Top 10 Rom-Com Plot Twists You Didn't See Coming
VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Sarah Jae Leiber
We did NOT see these plot twists in rom-coms coming! Our countdown includes "Palm Springs," "Last Christmas," "Love, Simon," and more!
Top 10 Plot Twists in Rom-Coms You Didn’t See Coming
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 plot twists in Rom-Coms you didn’t see coming.
For this list, we’ll be looking at romantic comedies that defied formula and convention to bring us an ending we couldn’t have predicted. We won’t be looking at movies that just have a sad ending, or concluded in a way you might not have wanted. So, no “My Best Friend’s Wedding” or “Annie Hall” for this list. As always, spoilers ahead.
What’s your favorite twisty rom-com moment? Let us know what you think in the comments.
#10: Niels & Sarah Have Hooked Up Before
“Palm Springs” (2020)
Some of our favorite rom-coms defy formula, convention, and time itself. Like “Groundhog Day” and “Happy Death Day,” “Palm Springs” tackles the time loop rom-com format spectacularly. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti play Niels and Sarah, two nihilistic 30-somethings caught in a time loop at Sarah’s sister’s wedding. Since Niels entered the loop first, he shows Sarah the ropes when she gets trapped inside. He also says he’s hooked up with many people while reliving the same day but never slept with her. We find out later that he lied. Niels figured out how to get her to sleep with him and did so countless times before Sarah joined the loop. It’s a bummer of a revelation in a mostly sweet film.
#9: Tom Was Dead the Whole Time
“Last Christmas” (2019)
This sweet, but critically divisive rom-com starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding does a lot of things right like using the Wham! song of the same name, and casting Emma Thompson. But Paul Feig’s Christmas rom-com takes a dark turn when it turns out that Tom, played by Henry Golding, has been dead the whole time. Emilia Clarke’s Kate tragically spent the whole movie falling in love with him, only to have that realization shake her perception of life and herself. It’s sweet in the sense that it follows the lyrics to “Last Christmas.” Tom literally gave Kate his heart to her in a life-changing operation that saved her life. But it’s a much more tragic twist than we’re used to in a traditional rom-com.
#8: The Time Machine Was Real
“Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012)
“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a quirky little movie based on a joke ad that was actually placed in the classified section of Backwoods Home Magazine. The writer asks for a time travel companion but can’t promise a safe trip. When the characters in the film see that ad, they decide they have to profile its writer, a paranoid grocery clerk played by Mark Duplass. His strange personality and the film’s realism leads the audience to believe he’s been lying the whole time. In the end, however, we discover he really DOES have a working time machine. But best of all, he plans to use it for his new love interest Darius, played to perfection by Aubrey Plaza.
#7: Maude is a Holocaust Survivor
“Harold and Maude” (1971)
“Harold and Maude” is a unique rom-com with an unlikely love story. The film follows a young man named Harold and a 79-year-old woman named Maude. They both share a morbid love of attending funerals. After spending time together and getting to know each other’s quirks, their friendship turns romantic. It’s only after they get together that we discover Maude survived the Holocaust. Knowing that she lived through that made her personal darkness and optimistic attitude about making the most of life make so much sense. The twist completely changes how we view Maude and her outlook on life.
#6: John Lennon is Still Alive
Himesh Patel leads this sweet film that’s as much about the love of music as it is about the love of other people. Patel’s character, Jack, wakes up in a world where “The Beatles” don’t exist. He decides to record Beatles songs under his own name for the good of music and the world. After having trouble with his love interest Ellie and meeting people who remember the band, Jack travels to a mystery location. There he meets the only person qualified to give him insight into his troubles—John Lennon himself. Lennon somehow averted his tragic fate in this version of 2019. The scene ties the whole movie together while encouraging Jack and the audience to never give up on what or who we love.
#5: Time is Moving In Opposite Ways
“The Last Five Years” (2014)
This big screen adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s hit musical stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan as Jamie and Cathy, a married couple whose relationship, we learn, is not long for this world. While this setup seems formulaic, we quickly learn that we’re watching Cathy’s perception of the relationship from end to beginning. But shockingly, we’re also simultaneously seeing Jamie’s perception of the relationship from start to finish. They eventually meet in the middle at their wedding and sing “The Next 10 Minutes”. It’s their only moment of total, mutual connection. The unique and surprising format challenges the way we think about romance. It offers audiences a balanced sneak peek at what it looks like to fall in love —and fall out of it.
#4: Bram is Blue
“Love, Simon” (2018)
We love “Love, Simon” for being a mainstream Hollywood rom-com that puts a gay relationship firmly in the spotlight. But we also love the film for its satisfying twist ending. Simon, played by Nick Robinson, falls in love on an anonymous chat server with a classmate named “Blue,”. He initially assumes the mystery man is his classmate, Bram. When Simon catches Bram making out with a girl at a party, he’s disappointed to discover that his search must continue. But, in the end, it turns out he was right the entire time. Bram IS “Blue!” There’s not a more romantic moment we can think of than Bram and Simon sharing their first kiss on the ferris wheel at the end.
#3: The Woman Will Loves is Not Maya’s Mom
“Definitely, Maybe” (2008)
This underrated 2008 rom-com might have pulled off “How I Met Your Mother’s” central mystery better than the sitcom did! Ryan Reynolds’ Will tells his daughter Maya about three great romantic loves of his life. Since he promises to hide their names behind aliases, we’re unsure which woman is Maya’s mother. But we know Will’s about to divorce her in the present. The film led us to believe that Maya’s mother is THE great love of his life. But we find out at the end that’s not the case. Although Will married Maya’s mother Sarah, he’s actually still in love with April, the only woman whose name he didn’t hide. The shocking revelation fuels a deeply romantic reconciliation at the film's ending.
#2: Tim & Mary’s Baby Changes
“About Time” (2013)
Another time travel rom-com makes the list! In this film, Domhnall Gleeson’s Tim Lake has the power to return to moments in his past. He’s fully aware that if he interferes with the passage of time, it may have dire consequences for his present circumstances. After going back to save his sister from a near-fatal car accident, Tim returns to the present intact. But he soon discovers that his daughter is gone and he has a son instead. It’s a massive shift that serves as a reminder to Tim and the audience that he can only go so far to perfect the details of his present without fundamentally changing his life.
#1: Cal & Emily’s Daughter
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2011)
Before Dan Fogelman broke our hearts each week on “This Is Us,” he wrote “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” This beloved rom-com has twists and turns that definitely mirror his future television work. The main twist in this movie revolves around Cal’s daughter, Hannah. At the beginning of the movie, he meets Jacob, a womanizer who recently struck out with a girl. Jacob helps Cal get back on his feet and gives him womanizing tips of his own. But it turns out the girl Jacob wanted all along was Hannah. The revelation makes Cal completely re-examine his own womanizing ways. In the end, and after a MASSIVE fight, Cal gives them his blessing.