Have you ever left an epic action extravaganza with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart? Then you may have been subject to a covert rom-com hiding in plain sight. What follows are just 13 examples among many instances where a perfect romantic comedy was smuggled within an action movie.
We will detail action flicks that are really, secretly romantic comedies at their core and/or double well as such, per the familiar structural tropes of that genre. Thus, romantic subplots showcase two characters fated to get together by the time the final credits roll. In the meantime, however, they have to face elaborate obstacles, plenty of misunderstandings and/or prevarications, and other hiccups en route to a happy ending.
Which secret rom-coms are your favorite? Vote up your choices below!
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
The Characters: US Navy pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise), an arrogant naval aviator obsessed with being "top gun," and his instructor, astrophysicist Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis).
The Meet-Cute: Maverick serenades Charlie in a bar near the elite flying academy TOPGUN in San Diego, employing the singing skills of his co-pilot Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) to the tune of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." The next day, Maverick discovers that Charlie is, in fact, his teacher at TOPGUN.
The Obstacle: Charlie is resistant to starting a relationship with a student, especially one as hot-headed and self-assured as Maverick.
How They Wind Up Together: After the just-graduated Maverick and his antagonistic colleague, Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), heroically salvage a ship from encroaching enemy aircraft, Maverick subsequently celebrates at yet another local bar, where he finds Charlie. They smooch.Legit rom-com?
- Photo: Warner Bros.
The Characters: Thief-turned-actor Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) and his childhood crush, film star Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan).
The Meet-Cute: Harry meets Harmony at a Hollywood Christmas pool party, because they're characters in a Shane Black movie. Harmony falsely assumes that Harry is a PI himself.
The Obstacle: Harry and PI "Gay" Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), hired to train Harry up for his next round of auditions, inadvertently bear witness to a murder. They and Harmony soon find themselves enmeshed in a complicated web of escalating criminal plotting, while investigating the demise of Harmony's sister Jenna.
How They Wind Up Together: After Harry, Perry, and Harmony crack the case, a romantic future for Harry and Harmony appears possible. Though Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is nominally an action comedy, writer/director Shane Black conceded that he originally intended for it to be a romantic comedy before adding the action element.Legit rom-com?
- Photo: Warner Bros.
The Characters: Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette), a prostitute on the run from abusive pimp Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman), and Clarence Worley (Christian Slater), an Elvis and kung fu film fanatic.
The Meet-Cute: Alabama seemingly picks up Drexl during a kung fu marathon at a run-down local theater in Detroit. After they sleep together, Alabama reveals she was hired as a "birthday gift" for Clarence, but they've fallen for each other and decide to wed.
The Obstacle: Clarence kills Drexl and unwittingly steals a large bag of coke that he mistook for Alabama's clothing because he's not particularly bright (but, hey, he looks like Christian Slater). Soon, Clarence and Alabama are on the run to Hollywood, hoping to sell the powder to a Hollywood power player. Unfortunately, it turns out this is mob coke, and the mob wants it back.
How They Wind Up Together: After an epic shootout, Clarence loses an eye (and, earlier in the movie, a dad) due to his drug theft, but he and Alabama survive to raise a child together.Legit rom-com?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
The Characters: NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) and Nakatomi Corporation executive Holly McClane, nee Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia).
The Meet-Cute: You could kind of think of Die Hard as The Parent Trap, except the estranged parents in question are romantically reunited thanks to evil thieves masquerading as terrorists, whereas in The Parent Trap, it was, you know, twins. The couple's kids this time around are barely seen, however. Here, Holly has invited John to visit her in Los Angeles for her office's Christmas party after spending six months apart while John dealt with an escalating case load in New York. John did not let her know he was going to show up, and so, as he's getting a tour from her coke-head colleague Ellis (Hart Bochner) and her boss Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta), they run into each other. They soon fall to arguing, despite the best of intentions.
The Obstacle: A collective of thieves, masquerading as terrorists, storm the Nakatomi company holiday party and take the guests hostage. John, ever the clever cop, evades capture and is soon the only man on the inside capable of disrupting their plan to empty $640 million in untraceable bearer bonds from the company's vault.
How They Wind Up Together: After the thieves murder Takagi, Holly becomes the senior executive at the company. Soon, chief thief Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) realizes Holly is actually the wife of John McClane, and thus could be the key to thwarting the fly in his ointment. What Hans isn't counting on, however, is that John will not go quietly into that dark night. Thanks to some help on the outside by Twinkie-loving LAPD sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) and his intrepid limo driver Argyle (De'voreaux White), John is able to take down Hans and his associates. He and Holly are (understandably) romantically reunited by the experience. By the time of Die Hard with a Vengeance seven years later, the couple is on the rocks again. By Live Free or Die Hard, they've officially split.Legit rom-com?