good it is.

Stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, who of course is great. Show starts off with her as a newlywed, and her husband is kind, listens to her, believes what she says, and supports her fully. It's a show about kind, empathetic people who genuinely care for each other, and it also has ghosts. Also JLH's wardrobe is just fantastic.

Really can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by phunniemee at 7:44 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another nice movie is 50/50 but the romance is just a small aspect...I guess it's more about the friendship of the main characters...there's also a weird Meg Ryan time travel romcom (Leopold??) but not sure if feminist-oriented or even that good but maybe worth checking out just in case?
posted by bquarters at 7:47 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yesssss, I love this question.
You really need to see Your Name. It s a sci-fi/ rom-com anime that has so many of the likes you listed (the less you know about it going in, the better). There are two versions you can watch- the original with subittiles or dubbed.
I second Some Like It Hot but my undying love for Jack Lemmon might have clouded my judgement on how it holds up now, though it was very progressive for its time.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 7:54 PM on October 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: YES Legally Blonde. And does Clueless count? Watch it anyway, it’s a classic. Yes, Enchanted.

Things I haven’t been annoyed by lately: Crazy Rich Asians, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (ok there were things that annoyed me, but not, like, EXISTENTIALLY).
posted by jeweled accumulation at 7:57 PM on October 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

Best answer: These two were from the same era as Heathers and I've always lumped the three of them together when I think of great movies:
Pump Up the Volume
Reality Bites

This is from 1985 and I haven't seen it in a long time so no guarantees, but I remember it being fair. With today's eyes? Probably not so much.
St. Elmo's Fire

I really love True Romance as a love story. There is one violent scene in it but you can leave the room or stay in the room and watch the attackee defeat the attacker.

I always thought of these two as "sweet":
Love Actually
Four Weddings and a Funeral
posted by bendy at 8:29 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Stardust

I’m slightly hesitant to recommend Danny Deckchair, because the title character walks the line between dreamer and man child, a manic pixie dream boy if you will. But Rhys Ifans and Miranda Otto are incredibly charming together, and I thought their characters gained depth over the course of the film. Warm fuzzies abound.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:35 PM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So it's not a heteroromantic story, but since you put queerness in the "themes I like" column, I'll mention it anyway: Saving Face is one of the best rom-coms I've ever seen (and there is a secondary M-F romance plot of sorts). Also +1 for To All the Boys I Loved Before and the other teen rom-coms mentioned above, which for some reason seem to have a better track record in this regard than many of their adult equivalents.
posted by karayel at 8:45 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Moonstruck! Nic Cage when he was dreamy.
posted by chowflap at 8:53 PM on October 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: So many great titles in this thread!!! Bonus HELLYESes for Crazy Rich Asians, Orlando, Design for Living, Spring, and Obvious Child.

My Brilliant Career is another great one.
posted by phonebia at 9:29 PM on October 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

I watched Carrie Pilby on Netflix recently and really enjoyed it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:52 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another vote for Obvious Child, and I can't believe I'm the first to recommend The Incredible Jessica James.

The Big Sick was moving and charming, although I was disappointed that it centered around the male character more than the female character or their relationship (although that was hard to avoid given the story).

Ooh, also! Half Magic. Very charming, sex-positive, celebrates female friendships, and features great witchcraft lite.
posted by aka burlap at 10:35 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Has anyone mentioned Practical Magic? It has bad relationships, good ones, and is all about women's power.
posted by emjaybee at 10:49 PM on October 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

French romantic comedy called "Romantics Anonymous" is one of my favourite movies ever.
posted by AuroraSky at 11:04 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

