The ultimate guide for Netflix: Romantic comedy edition
As a subgenre, romantic comedies are easy to get wrong. While we all love to watch a love story (whether that be a friendship, partnership, or between-the-sheets-ship) unfold, there are a number of tired tropes we’ve seen time and again thanks to the romcoms of the 90s and 00s.
Netflix is a place to go if you want to see fresh spins on the genre, offering a wide range of TV shows and films that provide funny, lighthearted, and unique narratives and characters. However, there’s also a lot of dross to look out for too.
If you’re a romcom fiend and you’re at a loss of what to watch on Netflix, do not fret – Film Daily’s got your back with the ultimate guide of the best (and worst) comedy content with romantic beats on Netflix right now.
We’re far too old to be commenting on this shit, but if you are a tween and you’re after “an updated Mean Girls for the digital age”, you’ll probably love #realityhigh.
Fernando Lebrija’s romcom, dramedy, whatever you wanna call it, sees the dreams of high-achieving high-school senior (and aspiring vet student) Dani Barnes (Nesta Cooper) thrown into disarray when a glamorous new friend and social media sensation Alexa Medina (Alicia Sanz) comes along and threatens everything she’s worked for. It’s silly, packed full of romcom tropes, and is probably an entertaining watch if you tick the 11-16 box when filling out forms.
Candy Jar (2018)
Directed by Ben Shelton and written by Chad Klitzman, Candy Jar stars Jacob Latimore (Collateral Beauty) as a wealthy debate team member and Sami Gayle (Vampire Academy) as his rival, a working-class high schooler.
As the two students’ rivalry heats up on their elite school’s debate team and the pressure of their overbearing mothers mounts, they realize they have a lot more in common than they thought. Not the most unique premise, but Candy Jar is surprisingly (or maybe not so) sweet without being too sickly.
Happy Anniversary (2018)
Writer & director Jared Stern’s romcom hit Netflix back in March, telling the story of a relationship at a crossroads. Set during the course of a day with some heartwarming / heartbreaking flashbacks, couple Sam and Mollie hit their three-year anniversary where they grapple over whether to stay together or call it quits. Stars Noël Wells (Mr. Roosevelt), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Annie Potts (Ghostbusters), and Joe Pantoliano (Memento).
If you’re in love with Gillian Jacobs (Community) and you want to enjoy a girls trip to Ibiza without having to get up off the couch, Netflix’s Ibiza might just be the film for you. Jacobs, Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust), and Phoebe Robinson (I Love Dick) star as a group of friends who go to Ibiza to seek out a hot DJ Jacobs is totally looking to bone. Because why else does anyone go to Ibiza?
Love Per Square Foot (2018)
Love Per Square Foot is a romantic comedy film produced by Ronnie Screwvala and directed by Anand Tiwari. Much like the whole “desperate for a green card” theme, the premise follows Sanjay (Vicky Kaushal) and Karina (Angira Dhar) who don’t earn enough to be able to buy a home, so they enter into a marriage of convenience. As these stories often go, once they move in they realize there’s a lot more between them than just a property contract.
It’s nothing new, but it does provide a millennial spin on the practical meaning of love while not taking itself too seriously – an easy, lighthearted watch that will at least make you smile if nothing else.
Set It Up (2018)
“Can Netflix’s Set It Up help revive the romantic comedy?” was a question many asked about Claire Scanlon’s recent romcom offering. Probably not, but what it can do is provide you with an easy way to kill 90 minutes while chuffing a bag of popcorn and wearing a onesie.
Starring Zoey Deutch alongside Glen Powell (Hidden Figures), the pair play two corporate executive assistants who hatch a plan to match-make their two bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs). Which as you might imagine, paves the way for all sorts of japes to unfold. Original? No! A bit of a laugh if you don’t take it too seriously? Absolutely.
The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
Written and directed by James Strouse, The Incredible Jessica James centers on the titular character: An aspiring playwright in New York City. As she’s trying to get over a recent breakup, she meets Boone, who’s also recovering from a severe case of heartache. Together, they figure out a way to make it in a “post-relationship” world.
Jessica absolutely owns it in the leading role, while Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) makes a fine accompaniment as Boone. In short, The Incredible Jessica James is a fresh and funny Netflix romcom that you don’t want to miss.
When We First Met (2018)
Kinda like 50 First Dates but with time travel, When We First Met centers on a man who, after spending a night with the girl of his dreams only to become just friends, gets the opportunity to travel through time and alter that night over and over again until he nails it and wins the girl.
While the premise is painfully obvious, it could’ve been saved by even an ounce of charisma, humor, or decent acting. Unfortunately, it contains none of those things.
Netflix’s coming-of-age romance dramedy is still heavily debated over its paint-by-numbers depiction of autism, explored via its central character Sam (Keir Gilchrist) and the effect his condition has on his loved ones.
It does try hard to present autism in an honest and frank way, but it winds up feeling a little on the nose in its generic sitcom setting. The first season sees Sam trying to find a girlfriend, but enjoying the life of a regular 18-year-old proves difficult when emotions and empathy are learned rather than instinctive.
Although the humor at first gives a lightness to its subject matter, the quality of writing steadily declines as the characters continually make bad decisions and the show loses an edge that could’ve perhaps been present had the show taken on the talents of someone with real-life experience of the condition it is based upon.
Big Mouth (2017 – )
Netflix has built up a solid collection of adult animated comedies and Big Mouth is a welcome addition to the slate. Showing that even for a cartoon character, going through puberty ain’t great, this show from the creative talents of Nick Kroll (Sausage Party), Andrew Goldberg (Family Guy), Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett follows a group of teenage friends who find their lives upended by the wonders and horrors of that time when hair starts to grow everywhere.
