There are perhaps no two genres less alike than the romantic comedy and the action adventure. Yet when these two seemingly dissimilar genres combine, they have the potential to score big. It’s a tricky combination to get right, though, as a number of movies over the years have proven—just look at Knight and Day, Six Days Seven Nights, Killers and My Super Ex-Girlfriend for some dire examples. The latest romantic action-comedy to hit theaters, This Means War, stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman caught in a love triangle with two CIA agents (played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) who happen to be best friends in addition to romantic rivals. The situation takes a turn for the explosively fun when, after discovering they’re dating the same woman, the two engage in an epic battle to win her affection.?
With This Means War hitting select theaters today for a special Valentine’s Day engagement—it comes out in wide release this Friday—we’re taking a look at some of the best romantic action-comedies from the past 30 years.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
directed by Robert Zemeckis
Just before he made his first trip Back to the Future, Robert Zemeckis helmed this rousing, romantic adventure. Kathleen Turner plays Joan, a lonely romance novelist who travels to South America to rescue her kidnapped sister. After becoming lost in the Colombian jungle, she meets thrill-seeking soldier-of-fortune Jack (Michael Douglas), who agrees to join her quest. What follows is an exciting, unpredictable journey as instant attraction sparks between the two unlikely companions—despite the fact that danger lurks at every turn. It’s the kind of unabashedly entertaining story that could easily have come from one of Joan’s own books.
True Lies (1994)
directed by James Cameron
In the action-packed True Lies, Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his pre-Governator days) stars as Harry Tasker, a secret agent for the U.S. government. Though he’s kept the truth of his profession from his nerdy wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) for years—she thinks he’s a dull computer salesman—he’s forced to reveal his secret identity when a group of deadly terrorists kidnap their daughter. Harry and Helen team up to bring down the terrorists and, in the process, inject a shot of much-needed adrenaline into their marriage. Featuring explosive action sequences and a hilarious supporting cast (including Tom Arnold as Harry’s wisecracking co-worker and Bill Paxton as the sleaziest, most pathetic used car salesman ever), True Lies effortlessly combines a sexy romantic comedy with a kinetic action-thriller to create one satisfying package.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
directed by Doug Liman
This stylish, witty film is slightly reminiscent of True Lies, though in this Mr. & Mrs. Smith, both members of the bored and seemingly normal married couple (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) at the movie’s core are hiding secret identities. Unbeknownst to each other, Joe and Jane Smith are ruthless professional assassins who have been hired by rival companies to kill off the competition. After their dual secret is revealed, the question then becomes: Just how seriously do these two take their jobs? With its dynamic action sequences, dryly funny humor and the undeniable chemistry between Pitt and Jolie (which, of course, lead to an off-screen romance as well), Mr. & Mrs. Smith makes sure to entertain both the action junkies and the romantic comedy lovers in the audience.
Date Night (2010)
directed by Shawn Levy
Unlike some of the previous films on this list, Date Night features more comedy than action (no over-the-top explosions here), though it still provides a fast-paced good time. The perfectly cast Steve Carell and Tina Fey star as yet another ordinary married couple, though this time—surprise!—they’re neither spies nor assassins. To shake up their monotonous routine, Phil and Claire Foster decide to escape the suburbs and spend an evening at a popular restaurant in New York City. The night goes from bad to worse when a case of mistaken identity results in the two dorky suburbanites going on a series of wild NYC misadventures, including an extended wacky car chase and hilarious encounters with everyone from Mark Wahlberg and Ray Liotta to James Franco and Mila Kunis. This is one Date Night that, thanks to the wonderfully irreverent yet sweet chemistry between Carell and Fey, will never be forgotten.
Have a favorite romantic action-comedy that didn’t make the final cut? Let us know in the comments!