Rom-coms – short for romantic comedies – are usually lighthearted and sentimental, and are often chosen as first-date movies. Some of them are family-friendly, with a G or PG rating, but many push the envelope far enough to get rated R.
To determine the best R-rated rom-coms of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of April 2023, weighting all ratings equally. Only movies with at least 5,000 user votes on IMDb were considered. Cast credits are from IMDb. (Rom-coms and otherwise, these are the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time.)
The original rom-coms were the screwball comedies that dominated Hollywood in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, featuring romantic entanglements of various kinds involving such stars of an earlier time as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, and Doris Day.
Like their predecessors, many modern-day rom-coms trade on tried-and-true comic devices such as mistaken identities, missed opportunities, mislaid objects, or unlikely pairings that turn out to be all too perfect.
Rom-com plot lines have evolved, however. Films such as “The Wedding Bouquet” and “Saving Face” concern challenges to ethnic traditions. Other examples have gay themes, including “Bros,” “Strawberry and Chocolate,” and the aforementioned “Saving Face.”
At least three rom-coms on our list dip into dark comedy – “The Lobster,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” and “Secretary” – while “Obvious Child” and “Frances Ha” are out to subvert rom-com tropes altogether.
Interestingly, eight movies on our list were produced in foreign languages, in whole or in part – including the highest-scoring R-rated rom-com of all, the French film ‘Amélie” – proving that both romance and comedy, as well as the linking of the two, are universal. (These have been the most successful foreign films in America.)
Click here for the 50 best R-rated romantic comedies of the past 50 years
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