Under-the-Radar Romantic Comedies.

By: Jen Shoop

Earlier this week, I treated myself to a solo Galentine’s evening — Mr. Magpie was out of town on business, and I mixed up a cocktail (this one, which is red and was therefore perfect for the occasion!) and settled in for a romantic comedy. I have watched so many of the “classics” hundreds of times (I put them on when I can’t sleep, which is often) and was in the mood for something new. I consulted Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Romantic Comedies of All Time list and ended up with “Broadcast News,” which I’d never seen. Magpies: it is fantastic, and complex, and peak 80s, and Holly Hunter is a national treasure. It’s also set in DC, which bears its own charm for fellow Washingtonians. But I hesitate to classify it as a romantic comedy? In some ways, it’s the opposite, or at least an undermining of the classic marriage plot and its cousins. The girl ends up alone, and we have no resolution on which if either of the possible suitors would have been a better mate. All of the characters are flawed, and prismatic, and richly drawn. I was fascinated by the moment in which William Hurt’s character lies to Holly Hunter’s about what his father said behind her back. Instead of passing along the misogynistic “women should be quiet and affectionate” message his father actually communicated, Hurt’s character uses it as an occasion to praise her, even as he’s falsifying his father’s true sentiments. She is touched, but we as the audience must contemplate what this white lie means, especially as it portends the later admission that he made himself cry on camera for grand effect and audience-winning. When is it OK to perform? At what costs? Still, Hurt is not damnable. He is likable, and not without his own vulnerabilities, including his insecurities about his intelligence, which are exploited in their own ways throughout the film by both Hunter and Al Brooks (who wrote, produced, and co-starred in it). The narrative around intellectual snobbery was perfectly drawn. There is a scene where Hunter’s boss says (paraphrasing): “It must feel good to be so sure you’re always right all the time.” And she replies: “No, it’s awful.” The writing is pitch perfect, and so smart: a reply only an unrepenting intellectual snob could deliver with a straight face. Ah! I could go on. All in all, I found the movie defied most romantic comedy conventions, though I don’t know of any other genre in which it might fit. As an unsolicited aside, I found William Hurt much less appealing in this movie than I did in steamy “Body Heat” — his foppish haircut in “Broadcast News” was such a turnoff! Hunter, though — electric on the screen, with a great wardrobe, too. Just a gem of a movie. Watch it and let me know what you think. I haven’t even touched on its satirical take on broadcast news…!

As I was hunting for a movie, I asked my Magpies over Instagram to share their favorite under-the-radar romantic comedies. I’m overlooking the obvious ones here — the Sleepless in Seattles, the When Harry Met Sallys — and looking for films you may peripherally remember but never watched. Below are the top recs from Magpies. I omitted ones I’d classify as “mainstream” and focused on ones with multiple upvotes.


“Plus One”

“Five Year Engagement”

“Two Night Stand”

“About Time”

“French Kiss”

“Picture Perfect”

“Fools Rush In”

“Salmon Fishing in Yemen”

“Rye Lane”

“Crazy Stupid Love”

“The Cutting Edge”

“Strictly Ballroom”

“Bull Durham”

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”

Several of these are personal favorites of mine — “Picture Perfect,” for example, is Jen Aniston at her finest, engaged in the old “fake dating” trope romance novel lovers will recognize. I saw this when I was maybe 12 and it blew my mind. I found it scintillating and charming and wrote entire offshoot novellas recreating the story and its scenes. It somehow makes Jay Mohr dreamy?

“Bull Durham” is excellent, and the scene with the cereal bowl flung across the kitchen remains seared in my mind as peak sexiness on screen. I consider that moment hotter than scenes in 91/2 Weeks, etc!

One I would add: “Moonstruck.” I’m always shocked by how few people have seen this 1987 gem, which is delightful and quirky and deeply romantic. Treat yourself!


+A fun romance book. (I think it was my first in the genre, and less than a year ago!)

+A great party dish that serves a crowd. Just thinking about this is making me hungry.

+There is a time for starlight and a time for lamplight. (A time and place for everything, really.)

+How are you doing with your new year’s resolutions / intentions? (Here’s my intention for 2024.) I’m moving along apace. I find myself really thinking about creating space for myself, for my emotions on a regular basis.

+We compiled all Magpie recipes into beautiful cards for your kitchen! Get the recipe card collection in your inbox here.

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+This striped shirtdress has sold out multiple times but was just restocked. I’m eyeing it for myself. Just the happiest colors.

+If you don’t yet own Charlotte Tilbury’s lip pencil in Pillow Talk — please treat yourself. I have never been a liner gal and I basically only wear lipstick if it can be applied without a mirror (is more like a balm / gloss / does not need to be precise), but I am hooked. This makes your lips look such more defined, and bigger, too. The Pillow Talk color is considered fairly universal. It’s wonderful. I line the lip and then use it to shade the lip in a bit, too, but then top with a lipstick or gloss in a similar color — usually my UBeauty plasma in the rose color. I have also been wearing this spectacular lipstick (shade Gentle) from Trish McEvoy any day I’ve wanted to put a little extra pep in my step the past week or two. It is SO beautiful — a great soft pink that’s warmer than neutral, and very feminine.

+My favorite Dorsey necklace was restocked again — my friends over there let me know it’s the biggest restock of this style they’ve ever done! They are flying!

+Tuckernuck has some really cute new beach items. I must have these pants and the matching top. I’m really feeling patterned sets with straw totes for summer. (But the pattern is GREAT and also comes in a cute dress format — under $150. And if you’re not into sets, you could also pair the pants with a simple white tee!)

+Two great everyday dresses that you can style a zillion and ten ways: this Madewell and this En Saison. Both under $150. The latter is a no-brainer if you go to the office, but would also look chic with plain white canvas sneakers or leather sandals.

+So many of you purchased items from Doen’s latest launch. I keep going back and finding other styles I love or am intrigued by. For example, this slinky floral? I love it — it’s like the 90s meet boho grandmillennial.

+But if you’re still shopping for this season, I’m obsessed with this short-sleeved sweater. It is so interesting and different and would look fab tucked into ecru jeans. You can get the look for less with this J. Crew. I can’t stop thinking about short-sleeved sweaters!

+Slouchy oversized sweatshirt perfection.

+Two very cool jean jackets: this one (the length! the slight shaping at the waist!) and this one (love a collarless jean jacket).

+As you know, I have the mint green Sambas but these olive green ones are delicious. Like I’m daydreaming about pairing with olive green pants for a monochrome look, or with white jeans…so good.

+Niche, but I’m going to go there: I’m planning my daughter a Taylor Swift themed birthday party where she and her girlfriends go into a studio and record themselves singing/dancing to one of her songs (!). I’ve had a blast finding decor and such for it. I found these adorable personalized tags to wrap around scrunchies and friendship bracelets as a “goody bag” of sorts. (I also thought this option was cute.) She’s going to flip! If you are planning something similar, holler because I’ll share some other fun goodies I’ve found.

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22 thoughts on “Under-the-Radar Romantic Comedies.

  1. I love a 60s musical (Funny Face, Gidget Goes Hawaiian) and Down With Love is such a campy, delicious send up of the genre. My most watched romantic comedy though is Just Like Heaven (Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon!).

    Do you mind if I ask what you’d like to see in a romance book? Humor, angst, a certain dynamic, a particular type of hero or heroine? I read very widely in the genre (and write my own historicals between 1850 and 1930, so a lot of my friends are indie authors). I’m known among my friends for my very niche recommendations, and I can name for example 3 books with heroes inspired by Roy Kent, or a half dozen Great British Bake-off-esque settings, or even my latest reads, “Jane Austen-inspired Regency marriage plots with fairy bargains” or “sapphic outer space princess-bodyguard romance” or “taming of the shrew but with modern Punjabi enemies-to-lovers”. My recommendation for everyone is Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon, an absolute crowd pleaser! My most reread is Courtney Milan’s The Duke Who Didn’t, her heroines have my heart and the goofy golden retriever of a hero is my favorite sort. Or my friend Olivia Dade’s Spite House came out this week, really stunning!

    1. Thank you for these recs! I just added the Weatherspoon to my TBR! I have to think about what I like in a romance – I don’t know that I’ve dabbled enough to form an opinion. I do like the fake dating trope but that’s all I have right now!


      1. Great fake dating:
        Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (swoony hero)
        Role playing by Cathy Yardley (older MCs!)
        The Marquis Who Mustn’t by Courtney Milan (a favorite reread! Historical)
        Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (hilarious on audiobook)
        Dating Dr Dil by Nisha Sharma
        Chef’s Choice by TJ Alexander

  2. Say Anything with John Cusack! That boombox scene with Peter Gabriel’s song In Your Eyes (aaahhh love that song!).

    The Cutting Edge is such a comfort-watch for me — back in the day my childhood best friend and I had memorized the lines!

    Not sure if these are considered mainstream but… “Definitely, Maybe” (the father daughter relationship between Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin is so sweet too). “One Fine Day” with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.

    “Crazy Rich Asians” is FUN.

      1. Late to the post but I was going to add One Fine Day! Also, It Could Happen to You- slightly odd one starring Nicholas Cage- he wins lottery and shares winnings with the waitress he met the day before- he didn’t have money for a tip and promised he’d share if he won. I saw it’s new to Netflix recently.

  3. Any Albert Brooks movie is fabulous and a few to see include; Modern Romance (a classic rom-com), Lost in America and Defending Your Life (Meryl Streep as an added bonus).

  4. Some under-the-radar romantic comedies I’ve liked are: Obvious Child, In a World…, The Big Sick, and the Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.

  5. Jen, if you loved “Picture Perfect” you should definitely watch “The Object of My Affection.” It is another Jennifer Aniston, but this time with Paul Rudd. Just so good.

  6. I will be returning to this list! One to add: miss pettigrew lives for a day.- lighter, happy, upbeat, but with a deeper sweetness especially surrounding the main character.

      1. Hello Jen!
        I would love info on the fun goodies you have found for Emory’s birthday party! Thank you for all that you do!

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