2 Days in Paris, written by and starring Julie Delpy from Before Sunrise, is pretty delightful. It's not a typical romcom, but it's about the challenges (and satisfaction) of finding romance in ones already established relationship. Includes travel, obviously!
posted by thebots at 11:35 PM on October 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Films with Marisa Tomei in them, generally, and specifically Untamed Heart and Happy Accidents, costarring Christian Slater and Peak Vincent D'onofrio respectively. Might be a lil bit of the caretaking thing in the former.
posted by runincircles at 12:02 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fucking Åmal/Show Me Love
posted by brujita at 12:52 AM on October 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not a film but if TV recs are of interest, this year’s ‘Forever’ with Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen and Christine Keener hits many of your themes. It’s only eight 25 min episodes so I zipped through and it’s just fantastic. The plot is super twisty but the arc is intellligent romance with a hefty dollop of strange and it’s gorgeous too.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:27 AM on October 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: 1) Where do you live, I want to be best friends with you (you had me at "twee Wes Anderson bullshit" <3 )
2) Outlander? Time travel! Not perfect, definitely some patriarchal garbage but shows a couple trying to negotiate and make their own agreements within it. I have watched the wedding episode about 89 times and it is the best porn for women I have come across.
posted by Jenny'sCricket at 2:01 AM on October 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The debut film from Barry Jenkins, director of the 2016 queer semi-romance Moonlight, may fit some of your interests. It's called A Medicine For Melancholy and follows a young Af-Am couple - two hetero strangers who wake up in bed together after a drunken one-night stand - over the course of a single day in San Francisco. It's a beautiful little film, with thoughtful takes on gentrification and race, and it's neat to see Jenkins using some of the techniques he'd later use so well in Moonlight.
posted by mediareport at 2:58 AM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I actually came in to vouch for Kate & Leopold. The cover makes it look like sappy bullshit, but it's actually a funny, smart romantic comedy from the writer/director of Girl Interrupted and Logan. It is specifically about cynicism, and there is a surprising amount of time-travel related content. I think it has a lovable supporting cast too.

In the Cut is another good one that Meg Ryan did, with Jane Campion. It's one of my favorites, but I have to recommend it with the note that it uses the metaphor that being in a relationship with a man is like being murdered and taken apart, and it does occur in this same universe where sexism and the patriarchy exist. It is still sexy as fuck. And I love its message. But it does have some horror and gore, and uses policemen as characters who are supposed to be threatening.

I love your description of your likes and dislikes, I feel what you're feeling, and I could just hug you right now.
posted by heatvision at 3:21 AM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just remembered a similar movie, 2011's Weekend, that follows a UK gay couple as they meet, fuck, and grow closer over the course of one intense weekend. I like queer romance and coming-out films as comfort food when times are hard, and this one is a fave.
posted by mediareport at 3:25 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Only You - Marisa Tomei and Bonnie Hunt in Italy. Silly, but most of the movie is the two women and beautiful shots of Italy - none of the stuff you don't like.
The Princess Diaries 1 and 2.
Away We Go with Maya Rudolph is about a couple having their first baby and is really sweet (the husband is really sweet and supportive and funny).
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Nth: Notting Hill, Safety not guaranteed, nick and Nora's, stardust.

Also really liked French Kiss, which is Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in France.

Outlander is great and on Netflix.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:30 AM on October 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Saving Face is great! I also just watched the Feels, which is about a lesbian bachelorette weekend and also women having (or not having, and generally their relationships with) orgasms.
posted by storytam at 3:37 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Moonlight. You might also like I Am Dragon.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 3:41 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

The title Nick and Nora reminds me: have you seen the Thin Man movies with Myrna Loy and William Powell? They are equal partners in their relationship, plus they have a dog and solve crimes and trade quips and drink a lot.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:55 AM on October 6, 2018 [12 favorites]

Also came here to suggest My Brilliant Career! Judy Davis and Sam Neill have some of the most delicious chemistry of any leads in any movie I’ve ever seen. It’s delightful (and more than ticks your other boxes).
posted by cakelite at 6:03 AM on October 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I've enjoyed thinking about your question and love your likes and dislikes list!

If you find yourself with a hankering for a splashy golden age Hollywood technicolor extravaganza, Auntie Mame might be right up your alley. Not a romance per se, but shows a forward-thinking (for the era) outspoken older female character who gives few fucks and loves a good cocktail. It's loaded with funny quotes, gorgeous costumes and sets.

A Room with a View may seem like a patriarchal period piece, but it turns a lot of the tropes upside down, showing tension between Victorian-era uptightness and modern free-thinking. It also has a fantastic ensemble of talented actors, including powerhouses Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Plus it features young Julian Sands' naked butt.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:33 AM on October 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm not sure it's "romantic," exactly, but Muriel's Wedding checks off a lot of your boxes (it is very much *not* what the poster makes it look like). A few other possibilities...

The F Word/What If
Out of Sight (features a romance between two equally capable, intelligent individuals with a mutual respect for each other)
Trust (caveat; I haven't seen it in over 20 years, but I remember it very self-consciously subverting certain rom-com tropes)
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:44 AM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

2nding Man Up - I come back to that one a lot. And the writer, Tess Morris, has a GREAT romantic comedy podcast that I think you will enjoy called "You Had Us at Hello."

