Don’t write them off as chick flicks. Just because a movie might centre on a woman’s comic misadventures in the dating world doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by a wider audience. After all, romantic comedies have launched the careers of some of Hollywood’s most famous leading men, too. (Think: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Gosling and, inexplicably, Woody Allen.
But rom-coms are also the ring in which prizefighting Hollywood actresses traditionally vie for the title of America’s sweetheart, duking it out to see who can make audiences love them the most. So, who’s the all-time champ? Contenders Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan and Reese Witherspoon were selected by a committee (of one) and will henceforth be subjected to a super-scientific method to determine which of them is the heavyweight of our hearts. Here it goes:
Battle of the rom-coms: Which leading lady reigns supreme?
Ryan vs. RobertsMeg Ryan sets the bar high with 1989's When Harry Met Sally. Can anything top that iconic diner scene? Yes, if Julia Roberts has anything to say about it. America's Pretty Woman (no one can take that title away from her—at least until the inevitable remake) sings Prince in the bathtub, flosses on the first date, launches escargot across a crowded fine-dining establishment and makes us believe in the life-altering power of a good makeover. We adore her for it. Point: RobertsColumbia/Buena Vista
Bullock vs. RyanRyan makes another run for the title with the one-two punch of Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. Is it cheating to use that much Tom Hanks? We don't care, we love it. But who's this rom-com newcomer? Fresh off of her success in Speed, Sandra Bullock stars opposite an unconscious man she's pretending to be engaged to in While You Were Sleeping. Bold move, but not bold enough. Point: RyanBuena Vista/Warner Bros
Roberts vs. RyanThings start to slide for Ryan in the late '90s, critically speaking—which isn't to say we wouldn't happily invest another 114 minutes watching her opposite Nic Cage in City of Angels or alongside Hugh Jackman in 2001's Kate and Leopold. That same year, Julia Roberts starred in a movie actually titled America's Sweethearts. Based on our extremely arbitrary set of rules, we're going to have to disqualify her for that. It's blatant overreaching. Point: RyanSony/WB
Hathaway vs. WitherspoonThe field gets a bit more crowded in the mid-aughts. In 2002, Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama goes up against Bullock in Two Weeks Notice. Then underdog Anne Hathaway sweeps in with a string of successful films like The Devil Wears Prada, Valentine's Day and Love and Other Drugs. It looks as though Ryan may be ousted from the top spot, but then Reese is caught on camera drunkenly yelling at a cop, and Anne develops a knack for making people dislike her a little bit more each time she opens her mouth. That leaves just Bullock and Ryan in the running.Fox/Buena Vista
Bullock vs. RyanBecause the two women are pretty evenly matched when it comes to the rom-com titles on their CV, we've had to resort to hitting below the belt. Ryan, to her credit, has never made a movie as irredeemable as Bullock's cinematic travesty All About Steve (which may as well have been an Adam Sandler movie). But just when it looks like Ryan might take the title, Bullock rallies: The actor showed up to accept her Razzie award for Worst Performance, handing out copies of All About Steve to everyone in the audience like the good sport she is. The next day, she won an Oscar for The Blind Side and, in our minds, clinched the title of America's Sweetheart.Fox/Picturehouse
Bravo’s New Year, New Love Marathon begins December 31 and runs through January 3. Catch our contenders in movies like Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, You’ve Got Mail, Sweet Home Alabama, When Harry Met Sally and more.