“She’s Gotta Have It” (1986)
Spike Lee’s feature film debut, “She’s Gotta Have It,” has to be considered the quintessential Black rom-com. The film, which Lee updated as a Netflix series, tells the story of Nola Darling and her three unique boyfriends. It’s been heralded as helping to usher in the indie film movement of the ’80s and changing the representation of black people in American cinema.
“Coming to America” (1988)
Probably more comedy than romance, but Eddie Murphy’s 1988 rom-com “Coming to America” is a classic in either genre. This fish out of water tale follows Prince Akeem (Murphy) of Zamunda on his journey to America, fleeing an arranged marriage. Landing in New York City, he and his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) try to acclimate to American life, while trying to find a wife of his own. The film also marked the first time Murphy dressed up to play more than one character.
Another Eddie Murphy film makes the list. This time there’s no need for him to play any other characters because he’s joined by Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Allen Grier, Grace Jones, Ertha Kitt and Chris Rock — need we say more? “Boomerang” is your prototypical rom-com, with a little signature Murphy. He plays a New York marketing exec and womanizer, Marcus. But what goes around comes around in this romantic comedy, leading Murphy’s character to find and realize true love.
“Love Jones” (1997)
You would be hard pressed to find a more charming, more attractive pair to co-star in a Black romantic comedy in the ’90s outside of Larenz Tate and Nia Long. “Love Jones” follows the love at first sight and up and down relationship of two young black artists in Chicago. In an oral history of the film for it’s 20th anniversary, Tre’Vell Anderson wrote for the Los Angeles Times: “‘Love Jones,’ at its core, is about possibilities, those opportunities people of color know exist for them — in love, life and career.”
“How Stella Got Her Groove Back” (1998)
“How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” adapted from Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel, introduced the film community to Taye Diggs, then a Broadway actor known for “Rent.” It also gave Angela Bassett one of the defining roles of her career. Her Stella character is an overworked single mom in need of a vacation and some romance, so best friend Whoopi Goldberg takes her to Jamaica, where she meets and falls in love with Winston Shakespeare (Diggs), a man 20 years her junior. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers said of the film: “Whether you regard Stella’s getting her groove back as a feminist battle cry or as a silly wish-fulfillment fantasy, the movie delivers guilt-free escapism about pretty people having wicked-hot fun in pretty places.”
“The Best Man” (1999)
It’s the rare (Black) rom-com that warranted revisiting with a sequel, some 14 years later. “The Best Man,” starring Taye Diggs, touts an ensemble cast that includes Nia Long, Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau and Monica Calhoun as a group who come together for their friends’ wedding only to have old flings, feelings and drama resurface thanks to a new, semi autobiographical book Diggs’ character Harper wrote that threatens the wedding and friendships.
“Love and Basketball” (2000)
“Love and Basketball” isn’t exactly a romantic comedy, but this coming of age young love story written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood is a classic. The film follows the friendship and relationship of Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) as they grow up and pursue their shared dream of playing professional basketball. The film abandons comedy and instead culminates in a one-on-one basketball game for the future of their relationship that will surely make your heart ache.
“Two Can Play That Game” (2001)
This Vivica A. Fox-Morris Chestnut rom-com pulls from a familiar story: A self-assured relationship veteran finds herself having difficulty maintaining a relationship. In “Two Can Play That Game,” Fox’s character puts forth an all-out assault dubbed the “10-day-plan” in order to get Chestnut crawling back to her.
“Brown Sugar” (2002)
This list clearly needed more representation from Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. Their 2003 rom-com boasts supporting roles from Queen Latifah and Mos Def. In “Brown Sugar,” Dre (Diggs) and Syd (Lathan) have been close friends since childhood, but after Dre proposes to his girlfriend Syd realizes that her best friend might actually be the love of her life.
“Deliver Us From Eva” (2003)
It’s a take on William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Gabrielle Union plays Eva, is an uptight single woman meddling in her sisters’ love lives. To keep her from disrupting their relationships the sisters’ boyfriends pay notorious ladies man Ray (LL Cool J) to romance her, date her and break it off a few weeks later. But of course, they fall in love. As Eleanor Ringel Cater wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution when the film came out: “Not only is this a funny and romantic movie, but it proves, yet again, that movies can and, in some instances, should be colorblind.”
The New York Times’ A.O. Scott dubbed this Will Smith vehicle as “soft and sweet as a marshmallow.” Smith plays a romance expert hired to teach nebbishy guys like Kevin James romance women way out of their league — until Smith’s Hitch himself meets his match in Eva Mendes’ no-nonsense gossip columnist. Sparks eventually fly, of course.
“Jumping the Broom” (2012)
Paula Patton plays a corporate lawyer who falls for Laz Alonso’s ambitious stock broker — but their Martha’s Vineyard wedding runs into conflict between her hoity-toity family and his more working-class clan.