These days, there’s plenty of time for a movie marathon – and who doesn’t love a rom com? Whether you’re looking forward to the upcoming Cinderella or the final instalment of To All the Boys, 2021 is packed with perfect binge-worthy love stories that are just a little bit too cheesy – and we’re here for it!
Mattress Online compared 2,000 plot points across 100 romantic comedies to reveal the top clichés from the 1950s until now.
Beware: there might be spoilers ahead. Have we predicted the plot for future rom coms? Read our research to see the most popular plot points and find out how romantic comedies have changed over time.
Breakfast at Tiffany's is the highest-rated rom com, according to reviews
We compared thousands of audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to reveal the top-rated rom coms. In the 100 films analysed, Breakfast at Tiffany's came out on top, proving that the 1960's classic will always be a favourite. Here's our full list of top rom coms, based on their audience score. The higher the score, the more positive ratings received.
1. Breakfast at Tiffany's - 91%
2. When Harry Met Sally - 89%
3-5. Love, Simon, The Big Sick, Groundhog Day - 88%
6. To All The Boys I've Loved Before - 86%
7. The Fault In Our Stars - 87%
8. The 40 Year Old Virgin - 84%
9. Knocked Up - 83%
10-14. The Photograph, The Half Of It, Last Christmas, About Time, Bridget Jones's Diary - 81%
The top 10 rom com clichés
Unsurprisingly, the most common cliché is the couple gets together, with a huge 88% of rom coms resulting in a romantic ending, including classics Notting Hill and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It wouldn’t be a very good love story if they didn’t.
Other popular plot points include a major difference between the couple, such as their status or a serious age gap (looking at you, Pretty Woman), which is a cliché in almost half of rom coms analysed (45%).
The third most common cliché is the classic escape scene – either an airport dash or the main character running away to a new city – which is seen in 2 out of 5 films, on average. Plus, if you’re wondering where a romantic film will be set, the chances are it’s going to be New York, with over 1 in 3 (35%) featuring The Big Apple, like in Sex and the City.
Mamma Mia! is the most-clichéd rom com
We also compared the number of clichés across the 100 films we studied to show which has the most overall. Mamma Mia! is revealed to be the most-clichéd, with the movie featuring 70% of the common plot points analysed. Here are the most-clichéd movies, with the percent of how many classic clichés they feature.
1. Mamma Mia! - 70%
2-3. Five Feet Apart, How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days - 60%
4. Bridget Jones's Diary - 55%
5-8. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Duff, Blended, Something's Gotta Give - 50%
1 in 10 rom coms don’t get a loved-up ending
Although most films see a happy ending, our study shows that 1 in 10 (12%) of romantic films don’t get the loved-up finale, so you might be in for an unhappy break up for your favourite on-screen couple.
The most unromantic rom com moments
Surprisingly, the couple not getting together isn’t the worst thing that could happen in a romantic comedy. We found common plot points that are actually very unromantic. 1 in 3 films (32%) see an ex get involved and 1 in 4 movies (26%) include cheating.
What’s more, you risk watching a total tear-jerker, as we found that 1 in 10 rom coms (9%) result in a main character dying – not really the fun film you were looking for!
Now we know the top plot points, take a look at how rom coms have changed over time.
Less than 1 in 5 rom coms feature an LGBTQ+ character
Our study showed that just 16% of rom coms include a main LGBTQ+ character. Most of these films are from the noughties, where the LGBTQ+ role is normally fulfilled by the ‘gay friend’, a stereotypically flamboyant companion who supports the main character, just like in The Devil Wears Prada.
What’s acceptable and ‘funny’ changes as society progresses, so while this stereotype was common in the noughties and is often a comedic role, it no longer sits well with reviewers. Just recently, James Corden came under fire for ‘his regressive and clumsy attempts to try and camp it up’ in The Prom.
Young adult rom coms lead the way for LGBTQ+ couples
The good news is that modern, young adult (YA) films are leading the way for authentic LGBTQ+ characters. Our research shows that half of rom coms which feature an LGBTQ+ main character (8%) are of the YA genre, with teen rom coms like The Half of It, Five Feet Apart and Love, Simon praised for their LGBTQ+ representations.
1 in 5 women need a makeover to get their man, according to rom coms
It’s 2021, but it seems that women still need to remove their glasses and put on some lipstick to get their man. We found that 1 in 5 rom coms (18%) include a makeover, involving some kind of physical change to the main character’s appearance.
Fortunately, makeovers are becoming less frequent in modern rom coms. The majority of ‘glow-ups’ (16%) appear in films released in 2015 or earlier, with mostly noughties movies featuring the classic but old-fashioned makeover (we're thinking of She's All That).
The ‘female journalist’ stereotype is slowly disappearing
Our rom com analysis shows that 1 in 3 rom coms (34%) have a main character who works in media, such as a writer or magazine editor. From back in the ’90s with journalist Annie Reed in Sleepless in Seattle, female protagonists working in media are rife among rom coms – think Bridget Jones, Carrie Bradshaw and Andy Sachs, to name a few.
However, this stereotype is gradually fading away. We found that 45% of noughties rom coms feature a protagonist who works in the media, compared to 24% in movies from 2010 to 2019. The typecast ‘female journalist’ role is also disappearing, as we also see male reporters in modern rom coms, like 2020’s The Photograph and 2019’s Long Shot.
2021’s rom coms to look out for – have we predicted the plot?
Whether you’re bingeing Netflix or Amazon Prime, there are plenty of rom coms to look out for in 2021. Here are our top 5 to watch – have we predicted the plot?
- Cinderella - Feb 5th
- To All the Boys: Always and Forever - Feb 12th
- Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar - Feb 12th
- Marry Me - May 14th
- The Kissing Booth 3 - TBC