If you’ve ever written a romantic comedy, it’s likely you spent weeks coming up with the perfect, embarrassing and hopefully original meet cute (also called a cute meet).
So what exactly is a meet cute? It’s just writer jargon for how two potential lovers meet each other in a movie. This moment is crucial in setting up and teasing a romance that will hopefully engage an audience for the next hour and a half.
The best meet cutes happen under dubious circumstances, often the most awkward or humiliating moments of the characters lives. There must be some sort of conflict at play and it’s best when the potential couple despises each other, allowing them to go on a journey where they will eventually fall in love. Meet cutes should happen by page 17 in your screenplay.
Here are our 10 favorites:
10. Love Actually
The new Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) is introduced to his staff, something that should have been a rigid and proper event. But when he meets Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), she’s so nervous, she uses all the curse words you’d never want to use to your boss’s face. What makes this so endearing is that her F-up humanizes her – both for the PM and for the audience.
9. The Big Sick
Sometimes true stories make the best movies. We love that Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon wanted to share their strange courtship making for one of the sweetest films of 2017. Their cute meet comes after Emily (Zoe Kazan) heckles Kumail at one of his standup comedy shows. The conflict here comes from Kumail being genuinely annoyed with the pretty Emily. Much to Kumail’s surprise, she proves she can go toe-to-toe with him in terms of witty dialogue and the romance begins.
We all hate getting pulled over by the cops, but for Annie (Kristen Wiig), getting a ticket from sexy Scotsman Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), makes the experience much less painful though still pretty awkward. The two actors have serious chemistry and struggle to meet the expectations of cop/civilian interaction. The underlying conflict comes from knowing how down on her luck Annie currently is.
7. 50 First Dates
This is one of the sweetest yet strangest love stories of all times. Every morning, Lucy (Drew Barrymore) wakes with a brain that is a clean slate due to her condition that gives her short-term memory loss. Her husband Henry (Adam Sandler) loves her so much, he woos her with a cute meet every single day, winning her over with charm and humor as shown when he plays with her pancake house. The underlying conflict comes when we learn about her memory loss.
6. Dirty Dancing
Shy and sheltered, Baby (Jennifer Grey) meets Johnny (Patrick Swayze) at a dance party while on vacation in the Catskills. One look at him dancing and something in her stirs. She’s so infatuated with Johnny the only thing she can think to say when introduced is, “I carried a watermelon.” Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because the real introduction happens in the form of a dance. If they can make their bodies move together, then their hearts will surely follow.
Jack (Leo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) make one of our favorite movie couples of all time. In their meet cute, the conflict is quite serious. Rose, feeling hopeless, stands at the edge of the ship contemplating suicide. Though Jack’s line, “Don’t do it” isn’t the sexiest come-on, it does save her life and allow her to go on a romantic journey with him.
4. Pretty Woman
This film is probably the most ubiquitous rom-com of all time which makes sense since it’s inspired by the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion and the hooker with a heart of gold trope feels very familiar. The best line from the meet cute is when Vivian (Julia Roberts) agrees to give Edward (Richard Gere) directions, but only if he pays her five bucks. He says, “You can’t charge me for directions.” To which she quips, “I can do anything I want to – I ain’t lost.” And a romance is born.
3. Silver Linings Playbook
This film is a sly, funny, brutally honest take on what it’s like to live (and love) with mental illness. Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) seem as if they can’t stand each other and let the insults fly when they meet. But once Tiffany asks, “What meds are you on?” they form a genuine connection. It’s one of the best lines in the film because no reasonable person would ask that question of someone they just met. The underlying conflict in the scene is that Pat is still hoping to reunite with this wife – something painfully obvious to everyone else won’t happen.
2. When Harry Met Sally
Polar opposites, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) meet just before they are to drive together from their college in Illinois to New York City. On the drive, the shockingly ridged Sally tells Harry, “Men and women can never be friends, the sex part always gets in the way,” to which Harry vehemently disagrees. The rest of the film hilariously proves how true her words really are.
1. Romeo and Juliet
What’s wonderful about this meet cute is that it requires no words at all – something surprising from blustery old Shakespeare. The romance, or really infatuation, begins with pure physical chemistry from opposite sides of an aquarium. Well-done, director Baz Luhrmann!
Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards