the meet cute

In ALL, MOVIES by Stephanie Klein36 Comments

There’s no shame in it: being a girly girl who loves chicks by way of flick. Especially a creative "meet cute." It’s a comedic film convention in which two potential romantic leads are thrown together in a contrived and atypical, oftentimes, but not always, over-the-top manner. Screenwriters frequently try to make it as awkward as possible. Either the dude is an utter stumblebum, spilling something all over her white crop top (Notting Hill), or the guy gets thrown out of his apartment, all but naked aside from the gym socks he’s yanked to his knees. Screaming at the door, he pleads to come back inside. The door cracks open, yelling stops for a beat. "Finally," he says. Then he’s hit in the head with a shoe. Elevator ding. Female romantic lead steps into hallway. He’s left only with the shoe to cover his mangerines. They exchange a glance, then she says, "Is that a size 12?" or "Nice socks."

If writers ignore the genitals, they often go for the jugular. You know, woman ranting about how completely inept the guy was who made that decision… and it turns out the man to whom she’s ranting is the guy who made the decision. Or he’s the guy beside him. Or the one standing directly behind her. (The American President ring a bell?) So many meet cutes happen when a woman is busy insulting a man. It makes him, on some level, want her all the more. Though I suppose it also doesn’t hurt when the meet cute is completely inappropriate, when the "other" is off limits (Moonstruck, Waitress, Sweet Home Alabama, My Best Friend’s Wedding), because so many of us are completely charged by the idea of the forbidden.

Along with these formulaic techniques there’s the general embarrassing situation, like when Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, believing she’s in a doctor’s office after fainting, confesses that she’s having a nervous breakdown, that she’s broke, that she’s completely sex starved, only to realize she’s disclosing this sensitive information–cue the horse bray–to a veterinarian. There’s also the unusual circumstances (Garden State) like in Forget Paris, when Billy Crystal meets a woman (Debra Winger) who works for the airline who lost his father (his dead father). Of course! It’s all predictable, from pairing off complete opposites in politics (Two Weeks Notice), social status (Dirty Dancing, Sabrina), temperament (When Harry Met Sally, Anna and The King, Housesitter) by throwing them together in a situation where they’d normally never meet, aside from such a tidy "meet cute." And yet we fall for it, suspending disbelief, hoping the screenwriters will make the journey to the foreseen close well worth it.

Honestly, you don’t need your strings pulled by a team of writers to be paired with your polar opposite, whom you most likely never would have otherwise met in life. All you need is internet dating. Then you’ll spend your ever after working on a meet cute you can tell others when they ask "How’d you two meet?" What I want to know is, where are all the great romantic comedies without such obvious meet cute scenes? And I always love hearing the real life meet cutes, though they usually involve a six degrees situation. That, or one internet dater is waiting for another, but a non-internet dater shows up and they turn out to be "the one" which makes me want to ralph.

Here are other meet cutes via Wiki:

  • It Happened One Night throws runaway heiress Ellie (Claudette Colbert) and world-weary ex-reporter Peter (Clark Gable) together in a dispute over the last seat on a bus.
  • In Bringing Up Baby, nervous paleontologist David (Cary Grant) finds that his golf ball and his car get inadvertently driven by strong-willed heiress Susan (Katharine Hepburn).
  • In My Man Godfrey ditzy socialite Irene (Carole Lombard), following her sister to a dump, chooses Godfrey (William Powell) to be her "forgotten man" for a charity scavenger hunt.
  • In Singin’ in the Rain, the character played by Gene Kelly is running through the street to try to escape from his fans. He is jumping from the roofs of cars and taxis, and he accidentally lands into a woman’s convertible (Debbie Reynolds). Even though they do not get along at first, a romance ensues.
  • In Notting Hill, the character played by Hugh Grant accidentally spills orange juice on the character played by Julia Roberts, which leads them into a conversation.
  • In Serendipity, the characters played by John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale coincidentally grab the same pair of gloves at a Bloomingdale’s store.
  • In The Wedding Planner, the character played by Matthew McConaughey saves a woman’s life (Jennifer Lopez) when a runaway dumpster is heading towards her.
  • In The Holiday, Kate Winslet‘s character and Jack Black‘s character "…meet-cute after she swaps her London home for the Los Angeles digs" of the character played by Cameron Diaz [4], while Diaz "meets cute" the Jude Law character.
  • In Closer Alice (Natalie Portman), an American stripper newly transplanted to London, and Dan (Jude Law), an English obits-writer, make eyes at each other as they pass on the street. Distracted, she is hit by a taxi and he takes her to hospital.

Examples of a "meet-cute" in television are also recognizable in:


  1. I love and also don't care that I'm shown a formula like the meet cute. a guilty pleasure. Like reading your blog. And Moose. And Straight Up And Dirty.

  2. One of my favorite executions ever — Love, Actually. Truly though, some of the best stories happen in real life, not Hollywood. My favorites being the American girl who met her Turkish husband in Malta, and the 2 bandmates who reunited at a college states away after her family moved when they were in elementary school. You can't make that stuff up.

  3. Mangerines! too funny. Just finished Moose last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Adam is a real mensch!

  4. Not sure what you're doing next but your insight and unique take on things would lend well to tv or film. Consider it please!

  5. I've got a great meet cute myself (and I'm not the kind of girl these things EVER happen to). It's August 2004: I'm 34, moving to Paris, with all my friends assuring me I'm going to meet someone great (oh yeah? Then how come I didn't meet anyone in . . . New York, Boston, DC . . etc etc). I arrive in town on a Thursday, start work on Friday. Saturday night(my third day in Paris!) there are some friends in town. Since I don't know the city at all, I grab a guidebook to try to find somewhere to eat. I pick the neighborhood and narrow the choices down to three. My friend picks an Italian wine bar in the Marais (it's her, her husband, and her sister. Did I mention the sister is a model and my friend might as well be one. One a *good* day I *can* be cute, but let's just say I'm not the one getting noticed among these chicas!).

    We arrive at the restaurant, they gruffly demand if we have a reservation (ummm, no), and send over someone to speak with us in English (I'm REALLY peeved because I've just spent eight months learning French for my new job, and don't want to be anglo-ghett-icized). Hmmm. But the fellow they send over is Italian, a sommelier, and very charming and funny over the course of the dinner, making us laugh and laugh. My girlfriends keep telling me he is flirting with me; I respond that this is an impossible absurdity, that he's a waiter doing his job, being nice to the table.

    Maybe halfway through the dinner, he's no longer dealing with our table, so I'm a bit sad. When we're ready to leave, I go upstairs to the ladies' room. When I exit, he's up there and on the way downstairs back into the other dining room, he passes me the restaurant's card with his number penciled in on the back!! ???!!

    I got up the nerve to call him the next week; we went out the next weekend and we got married last September, three years later. My favorite was when we first started dating and my friends were all concerned: "Kim you must be careful about this sketchy Italian waiter guy." In fact, he's the nicest guy I ever dated, played no games, and it is by far the most comfortable relationship I've ever had.

    Not to mention that I got to know Paris with a sommelier boyfriend! Yay me!

  6. I use these flicks to escape and welcome the suspension of reality. You should write a show. Maybe have the beans as guest stars.

  7. Sarah,
    Sephanie is working on a pilot for a show. She had mentioned it awhile back. Not done yet Stephanie? with all your free time that you have had lately- kidding, LOL

  8. Hey! love the meet cute! i was going to suggest that if you haven't seen the holiday to do so asap. and one of my favorite meet cutes is in ps i love you, of course you don't see the meet until almost the end but its adorable! i finally got around to starting moose and can't put it down, which is unfortunate for my sociology paper that i should be writing… like now.

  9. Sometimes it does happen in real life. Just out of university, I was managing a boutique. I had just gotten back together (and moved back in with) my ex when I met my now husband. Early for a lunch date, he stopped into my store (one he'd never been to before) to buy a shirt. We got talking, he suggested we go to this dance festival that was happening and gave me his number. Did I mention I thought he was gay?
    I waited three weeks to call him, we went out for dinner (I wasn't sure whether it was platonic or not–my rekindled relationship with my boyfriend wasn't going well, BTW) and things just went from there. I discovered he wasn't, in fact, gay, and I slowly fell in love with him. Extricating myself from my overly possessive boyfriend was tough, but I did. There were several more obstacles, but we got over them and have been married almost 4 years. As much as I don't believe in fate, people often use that word when describing our meeting. My husband and I ran in completely different circles, he lived far away in a little country town I'd never heard of, he never would have set foot in my store had he not been early for that lunch (as a favor to his ex-girlfriend he'd agreed to take her friend–who was in town for the summer and knew no one–out), it just happened to be a really slow day that allowed us to talk…Not as thrilling as Kim's Parisian escapade, but another example nonetheless.

  10. As long as the meet cute includes John Cusack, I'm good. Although, I confess, his truly sugary-cute romantic comedies leave me feeling a bit dirty. I have to pop in some "High Fidelity" or "The Grifters" to make up for every "Must Love Dogs".

  11. I adore romantic comedies! I had a meet cute myself: 21(!) years ago, at the age of 19, I worked for two weeks at an information office, together with a dozen other people. Among them, an 18-year-old guy, who used to give me a ride home after work with a borrowed old motorcycle. I went on with my life, never having seen him since. I moved to a city 500 km away, and pursued a career in the theater. And then, last August, while I was at the mall, waiting for some friends for a cup of coffee before we hit the George Michael concert, a man came up to me and greeted me in surprise. It was that guy from 20 years ago! He had to remind me who he was (I couldn't even remember his name), and I was shocked to find out that he even remembered my sign! He had moved to the same city only 3 years ago, after spending 10 years in Canada. It turned out he was going to the concert as well, although we went our separate ways – he was meeting with friends too. He had given me his business card though, so I e-mailed him a couple of weeks after the concert. Three dates later, we were an item, and have been ever since. In fact, we have been planning a family. I feel so lucky to have found him (or rather, he has found me!). I believe it was worth the wait, as I am now 40. It's true, the best things in life happen to you while you least expect it.

  12. KIM!!!!!!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH for that incredible real life story. so inspiring: especially since i am planning my own move to paris….oooh la la!!! great great!!!!

  13. My brother put an ad on Craigslist. He dated a few girls, and ultimately, proposed to one. When someone asks how they met, they say, "Our mutual friend introduced us. His name is Craig."

    If I ever date/marry a guy I meet off the internet I will insist we come up with a good story to tell people.

  14. I too love the how did you meet stories but it's hard to gauge when someone asks me the question because there's the short story "we met at a dance event he was in town doing" and then there is the amazing long version that is fun to tell but only to someone that is a romantic like me and wasn't just asking for the sake of conversation. I should probably start asking which version I should tell when I'm asked. I always want to hear the long version myself so I guess I should give the asker the same respect.
    Personally, I think a great love story has a great beginning that the two can always recall and bring up just HOW DAMN LUCKY they were to find each other in the first place! It helps when you're busy fighting about something stupid.

  15. My husband and I met via a meet cute of sorts. (Background, Dallas had two newspapers at the time and I read both every day while at college near Dallas. A year later, I've got a job in Austin at the paper and my room-mate works there as well.) My room-mate introduced my husband to me, having told me she had a single friend who was cute and nice, so I recognize the name/byline, and tell him, "Oh, I recognize your name, you work for the Morning News!" He replies rather shortly, "No, I work for the Times Herald." Needless to say I thought my introduction doomed me. But I kept running into him, and made myself talk to him, and a few months later, we started going out. And a year later, we moved to D.C. and bought a house together, and then married. We've been married for 22 years now. So meet cute can work!

  16. Is it a "meet-cute" if it's two middle-aged, been-around-the- block several times, twice-divorced(each of us) people with more baggage than a cruise-ship couple? No? ;-)

    We met on a dating site and know without a doubt our paths would have never crossed otherwise. In his profile he stated he didn't want to date any women with emotional (or any other type) baggage. (And yes, he considered children baggage) I had three of those, and a not-quite divorced X hanging around.

    Of course now, he's this amazing step-dad, who goes above and beyond that duty, consistently.

