It is hard to imagine coming up with a list of the best romantic comedies without including one, two, three, or more of Nora Ephron’s classic movies, both as a director and writer. Throughout her life and career, the three-time Oscar nominee gave the world some of the funniest and most unforgettable movie moments as well as a level of genuine human emotion that is both heartbreaking and breathtaking.
Though the beloved journalist, writer, and director passed away at age of 71 in June 2012, Ephron’s more than a dozen movies have kept her spirit with us for the past decade. And while we’re all familiar with undeniable classics like When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail, there are other films either written or directed by Ephron that are also worth checking out. Here’s how to do just that…
Sleepless In Seattle (1993) - Writer/Director
After hearing widower Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) open up about his late wife on a radio talk show, reporter Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) throws caution into the wind and puts everything at risk, including her engagement, to meet the man she can’t help but admire. Though not her directorial debut, Nora Ephron established herself as a must-watch filmmaker with Sleepless in Seattle, a defining 1993 movie.
You've Got Mail (1998) - Writer/Director
Oblivious to the fact they are bitter enemies in the real world, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) begin a swirling, and completely anonymous, relationship after meeting in an AOL chat room. Nora Eprhon’s seminal rom-com, You’ve Got Mail, is also a time capsule to the waning days of the 20th century.
This Is My Life (1992) - Writer/Director
Nora Ephron made her directorial debut with her 1992 adaptation of This Is My Life, a short and sweet comedy about Dottie Ingels (Julie Kavner), a single mother who sets out to trade her cosmetics job at Macy's for a microphone as a stand-up comic. Though not as remembered as her rom-coms, Ephron’s first outing as a director is still worth a watch.
Mixed Nuts (1994) - Writer/Director
A cute Christmas comedy featuring Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, and Madeline Kahn? Say no more! Released in 1994, Mixed Nuts centers on a man named Philip (Martin) as he attempts to keep his suicide-prevention hotline open during the holiday season, which proves to be no easy task. This one is wacky, quirky, and full of heart.
Michael (1996) - Writer/Director
When a pair of reporters (William Hurt and Robert Pastorelli) and a supposed angel expert (Andie MacDowell) catch wind of an angel spotting in the heartland, the group travels to Iowa to get to the bottom of the unbelievable story. However, instead of finding some yokel with gimmicked wings, they find what could very well be the real thing (John Travolta) in Michael.
Lucky Numbers (2000) - Director
In 2000, Nora Ephron came out with Lucky Numbers, a crime caper starring John Travolta as a popular yet nearly bankrupt weatherman who attempts to pull off a lottery scam to save his failing snowmobile business. Though not the late filmmaker’s best work, this movie is still amusing and features one hell of a cast including Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O’Neill, and Bill Pullman, to name a few.
Bewitched (2005) - Writer/Director
When struggling actor Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) is given the role of Darrin Stephens in the remake of the classic sitcom, Bewitched, he quickly learns that Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman), the actress hired to play the iconic Samantha Stephens, has far more in common with her character than anyone would have guessed.
Julie & Julia (2009) - Writer/Director
More than a quarter-century after Meryl Streep stole the show in Nora Ephron’s screenwriting debut, Silkwood (an '80s movie that doesn’t get talked about enough), the beloved actress appeared in what would be the filmmaker’s final movie, 2009's Julie & Julia. Partly focused on the life and career of famed chef Julia Child (Streep) with the other half focused on blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams) as she attempts to make each of Child’s 500+ recipes, this charming biographical comedy is equally amusing and moving.
When Harry Met Sally (1989) - Writer
Though When Harry Met Sally is a Rob Reiner movie, and a great one at that, it’s hard to imagine the timeless story of Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and not also think about its screenwriter, Nora Ephron. Perhaps the best friends-to-lovers romantic comedy of all time, this movie, with its outstanding writing, is perfect, absolutely perfect.
Heartburn (1986) - Writer
Based on her book, which was inspired by her marriage to Carl Bernstein, Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, directed by Mike Nichols, tells the story of Manhattan writer Rachel Samstat (Meryl Streep) and political columnist Mark Forman (Jack Nicholson) as they attempt to change, and change one another, to make their relationship work. Building a family (and a home of their own) is hard work for the couple in this 1986 romantic dramedy.
Cookie (1989) - Writer
Directed by Susan Seidelman, Cookie is a Nora Ephron-penned 1989 comedy that follows a troubled youth named Carmela “Cookie” Voltecki (Emily Lloyd) as she is taken under the wing of her biological father, a recently paroled gangster by the name of Dominick “Dino” Capisco (Peter Falk). Diane Wiest, Bob Gunton, and Jerry Lewis all show up in this oft-forgotten crime comedy.
My Blue Heaven (1990) - Writer
One month before Martin Scorsese came out with Goodfellas, the iconic gangster movie adapted from a book written by her husband, Nicholas Pileggi, Nora Ephron came out with My Blue Heaven, which was also inspired by the life of Henry Hill. This time around, Steve Martin plays Vinnie Antonelli, a mobster in the witness protection program. Though he’s supposed to keep a low profile, that’s not an easy task for the loud and colorful Antonelli, much to the chagrin of Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis), the federal agent keeping him out of trouble.
Hanging Up (2000) - Writer
And then there is Hanging Up, the 2000 dramedy about three sisters – Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, and Diane Keaton (who also directed it) – as they put their own lives on hold to tend to their ailing father (Walter Matthau in his final role). Nora Ephron wrote the screenplay alongside her sister and frequent collaborator, Delia, who wrote the book on which the film was based.
If you’re looking for a laugh, a reason to cry, or want to check out a forgotten gem, these Nora Ephron movies will certainly do the trick.