The most successful romantic comedies of all time

Have you fallen under the spell of one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time?

L: Julia Roberts and Richard Gere (Pretty Woman), R: Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to a perfect night in or a girls' night out at the movies, you can never go wrong with a romcom. 

Sure, they might stick to a formula, but isn't that half of the appeal? Our favourite romcom couples get their happy ending and the reigning queens of the genre - including Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts - leave viewers with a sense of hope that life will all work out in the end. 

But, just which of our favourite romantic comedies make the list of the most successful of all time at the box office? 

*Facts and figures are correct as of June 2024. Because of discrepancies in worldwide gross reporting, we've based this list on the reported lifetime grosses in US dollars by Box Office Mojo, powered by the movie experts at IMDB Pro.

The most successful romcoms of all time

It Happened One Night (1934) - special mention

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night

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Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, the film follows a spoilt heiress who tries to escape her oppressive life and ends up running away on the same bus as a reporter. He offers to help if he gets the scoop… but, of course, the ultimate scoop is the love they develop.

While not financially one of the top grossing romcoms, It Happened One Night gets an honourable mention on the list because it’s considered one of the very first great romcoms as we know the genre today. 

It also holds the honour of being one of the very few romantic comedies to sweep the Academy Awards, picking up all of the ‘Big Five’ Oscars – Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. 

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Arthur (1981)

Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli

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Lifetime gross: $95,461,682.

Starring Liza Minnelli and Dudley Moore, Arthur tells the story of a billionaire playboy who must marry or risk getting cut off from his fortune. 

This being a classic romcom, Arthur (Dudley Moore) has a marriage set up by his grandmother... but his heart belongs to someone else. Instead of the prim and proper Susan, Arthur must choose between his vast wealth or following his true love - Liza Minnelli's Linda Marolla. 

Norbit (2007)

Eddie Murphy

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Lifetime gross: $95,673,607. 

Perhaps a surprising inclusion on the list as it's not quite an archetypal romantic-comedy, the Eddie Murphy comedy proved to be a huge hit.

Eddie plays multiple roles in the movie, including the threatening family members of his domineering wife. But he risks everything to pursue his childhood sweetheart, played by Thandie Newton. 

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Gwyneth Paltrow winning her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love

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Lifetime gross: $100,317,794. 

The movie which gave us Gwyneth Paltrow's now-iconic bubblegum-pink Oscar dress - and emotional acceptance speech. 

Shakespeare in Love follows William Shakespeare (played by Joseph Fiennes) as he seeks the perfect muse for a new play. He falls madly in love with Gwyneth Paltrow's Viola de Lesseps, but she is promised to another in marriage. Their affair inspires his classic romance, Romeo and Juliet. 

Just Go With It (2011)

Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler

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Lifetime gross: $103,028,109. 

Just Go With It stars one of the undisputed queens of the genre, Jennifer Aniston, plus a stacked cast of superstars including Nicole Kidman, Adam Sandler and Grace and Frankie's Brooklyn Decker. 

Jennifer Aniston must pose as her boss, Adam Sandler's ex-wife to continue a lie he told to woo Brooklyn Decker, but as they pretend to be former spouses, sparks fly between the two.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $105,813,373. 

Who could forget Kate Hudson's iconic yellow dress, and the painfully awkward karaoke scene between her and Matthew McConaughey? 

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a beloved classic in the genre, and stars Kate Hudson as Andie Anderson, a frustrated journalist who pitches a story that she can make any man dump her in just 10 days, using many of the dating mistakes women make. 

At the same time, to win an advertising account, Matthew McConaughey's Benjamin Barry, bets that he can make any woman fall in love with him. 

Trainwreck (2015)

Amy Schumer wrote and starred in Trainwreck

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Lifetime gross: $110,212,700.

Funny and brash, Trainwreck subverts the genre as Amy Schumer plays a commitment-phobic, party-girl who suddenly has to face the fact that she might just have found 'the perfect guy' in Bill Hader. 

Valentine's Day (2010)

The cast of Valentine's Day, including Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper

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Lifetime gross: $110,485,654.

Directed by romcom legend Garry Marshall (whose previous credits include The Princess Diaries, Pretty Woman and Beaches) and with one of the most star-studded casts ever - Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper and Anne Hathaway, to name just a few! - Valentine's Day was the first foray into the anthology storytelling movies around a specific holiday. 

It was followed by the likes of Mother's Day and New Year's Eve.

It's Complicated (2009)

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin

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Lifetime gross: $112,735,375. 

There's nothing complicated about It's Complicated making its way onto this list. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers (famous for her dreamy interior design aesthetic and stellar romcoms including The Holiday and Something's Gotta Give), the movie starred Meryl Streep as a bakery owner who starts up a secret affair with her ex-husband, Alec Baldwin, while also dipping her toes into the dating world with Steve Martin. 

You've Got Mail (1998)

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail

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Lifetime gross: $115,821,495. 

An all-time favourite for so many, You've Got Mail saw Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan team up for one of their three iconic collaborations (the other two being Sleepless in Seattle and Joe Versus the Volcano). 

