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The 5 Best Rom-Coms Of The 21st Century

Amazon Studios, Lionsgate

Rom-coms: apologetically comforting and just the thing we need right about now, a pleasant mix of mild romantic peril and eventual, unavoidable happiness before the credits roll.

You no doubt know the classics - and perhaps one day I'll do a 20th century edition of this - but for now, here are my top five best romantic comedies from the 21st century, with an emphasis on the ones you may not have heard of. So a bit more "alternative" than your usual Bridget Jones fare (though I do love Bridget, I'm only human).

5 | High Fidelity (2000)

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In my book, the best big screen Nick Hornby adaptation ever swaps London for Chicago and - whisper it - actually improves the source material. This is peak John Cusack, made even better with some excellent occasional appearances from an early-in-his-career Jack Black, as well as some underappreciated turns from Catharine Zeta-Jones, Tim Robbins and Bruce Springsteen. No, it's not a traditional rom-com per se - it's about a grumpy music-obsessed record store owner who learns, eventually, to get over his stubborn self - but there's a lot to love here, and I should know, I've watched this movie maybe a dozen times.

Best moment: John Cusack's Rob 'fighting' with his ex-girlfriend's new beau, Ray (Tim Robbins), in the middle of his shop. It's exactly my martial arts style: highly improvised.

4 | 17 Again (2009)

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Is it a rom-com? I like to think so. And don't laugh at me for suggesting this Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann body-swap (sorta) comedy, please. The fact is, I just adore it: here's a fun, throwaway movie where 37-year-old Mike (Perry) becomes his 17-year-old self (Efron) after a bizarre accident, ending up somehow flirting with his on-the-rocks other half (Mann) as well as defending his bullied son at school and... it's just fun. Efron is beyond charming, Perry is on great form, there's an enjoyable conceit and the soundtrack isn't bad either. This is a firm favourite round my way when it's a rainy day, I've got the blues or I'm feeling poorly. Did it deserve to win Oscars? No. Have I watched it over ten times? Absolutely.

Best moment: Zac Efron humiliating the big school bully using his impressive basketball skills and quick wits. I love this scene so much I spoke to Efron about it during his 'Movies That Made Me' interview and he was very proud of that basketball trick, understandably! And you can watch that interview on BBC iPlayer.

3 | Amélie (2001)

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Because it's simply adorable. Beyond French, beyond quaint, beyond cute, it's simply beyond. Photo booths, globe-trotting garden gnomes, Paris itself... it's just so loveable. Audrey Tautou is superb as our shy waitress hero, struggling with her loneliness but still willing to help others and change the world for the better. It's eccentric and kooky and maybe it's not for you, but it's definitely for me.

Best moment: It's a cop-out (and a spoiler, so I'll be vague), but the ending, when it all comes together for Amélie Poulain.

2 | Easy A (2010)

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Emma Stone is a phenomenal talent. She won her Oscar for La La Land, but she's been casually brilliant in so many movies for such a long time now. Easy A - now a decade gold by the way - shows off Stone's electric charm in a modern adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, but essentially amounting to a tale about a high school girl who is willing to let guys say that she's slept with them to help them out socially (and for a favour of some kind). It also features my favourite on-screen family ever. Seriously, imagine if Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci were your parents... you'd probably turn out as cool as Emma Stone too, eh?

Best moment: I've got two, if you'll let me. One is the first 'jumping up and down on the bed' "sex scene" and the other is when the lonely and slightly dotty Olive (Stone) becomes obsessed with the song 'Pocketful Of Sunshine', as sung by Natasha Bedingfield. I actually asked Emma Stone about this moment and she said she'd met and spoken to Bedingfield about it... And you can watch that interview on BBC iPlayer.

1 | The Big Sick (2017)

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This might not sound like a barrel of laughs, but trust me, The Big Sick is well worth watching. You might know its star and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani from HBO's Silicon Valley and perhaps even from the upcoming Marvel movie The Eternals, but this is his biggest success yet, featuring an Oscar-nominated script penned by Nanjiani and his now wife Emily V. Gordon. Loosely based on the real-life romance between the pair, it follows an interethnic couple as they tackle their families' cultural differences after Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) falls ill. Again, doesn't sound like much fun, but there's so much to enjoy here, and with 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, I'm not the only one saying how good it is. It's just so well-observed, so heartfelt, so delicately done. I particularly enjoy Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily's parents. Hunter's passive-aggressive sewing in the hospital waiting room? It cannot be denied.

Best moment: There are some great stand-up gags from Nanjiani's attempts to crack the comedy world, but my stand-out moment is a very off colour gag he drops as he is eating his lunch at the hospital canteen. I won't say it now, of course, but it's... something.

10 Honourable Mentions

If you're looking for a few more to add to your list...

The Artist (2011)

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Long Shot (2019)

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500 Days Of Summer (2009)

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Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

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To All The Boys I Loved Before (2018)

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Trainwreck (2015)

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About Time (2013)

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Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

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Love Simon (2018)

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Wedding Crashers (2005)

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Wondering what else to watch?

Radio 1's film critic Ali Plumb has put together his favourite TV sitcoms which are available to watch across all major streaming platforms: BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV.