A History of the Romantic Comedy – As Told in GIFs

Romantic comedies: the genre we love, but don’t always like to admit we love. Let’s take a look back through all the countless meet-cutes, misunderstandings, and happily-ever-afters, and see how far we’ve come.

It Happened One Night

GIPHY

GIPHY

We like to call this the “O.G. romantic comedy.” Released in 1934 and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, this film established the blueprint for all future rom-coms. It was also the first film to get a grand slam at the Oscars – Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. Best of all? It still holds up today! (And it’s streaming on Amazon Prime now, so go watch it).

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

GIPHY

These two were paramours on screen and off. Perhaps that’s why their romantic comedies with each other were so great. They paired up for a bunch of them in the 1940s and 50s (the best being 1942’s Woman of the Year) and perfected that whole opposites attract, bickering/bantering thing we’ve come to know and love in all our modern day rom-coms.

Rom-Coms Go Dark

GIPHY

GIPHY

The 1960s saw the rise of the dark romantic comedy. i.e.- The Apartment and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They’re romantic, they’re comedic, but they’re touched with some sadness, too.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson

GIPHY

GIPHY

Conversely, the 1960s also saw the popularity of light, wholesome romantic comedies starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Their 1959 film Pillow Talk  kicked things off. 

Woody Allen

GIPHY

The neurotic auteur put his own stamp on the genre in the 1970s with flicks like Annie Hall. But while we won’t be taking romantic advice from Woody Allen any time soon, we will be taking fashion cues from Diane Keaton.

Meg Ryan and the Faux Orgasm

GIPHY

GIPHY

GIPHY

We’ll have what she’s having. Meg Ryan single-handedly revitalized the genre with that famous scene in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally. She continued to be America’s rom-com darling all through the 90s alongside Tom Hanks in films like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.

Pretty Woman

GIPHY

Pretty Woman was one of the biggest moneymakers of 1990 and remains one of the most successful films of the genre. Julia Roberts stars as a hooker with a heart of gold, who finds love with the rich businessman who initially hires her as an escort. Ya know, just your classic fairytale romance.

The Pre-McConaissance Rom-Com

GIPHY

GIPHY

Before True Detective and Dallas Buyers Club established Matthew McConaughey as a “serious” actor, he was the go-to male lead in a slew of frivolous yet enjoyable romantic comedies including The Wedding Planner, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch,  and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Never forget…

The Ensemble Rom-Com

moviegifsthatrock.tumblr.com

Like a regular romantic comedy, only with a billion famous people and just as many flimsy plotlines. Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are what we like to refer to as ensemble rom-coms. Really, it’s like 15 rom-coms for the price of one.

The Critically-Acclaimed Awards-Bait Rom-Com

GIPHY

A rare breed to be sure, but 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook proved these films do exist. It wasn’t explicitly billed as a romantic comedy, but anyone who’s seen the film knows that’s exactly what it was. Only, you know, slightly better than average with a side of Jennifer Lawrence.

Indie Romantic Comedies

GIPHY

GIPHY

Rom-coms for the more artistic set, where the structure isn’t always linear and the endings aren’t always happy. Films like (500) Days of Summer, Celeste and Jesse Forever, and Obvious Child fit the bill. We predict more of these in the genre’s future.

cinecat.tumblr.com

What’s YOUR favorite moment in romantic comedy history? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!


SIMILAR ARTICLES