Big Mouth is undeniably hilarious, particularly since literally every viewer from all walks of life can relate to that awkward moment in their lives.
But what gives it a legit spot in our hearts is that it wasn’t just jokes about boners, boobs, and masturbation rituals (although they were well-received); it also contained a surprising amount of emotion and pathos when exploring the stories of each character, their love lifes, and their family ties. Plus Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) as the Hormone Monstress is everything!
Easy (2016 – )
Described as Netflix’s most “Netflixy” show ever, Easy features a parade of flawed, self-interested sadsacks living in Chicago while trying to navigate through a modern tangle of love, sex, technology, and culture.
Written & directed by Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies), it’s a unique and charming watch, offering self-contained stories that always manage to reach some sort of meaningful resolution at the end. It also boasts an all-star cast including Orlando Bloom (Carnival Row), Dave Franco (The Disaster Artist), Elizabeth Reaser, Zazie Beetz (Atlanta), and our Broad City-lover Hannibal Buress, among others.
Friends from College (2017 – )
As soon as we’d watched this show, we wanted to wave goodbye to its characters and forget we ever knew them in the same way we did with our friends from college.
A ridiculously one-dimensional portrait into a group of 40-somethings who were once buddies at Harvard college, Friends from College details their interwoven and “complicated” relationships with each other (one’s having an affair with another one – OMG!), exploring friends, romance, and nostalgia for better (easier) times.
The character development is so piss poor in this sitcom from Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets), it’s impossible to root for any of them. There’s not a lot else to say about this terrible excuse for a comedy series aside from just don’t watch it. Oh yeah, and it was once described as an “arsehole safari” by The Guardian, which is probably the best thing about the entire show.
There are two ways to view this show about Sophia Amoruso and the rise of her multi-million dollar fashion empire, Nasty Gal. You could dismiss it as a charmless waste of a good idea that’s smarmy, irritating, and incredibly poorly written. Or you could accept it for what it is – a lighthearted bingeworthy few hours of easy watching and a mindless feast for the eyes.
We’re guessing you’re leaning on the former, but if you do decide to give it a go, just be aware that Britt Robertson (The First Time) takes the role of Sophia and she’s got one heck of an insufferable laugh. RuPaul takes a cameo as her wine-guzzling neighbor so that’s something (although you could argue the role he’s given is a waste of his talents).
GLOW (2017 – 2019)
Jenji Kohan’s feverishly funny Netflix Originals show is one of our fave of hers to date and is well worth your time (if you haven’t binged every single episode already). Don’t let the whole wrestling thing put you off – GLOW is so much more than just sweaty women in spandex body-slamming each other into oblivion (although we can’t deny we cherish these moments too).
A diverse cast including Alison Brie (The Disaster Artist), Sydelle Noel (Black Panther), Sunita Mani (Mr. Robot), and Britney Young (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) star as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling as they grapple with life both in and out of the ring. This show is so full of genuine friendship, relationship dramatics, stunning action sequences, and nostalgic throwbacks to a bygone era, it will take you to the ring and body-slam its way to your heart. Oh yeah, and the costumes are next level.
Grace and Frankie (2015 – )
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older? It certainly would if our winter years looked like this! About two women who are forced into flatsharing after their husbands leave them for each other, Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin star as the titular characters who begrudgingly set aside some of their differences and what blossoms is a profound, meaningful, and quite frankly hilarious friendship.
You could argue that Grace and Frankie doesn’t fit into the romcom category, but we’re throwing it on here because theirs is a love that is yet to be rivalled on the small screen.
As besties in real life, Fonda and Tomlin’s on-screen chemistry is palpable and their hilarious misadventures that playout from episode to episode are at once funny and heartfelt, resulting in a show that challenges industry ageism while showing us that getting older can be pretty damn fun!
Love (2016 – 2018)
From comedy master Judd Apatow, Love is far from the frothy romcom it’s pitched to be – it’s more a study on flawed relationships and addiction, to substances, sex, and unhealthy relationships.
Starring (our love) Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust as a couple who are very capable of fucking life up all by themselves, thank you very much. When they strike up a relationship, it appears cursed from the start, and for three seasons the pair navigate themselves through the exhilarations and humiliations of intimacy while trying to get by in their high-flying jobs (which come with their own share of complexities).
The show proved addictive and intoxicating as its characters (particularly Jacobs’s Mickey and her kickass style) – we’re also handing Apatow a hefty back slap for deciding to call it quits at three seasons. Instead of milking that cash cow dry, Apatow saw the show had run its course and Love was wrapped up with a tight and satisfying finale (which is more than what can be said for many TV shows today).
Master of None (2015 – )
The initial episodes see Gilchrist giving a compelling performance alongside his on-screen parents Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) and Michael Rapaport (Deep Blue Sea) and protective sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), as well as his therapist Julia (Amy Okuda) whose advice often clashes with Sam’s mom’s perspective.
Comic / “woke bae” Aziz Ansari and writer Alan Yang are the creators of this exceptionally executed take on modern dating, with Ansari starring as Dev – a commercial actor who struggles his way through life in the Big Apple and his pursuits both professionally and personally, at work and in his romantic relationships.
Funny, charming, and mature in its delivery, Master of None launched onto Netflix like an aged fine wine, making sharp observations on life that are both topical and thoughtful. As it progressed, we saw Dev travel to pastures new, settling in a new location in season two but continuing with its same whimsical takes on serious subjects.
The End of the F***ing World
A romantic comedy for the misanthropists out there, The End of the F***ing World stars a mismatched couple who are joined together by hate, confusion, and nihilism. Proving that love can sometimes feel like the end of the world, this darkly comical tale sees 17-year-old James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) embark on a road trip that takes a sinister turn as the pair search for the latter’s long lost father.
Side note: This show is worth watching for the killer soundtrack alone.