When you hear the word "wedding" do your eyes turn into little hearts? Or do weddings bring out your inner cynic, causing you to rant and rave about the ever-growing divorce rate? Whatever side of the coin you land on, everyone can agree that weddings are one big conflict bomb wrapped in a pretty white bow.
Naturally, an event laden with stress and tension and called the "happiest day of your life" is perfect subject matter for the movies. Some wedding flicks are a riot as we get to live vicariously through hysterical, colorful characters. Others go deeper, examining romantic and familial love, daring to challenge the audience. Then there are the stinkers so riddled with clichés, you're not just questioning the marital institution but life itself. So which movies are worthy of a two-hour commitment? And which would we leave at the altar? Here are the five best wedding movies, along with the five worst.
10 Best - Rachel Getting Married (2008)
In Rachel Getting Married, Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a recovering drug addict who temporarily leaves rehab to attend her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. Emotions are high, particularly because Rachel did not ask Kym to be the maid of honor. She still blames Kym for a tragic incident that happened years ago.
Typically, we categorize wedding movies in the comedy genre, but that doesn't always have to be the case. Weddings can be tumultuous affairs as families, already running high on emotion, are confronted with tragedy and dysfunction long since buried. Rachel Getting Married is understated in tone and full of complicated people. Those sometimes make for the best movies—and best weddings.
9 Worst - Runaway Bride (1999)
Runaway Bride sees the re-teaming of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, her dreamy co-star in the beloved classic Pretty Woman. Gere plays Ike, a journalist writing a piece on Roberts' Maggie, locally infamous for thrice leaving grooms at the altar. She's now about to marry Bachelor #4. However, surprise surprise, Maggie ends up falling for Ike. She dumps her fiancé and agrees to marry Ike...keeping her original wedding date. This premise is as ludicrous as it sounds, but anyone who's tried to book a wedding venue can feel Maggie's pain. She'd sooner marry a man she hardly knows before losing her deposit.
A Julia Roberts romcom is like wedding cake—hardly substantial, but sweet and delectable all the same. That makes Runaway Bride like your second slice, in that it's still enjoyable, but you've been here before and you're probably better off without.
8 Best - My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Have you ever made a marriage pact with a friend where iff you're both still single by a certain age, you'll tie the knot? In My Best Friend's Wedding, Julianne (Julia Roberts) finds herself approaching the due date of such a pact, only to be informed that her friend/potential husband Michael (Dermot Mulroney) is about to get married.
Julianne does some truly terrible things but the audience finds themselves rooting for her, all because of Roberts' charm. Spoiler alert (from 22 years ago)—Julianne doesn't end up with Michael, but she gets to spend a lovely evening with her real BFF George (Rupert Everett). For an otherwise by the numbers film, it's a positive twist that the heroine doesn't have to get the guy to live happily ever after.
7 Worst - The Wedding Planner (2001)
Attractive love interests. Clichéd meet cute. Contrived obstacles. That's really all you need to know about The Wedding Planner. But to humor the lucky ones who have managed to escape this dud, it's about ace wedding planner Mary (Jennifer Lopez) who meets cute doctor Steve (Matthew McConaughey). They share an almost-kiss, but Mary learns that Steve is the fiancé of a client. Does she keep her head down and do her job or does she follow her heart and pick Steve? You already know the answer. BTW, would you trust a doctor who only eats brown M&Ms because they have "less artificial food coloring"? It's a notion more preposterous than the movie, and that's saying a lot.
The Wedding Planner is what happens if somebody puts a bunch of A-list celebrity names into a Bingo ball and it spits out Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey. Their chemistry is nonexistent and audiences would do well to discard this movie like Steve's non-brown M&Ms.
6 Best - My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Meeting your soulmate can be the most exciting, thrilling moment of your life; finding out your family doesn't like them can be the absolute worst. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) finds herself in such a predicament. A late bloomer at 30, Toula decides to seek independence from her family and marry the man of her dreams, Ian (John Corbett). Anyone can see Ian's a catch, even the Portokaloses, but there's one problem—Ian isn't Greek.
When two people of different backgrounds decide to wed, there can be a big fat culture clash. This is a comedy goldfield and Vardalos mines it expertly. While we laugh along to the outrageous family meddling, we find ourselves questioning where to draw the line between the need to preserve culture vs. forging our own path away from our families. Apparently, that line is garish bridesmaid dresses.
5 Worst - American Wedding (2003)
American Wedding centers around the upcoming nuptials of Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). This third installment of the American Pie franchise is staler than week-old wedding cake. It's a bouquet full of tired tropes, including a debaucherous bachelor party and judgmental future in-laws. There's grossout gags abound. And it's not an American Pie movie without some good old-fashioned objectification of women.
American Wedding is just running laps on the same track of its superior predecessors. As tired as it is, the film also manages to be too much of a brand departure. The female characters of the past two movies were hardly the most three-dimensional people we've seen onscreen but they helped round out an enjoyable ensemble. When left alone with the guys, viewers see that they're boring, creepy, and undeserving of their own movie.
4 Best - Bridesmaids (2011)
Being asked to be a maid of honor is, well, an honor. It's also a terrifying prospect as the success of the special day is largely in your hands. In Bridesmaids, Annie (Kristen Wiig) finds herself in such a position when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) pops the question. Annie fears that the gulf already forming between her and Lillian will grow even wider. If that's not daunting enough, Annie also has to deal with scheming fellow bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne) who's coming for her title.
Bridesmaids is brilliant because it's a movie for and about women in which both the groom and the wedding itself take a backseat. This is really a story about female friendship and what happens when people who love each other grow apart. It's also a loot bag jam-packed with laughs and guaranteed to elicit more tears (of laughter) than even the sweetest of weddings.
3 Worst - Made of Honor (2008)
If you're a movie character in love with your best friend, please, for the love of all that is holy, tell them. It will spare audiences 90 minutes of cinematic misery. Made of Honor's Tom (Patrick Dempsey) sure could have used this advice. He's head over heels for his BFF Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), and has to suffer through being her maid of honor instead of her groom.
This is nothing more than a reversed gender version of My Best Friend's Wedding and it's astonishingly inferior. Dempsey doesn't have a fraction of Roberts' charisma. His character is whiny and entitled. How come Tom doesn't just tell Hannah how he feels? Why is communication so difficult? Why did this movie even get made?
2 Worst - Bride Wars (2009)
Every woman has dreamt about her wedding day since she was a little girl. At least, that's what Bride Wars would have you believe. There's nothing more important to Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) than their special day, except maybe their friendship. Scratch that—their wedding is way more important. When their wedding are accidentally scheduled on the same day, these two women sabotage each other in a pathetic competition to see who will have the better wedding, and who's the more vacuous character.
Essentially, the movie is Jackass with overpriced floral arrangements. Not only is Bride Wars completely insulting to women, it's an insult to moviegoers with even the slightest modicum of taste.
1 Best - The Farewell (2019)
Some would argue that weddings are less for the couple and more for the family. That's certainly the case in The Farewell. In fact, the wedding is entirely for Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou), the elderly matriarch of a Chinese family. That's because it's all a big lie. Nai Nai is terminally ill and the family wants to give her the experience of seeing a grandchild get married before she passes.
The "wedding" may be the reason the family reunites, but it's hardly the beating heart of the film. Instead, it focuses on the differences of Chinese and American perspectives on death, family, and human connection. Billi (Awkwafina), who grew up in America, is strongly opposed to the family's decision to keep Nai Nai in the dark about her condition. The film offers no argument or bias as to which is the "correct" perspective. While the wedding may be fake, the love this family shares couldn't be more real.