Meg Ryan's character owns an independent bookshop facing closure thanks to the corporate franchise, owned by Tom Hanks. Despite their warring business ethics, the two strike up an unlikely friendship... anonymously. They are online pen pals - exchanging all sorts of correspondence over email. 

When Tom Hanks discovers who he's falling for, does he decide to tell her... or does he allow it to play out with a number of romantic follies? You can probably guess. 

A cosy classic, many fans don't know this is a remake (or reimagining) of 1940's The Shop Around the Corner.

Notting Hill (1999)

Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, Notting Hill

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Lifetime gross: $116,089,678. 

"I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."

One of the most memorable romcom lines of all time was uttered by Julia Roberts, playing a Hollywood movie star (must have been hard to prepare for that role) who falls for a hapless, bookshop owner (Hugh Grant).

The Break-Up (2006)

Jennifer Aniston promoting The Break-Up

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Lifetime gross: $118,703,275. 

It's not quite a romcom, but also not not a romcom... The Break-Up follows two people after the meet-cute and the happily-ever-after. Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan are a couple who are at the end of their relationship, but neither one wants to give up their share of a lush condo. 

Antics ensue, but what really had audiences flocking to see this one was the fact that Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan began dating in real life after meeting on set. The pair dated for a reported year-and-a-half, calling it quits around 2006. 

50 First Dates (2004)

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler

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Lifetime gross: $120,908,074. 

A romcom with a unique premise - what happens if you have that perfect first date... but can't move the relationship beyond it?  Adam Sandler stars as Henry Roth, a marine veterinarian who falls for an art teacher named Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore).

The only problem is, Lucy has short-term memory loss and cannot remember her first date(s) with Henry. So he woos her, time and time again. 

Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson

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Lifetime gross: $124,728,738. 

Most romantic comedies tend to follow a young couple - people in their 20s or 30s, with hearts wide open to taking a chance. But what about those who are a bit older, and a bit more world-weary? 

That's the premise of Nancy Meyers' Something's Gotta Give, which showcases the iconic Diane Keaton who, after essentially giving up on love and focusing on her flourishing career (and impeccable wardrobe), finds herself stuck between choosing two suitors - Jack Nicholson's womanising playboy, and Keanu Reeves, a young doctor who is smitten. 

Mr. Deeds (2002)

Winona Ryder and Adam Sandler

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Lifetime gross: $126,293,452. 

A reimagining of Frank Capra's Mr Deeds Goes to Washington, Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder charmed in this tale of a small-town guy doing good. A sweet-natured, working-class guy (Sandler) suddenly inherits a controlling stake in a media conglomerate and begins to do business his way - falling in love with a reporter (Ryder) telling his story along the way.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan

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Lifetime gross: $126,680,884. 

A Nora Ephron screenplay with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks starring was a proven success - so much so they did it twice. The first time was with Sleepless in Seattle, a moving story about a widow who tells his story to a late-night radio show and a rapt audience, including someone who can't help but fall in love with him. 

They repeated this formula for success with You've Got Mail in 1998. 

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)

Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz

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Lifetime gross: $127,120,029. 

A romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts where she *doesn't* get the guy at the end? Sounds unthinkable, but audiences flocked to see Julia star as the best friend to Dermot Mulroney. 

Facing an uncertain future as her best friend is set to marry Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts' character suddenly panics and tries to stop the wedding. 

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

Josh Lucas and Reese Witherspoon

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Lifetime gross: $127,223,418. 

An undisputed classic of the genre during its mid-2000s golden era, Sweet Home Alabama starred Reese Witherspoon as a New York based fashion designer forced to return to her redneck roots in the American South to get her estranged husband (Josh Lucas) to sign divorce papers.

She wants to marry the perfect-on-paper Patrick Dempsey... but can you ever really forget your roots or your first love?

Coming to America (1988)

Eddie Murphy and Shari Headley, from Coming to America

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Lifetime gross: $128,152,301. 

Heavy on the comedy, but with enough sprinklings of romance to earn its place on the list, Coming to America became an instant classic when it came out in 1988. 

Eddie Murphy played an African prince, who was being forced to take a wife. Coming to America where he can outrun his princely crown, he hopes to find the perfect bride to take back home with him - someone who will love him for who he really is and not his title.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence winning her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook

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Lifetime gross: $132,092,958. 

Not your run-of-the-mill romcom, this Oscar winner boasted a starry cast including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence (who took home the Academy Award for her role), Chris Tucker and Robert De Niro.

After leaving hospital following a bipolar episode, Pat (Cooper) is determined to win back his estranged wife. He meets a young widow, Tiffany (Lawrence), who offers to help him get his wife back if he enters a dance competition with her.

As they learn the steps of the dance, they also re-evaluate the steps they're taking in their lives. 

Bringing Down the House (2003)

The cast of Bringing Down the House

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Lifetime gross: $132,716,677.

A romcom where the two leads don't actually fall for one another, but they help each other find love (and freedom!). 

Charlene (Queen Latifah) breaks out of prison to seek help from attorney Peter (Steve Martin). She's innocent, the two become unlikely friends, and they help each other out in touching - and hilarious - scenes.