    Personally, I LOVE "meet-cute" stories and the many movies (although not nearly enough for my tastes) that present them. I have to say, Kim's meet-cute takes the cake! Paris, charming Italian waiter, and her happy ending! :)


  17. Oooh, I loved this! Wanna hear my meet cute story? Good, because I'm SO NOT SICK of telling it TO ANYBODY WHO WILL LISTEN.

    I ended a ridiculously bad 4 year relationship back in August,I have commented on it before — he was much like the WasBand. ANyway, I dated and dated for the past year and just felt totally "bleh" about everybody. So I decided I must not be ready, and closed down my profile. But before I did… I took a shot and emailed one last guy that looked cool.

    Well, when we finally connected, not only did we realize we had about 2 dozen friends in common, but the family he works for is BEST FRIENDS with MY PARENTS… so he'd met them before and basically all of their friends. And then I realized that I'd actually met HIM before, about 13 years ago! At BAND CAMP!!!! ANd later at a marching band competition, where he was being a joker and sitting in a canoe in a lifejacket on dry land! And I totally remember it!

    And the list just goes on and on. Who knows what will happen, it's only been two months, but it's the first guy who has ever made me want to say "Squeeeee!"

  18. "Chick flicks" are usually so completely insulting to the intelligence of chicks that it makes me want to throw up. I think the only decent romantic comedy I've seen not starring Cary Grant is "Intolerable Cruelty," and really, that's another thing altogether.

  19. "Meet cutes" certainly happen everyday in real life (you just have to look for them!). My favorite meet cute is that of my parents: My mom (after being in America for only a short while and so not very familiar with street names, etc.) was going to a convention in New York. My aunt had written out instructions for her but the combination of a huge storm and my aunt's pathetic handwriting got my mom totally lost. She found herself running into the Columbia University gates (this was pre-Giuliani so NY was pretty scary). Well she ran right into my dad and his roommate in front of their dorm (John Jay). After he helped her find her way (and they exchanged information in case she should get lost again), he told his roommate that he had just met the girl he was going to marry (true!). One of the weirdest things I think as well is that they have the male / female equivalent of the same name (like Julian and Julia – but those aren't their actual names). This August they will be celebrating their 38th anniversary. My own meet cute happened on my first day of class at the same campus in front of the same dorm 30 years after my parents had first met there.

  20. We did "meet cute" ONLINE and don't alter the story to edit out the internet part…I couldn't- Jdate has us in their advertising!

    If you ask him, he would say he won me at an auction, but the real story is probably better. Apparently I "Hot-Listed" him on JDate in October 2003, but didn't contact him. He noticed that I hot-listed him, but he didn't contact me until March 2004. I told him he was too short, divorced, likes dogs, and rode a Harley, so I wasn't interested. He told me that my profile was insane, I seemed crazy and that he didn't want to date me either. He said that we lived close and I knew a lot of people, so we should be friends (ie, maybe I could hook him up with one of my friends). I agreed.

    We wrote back and forth every few weeks, and each time, it would just kind of fade out. And we never met in person. I was a serial dater on JDate, and he was dating around on JDate and being fixed up, but he didn't really want to meet someone and thought he never wanted to get married again. I had been single and in the online dating scene so long that I was ready to be fitted for a straight-jacket. I was ready to quit dating altogether or try a matchmaker. He was enjoying his freedom after a long-term relationship that ended in a short marriage and an expensive divorce. He was really only focused on his business instead of looking for a girlfriend.

    In August 2004, I tried to hook him up with a friend of mine, but they never ended up meeting and that faded out too. Finally, in December 2004, I was helping a friend host a networking event. I had put his name on the invite list for other events for this group a long time ago, and he was on this list too when I got the invite. He had RSVP'd yes for this particular event. I figured that if I was trying to hook him up with my friends, I should at least check him out in person and make sure he was normal. We both showed up for the event and ended up hanging out all night and making plans to go to the upcoming Matzo-Ball in NYC as friends the next week.

    We got married a year and a half later.

  21. I agree with your formulaic comment. The meet cute. The buddy cops. The epic. The nauseatingly unfunny comedy. I guess the list can go on and on. Boring. Hey Zach Braff, if you're out there, I have a screenplay for you to write.

