Romantic comedy films (abbreviated rom coms) are movies with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as a true love able to surmount most obstacles. Romantic comedy films are a sub-genre of comedy films as well as of romance films and often have elements of screwball comedies and stoner comedies. Romantic comedy can also be used to describe some television series.
The basic plot of a romantic comedy is that two protagonists, usually a man and a woman, meet, part ways due to an argument or other obstacle, then ultimately reunite. Sometimes the two protagonists meet and become involved initially, then must confront challenges to their union. Sometimes the two protagonists are hesitant to become romantically involved because they believe that they do not like each other, because one of them already has a partner, or because of social pressures. However, the screenwriters leave clues that suggest that the characters are, in fact, attracted to each other and that they would be a good love match. The protagonists often separate or seek time apart to sort out their feelings or deal with the external obstacles to their being together.
While the two protagonists are separated, one or both of them usually realizes that they are ideal for each other, or that they are in love with each other. Then, after one of the two makes some spectacular effort to find the other person and declare their love, (this is sometimes called the grand gesture), or due to an astonishing coincidental encounter, the two meet again. Then, perhaps with some comic friction or awkwardness, they declare their love for each other and the film ends happily. The couple does not, however, have to marry, or live together "happily ever after". The ending of a romantic comedy is meant to affirm the primary importance of the love relationship in its protagonists' lives, even if they physically separate in the end (e.g. Shakespeare in Love, Roman Holiday).
There are many variations on this basic plotline. Sometimes, instead of the two lead characters ending up in each other's arms, another love match will be made between one of the principal characters and a secondary character (e.g., My Best Friend's Wedding and My Super Ex-Girlfriend). Alternatively, the film may be a rumination on the impossibility of love, as in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall. The basic format of a romantic comedy film can be found in much earlier sources, such as Shakespeare plays like Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Some comedy films, such as Knocked Up, combine themes of romantic comedies and stoner comedies, creating a subgenre that appeals to both men and women. These type of films usually uses sexual content and this brings the two characters together. Films in this genre include "American Pie" or even "Wedding Crashers".
Comedies since ancient Greece have often incorporated sexual or social elements.
It was not until the creation of romantic love in the western European medieval period, though, that "romance" came to refer to "romantic love" situations, rather than the heroic adventures of medieval Romance. These adventures, however, often revolved about a knight's feats on behalf of a lady, and so the modern themes of love were quickly woven into them, as in Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart.
Shakespearean comedy and Restoration comedy remain influential. The creation of huge economic social strata in the Gilded Age, combined with the heightened openness about sex after the Victorian era and the celebration of Sigmund Freud's theories, and the birth of the film industry in the early twentieth century, gave birth to the screwball comedy. As class consciousness declined and World War II unified various social orders, the savage screwball comedies of the twenties and thirties, proceeding through Rock Hudson–Doris Day-style comedies, gave way to more innocuous comedies.
The French film industry went in a completely different direction, with less inhibitions about sex. Virginia Woolf, tired of stories that ended in 'happily ever after' at the beginning of a serious relationship, called Middlemarch by George Eliot, with its portrayal of a difficult marriage, "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people."
Examples of romantic comedy films include:
Romantic comedy is a hybrid genre in which a story about romance is presented in a comedic style. Works in this genre are generally considered light-hearted, and are sometimes associated with the vaguely derogatory terms "chick lit" or "chick flick", meaning "primarily aimed at a female audience".