By Vanessa Zimmer
A classic romantic comedy goes with anything. First date? A safe choice. Group date? Ideal for a night of spirited fun. Old marrieds? Perfectly agreeable.
A romantic comedy typically equals happy tears only; no heartrending endings here. Even the nickname is fun. Rom-com.
So, we have a rom-com (giggle) watchlist for you. These 12 films have Sundance Institute backing, whether screening at a Sundance Film Festival or receiving Institute financial or professional support.
So, choose your Valentine’s dinner (Greek? Italian? Mexican?) and then relax with a good, nonstressful film.
The Big Sick — Real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani wrote the screenplay for this 2017 Festival film based on their true romance and culture clash — earning an Oscar nomination in the process. Here, Pakistani-born Nanjiani and his American girlfriend negotiate the perils of love, family expectations and traditions, and a mysterious illness. Streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
Moonstruck — Loretta Castorini (Cher) tries to mend fences between her fiancé and his brother, falling hopelessly in love with the brother (longtime Sundance alum Nicolas Cage) in the process. That’s just the start. The 1988 Festival film won three Oscars — including Best Actress for Cher. Streaming on HBO and HBO Max.
Obvious Child — Jenny Slate’s mixture of sarcastic, lewd humor and warm vulnerability highlight this 2014 Festival rom-com about a tough Brooklyn comedian who finds herself quite unexpectedly pregnant. Streaming on Showtime, Fubo, and Hoopla.
Sleeping With Other People — Sundance programmer John Nein put it succinctly in the 2015 Festival Program guide when he wrote: “Leslye Headland’s hysterical follow-up to Bachelorette upends the romantic comedy genre by putting love in the hands of self-avowed sluts. She brings intelligence, cinematic flair, and subversive wit to this screwball romp about soul mates in denial of their coupledom — an ironic homage to the ‘men and women can’t be friends’ theorem of When Harry Met Sally.” Enough said, except to add that it stars Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. Streaming on AMC Plus.
Chasing Amy — Michael (Ben Affleck) is undeterred when he finds out the object of his affection, Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), is a lesbian. Director-writer Kevin Smith’s screenplay won an Independent Spirit Award in this premiere at the 1997 Festival. Available to stream on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Apple TV.
Four Weddings and A Funeral — How many special occasions does it take before Charles the Brit (Hugh Grant) admits he may have found his true love in the elusive personage of Carrie the American (Andie MacDowell)? Richard Curtis wrote the screenplay for this 1994 Festival film; Mike Newell directed. Streaming on Kanopy and Watch TCM.
Bend It Like Beckham — Decidedly against her traditional family’s wishes, a young Indian girl living in Britain (Parminder Nagra) pursues the sport of soccer. More than anything, she wants to play professionally like her idol, soccer legend David Beckham. She is aided in her quest by an equally talented soccer-playing friend (Keira Knightly). The film played the 2003 Festival. Streaming on HBO and HBO Max.
Paper Heart ― Comedian Charlyne Yi and director Nicholas Jasenovec co-wrote this mockumentary about a cross-country search to understand love. Yi appears as herself, as does Michael Cera, and they seemed to be dating at the time. They admitted later it was all a ruse. Yi and Jasenovec won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2009 Festival. Streaming on Roku, Tubi, and IMDb.
Happythankyoumoreplease ― How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor wrote and directed this U.S. Dramatic Audience Award winner at the 2010 Festival. The film follows the relationships of a group of New Yorkers struggling to be adults, make connections, and love/be loved. Streaming on Roku, Hoopla, Vudu, and Tubi.
2 Days in New York — Marion (Julie Delpy) and Mingus (Chris Rock) play a young couple whose relationship is sorely tested when Marion’s father, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend come to visit. Turns out, these three have no filters, no sexual boundaries, and a raging racist sensibility. Delpy wrote and directed this 2012 Festival film. Streaming on Amazon Prime and Fubo.
Palm Springs — Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti play two strangers who meet and develop a relationship over the course of a seemingly endless wedding. This 2020 Festival film also had an admirable ensemble cast that included Peter Gallagher, J.K. Simmons, Camila Mendes, and Meredith Hagner. Streaming on Hulu.
Together Together — Anna (Patti Harrison) is a surrogate mom who is in it for the money to finish her education, but enthusiastic in-his-40s dad-to-be Matt (Ed Helms) can’t help inviting her into his world. How will they end up? Streaming on Hulu.