  22. I met my husband at a college party he was hosting. He seemed okay (loud,athletic frat boy with shorts, tshirt and flip flops) not at all my type (nerdy). I reluctantly said I would meet him for lunch the next day. I picked the biggest, fattiest, smelliest sandwich on the menu thinking it would turn him off to see a gal consume that much meatand onions. Apparently, I was wrong. He thought that was the best thing he'd ever seen a girl eat. I made myself sick and he took me home. He said he knew I was the woman he'd marry. We got engaged 6 mos. later have been together for 11 years.

  23. I'm loving these stories!
    (esp. the other Kim's Parisian adventure)

    My semi-cutesy meetups:
    I met my first serious boyfriend through the internet. It was on ICQ, which I only used for chatting with friends. The guy I was chatting with that evening just got a new girlfriend, and he was chatting with her at the same time, making me wait a verrry long time for replies. So I was a bit bored when I got a message from a stranger asking me if I was a drummer. WTF? I had a rule of not replying to strangers (they usually only wanted to have cybersex anyway) but as I was bored and slightly intrigued I answered anyway. Turns out the stranger was looking for a drummer for his new band, and just messaged everyone in our town. We'd never met, but as he told me his (unusual) name I recognized him as the ex-boyfriend of my brother's love interest :) So we started talking, and one week later he declared his love to me over the phone (which kind of freaked me out), but I still agreed to meet up with him and we ended up as a couple.

    After 3 years internet guy and I broke up, and I was rather crushed and so not in the mood for any new guy. This is when my best female friend started taking me out again, together with her brother and his friends. One of her brother's friends turned out to be a neighbour of mine. We lived at 100 meters from each other for over 15 years, but never really talked to each other as we moved in different circles. So when we did meet through mutual friends he asked me (rudely) who I was. In a foul mood, I replied (even more rude) that I was "his neighbour, you idiot". So we kinda got off on the wrong foot. But after we got to know each other, we fell in love and stayed together for 3,5 years. We did feel a bit silly that it took us 15 years to notice what was down the street :)

  24. i too would like to hear what you (and your readers) think about the SATC movie. it got a terrible two page review in the new yorker.

  25. I actually just wrote about the night my husband and I met on my blog. I was out with for a girls night and one of them asked along a friend who she hadn't seen for awhile. I had sworn off guys the night before. We ended up talking and he asked for my number. Two days later he called and a year and a half later we were married.

  26. It's very sweet how y'all have been touched by my story! Astrologer — funny thing: my horoscope for that month (August 2004) in InStyle was the following: "Normally a shrinking violet, you'll feel like a sizzling starlet in August when all the guys' eyes are on you. It's never too late to bloom — work it, girl!" !!!!!

    I (clearly) still have that little piece of paper with me.

    I'm a Capricorn and he's Aquarius, FWIW.

    It was just a good-karma time. The last weekend before I left the States, I ended up smooching this sweet Italian guy who was best friends with the then-new boyfriend (now husband) of one of my dearest friends; he was such a gentleman. Nothing too rowdy, just a nice time and he even drove me home (to the hotel where I was staying before leaving town) afterwards.

    Then two nights before I was leaving town, I was in my favorite bar in DC, where I used to go every Tuesday night. Started talking to this cute guy over my NYT crossword puzzle; turned out he was from New Mexico (as is my mother), was an attorney, etc.etc. The rest of his party arrived at the restaurant and he went to sit with them. I got the bartender (who was by then a friend of mine, a cool Swedish girl) to figure out whether he was "with" any of the girls, she found out no. So I left her a note to send over to him when I left saying that I didn't know why I was doing it, but that I thought he was cool and had enjoyed talking to him etc. etc. Of course I never heard from him. But I really believe in a way that my putting myself out there like that opened up the possibility of Marco putting himself out there to me in giving me his number the next week.

    All this after YEARS of not only being single but hardly ever having a date. So I have been there. And I tell my story not to flaunt my happy status, but to say to those who are still waiting that it can and WILL happen like magic!!!!

    Okay I'm a cornball. Love the stories, especially meeting in front of the Columbia dorms decades after your parents!!!! And band-camp guy sitting in a canoe on dry land all those years ago . . . . sigh.

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