Also maybe In a World?
posted by thelastpolarbear at 8:06 AM on October 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not a romance, but a wonderful, funny British movie, What we Did on Our Holiday. Complicated, funny family relationships, Billy Connelly ,David Tennant, Rosamund Pike.
posted by Enid Lareg at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. The backup plan- I 100% didn't expect this movie to be good, but actually the male lead is very lovely (with believable, non-eye-roll inducing insecurities that didn't turn him into a giant manbaby) and the female lead, while a bit more messy, was sympathetically so, I felt I understood where she was coming from. Their relationship arc felt healthy and believable.
2. Two weeks notice- the male lead is an immature jerk who grows out of it, which I tend to find a bit tedious and eyerolly, but the movie did a decent job on selling me on the characters being healthy for each other, and at least the male's issues weren't presented as "hahaha men what pigs" but rather "he is very, very rich and therefore spoiled" which I find less problematic.
3. When in Rome- the tension in their relationship is caused by an external circumstance, the couple themselves are pretty functional and the guy a sweetheart, as I remember.
4. To All the Boys I've Ever Loved has a nice male lead and is quite cute
5. Not a romcom but The King's Speech features a strong healthy relationship
6. Bride and Prejudice, the bollywood-style pride and prejudice remake, I personally found super fun. Other Austen adaptations may also suit-- there's the lizzie bennet diaries on youtube for example?
posted by Cozybee at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

As Good As It Gets! Jack Nicholson does pick up the tab for some of Helen Hunt's child's medical care, but it's handled in a non-gross manner.
posted by 8603 at 11:23 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

My apologies, I missed your bit about wanting to avoid "glorification of authority and police"...the Jennifer Lopez character in Out of Sight is a U.S. Marshall. I don't remember a lot in the film about the police as an institution or glorification of law enforcement beyond the fact that you're supposed to think she's a cool badass, but that might be a deal-breaker for you.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:27 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Baby Boom was surprisingly good in this department. I mean there's definitely sexism portrayed but the movie seems fully aware that what's going down is sexist. There is a tiny bit of surprise kissing but fairly mild as far as non-consensual things in movies go.
posted by peacheater at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 girls in Love
posted by brujita at 2:29 PM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How about Only Lovers Left Alive? It’s a vampire movie with minimal gore plus Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, my god.

Mad Max Fury Road?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 3:07 PM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Outrageous Fortune (1987)-- '80s film with '80s values and '80s hair, but a funny script with many memorable gags. Bette Midler and Shelley Long discover they've both shagged the same guy who then faked his death, so they team up and journey across the country to find him (while avoiding the CIA and some Russian agents). Less a romcom, more an action comedy, but fun.

Ghostbusters (2016): If you haven't seen this, it's well worth it. Chris "Thor" Hemsworth as a dopey secretary is a treat. Apparently the extended cut is better, funnier and makes more sense than the theatrical cut.

I Capture the Castle (2003): 1930s. Love, money worries, writer's block and coming of age. Very much from a female character's perspective (young Romola Garai, who's excellent). There is a wedding as a goal, but unexpectedness happens.

Mrs Henderson Presents (2006): Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins acting their socks off as a widowed theatre owner and a huffy impresario who work together to stage the first nude tableaux in London. Barbed exchanges of wit, 1930s-40s sex positivity and good songs. A lovely supporting role by Christopher Guest as a repressed, censorious Lord from whom they need a permit. Caveat: a few seconds (in a montage) of music-hall "red Indian" cultural bleurgh, but it passes quickly.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:38 PM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

You should watch The Middleman! It's a series, but there are only 12 episodes. Romance is not the main point, but there is a nice one that develops for the main female protagonist in the course of the series. (There is a sorta kinda zombie theme in one episode, but it is not a zombie series, and is played for laughs).
posted by gudrun at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: popping back into this thread to suggest The 5 year engagement. OK, so technically it does have a marriage/wedding as the end goal which is something you've said you don't want, but of all the romantic comedies I've seen, it's the one that most seemed to spring from an affectionate understanding of what love and relationships look like in the real world. I don't know, I just really liked it. YMMV and all that.