As Good as it Gets (1997)

Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $148,478,011. 

What happens when you get an old, miserly bigot, a single mother with an ill child and a gay neighbour? The most unlikely feelgood romantic comedy on this list. 

As Good as it Gets brings together different narratives to flesh out the full dimensions of its three leads, played by Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear.

Knocked Up (2007)

Cast of Knocked Up

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Lifetime gross: $148,768,917. 

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage... so goes the old nursery rhyme. But times change. This isn't the traditional path now, and more modern romcoms reflect this. Like 2007's Knocked Up. 

Katherine Heigl finds herself pregnant - or, 'knocked up' - after a one-night stand with Seth Rogen. As the baby grows, so too do the prospective parents, learning more about themselves along the way... and learning that, perhaps, there's more to their dynamic than a one-night-stand after all.

Runaway Bride (1999)

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Runaway Bride

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Lifetime gross: $152,257,509. 

Nine years after they stole the hearts of audiences the world over in Pretty Woman, director Garry Marshall reunited with his romantic leads, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, for this charming tale of a serial runaway bride. 

Julia's character has been engaged three times. And three times she hasn't quite made it down the aisle. Something which becomes national news thanks to an unkind article by Richard Gere. 

As he travels to get to the truth, he soon finds this runaway bride is busy running through his mind all day. Will he be able to charm her to finally say I Do?

Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)

Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $152,647,258. 

Every romantic comedy needs a couple you root for and despair at in equal measure, and Sex and the City: The Movie had given fans over 20 years to do just that already. 

The movie, released in 2008, four years after the original series went off air, finally followed Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her on-off-on-off beau, Mr Big (Chris Noth) making it official with a wedding. 

Spoiler: it doesn't go quite to plan.

The Proposal (2009)

Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $163,958,031.

Of course Sandra Bullock would have to make an appearance on the list - and her highest-grossing film in the genre was 2009's The Proposal. 

A fast-favourite for romcom lovers, the film follows Sandra Bullock, a ball-busting boss from Canada, as she must get married to one of her employees (Ryan Reynolds) in order to maintain a visa to work in the United States.

The marriage might start off fake but, this being a romcom, you know the love ends up being oh-so real. 

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

The cast of Crazy Rich Asians

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Lifetime gross: $174,532,921.

The newest movie to make it on the list, Crazy Rich Asians came out in 2018 to huge acclaim.

Based on a series of best-selling books, the first movie follows a New York based American-Asian who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, only to discover his family are indescribably wealthy - and not exactly her biggest fans.

There's Something About Mary (1998)

Cameron Diaz and Matt Dillon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $176,484,651. 

Part gross-out comedy, part romantic tale of redemption and making up for missed opportunities, There's Something About Mary solidified Cameron Diaz's ascent into a Hollywood star, as she played the titular character who had Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, and Chris Elliott all vying for her affection.

If it's not the most obvious romantic comedy on the list, it at least has one of the most memorable images. Two words: hair gel. 

Pretty Woman (1990)

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, Pretty Woman

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $178,406,268.  

On paper, a film about a prostitute falling for a billionaire doesn't exactly scream wholesome romcom classic, but the sheer charm of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere catapults this into a bonafide classic. 

A reimagined take on the Pygmalion tale - also the basis for My Fair Lady - it was the first film pairing Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, but it wasn't to be the last as their chemistry was palpable. 

In the film, after being picked up by Richard Gere experiencing some car trouble, Julia's Vivian quickly proves herself to be a lot more than he was ever expecting. 

Did he rescue her or did she "rescue him right back", as the film's famous quote has it? 

Hitch (2005)

Eva Mendes and Will Smith

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Lifetime gross: $179,495,555. 

Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens - played by Will Smith - is a professional dating expert who knows a bunch of tricks and gimmicks to get women into bed. But does he know how to make women fall in love for real, or does he have more to learn himself? 

He's put to the test in this endearing take on dating and sexuality, also starring Eva Mendes, Kevin James and Amber Valletta. 

What Women Want (2000)

Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $182,811,707. 

Some tired tropes have us believe that women expect men to be mind-readers, never really saying what they mean. So what if a man could read a woman's thoughts? 

This is the so-simple-it's-genius premise of Nancy Meyers' What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson (when he was once a box office draw) and Academy Award winner Helen Hunt. 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifetime gross: $241,438,208. 

No need to clean your screen with Windex, My Big Fat Greek Wedding really is the little indie film which could - grossing a record-shattering amount against a surprisingly modest budget. 

Made for $5 million, the movie became a worldwide hit and continues to hold the record for the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, as well as being one of the most profitable films ever made. 

Greek heritage or not, romcom fans were swept away by the tale of Toula (Nia Vardalos), a 30-something Greek woman living in Chicago who had given up hope of her happily-ever-after. Stuck working within her family businesses but dreaming of more, she takes herself to computer school and eventually meets the dashing Ian Miller (Sex and the City's John Corbett). 

Feminist undertones, a culture-clash comedy, and a happily-ever-after rolled into one.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.