We sat down and did the math, friends. According to our rom-com calculations, the hit movies on this list have two key things in common. Firstly, we’ll never stop loving them, no matter how dated some of their storylines and pop culture references might be. And secondly, they each managed to shamelessly prove that you can in fact put a price on cinematic love with the right movie.
At the U.S. box office, these jaw-dropping figures climbed well into the hundred millions and broke longheld records. Bankability aside, the unforgettable one-liners, well-timed laughs, and eternal feelings of longing they gave audiences all over earth remain priceless.
From the mushy movies that had us at hello to the hilarious hits that struck all of our funny bones whilst yanking on (and sometimes ripping out) every heartstring, these are the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time, as of this magic moment.
Runaway Bride, $152,257,509 (1999)
As onscreen lovers, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts have repeatedly proven they’re the unstoppable money-making machine all other fictional couples must be stacked against. After striking global gold and critical acclaim with Pretty Woman, director Garry Marshall brought the dynamic duo back together for another whack at whirlwind romance on the silver screen. And naturally, the foolproof move paid off.
Considering none of us could ever get enough of them, the rom-com recipe proved timelessly profitable once again thanks to Runaway Bride. Walking on set with a budget of $70 million, the 1999 hit would go on to gross $309.4 million globally after raking in $152.2 million domestically.
Sex and the City, $152,647,258 (2008)
Sex and the City: The Movie is a continuation of the iconic HBO hit series of the same name that ran from 1998-2004. Even still, it earned its own money in a big way. Directed by Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon all signed on to reprise their roles. And it’s a very good thing they did.
We pick up where we left off and soon find ourselves on the verge of Carrie and Mr. Big’s big, big wedding. Of course, things don’t go as planned, but somehow they wind up even better by the end. That theme carried over to the box office. Starting with a budget of $65 million, the insanely successful SATC movie earned $415.2 million worldwide. This is likely why they thought a sequel was a good idea. While it wasn’t nearly as successful, the follow-up did manage to garner $294.6 million. And that’s certainly nothing to scoff at!
Jerry Maguire, $153,952,592 (1996)
When Jerry Maguire made its theater debut, the whole wide world showed this mega-hit the money. By the end of opening weekend, the sporty Tom Cruise/Renée Zellweger romance movie stole the show across the country, coming in number one at the box office.
Following its domestic success, its worldwide total came to a staggering $273,552,592. Not bad for a movie with a budget of $50 million. And let’s not forget, Jerry Maguire was nominated for five Academy Awards and spawned some of the most quotable phrases in 90s movie history.
The Proposal, $163,958,031(2009)
While it’s no Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman, The Proposal wasted no time proving itself a lovable force of nature when it hit the box office. And I’d like to think that its plot focus on strong women played a part in its performance– along with its star-studded cast, of course.
Directed by Anne Fletcher, the film sees Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, and Betty White taking on leading roles in a modern love story. We follow a powerful female boss who forces her male employee to pretend like he’s her fiancee to avoid deportation back to Canada once her visa expires. Initially, they loathe each other, but they also don’t really know each other. As they reluctantly open up, their seething hatred turns into love. The $40-million-dollar flick happily ended up with $162.9 million domestically and $317.4 million worldwide.
Crazy Rich Asians, $174,532,921 (2018)
Adapted and directed by Jon M. Chu, Crazy Rich Asians is based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy of the same name. In addition to making a whopping $238.5 million at the global box office, the forever buzz-worthy production made movie history when it came to Asian-American representation in Hollywood.
Not only was it the first Hollywood movie to introduce audiences to an entirely Asian-American cast in over 25 years (following behind the Joy Luck Club), it quickly became the highest-grossing rom-com of its entire decade. And it must be noted, Crazy Rich Asians gave us the movie wedding to end all other movie weddings.
There’s Something About Mary, $176,484,651 (1998)
When it debuted, There’s Something About Mary was definitely not your average romantic comedy. But it had that undeniable certain something that audiences loved. Cameron Diaz plays the central love interest and Ben Stiller is the male lead. On their winding path to true love, Matt Dillon and a flock of other suitors are also vying and scheming for Mary’s (Diaz) affections.
While it was heavy on the gross-out humor, this late 90s gut-buster balanced out its silliness with a sweet and unassuming vulnerability. Most notably, it brought in $176.4 million domestically after working with only $23 million in the budget.
Pretty Woman, $178,406,268 (1990)
Rounding out the top five, we arrive at one of the most beloved unlikely fairytales ever conjured up by Hollywood. The irresistible pairing that is Richard Gere and Julia Roberts first made their forever home in our hearts with Pretty Woman, and there they shall stay.
The movie’s modest $14 million budget proved itself worth every pretty penny and then some. This beloved classic went on to gross a staggering $463.4 million at the worldwide box office.
Hitch, $179,495,555 (2005)
Directed by Andy Tennant and starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, and Kevin James, this 2005 hit centers on a professional dating consultant who teaches other men how to successfully woo women. While those strategies prove to backfire in his own dating life, Hitch successfully wooed the masses.
Working with a budget of $55-70 million and one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men, success seemed like a sure thing from the start. Still, those behind the bankable blockbuster were pleasantly surprised to rake in $368.1 million worldwide.
What Women Want, $182 million (2000)
Directed by Nancy Meyers, this romantic fantasy-comedy quickly became as iconic as its A-List cast. Starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, we follow a chauvinistic ad exec (Gibson) who develops the “gift” of being able to hear what the women around him are thinking.
First, he uses it to his advantage, getting ahead at work and getting what he wants from women. Then, he starts to really listen and, inevitably, falls in love with his work rival (Hunt) when he starts to see (and hear) her for the amazing woman she is. With a $70 million budget, its producers banked on star power-fueled success. But little did they know What Women Want would gross $374.1 million worldwide.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith, $186,336,279 (2005)
Although production famously went way over budget, Mr. & Mrs. Smith majorly made up for it at the box office. Getting much more than anyone involved could’ve possibly bargained for, the Brangelina birthing espionage rom-com secured a worldwide total of $478,207,520.
At the time, it was the highest-grossing film for both Pitt and Jolie, only to be later surpassed by World War Z and Maleficent. Here’s another fun fact: Nicole Kidman was originally set to star as the female lead. She dropped out due to a scheduling conflict while filming The Stepford Wives. Hoping to work with Kidman, Brad Pitt backed out too, even if only for a moment.
But can you imagine how different it all might’ve played out at the box office and beyond?
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, $241,438,208 (2002)
Who would’ve thought that this 2002 independent rom-com would become such a big, fat, record-breaking success? Directed by Joel Zwick and written by Nia Vardalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was initially dubbed a “sleeper hit” and eventually became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time.
Proving you can’t judge a hit by its budget, those behind the Greek wedding romp turned the $5 million they were working with into $368.7 million worldwide. While the $241.4 million it earned at the U.S. box office kept it from claiming the number one spot domestically, this forever funny flick still earned its keep as the single most successful rom-com in all of film history. And that definitely counts for something.