Romantic comedies: we know them, we love them, and we argue about which ones are the best! Do you find yourself inspired by the genre and want to try your hand to write a rom-com of your own? If that’s the case, then you’re going to need to do some rom-com research. Start here with my Top 4 Tips for Writing a Romantic Comedy in a Traditional Screenplay. Next, the best way to learn how to write for a specific genre is to read many screenplays from that genre. Please keep reading to check out my list of romantic comedy screenplays that you can read online!
First things first, what makes a movie a romantic comedy? Billy Mernit, the author of Writing the Romantic Comedy, says it comes down to seven essential beats.
The rom-com structure's seven essential beats:
- The Chemical Equation – Setup
The protagonist and their love interest are established. We learn a little bit about them, what their lives are like, what’s going wrong.
- Meet Cute – Catalyst
An inciting incident happens that brings the couple together in some sort of conflict.
- Sexy Complication – Turning Point
The stakes are raised, and goals are defined. Conflict increases; often, the two love interests might have opposing goals, there could be meddling from outside parties, or perhaps significant others make an appearance.
- The Hook - Midpoint
Something forces and binds the two main characters together; often, it can be a moment where the protagonist has the thought, “Hmm, they’re not so bad.”
- Swivel – Second Turning Point
Just as the main characters seem to be getting closer, conflict remerges to push them apart. Characters’ goals get in the way of the relationship.
- The Dark Moment – Crisis Climax
A consequence of choices or actions. An all is lost moment. Everything falls apart. Conflict comes to a head, and the characters separate, and it doesn’t look like things will work out.
- Joyful Defeat – Resolution
One or both characters realize they’re wrong and come back together in an apology. We’re reminded why the relationship is good and important. Usually, the story ends in some sort of commitment between the characters.
You’ll see these beats play out in different ways in different movies, but rom-coms all have some form of these crucial moments. If you’re not one for such a specific structure, that's okay, too.
Here are rom-com key ingredients to keep in mind:
Likable and attractive main characters
Obstacles and complications galore
Humor, comedy should carry us through the movie
Here’s a list of some great examples of romantic comedy screenplays:
- When Harry Met Sally
Written by Nora Ephron
In “When Harry Met Sally,” the story explores whether men and women can be friends. Will adding sex to the equation ruin a decade long friendship?
- The Proposal
Written by Pete Chiarelli
In “The Proposal,” a Canadian executive working in America faces deportation, so she concocts a scheme requiring her assistant to pose as her fiancé.
- Pretty Woman
Written by J.F. Lawton
In “Pretty Woman,” sparks fly when a wealthy businessman hires an escort to accompany him to various functions. It quickly becomes apparent that this is more than just a business transaction for both of them.
- Notting Hill
Written by Richard Curtis
In “Notting Hill,” a famous actress walks into the right bookstore at the right time.
- Palm Springs
Written by Andy Siara
“Palm Springs” is a sci-fi romantic comedy with a Groundhog Day twist, about two people trying to find their way out of a time loop while also finding love.
- It’s Complicated
Written by Nancy Meyers
In “It’s Complicated,” things get tricky when an older divorced couple find themselves having an affair with one another despite both seeming to have moved on with their lives.
Are you able to pick out Mernit’s seven beats in these films? Are there other essential rom-com ingredients that you’re able to identify? Give me your breakdowns in the comments!