PS: I ADORE this thread. Thank you for posting the question!
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:58 PM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries?
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:31 PM on October 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

The African Queen, 1951 version with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart
posted by JonJacky at 8:58 PM on October 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kissing Jessica Stein was my jam back in the day.
posted by loriginedumonde at 1:48 AM on October 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I can't leave this thread alone. Am dropping in to say I just watched Your Name on Champagne Supernova's recommendation and am in bits, it's so, so lovely. It ticks many of your boxes.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:03 PM on October 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

I really need to bookmark this thread because I was just having a very similar discussion with my family the other day. I love a good rom-com, but the vast majority of them are garbage. Most of my absolute favorites (Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity, Groundhog Day) were on your short list. Others have already been mentioned (10 Things I Hate About You, Princess Bride). I want to wholeheartedly recommend another that I haven't seen mentioned: Stranger Than Fiction. It is weird, sweet, funny, and has a lovely philosophical underpinning that I really enjoy. I can't say that I would have ever thought that Will Ferrell as an IRS agent would make a good romantic lead, but so much of this movie was a delightful surprise. (Plus, Emma Thompson!)
posted by hessie at 6:55 AM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Love and Basketball!
posted by prewar lemonade at 7:48 AM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

You should watch The Middleman! It's a series, but there are only 12 episodes.

I own this and need to give it another watch because IT. IS. SOOOOO. GOOD.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:19 AM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Have you seen the Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper remake of A Star is Born?

I am older than you and emphatically anti-romance movies for the most part, and I have been wandering around the house sniffling and thinking nothing but oh my god, the way he looks at her...
posted by rpfields at 2:16 PM on October 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Love & Basketball!

Something New (do NOT judge this movie by its taglines; it was poorly marketed and is not what it appears to be. It is lovely and thought-provoking and sexy and sweet. One of my all-time favourite movies!)
In Her Shoes - a touching story about sisters with a sweet romance subplot
posted by yawper at 8:10 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don’t know how you feel about David O. Russell but maybe you’d like Silver Linings Playbook? Similarly I kind of love The Fighter, and it’s loosely based on a true story. If you watch them back to back, you’ll see a few similarities. SLP is more rom-com but I like a lot about The Fighter. The acting in both movies is very strong.
posted by kat518 at 11:14 AM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you ever seen Wimbledon? Super basic romcom, and it's mainly from the dude's POV but the woman in it (Kirsten Dunst) doesn't put up with his shit and is more into her career and not the typical "hopelessly wanting love" trope. Not so far as calling this feminist by any measure though.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:41 PM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Shape of Water, because kind, romantic fish monster >>>>> human men.

The Mountain Between Us is classic sexy romance fluff in which My Boyfriend Idris Elba chops wood and hikes through beautiful snowy mountain scenery and tenderly feeds injured Kate Winslet soup before they make love in front of a fire. Also, the cute companion dog LIVES.

Galavant is a very silly romcom fantasy musical TV show that's short enough to finish in a day (18 half-hour episodes spread over 2 seasons). Romantic musical highlights: Maybe You're Not the Worst Thing Ever, Love Is Strange, If I Could Share My Life With You from season 1, Maybe You Won't Die Alone & My Dragon Pal and Me from season 2.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:16 AM on October 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure this fits all your buckets but I'm really enjoying the Netflix series Sisters right now. Australian. Follows a woman, Julia, who discovers her father has fathered around 100 children due to illegally using his own sperm at the fertility clinic he ran. Romance is not exactly front and center but the men so far are very interesting, complex, and the relationships among the sisters is nuanced, fun, and engaging.
posted by amanda at 8:09 PM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

By Hook or By Crook. Very queer, somewhat romantic, happy ending.
I do love all the Thin Man movies.
Bring It On is up there with Heathers, Clueless, and 10 Things I Hate About You in my teen movie pantheon.
This question is excellent -- thank you.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:22 PM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I heartily recommend Jump Tomorrow, which I found via a MeFi recommendation.

Nthing that this is a great question - thanks for asking it!
posted by kristi at 7:02 PM on October 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Lion in Winter, with Peter O'Toole as Henry VIII and Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine (and Anthony Hopkins' big screen debut.) Eleanor is being released from captivity for a holiday weekend with Henry and their sons, and the intrigue quickly goes to eleven. The dialog is sharp, funny, mean and warm as the situation unfolds. Hepburn, as usual, gives not an inch before being bundled back off to her prison for another year.
posted by Cris E at 12:17 AM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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