Meg Ryan, America’s veritable queen of Nineties rom-coms is returning to the silver screen with another charming love story.
She is starring in What Happens Later, a romance about two ex-lovers, Willa (Ryan) and Bill (David Duchovny), who bump into each other at an airport. There’s a storm, and when their flights are delayed they end up spending the night together having fun at the airport.
“Sometimes there’s a question of: Will they be together? Will they not be together?” said Ryan to EW before the SAG-AFTRA strike had begun (as part of which actors can’t promote films they have worked on). “For that reason, [What Happens Later] sort of evolves the rom-com genre just a little bit. It’s also about old people, and it’s still romantic and sexy.”
“It has a relationship to movies from the Forties, like Bringing Up Baby, in terms of the banter and the rhythm of things and a lot of that era of filmmaking,” she said. “Nora Ephron used to say about rom-coms that they were really a secretly incredible delivery system to comment on the times, and we do that in this movie.”
Although What Happens Later currently has no set release date, the trailer teases that the screwball romance film is “coming soon”. So, for Ryan fans who are thrilled by the news of there being a new rom-com on the horizon, here is our pick of her best films to (re-)watch first.
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Arguably the most famous rom-com of all time, When Harry Met Sally... landed it made Ryan an instant star. Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, Ryan starred as Sally and Billy Crystal starred as Harry. The story follows the duo over the course of 12 years as they meet, become friends, talk about love and life, kiss, fight, and seem to be destined to a life apart as they date other people. Well, you can guess the rest.
“Everything is removed from the film except Harry and Sally’s attitudes towards love, sex, friendship and each other,” said the BBC. “The result is a romantic comedy distilled to its essence: it has romance and it has comedy, and it has nothing else.”
Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
This black comedy written and directed by John Patrick Shanley starred Tom Hanks as Joe Banks, a man working a clerical job, who is told he has just months to live. He meets a millionaire who makes him an interesting proposition: he’ll pay forJoe to live the life of luxury for the last days of his life, if Joe jumps into a volcano within 20 days (the industrialist needs to appease the island’s inhabitants so that he can mine an important mineral on the island). Joe agrees – why not? And he starts to have a lot of fun. Ryan plays several different characters in the quirky film, including Joe’s love interest, Patricia.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sleepless in Seattle often competes with When Harry Met Sally... to top the list of best rom-coms of all time. Tom Hanks plays Sam, a widowed Chicago architect. One day, Jonah, his eight year old son, calls a radio station and persuades his dad to talk about how much he misses his wife. After listening to the show, Annie (Ryan) writes to Sam, proposing that he meet her at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, and the romance is set in motion.
When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
Another rom-com, this time directed by Luis Mandoki, Ryan stars as Alice, an unhappy school councillor who has a problem with alcohol. After one particularly disastrous drunken evening, she and her husband, pilot Michael (Andy Garcia), agree she needs to get help. But the decision to enter a rehabilitation clinic changes the dynamic of their relationship in ways the couple didn’t foresee.
The film did extremely well at the box office, despite pulling in mixed reviews, with some critics finding the film over-earnest.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
In Courage Under Fire, Ryan plays an army commander who flies a helicopter sent to rescue soldiers whose own helicopter was shot down. Her company gets caught in the fighting and she is reported as dead. Denzel Washington plays Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling who is investigating the incident, but something is not right and the soldiers’ testimonies are not consistent.
Reviewing at the time, American critic Roger Ebert said, “The end of the film understandably lays on the emotion a little heavily, but until then Courage Under Fire has been a fascinating emotional and logistical puzzle – almost a courtroom movie, with the desert as the courtroom.”
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Another Ryan and Hanks collaboration, this rom-com written and directed by Ephron tells the story of independent book shop owner Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox, who is part of the family who own a chain of bookstores, called Fox Books. The duo bump into each other several times, and although Kathleen is in a relationship with journalist Frank (Greg Kinnear) they start to build a friendship. Little do they know, but they have also been chatting online having met anonymously in an over-30s chat room.
“It’s not nearly as revered as When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle,” said The New York Times in 2018, “But to me, it is the $250-million-worldwide-gross version of a cult classic. It came out 20 years ago, and I still think about You’ve Got Mail all the time.”