30 Hilarious Clichés in Every Rom-Com
If only we could count on these happening IRL.
When you've swiped left too many times and experienced too many bad dates, Hollywood rom-coms can feel like a welcome respite from the not-so-romantic world of real-life dating. However, while there are movies that convince us that true love is not only real but also attainable, there are just as many—if not more—movies that are so unrealistic you can't help but laugh at their very plots. From ludicrous stock characters to virtual strangers deciding that they're soulmates, read on for 30 hilarious rom-com clichés that are well worth retiring.
Women being wildly transformed by a makeover
In real life, you might ask a makeup artist to spruce you up for a birthday or big date or get a new outfit for a major event. In rom-coms, like 1999's She's All That, all you need is some friends who think you've got a tired look to freshen you up. (Friendly reminder that Rachael Leigh Cook's Laney not only gets a new dress but also a full, professional-looking haircut from Zack's [Freddie Prinze Jr.] sister Mackenzie [Anna Paquin].)
Luckily, despite the ponytails, overalls, or glasses these women have been wearing, it turns out they're actually babes underneath it all.
Someone making a bet about a potential love interest
Speaking of She's All That: One surefire way for a character to find true love in a rom-com is to make a bet with someone. The bet can be that he can change a plain Jane into a supermodel-esque beauty. It can also involve money, like in 10 Things I Hate About You, when Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) pays Heath Ledger's Patrick to take out the prickly Kat (Julia Stiles) so he can ask out her sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Matthew McConaughey makes a bet that he can woo any woman he chooses. The stakes don't really matter in the long run.
The bad news is that the nefarious plot will eventually get discovered. The good news is that everyone still ends up together in the end.
Men making over-the-top romantic gestures to women they hardly know
Of course, over-the-top romantic gestures are also a thing in real life—their impact is why huge engagement rings and last-minute trips to Paris were invented. However, in rom-coms, you hardly need to know a woman to go to great lengths to win her over—ask Andrew Lincoln's incredibly creepy Mark, who shows up to the home of his best friend (Chiwetel Ejiofor) with a stack of corny flash cards to profess his love for his best friend's wife (Kiera Knightley) in Love Actually.
Confessing love to someone who's about to catch a plane or train
Rom-com characters can never seem to get their act together to tell people they love them in a timely manner. The inevitable outcome of this, of course, is a mad dash through an airport or train station or sea of taxis to do so. (Heck, in The Wedding Singer, Adam Sandler's Robbie actually buys a ticket and gets on a plane to save Drew Barrymore's Julia from marrying the wrong guy.) Luckily, airport security in rom-coms is charmed by these dramatic declarations instead of being taser-happy.
Women in the media who realize what they actually want is love
If you're a woman in the rom-com world, odds are you work in the media. (Kate Winslet's character in The Holiday is just one example.) It's really the only job for women in this genre, other than something amorphous or fashion-adjacent. And despite what may seem like a high-power job—or at least an interesting one—to others, what the characters in these positions always discover is that what they really wanted all along wasn't a Pulitzer but true love.
Celebrities who fall in love with regular people immediately after meeting them
Do real celebrities occasionally fall in love with non-famous people? Sure. However, in the rom-com world, it seems to happen every time Hugh Grant enters a room—just check out Notting Hill and Music and Lyrics.
People realizing the right person was in front of them the whole time
Falling for your best friend happens frequently enough in the real world. However, in the world of rom-coms, it's absolutely impossible to realize what a great romantic match you are with someone else until you've dated a bunch of losers who make you appreciate the good thing you had all along. The 2019 Netflix movie Always Be My Maybe, starring Ali Wong and Randall Park as childhood best friends, is just one example of this trope.
Forcing someone to go to great lengths to prove their love
Grand romantic gestures aren't always willingly offered up in romantic comedies—in fact, sometimes, they're done upon request. Whether that means meeting someone you've never seen before the top of the Empire State Building (Sleepless in Seattle), making someone get your number by hoping they find the $5 bill you wrote it on (Serendipity), or meeting your cheating spouse on the Brooklyn Bridge to prove their commitment (Sex and the City), real love in the rom-com world means having to do some seriously outrageous things.
If someone else isn't in love with the object of your affection in a rom-com, the relationship is hardly worth pursuing. (See: Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, Made of Honor, and countless more movies.) In this world, even the most boring, manipulative, or altogether unremarkable people end up in a love triangle, while the rest of us in the real world can't even get a text back.
An unplanned pregnancy that makes two people fall in love
Does pregnancy sometimes bring couples closer together? Of course. Do unplanned pregnancies regularly make two people who aren't seriously involved realize they're meant to be together? Not usually! Well, unless you ask the producers behind romantic comedies like Knocked Up and Juno, that is.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl
The A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin was onto something when he coined the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" to describe a specific female character archetype prevalent in romantic comedies and other movies. Typically, the MPDG is whimsical, beautiful, and teaches a male protagonist a lot about himself, despite having virtually no discernible character or backstory or her own. Natalie Portman's Garden State character is an especially quirky example of this kind of love interest.
Stalking being seen as a romantic gesture
In a rom-com, all it takes is a little stalking to get the girl. Whether the main character hires a private investigator to look up his high school girlfriend (There's Something About Mary) or makes a terrifying wedding video of his best friend's wife's face (Love Actually), rom-coms sure make what's generally considered a criminal act look pretty darn endearing.
Pairs whose hatred turns into burning passion
Finding love is as easy as being a terrible person in plenty of romantic comedies. In fact, the meaner you are to someone and the more they grow to hate you, the more passionate your eventual hook up will be. Just check out Red, White & Royal Blue, which hooks up the first son (Taylor Zakhar Perez) with his archenemy, a seemingly stuffy English prince (Nicholas Galitzine).
Showing up in the audience at a performance to reveal your true feelings
If things go south between you and someone special in a romantic comedy (or a musical romantic drama, like Moulin Rouge!), there's a simple fix. All you have to do is show up in the audience at their performance and all will be forgiven.
Men falling in love with totally inappropriate women
Yes, sometimes even regular people fall in love with people who are the wrong choice for them. However, in romantic comedies, you get a free pass for hitting on your maid with whom you can't actually communicate (Love Actually), your former stepsibling (Clueless), or someone you believe to be your teenage student (Never Been Kissed).
Couples who make out in the rain
If it's raining in a romantic comedy, you know what's about to happen: some sweet, sweet making out. While most real people probably consider making out in the rain wet, cold, and possibly hypothermia-inducing, the lovebirds in movies including Chasing Amy, Sweet Home Alabama, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Garden State, and Enchanted definitely didn't get the message.
Women who have nothing in common but end up bonding
In romantic comedies, it doesn't really matter if people who are falling in love have anything in common. What matters less, however, is if women characters even really know each other before bonding. Generally, all it takes is a mutual hatred of an ex, some tequila, or dance-inducing music and you've cemented a lifelong bond. Just look at undercover FBI agent Gracie and the pageant queens in Miss Congeniality.
Calling off a wedding at the altar
In romantic comedies, any time you want to profess your love to someone is totally fine—even if it just so happens to be that person's wedding day. (This is especially true in wedding-themed rom-coms, like Made of Honor.) Who cares if the bride or groom spent every last dime on those centerpieces or they're about to give their spouse-to-be's grandmother a heart attack? Run from the altar into the arms of true love!
If you want to fix a tense situation between you, your friend or spouse, and an attractive third party, the solution, according to rom-coms, is simple: suggest a threesome. One caveat, however: even in movies, including 2022's I Want You Back, this doesn't work out well.
Making a major life change and finding love along the way
Who cares about paying the bills? In romantic comedies, ditching that job that's been tying you down or leaving the place that's been holding you back means two things: you not only do you find something way better and more fulfilling, you also find love along the way. That's the entire plot of Jerry Maguire!
Cheating changing someone's life for the better
In the real world, getting cheated on takes some time—and maybe even some therapy—to fully work through. In rom-coms, such as 2002's Brown Sugar, finding out that your spouse is cheating on you is just another bump in the road—and one that generally leads you to the person you're really supposed to be with.
Significant others who get cast off when a better prospect comes along
However, it's not just being cheated on that changes a person's life for the better in a romantic comedy. In fact, leaving your spouse for someone you like better—even if you hardly know them—isn't generally a life-ruinous decision—not even for them! In fact, it works out pretty well for everyone involved in movies including Notting Hill, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Wedding Singer.
Dating someone to prove a point
Want to make someone jealous? Want to convince your parents you're doing better than you actually are? Want to pitch a killer magazine article? If you're in a rom-com, all it takes is a fake significant other—and luckily, there's always someone willing to tackle that bizarre role. The only downside? There's no avoiding the fact that you'll definitely fall in love with your fake date.
Adult women who can't get their act together
It's not just Manic Pixie Dream Girls who get the guy in romantic comedies; adult women who are legitimate messes are equally alluring, too. While in real life, you might ask, "Who is this 30-something and why is there spaghetti in her hair at this wedding?" in a romantic comedy, the only question is, "Is she single?"
Coordinated dance scenes
Most adults can hardly slow-dance at their wedding without spraining an ankle. In rom-coms, however, not only is everyone an expert dancer, they've all found time to memorize the same dance routine to wow nobody in particular. Bonus points if it unlocks a happy memory with the person you'll eventually fall for, like in 13 Going on 30.
The post-breakup ice cream binge
If there's a breakup in a rom-com, one thing's for sure: You're about to see the size 00 protagonist wallowing in a pile of desserts and junk food. (See: Legally Blonde.) Overeating when one is depressed is definitely a real thing, but there are other coping mechanisms, too!
The best friend who doesn't have a life of their own
Every rom-com heroine needs a best friend who's funny, understanding, always on call, and never pulls focus. Some actors, like The Wedding Planner's Judy Greer or Return to Me's Bonnie Hunt, made careers out of playing these loyal pals.
People who magically change after having an epiphany about love
It doesn't matter how bad your behavior has been or what horrifying things you've done (Sixteen Candles heartthrob Jake Ryan is not as dreamy as he seems, you guys!). When they fall for the right person, rom-com leads clean up their act and become instantly ready for long-term commitment.
Waiting to clear up simple misunderstandings
In a lot of rom-coms, when all seems well about two-thirds of the way through the movie, you know that a major misunderstanding is coming. Maybe someone gets the wrong idea about somebody else, like in Hitch. Maybe they overhear a misleading comment or believe the words of an obvious villain. Whatever happens, it will take way too long to straighten things out, because there are still 25 minutes left in the runtime.
Fake dating turning into real feelings
Fake dating, something that doesn't happen as often in real life as it does in the movies, is just a stop on the way to having a real relationship. And generally the people who are "faking it," like Peter (Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean (Lana Condor) in To All the Boys I've Loved Before, are the last ones to realize that their ruse has become reality.
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