It’s no secret that we love romantic comedies. When done right, they’re hilarious, heartwarming movies that can transport you to a whole different world. When done wrong, well, they can still be pretty hilarious. A big part of whether a romantic comedy is successful comes down to the cast. There has to be great chemistry between the leading couple, or else what’s the point?
Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, which was a golden age for rom-coms, there were a handful of actresses that really established themselves in the genre. Many of them have branched out in the years since, but we’ll always love them for their cheesy romantic movies. We’re not saying they can’t do anything else, but their romantic comedies have a special place in our hearts.
17. Kate Hudson
We’re nostalgic just thinking about Kate Hudson in romantic comedies. After first breaking out in 2000 in the more serious Almost Famous, she went on a rom-com hot streak for the next several years. Over the next decade, she starred in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Raising Helen, and Fool’s Gold, just to name a few. Kate hasn’t really made a romantic comedy in a while, but we hope that she’s just waiting for the right opportunity. Maybe she and her mom Goldie Hawn can make one together?
16. Sarah Jessica Parker
Everyone knows that Sarah Jessica Parker is comedic perfection. By far, her most iconic role is Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, which is basically like a six-season extended rom-com. Carrie is beloved, but way before SATC, SJP was ridiculously charming in the ’80s classic Girls Just Want to Have Fun. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s really required romantic comedy history. Sarah Jessica has also had movie success since her Carrie days, reprising the role in two movies, as well as starring in rom-coms like Failure to Launch.
15. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore started out as a child star, but she truly became a leading lady in the late ’90s. During this time, she starred in classic romantic comedies like The Wedding Singer and Never Been Kissed. If you haven’t seen either of those, add them to your list ASAP. Drew’s rom-com career continued into the 2000s with great movies like 50 First Dates, Fever Pitch, and Music and Lyrics, all of which were released in back-to-back years. Other than the two amazing Charlie’s Angels movies, Drew has really done her best work in these romantic roles.
14. Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts was the undisputed queen of 1990s romantic comedies. After melting everyone’s hearts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman, she was immediately one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and she churned out the hits. Her other top ’90s movies include My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill, and The Runaway Bride, which saw her paired with her Pretty Woman costar Richard Gere again. After 2000, she transitioned to some more serious roles, winning an Oscar for her fierce performance in Erin Brockovich. There’s no doubt Julia Roberts can do it all, but there’s nothing quite like her classic rom-coms.
13. Cameron Diaz
One of Cameron Diaz‘s first big movie roles was opposite Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding, where they’re both competing for the same man. Cameron quickly followed this success with There’s Something About Mary, which gave her her own vehicle to shine in. She spent much of the 2000s voicing Princess Fiona in the Shrek series, but she still found time for a few great rom-coms. These include In Her Shoes, What Happens In Vegas, and The Holiday, which is one of the best modern Christmas movies to date. Cameron hasn’t been in many movies lately, but we’d love to see her come back in a really solid romantic comedy.
12. Reese Witherspoon
Okay, so really we love Reese Witherspoon no matter what she does, and we wouldn’t want to box her in… but we love romantic comedies and she is kind of the QUEEN. Sweet Home Alabama is a classic, but nothing can compare to Legally Blonde. Witherspoon’s performance as Elle Woods is probably one of the best romantic comedy roles ever, packed with sass, determination, and of course, lots of hot pink. Since hitting the books at Harvard Law, Reese has done lots of different things with her career, most of which have been successful. She won an Oscar for Walk the Line, and casually produced and starred in one of the best shows of the decade, Big Little Lies. Her most recent rom-com, Home Again wasn’t too shabby, either. She’s still got it!
11. Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez is a multitalented performer, who has spent her career moving from strength to strength. Sometimes she’s a singer, she’s hosted and judged reality TV shows, and, of course, she’s an actress. These days, she plays a detective on her TV series Shades of Blue, but we’re bigger fans of her earlier work. We’re talking The Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, all instant classics of the rom-com genre. J.Lo might be too busy to just do one thing with her career, but she’s great at playing the romantic leading lady.
10. Meg Ryan
If anyone could give Julia Roberts some competition in the ’90s, it was Meg Ryan. She starred in her fair share of classic romantic comedies, including Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. That was back in the days when even Tom Hanks was doing rom-coms! She also voiced the title character in Anastasia, just as a little trivia fun fact. Since the early 2000s, Meg has acted only sporadically, choosing to live more of a normal life. No matter what she does now, her classic rom-coms will live forever.
