Netflix Instant: Classic Romantic Comedies
If you’re in the mood to be charmed, here are eight of my favorite classic romantic comedies available to stream now on Netflix. The witty repartee, swoon-worthy moments, and feel-good love stories in these films should bring a goofy smile to your face!
1. To Catch a Thief (1955)
This is a glamorous Hitchcock thriller with a romance as sparkly and sharp as the diamonds disappearing from swanky hotel rooms along the Riviera. Cary Grant is a famous jewel thief who claims to have reformed, but he comes under intense suspicion when a cat burglar with his exact M.O. starts swiping priceless gems.
Grace Kelly plays a wealthy, bored heiress on vacation who decides to find the jewel thief herself. She targets suave Grant and fireworks (literally) ensue.
The intrigue and romance is played against the gorgeous backdrop of the Riviera with Hitchcock’s trademark thrills, humor, and sexy glamour. Plus, Edith Head‘s costumes for Grace Kelly are some of the most stunning you’ll see anywhere. To Catch a Thief is a beautiful movie with a fun plot that’s lighter than some of Hitchcock’s other films. Here’s the trailer, and you can buy this classic here. Check out my full review here.
2. How to Steal a Million (1966)
Continuing with our glamorous thief theme, here is one of my favorites. Audrey Hepburn plays a Parisian socialite whose quirky father moonlights as an art forger. He’s been successfully forging and selling fake masterworks for decades, but suddenly his illegal activities are in danger of being discovered. So Hepburn hires a dashing thief (Peter O’Toole) to help her steal back one such “masterpiece” before it’s exposed as a forgery.
The pair gallivant about Paris planning their heist, exchanging clever, goofy repartee while Hepburn models one chic Givenchy outfit after another.
Meanwhile, an awkward American millionaire (Eli Wallach) starts pursuing Hepburn, and the brash criminal she hired seems interested in more than the artwork. But things are not quite what they seem…
3. How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
In a scheme devised by Bacall, the three beautiful ladies pool their money and rent a penthouse apartment to better attract their kind of man. The women are unabashed gold diggers with a plan, and they stick to it, for a while…But darn that love!
This movie is about that age-old conundrum that Hollywood loved to explore: marry for love or marry for money? Or can you do both? (see Hands Across the Table, Midnight, Moon Over Miami, The Palm Beach Story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes…)
Bacall is wonderful as a supremely confident plotter, Grable is adorable in her own ditzy but highly competent way, and Monroe’s perfect “dumb blonde” is hilarious. William Powell appears as a suitor, and the movie is stylish, fun, and filmed in CinemaScope! Here’s the trailer, and you can buy this movie here.
4. Roman Holiday (1953)
This movie has a wonderful love story, iconic actors, one of the greatest days ever, and an ending that will make you cry and smile at the same time. Audrey Hepburn plays Princess Anne from an unnamed country on a goodwill European tour. She’s poised and dignified, but she’s also very young, and her royal duties don’t allow much time for relaxation or fun.
During her visit to Rome, all the pressure, responsibilities, and exhaustion finally get to her. A doctor gives her a sedative to help her sleep, but before it takes hold, she sneaks out and wanders the streets of Rome. A very handsome and very decent American (Gregory Peck) finds the sleepy princess dozing at the Forum. She doesn’t know that he is actually a reporter planning to use her “Roman holiday” as his big scoop…
This movie is charming, poignant, damn romantic (#4 on AFI’s list of Greatest Love Stories), and overall incredibly delightful. Plus, it was Audrey Hepburn’s first Hollywood film, and she won the Oscar for her performance! Here’s the trailer, and here is my full-length review. You can buy this film here.
5. That Touch of Mink (1962)
If you like romantic comedy with a heaping helping of old-fashioned embarrassment, try That Touch of Mink. Permanently flustered and painfully chaste Doris Day meets wealthy, super-suave Cary Grant, who plays almost a caricature of his onscreen persona in this film.
It’s a classic sex comedy of the early 1960s: sophisticated Grant pursues Day with all of his money and romantic power, and she falls under his spell. But she’s only really interested if marriage is the eventual outcome, and she’s fairly certain that he is just looking for an affair. Most of the film is about “good girl” Day struggling to navigate their different expectations and fight her attraction to the charming playboy.
6. White Christmas (1954)
Despite the title, this movie is more than a Christmas film, and the double romance plot is sure to delight. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney (yes, George’s aunt), Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen dance and sing their way through this fantastic musical with songs by Irving Berlin.
After serving in WWII, Crosby and Kaye become highly successful performers and producers. They meet a sister act (Clooney and Ellen), and end up spending their Christmas vacation with them at a ski resort in Vermont. But there’s no snow–so to bring customers to the failing resort, the four talented buddies decide to put on a show!
The film is a showcase for these amazing performers, and there are marvelous musical numbers, including “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” “Choreography,” and of course, “White Christmas” crooned by Crosby. White Christmas was the year’s top box-office earner when it was released in 1954, and it remains fresh, funny, and wonderful! Here’s the trailer, and click here to read my full review. You can buy this film here.
7. His Girl Friday (1940)
If you like your romance with a bit of furiously fast dialogue and hardboiled reporters, this one is for you.
His Girl Friday is famous for its incredibly fast, overlapping dialogue, so get ready for a lot of sharp, intense, and heated repartee. It’s not conventionally romantic, but the chemistry between Russell and Grant is terrific, and their suitability for each other is evident from the moment they start trading insults.
Plus, it’s very funny (if you can follow the super-fast dialogue!) with some wonderful inside jokes. For example, Cary Grant says Bellamy’s character “looks like that fellow in the movies, you know…Ralph Bellamy!” And at one point, Grant makes a reference to his dealings with Archie Leach, the last man who crossed him. Archie Leach was Cary Grant’s real name! Here’s the trailer, and you can buy this movie here.
8. Desk Set (1957)
This film features the incredible screen team Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in their eighth film together. Hepburn plays a crazy-smart research librarian at the Federal Broadcasting Company, and Tracy is an engineer who has come to install a computer in her department.
The librarians are afraid that once the computer, EMERAC, is installed they will all lose their jobs. So Hepburn and her fellow brilliant librarians, (including Joan Blondell), set out to prove that they are not so easily replaced!
Meanwhile, Hepburn and Tracy embark on an adorable platonic and then not-so-platonic affair. But can their budding love survive the invasion of Tracy’s EMERAC?
I hope that one of these classic romantic comedies can make you laugh, smile or swoon! Visit these posts for more classic movies available to stream on Netflix, and read my History Through Hollywood: Love for a look at how classic Hollywood handled love stories.