The Romantic Comedy, or rom-com, genre of cinema has always been beloved. After watching one you could have a newfound view on love or at least have spent some time laughing, living vicariously through the hijinks of the characters. There has been a surge of a craving for rom-coms, and moviegoers are wanting to see them more than ever.

If you pick apart some of the best rom-coms, they follow a standard guideline that includes introducing the protagonist, the love obstacle they must overcome, and eventually how they end up together, because there’s always a happy or justified ending in the idealistic rom-com world. Watching enough rom-coms, you’ll start to pick up the tropes and clichés that make up the genre.

For Valentine’s Day, or anytime you need a good rom-com, look out for these classic rom-com tropes in this checklist below.

When The Fake Relationship Turns into Real Feelings: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

In 2018, Netflix dropped a rom-com gem with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Lana Condor stars in the film as Lara Jean a hopeless romantic who wrote private love letters to all the men she loved in her life but never sent them. When the letters get out Lara Jean must do damage control to get Josh (Israel Broussard), one of the recipients, to think she’s over him. Lara Jean gets into a fake relationship with Peter (Noah Centineo), another letter recipient who wants to his ex-girlfriend and Lara Jean’s ex-best friend Gen (Emilija Baranac) jealous. Naturally, as Peter and Lara Jean spent time together in their fake relationship, they began to develop real feelings for one another. The butterflies you’ll get in your stomach watching this romance blossom is palpable. (Watch on: Netflix)

The Womanizer Meets the Girl Who Changes Him: Wedding Crashers (2005)

Many rom-coms find the main characters having mixed views of love. In the 2005 film Wedding Crashers, divorce mediators and best friends John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) spend much of their free time crashing the weddings of strangers with the objective to sleep with as many women as they can during wedding season. The pair plan for their biggest crash of the season attending the wedding of the daughter of Secretary of Treasury William Cleary (Christopher Walken). John and Jeremy set their eyes on Secretary Cleary’s other daughters Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher) who make their views on love completely change. (Watch on: Max)

Opposites Attract and Fall in Love: The Ugly Truth (2009)

Katherine Heigl is a rom-com queen with many films on her resume that fall into the genre. In The Ugly Truth, she plays an uptight television producer named Abby who’s the type of girl who has a list of qualities that make up her dream guy. Her morning show segment is struggling until the studio insists a misogynistic cable access TV host named Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) could help with ratings by him hosting a segment sharing the harsh realities about relationships. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Abby whose idealistic views of love differ from Mike’s which causes them to clash, but the pair strike up a deal. Mike will coach Abby helping her land her dream man and Abby will allow his segment to run without interference. You can guess that spending time together and getting to know one another changes how these opposites feel. (Watch on: The Roku Channel)

Best Friends Becomes Lovers: Brown Sugar (2002)

A beloved rom-com trope is watching a slow burn romance unfold. In Brown Sugar, Dre (Taye Diggs) and Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) have been friends since childhood when they fell in love with the Hip Hop music genre together. As adults, Sidney is a revered magazine editor at XXL and Dre is an A&R rep for Millennium Records with music continuing to be a force that drives the two of them together. The spark between the pair has always been there, but it’s a case of the right person at the wrong time as the duration of the film toys with will they or won’t they until the very end. (Watch on: Starz)

The Bet That Goes Wrong Before It Goes Right: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Arguably one of the best rom-coms of all time, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, places the classic rom-com bet trope at the forefront of the plot. Matthew McConaughey plays Benjamin Barry, a handsome ad executive who places a bet amongst his boss and colleagues. To land the lead of a coveted diamond campaign, Ben bets he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Ben’s colleagues Spears (Michael Michele) and Green (Shalom Harlow) pick out Andie Anderson, played brilliantly by Kate Hudson, in a bar. What Ben thinks is random is actually Spears and Green at work to sabotage the bet knowing Andie is working on an article geared to do anything possible to get a guy to break up with her. Sometimes things have to go hilariously wrong before they go right. (Watch on: Freeform, Paramount+, Pluto TV)

The Popular Guy Falls for The Outcast: She’s All That (1999)

Most rom-coms of the 90s feature the stereotypical type of students. You have the jocks and cheerleaders who make up the popular group, and then you have the artsy type students and band members who make up what are deemed outcasts. In She’s All That, the bet trope is taken up a notch. Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) makes a bet with his peers that he could turn an unattractive girl into the school’s prom queen ultimately making her popular; Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) becomes that girl. As Zack begins his efforts to woe Lanny, his advances are rejected, until they’re not and everything is going according to plan until Lanny finds out about the bet because of course that happens. But Zack made that bet before he knew Lanny, and all ends up ok before the credits roll. (Watch on: Netflix, Paramount+, Pluto TV)

A Mismatch Love Affair: America’s Sweethearts (2001)

Sometimes in love the wrong pair get together and it takes some time for everyone to figure it out. In America’s Sweethearts, movie publicist Lee (Billy Crystal) must get bitter ex’s/former co-stars Eddie (John Cusack) and Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to appear together at a remote press junket while desperately trying to obtain a copy of the movie that’s supposed to be screened from the reclusive director Hal Weidmann (Christopher Walken) holding it hostage. Julia Roberts plays Gwen’s sister and personal assistant KiKi who has always had a thing for Eddie and the press junket is giving them the opportunity to ignite a flame. Could KiKi and Eddie be together or is Eddie still pinning for his ex? America’s Sweethearts is not only a hilarious peak into the movie industry, but a highlight of the mismatched pairings in a rom-com. (Watch on: Hulu)

Which rom-com tropes do you like the best in films?


Amber Dover is a multimedia journalist with over a decade writing about pop culture. Cat mom with a deep love of horror, you can follow Amber at @Glambergirlblog on Instagram and X.

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