9. Jennifer Garner
Jennifer Garner has had a long and varied career, playing many kinds of roles with skill. She got her big break starring in Alias for five seasons, but she quickly crossed over to movies. Her 2004 romantic comedy 13 Going on 30 is one of the best ever made, and for that movie alone Jennifer will always have a place in the (very prestigious but also fictional) rom-com hall of fame. She also starred in the infamous Valentine’s Day, a romantic comedy jumble with about a hundred different characters.
8. Julia Stiles
When talking about rom-com leading ladies, Julia Stiles always seems to go unnoticed, but we’re not sure why. Another breakout of the late 1990s, her performance as Kat Stratford in 10 Things I Hate About You is teen movie gold. She also starred in The Prince and Me, which might not be the best movie ever, but we love it anyway. Since then, she’s done work on TV and had lots of supporting roles in movies, but she’s probably still best known for 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s a hard role to beat.
7. Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger is great, there’s no doubt about it, but her place on this list comes down to one character: Bridget Jones. In Bridget Jones’s Diary, and in the subsequent sequels, Renée plays the charmingly neurotic character with the absolute perfect touch, it’s really incredible. It doesn’t hurt that she gets to choose between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, but we’ll try not to act too jealous. She also played Tom Cruise‘s love interest in Jerry Maguire, but other than that her career has been kind of a mixed bag. But we still have Bridget Jones, and for that, we’re forever grateful.
6. Amanda Bynes
Oh Amanda Bynes, sweet sweet Amanda Bynes. So adorable, so funny, and now we just kind of have no idea where she is. Before her well-publicized meltdown a few years back, Amanda had been the top name in teen movies for years. She completely won us over with her quirky performances in What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man, both of which are just goofy, fun coming-of-age movies. She was also strong in supporting roles in Hairspray and Easy A, but obviously it’s been a few years since she did much acting. Come back, Amanda, there’s still time!
5. Jennifer Aniston
We don’t really even need to tell you where Jennifer Aniston got her start, do we? After being the endearing anchor of the Friends cast for a full decade, it was time for Jen to reap the rewards with a promising film career. Tons of good-to-decent romantic comedies followed, including highlights like Along Came Polly, The Break-Up, and He’s Just Not That Into You. In the last several years, Jen has struggled to make movies that don’t fall squarely into the ‘trash’ category, but we have faith that something good will come sooner or later. Until then, we’ll just keep waiting on that Friends reunion that won’t ever happen.
4. Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl‘s career is a little confusing. She found fame as the lovable but erratic Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, but she left the show at the height of its popularity and not necessarily under the best circumstances. She pretty much left because she was supposed to become a huge movie star, but it only sort of turned out that way. In reality, her biggest movies came out while she was still on the show: Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and The Ugly Truth. Since then, she hasn’t recaptured that same rom-com magic, and we’re not quite sure why. At least we can always binge vintage Grey’s Anatomy, right?
3. Eva Mendes
Eva Mendes is another star whose career never quite lived up to its potential. She was in lots of movies in the early-mid 2000s but has barely worked onscreen in the last five years. Still, she was great opposite Will Smith in Hitch, and we’re sad we didn’t get to see more of her as a rom-com leading lady. Maybe when you’re married to Ryan Gosling, every day feels like a romantic comedy. Yeah, that sounds pretty nice.
2. Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis got a young start, when she famously lied about her age in order to get cast in That ’70s Show. She and real-life hubby Ashton Kutcher were the show’s breakout stars, both segueing into profitable movie careers. She’s had memorable roles in rom-coms like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends With Benefits, and Ted, making her one of the most sought-after faces in Hollywood. She also won acclaim for her supporting role in Black Swan, but we prefer her in movies that don’t give us nightmares. She and Ashton should totally make some more movies together because that’s really what we need in 2018.
1. Anne Hathaway
Last, but not least, we have Anne Hathaway. Anne made her name starring in comedic roles that had a little more substance than just average romantic comedies, and we loved her for it. Movies like The Devil Wears Prada and The Princess Diaries are just tough to top. She also starred in Bride Wars with Kate Hudson, but that’s not really on the same level. Anne has since focused on more dramatic projects, but she tends to seem like kind of a try-hard. We first fell in love with her for her clumsy, normal characters, and we’d love to see her return to that at some point.