If Harry Befriended Sally

Published 4 years, 7 months ago

I really want to see a mainstream Hollywood movie, preferably with stars in the lead roles, that goes basically like this:  a couple of single people meet cute, become very good friends, meet and fall in love with other people, and stay very good friends.  The End.

It’s been pointed out to me that this is basically the Harry Potter series, which causes me to applaud J. K. Rowling all over again…but note that I said “movie”, not “movie series”.  That is to say, while I love that Rowling resisted having Harry and Hermione hook up, I’d like to see that same sort of arc played out over ninety minutes, not nineteen hours.

Here are some other limits I would place on my ideal movie:

  • The friends never have sex.  Not even drunken one-night-stand sex.
  • In fact, they never even date.  They hang out and do stuff together, but the way that people hang out and do stuff with people they aren’t dating.
  • Related: neither of them develops a crush on the other.  Their love for each other is that of really good friends, period.
  • Possibly optional: show through various grace notes in the scenes that while these are great friends, they wouldn’t work well as a romantic couple, and that they realize and are totally fine with that.
  • Their friendship is not broken or externally threatened.  It’s okay if they argue and even fight from time to time—friends often do.  Misunderstandings are part of any relationship.  Show those, but don’t make it into some kind of world-shattering drama or seem like they’re going to part ways.  Just normal human struggles.
  • Related: neither of them hates or is jealous of their friend’s choice of romantic partner, and vice versa.  I’m not going to insist they all four become super-best friends, but what we’re looking for here is healthy (if imperfect) relationships all the way around.

In a lot of ways, this would look like When Harry Met Sally… without the sex and the stuff at the end.  I’m not saying it’s exactly that, because it’s been a long time since I saw that movie and there may be other things that would need to change.  But, in a broad sense, that.

Why do I want this?  Because I’m really tired of seeing movies (and TV shows and video games and on and on) that essentially insist that any two people who could potentially fall in love must fall in love.  Or even just lust.  Those things are not requirements of all human interaction, and I’d like to see—even if it’s just once—something that looks like a rom-com, but ends up being something a lot more interesting and true to life.  Even more, I’d like my children to see it.  They see it in real life, but a little extra backup wouldn’t hurt.

If anyone knows of a movie that meets these criteria, whether Hollywood-based or not, I’d love to know about it.


  1. I’ve been told by Doug Stewart that the movie “The Cat Returns” fits this structure.

  2. Where’s the drama?

  3. Who said there has to be any, Paul? Some of the classics of cinema have little or none.

    But if you insist, there can be plenty of other sources for drama: each of them pursuing their dream jobs, dealing with problems at work, losing jobs, having family problems, getting dumped, personal illness (life-threatening or otherwise)…the list goes on and on and on and on and on.

  4. If movies are ever made of China Miéville’s novels, you would at least get half the equation. Romance is conspicuously absent from everything of his I’ve read except Perdido Street Station. They are also, by and large, excellent reads; I’m not sure if there’s a causal relationship, though.

    Star Wars might be a decent example, though that does stretch over a few movies, too, depending on how you look at it (and they cheat).

    Interesting question, anyway.

  5. Isn’t this any Lethal Weapon movie?

  6. I was coming to point out what Michael above did: this is just about any movie about 2 guys. Right?

    What you’re getting at isn’t really that those kinds of friendships don’t exist in movies but that women in movies are defined by their romantic relationships with men.

  7. I believe Once fits the bill pretty well. There is a little bit of romantic notion in the movie, but it never manifests itself physically. Overall, it’s about two people who already have relationships that have gone a little off track, and how they support each other as friends to get back on track. Oh, and it has a really great sound track.

  8. It’s a TV show, not a movie, but Warehouse 13 does this with not one but two pairs of male/female friends.

  9. Thanks, Kevin! Sounds like it’s close enough to what I’m thinking to forgive a little bit of traditionalism, as it were.

    Jeannine, I’m really glad you commented. I actually watched the first six or so episodes of Warehouse 13 and then stopped because I felt like they were telegraphing an eventual hookup between the leads. Apparently I was incorrectly projecting my assumptions onto the show, so I’ll give it another go. Thanks!

  10. Somewhat to my shock at the time, the third Karate Kid movie (which is not a good movie) does include a friendship between the hero and a young woman that, despite him rescuing her from peril and other such tropes, does not turn romantic. Only part of what you’re looking for, and not a rom-com, but it’s what sprang to mind.

    I suppose “My Best Friend’s Wedding” deserves a mention here also — it really has two sets of friendships, one of which is one-sidedly romantic and ends up as just a friendship, and the other is purely a friendship (though within the rom-com structure it kind of plays the role of a romance). However, they made the second friendship easier to steer clear of romantic issues by having the man be gay.

  11. Thank you! Nice article. I’ve heard from oriental person that we, in the west, too obsessed with man-woman-sex-type relationship because we have deficit in many other. Once we enrich yourself with many other types of relationships we loose this too sharp sex desire.
    sorry for bad english

  12. How about “I Am Sam” ?

  13. As a followup to my own post, “Jack Reacher” surprised me by not having the leads hook up, or so far as I noticed even get close to doing so. It’s not exactly a rom-com-style movie, true—but still, I gotta recognize that.

  14. I always liked “The Replacement Killers” for this reason.

  15. How about Kindergarten Cop? Detective Kimball ends up with the teacher. Phoebe gets engaged to a chef at the very end.

  16. Have you seen Lost in Translation. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/

    I think this would be fairly close. Though the age gap is perhaps a confound.

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