Sometimes I do movie reviews on this blog, and that might lead you to suspect that I approach movies with a critical eye. However, the truth is – most of the time I don’t. I not-so-secretly adore cheesy romantic comedies, movies I know are bad but can’t help but love anyway. In fact, while I enjoy many critically-acclaimed movies, the ones I actually watch again and again are always the guilty pleasure ones. You might admire Schindler’s List, but is it really the kind of movie you want to watch while vegging out on a Sunday afternoon? I think not. And with that, here are my personal favorite guilty pleasure movies.
(1) Sweet Home Alabama
- Why It’s Cliche: Melanie escaped her small, hick town for New York City, a career as a big-time fashion designer, and an impossibly beautiful fiance (Patrick Dempsey, pre-McDreamy years). But when she returns to (sweet home) Alabama, she realizes small-town life isn’t as bad as she imagined and finds out that her ex-husband might have been the man for her all along.
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “You’re the first boy I ever kissed, Jake, and I want you to be the last.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Because, deep down, I think the idea of getting back to a simpler life appeals to me. Plus, Josh Lucas is impossibly cute and Reese Witherspoon is her reliably adorable self, and they have nice chemistry together.
(2) 13 Going on 30
- Why It’s Cliche: Jenna longs to be popular and grown-up, and via magic birthday dust (for serious), she’s transported to her 30s, where she realizes she achieved everything she wanted. Only – surprise! – it turns out that being “cool” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that it’s the nerdy, sweet guys who turn out to be the best ones.
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “I think we all – I think all of us – want to feel something that we’ve forgotten or turned our backs on because maybe we didn’t realize how much we were leaving behind. We need to remember what used to be good. If we don’t, we won’t recognize it even if it hits us between the eyes.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Jennifer Garner is wonderful, and she cracks me up as she adjusts to life as a 30-year-old (See above picture – “It’s because I’ve got these incredible boobs to fill it out!”). And Mark Ruffalo is perfect in an intellectual-yet-scruffy-and-super-hot way. And Judy Greer is the best, always, in everything, and should be celebrated henceforth.
(3) 27 Dresses
- Why It’s Cliche: Jane is just your average neurotic, gorgeous, and hopeless at love career girl. She’s such a people pleaser that not only has she been a bridesmaid in 27 weddings, but she’s also done the bulk of the planning for those weddings. When a cocky journalist who doesn’t believe in marriage (of course!) interviews Jane’s sister for a wedding announcement, sparks fly. Will Jane get to wear her 28th dress on her very own wedding day? (Spoiler alert: OBVI.)
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “Do you wanna know the real reason why I came here tonight? Because I knew this was going to be hard for you. And for the first time in a really long time I wanted to be there for somebody…I think you deserve more than what you’ve settled for. I do. I think you deserve to be taken care of for a change. I believe that.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Because Katherine Heigl and James Marsden climb atop a bar and sing “Bennie and the Jets.” Seriously, that moment alone makes the movie worth it for me. I love it so much that I’m even willing to overlook my general disgust for Katherine Heigl. Also, it costars the aforementioned (and awesome) Judy Greer, who more than counteracts any unpleasant Heigl-effects.
(4) Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
- Why It’s Cliche: Dude, four girls decide they’re going to stay connected over the summer by mailing a pair of pants to each other. I think this one speaks for itself. Anyway, over the course of the summer, each girl grows up, learns important life lessons, and still maintains deep bonds with her pants “sisters.”
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “Some people show off their beauty because they want the world to see it. Others try to hide their beauty because they want the world to see something else.” “And what do you see?” “Everything.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: It’s the ultimate story of friendship withstanding the tests of time, and I like that. Also, to be completely honest, the idea of going to Greece and falling in love with a hot Greek guy? Not too shabby.
(5) Return to Me
- Why It’s Cliche: Bob’s beloved wife dies in tragic car accident, and her heart is donated to a severely ill waitress, Grace. Naturally, Bob and Grace are destined to meet and fall in love. Angst ensues. Can love – and the rugged charm of David Duchovny – conquer this super-awkward situation?
