These days, it’s always a little bittersweet looking back at what now feels like the golden era of rom-coms and romantic movies. In a landscape of big action-packed blockbusters, superhero franchises and intense dramas that are clearly intended for awards season, rom-coms have fallen somewhat by the wayside in studio popularity — even if we longtime fans have always remained devoted to the movies that give us lots of laughs and love. Here are a few classics from the 80s that will always be worth revisiting.
When Harry Met Sally
Arguably the movie that made us all want to follow Nora Ephron into any script she worked on throughout her lifetime, When Harry Met Sally was also the rom-com that put Meg Ryan on the map as a star of the genre and still serves as one of the shining examples of the friends-to-lovers trope.
Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Ryan) have been friends for years, but the timing of becoming more than that has never really been in their favor — and the more time that passes, the more it seems like they’re just looking for excuses to not be together. Come for the fake orgasm scene, stay for this fantastic line: "I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
Nobody puts Baby in a corner! The romantic drama written by Eleanor Bergstein was plagued by production issues, but eventually got off the ground and became a smash hit worldwide, in part due to the smoldering chemistry on-screen between Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze (who reportedly did not get along very well in real life, although you wouldn’t know that from watching this movie).
It’s not just a terrific romantic dance movie, though; it’s a smart, forward-thinking and feminist story about a young woman who decides to take charge of her summer and a chance at love, as well as embrace her sexuality and her femininity. And it doesn’t hurt that Swayze heats up the screen in every scene he’s in, either.
The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride has it all — action, adventure, high stakes, a clash of good versus evil, Rodents of Unusual Size and more. And yes, this is a kissing book. Adapted by William Goldman from his novel of the same name, the movie went on to become a cult classic among fans and acquired a legacy all its own, with cast reunions celebrated every time they happen.
Robin Wright and Cary Elwes are the fairy-tale couple of our dreams as Buttercup and Westley, who are seemingly fated to be together across time and trial alike, despite early circumstances that tear them apart. By the end of the story, you’ll be believing in the struggles they went through to get there. And just like a young Fred Savage, you’ll want to hear it all again tomorrow.
Of course we couldn’t assemble a list like this one without including THE Cher, could we? Like many romance fans, we’re also weak for the “oops, I think I’ve fallen in love with my fiancé/boyfriend/otherwise intended’s younger brother instead” trope, but this is a movie that will draw you in from the mere premise and keep you there until the end.
Widow Loretta Castorini (Cher) is insistent on following tradition with her new fiancé Johnny (Danny Aiello), as she believes straying from that is what led to the death of her first husband. But when Johnny goes to Sicily to visit his dying mother, he asks her to invite his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to their upcoming nuptials. Obviously, hijinks ensue.
Another 80s movie featuring a verifiable dreamboat of a leading man in Harrison Ford, Working Girl is a story just as much about a woman learning to come into her own professionally as it is finding love.
Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is a secretary who commutes to Manhattan from Staten Island every day but harbors dreams of working as a high-end executive. When she lands a job as the administrative assistant of Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), she’s encouraged to share her ideas… until she finds out that Katherine plans on stealing them and passing them off as her own.
Instead, Tess decides to book a meeting herself with the man Katherine is pitching to — Jack Trainer (Ford). But as they spend more and more time together, personal and professional lines blur, and Tess might be forced to reveal the truth about her lowly secretarial status to someone she’s starting to have feelings for.
Romancing the Stone
One of the best movies of the 80s, period, let alone a terrific romantic movie, Romancing the Stone actually revolves around a romance novelist and treats the character’s profession with respect rather than disdain.
Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a successful romance author who secretly longs for more in her life. Turns out that’s about to change, because she gets pulled into a wild set of circumstances involving a mysterious map and a last-minute trip to Colombia to rescue her sister. It’s there that she meets a smuggler named Jack (Michael Douglas), who escorts her through a dangerous jungle and even more dangerous enemies. Naturally, over the course of their adventures together, they fall in love — and Joan gets some much-needed inspiration for her next romance novel.
Writer-director Cameron Crowe has been responsible for several iconic movies, including Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire, but his directorial debut, Say Anything, catapulted Peter Gabriel’s song “In Your Eyes” to legendary romantic status and made a romance hero out of John Cusack.
It’s a perfect opposites attract story between Cusack’s Floyd Dobler, a chronic underachiever, and Diane Court (Ione Skye), the class valedictorian and the woman he’s always dreamed of asking out. The people around them aren’t exactly supportive of their burgeoning relationship, but as we all know, true love can’t necessarily be stopped when that train is already moving. It’s a warmhearted movie about a boy who wants to prove that he’s the right person for a girl, and what’s more romantic than that?
Can't Buy Me Love
Long before he was McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey was making us all swoon as a blossoming teen heartthrob in Can’t Buy Me Love. Ronald Miller (Dempsey) is a bonafide nerd who’s spent his entire summer mowing lawns to save up for a telescope, but at the last minute he decides to make a deal with his next-door neighbor, popular cheerleader Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson).
He’ll give her the cash if she pretends to be his girlfriend for a month. But even though the two start out posing as a couple in front of the rest of the school, Cindy begins to have real feelings for someone who was only supposed to be a fake boyfriend.