The romantic comedy is making a slow but steady comeback these days. Yet, back in the 1990s, it felt like a new romantic comedy—or "romcom," for short—was coming out every week. There was a significant decrease in their numbers during the 2000s and onward, though.
The romcom's heyday was no doubt the 1990s. We as a culture wear rose-tinted glasses about that decade, but, truth be told, those ten years had some enjoyable romantic comedies. Many of which didn't get a fair shot, or they were outright undervalued. So, let's look at five underrated romantic comedies from the '90s as well as five that are, in our opinion, overrated for various reasons.
10 Underrated: The Wedding Banquet (1993)
Wai-Tung is a gay Taiwanese immigrant living in New York. To appease his parents, to whom he has yet to come out, Wai-Tung agrees to an arranged marriage with a Taiwanese woman in need of American citizenship. As expected, this decision is not easy on Wai-Tung's boyfriend Simon—especially when Wai-Tung's parents throw an extravagant wedding banquet for the couple.
It's true Ang Lee's second feature-length film trafficked kudos and did moderately well at the box office. However, The Wedding Banquet is an easily forgotten movie despite how important its themes are. It's an amusing and low-key movie about placating family and one's own desires.
9 Overrated: My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Julianne and Neal had a pact where they would marry each other if they were both single by the age of 28. Days before she turns 28, Julianne is shocked to learn Neal is engaged. Now, Julianne is adamant about stopping the wedding because she's in love with Neal.
Julia Roberts earns kudos for playing such an unlikable character. Her role here is more of a villain that the audience roots for. So, yes, it's a subversion of rom-com tropes. With all its accolades, though, one would expect more of My Best Friend's Wedding. The cast is superb, and there are some delicious moments, but the humor hasn't exactly aged well either.
8 Underrated: The Object of My Affection (1998)
A social worker named Nina invites her gay best friend George to move in with her after he breaks up with his long-time boyfriend. When Nina realizes she's pregnant with her ex's baby, George steps up to help her. This is when Nina develops romantic feelings for him.
Thanks to Friends, breakout star Jennifer Aniston was a serious box office attractant in the 90s. It's true, though, that her early films were not huge commercial hits. Yet, they established Aniston as a viable film actor in the near future. The Object of My Affection is not without its flaws—especially when viewed for the first time today—but its leads are so charming.
7 Overrated: There's Something About Mary (1998)
Ted's prom night was a mess. Thirteen years later, he hires a detective to find his prom date, Mary. Though the detective tracks her down, Ted now has to deal with the long line of suitors vying for Mary's love—including the detective.
There's Something About Mary was that runaway comedy that everyone over-referenced in 1998. Especially that one gag we dare not bring up. Let's just say the humor, in some ways, is not as funny as it was a decade ago. On the bright side, the film does a serviceable takedown of toxic masculinity.
6 Underrated: Beautiful Girls (1996)
A struggling jazz pianist based in New York returns to his Massachusetts hometown for a high school reunion. He's not happy with his life, and he wants to get away from all that ails him for a while. In his hometown, he reunites with old friends, and, apparently, not a lot has changed.
Beautiful Girls is led by a talented cast of actors who are familiar, but not so much their off-screen personas don't cloud your judgment. The film isn't as plot-driven as some might like, but it's a wonderful ensemble movie.
5 Overrated: Notting Hill (1999)
A bored bookstore owner in London has a whirlwind affair with a famous American actress after she steps into his shop. As much as they like each other, they now have to reconcile their glaring lifestyle differences.
Notting Hill made a ton of money at the box office, and critics seemed to like it more than not. Yet, for a movie starring two of the biggest names in 90s cinema, Notting Hill is underwhelming. There's just far too much quaintness in this film. Nevertheless, it's a comforting movie for those who love Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, or anyone who imagines London to be some kind of hub for all things whimsical.
4 Underrated: How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
A disheartened stockbroker named Stella flees to Jamaica with her best friend Delilah. There, Stella falls for a younger man working on the island. Their fling turns serious, but Stella has to return to California. If they were to stay together, though, can Stella and her new man overcome their glaring differences?
By no means is How Stella Got Her Groove Back a perfect film. If anything, it's the movie's many imperfections that make it so affable. Especially the always captivating Angela Bassett as the titular character, and Whoopi Goldberg as her hilarious best friend.
3 Overrated: She's All That (1999)
Big man on campus Zack becomes unpopular when his girlfriend dumps him for a reality TV star. To gain his popularity back, Zack agrees to a challenge: discreetly makeover nerdy classmate Laney so she can become the prom queen. However, Zack didn't imagine falling for her.
She's All That is a low effort reinterpretation of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. The cast is no doubt physically attractive and likable. The film is ultimately so half-committed that it's really of no interest to anyone outside of nostalgia or a younger age bracket.
2 Underrated: Forces of Nature (1999)
Ben needs to make it from New York to Georgia because he's literally about to get married, but a series of unforeseen events cause him to find another means of travel. This results in him sharing a rental car with a quirky stranger named Sarah. As they travel together, Ben and Sarah have an impulsive attraction to one another that neither one wants to admit to having.
Forces of Nature is odd because it's a rom-com trying not to be one. Not to mention, the movie tends to drag along at a snail's pace when something goofy isn't happening on screen. On the other hand, it attempts to delve past the surface of Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck's characters. It also ends in a way that defies the rom-com formula.
1 Overrated: Never Been Kissed (1999)
Junior copywriter Josie lands a gig because of her youthful looks. The job, though, is to research modern teen life while going undercover at her former high school. The problem is Josie was never popular when she was actually a teenager. So, trying to act hip and trendy now isn't so easy. To complicate matters, Josie falls for her teacher, and the feelings appear to be mutual.
If you don't think too hard about it, Never Been Kissed is an acceptably cute romcom carried by Drew Barrymore. Conversely, specific aspects of the story are hardly timeless. For instance, the relationship between Barrymore and Michael Vartan's characters raises an eyebrow if you're watching the movie now as an adult.