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “I want you to remember that all the times I prayed that Gracie would have a second chance at life, I always knew that if God blessed us, the heart she got would have to be from a very special person, if it were going to be at home in Grace. When she met you, her heart beat truly for the first time. Perhaps it was meant to be with you always.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: I love how old-fashioned this movie is; it takes such a genuine, innocent look at romance. It’s not cynical, it’s not bitter – it’s completely heartfelt. That’s a nice change of pace. Plus, the supporting cast here is so strong – from Bonnie Hunt and Jim Belushi being hilarious to Carrol O’Connor making you wish he were your grandpa, everyone is excellent.
(6) Letters to Juliet
- Why It’s Cliche: Sophie discovers a letter left at Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy, over 50 years ago. She responds to the letter and – wouldn’t you know! – the letter writer, Claire, comes to Italy to find the lover she abandoned all those years ago. Not only do they find the man (who, conveniently, is a widower and equally willing to resume a 50-year-old romance), but along the way, Sophie falls in love with Claire’s grandson, Charlie. Happiness for everyone!
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “Can you move?” “Only my lips.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Finding love in the Tuscan countryside – enough said. And in case that weren’t enough for you, I adore Vanessa Redgrave and her real life husband, Franco Nero, in this movie. They are beyond cute, and this is one of those stories that is so freaking beautiful I wish it weren’t completely preposterous and would actually happen in real life.
(7) Leap Year
- Why It’s Cliche: Overworked, uptight career gal Anna gets stuck in the Irish countryside and learns how to let her hair down while discovering what really matters in life (e.g., hunky yet surprisingly sensitive Irish bartenders).
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “When my 60 seconds came around, I realized I had everything I ever wanted… but nothing I really needed.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: I adore Matthew Goode and Amy Adams. Yeah, they’re saddled with a cheesy premise, but they’re both charming and make the most of it. Plus, falling in love in the Irish countryside? Swoon.
(8) The Holiday
- Why It’s Cliche: Amanda and Iris, two beautiful, intelligent women who are nonetheless inexplicable man-repellers, swap houses over the Christmas holiday, with Amanda heading to the English countryside and Iris traveling to L.A. They each – shocker! – find love waiting for them in their respective vacation destinations.
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “It doesn’t matter how many new haircuts you get, or gyms you join, or how many glasses of chardonnay you drink with your girlfriends… you still go to bed every night going over every detail and wonder what you did wrong or how you could have misunderstood. And how in the hell for that brief moment you could think that you were that happy.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Jude Law, Jude Law, Jude Law. I absolutely love his character – how at first, you think he’s kind of a jerk, but then you realize he’s actually a wonderful father with a sad past. Utterly charming.
(9) Center Stage
- Why It’s Cliche: Jody Sawyer is just a small-town girl with big dreams. When she enrolls in the American Ballet Academy, she struggles with poor technique and catty classmates, but ultimately triumphs due to her pluckiness and pure love of dance. Along the way, she falls for a bad boy, but ultimately realizes the right guy was by her side all along – she just never noticed.
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “Whatever you feel…just dance it.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Because doesn’t every little girl go through a brief “I wanna be a ballerina” phase when she’s little? Add in the whole “small town gal makes good in the big city” and you have the ultimate in childhood wish fulfillment. Also, this movie features the most amazing dance sequence in history, wherein Jody is dancing, leans down, and then stands up again in a completely different costume, hairstyle, and makeup. Magical! Plus, the movie features the one and only Ilia Kulik, who you probably haven’t heard of, but who is a beautiful Russian figure skater. And if you’re wondering why that’s appealing to me, look no further than the next movie on my list…
(10) The Cutting Edge
- Why It’s Cliche: A hockey player suffers a head injury and can never play hockey again. A high-maintenance pairs skater loses her partner and needs a new one before the Olympics. Wouldn’t it be perfect if they teamed up? The guy hates skating at first, naturally, because it’s not as “tough” as hockey, but along the way, he falls in love with the sport…and with his partner. I honestly didn’t see that one coming.
- Cringe-Inducing Dialogue: “Don’t say we’re not right for each other, because the way I see it, we may not be right for anyone else.”
- Why I Love It Anyway: Two words: figure skating. I’ve always been a fan of the sport, so combine that with cheesy romance and I’m sold. I mean, come on, when they nail their routine at the end, you have to cheer. Toe pick!
And there you have it – my all-time favorite guilty pleasure films. Which movies would you include on your list?