The summer before my first year of high school, I spent hours lying on the blue couch in my living room, eyes glued to my widescreen TV. Despite the protests of my siblings, I refused to watch anything besides the 1990s and early–2000s romantic comedies. I was enraptured by the timelessly trendy fashion in Clueless, Kat Stratford’s magnetic personality in 10 Things I Hate About You, and the wholesome but hilarious performance of “Thriller” in  13 Going on 30. No matter how many times I watch these movies, they never fail to ignite the unbridled joy and happiness I felt when I saw them for the first time.

These rom–coms hold a comfort and nostalgia that recent films cannot seem to emulate. Maybe, we gravitate toward these movies because the decades that they were filmed in inspired some of our favorite fashion trends today. Or, perhaps, we wish to immerse ourselves in a joyful cinematic atmosphere void of modern technology. After the anticipated 2023 release of Anyone But You, movie lovers wondered if the “classic” rom–com had returned. Social media users’ positive reviews made viewers hopeful that 2020s rom–coms could stand tall against the Pretty Woman and About Time of our Letterboxd profiles.

Anyone But You, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, gained social media traction during filming. In response to steamy photos of the leading pair, rumors surfaced that the love interests of the film were involved in an off–screen romance. These photos seemed especially scandalous, as Powell and Sweeney were both in relationships during filming.

Whether the photos were proof of a romantic relationship or impressive cinematic chemistry, Anyone But You was a smash hit months before its release. 

The film has gathered the buzz that other recent 2020s rom–coms lacked. For example, while #AnyoneButYou has amassed over 91,400 posts on TikTok, Ticket to Paradise, a rom–com released in 2022 starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, only has 2,408 videos under its hashtag. Similarly, Love Again, a rom–com starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Sam Heughan that premiered in 2023, was slandered the film by Rolling Stone as “lame” and unworthy of Céline Dion's music, which was included throughout the film’s soundtrack. But as Love Again failed, Anyone But You revived Natasha Bedingfield’s 2004 hit “Unwritten.” Bedingfield admired the use of her song in the soundtrack, claiming in an interview with People that it felt like “a character in the movie.” 

However, despite its attempt to redefine the 2020s rom–com, Anyone But You still fell short for many viewers. While several TikTok users praised the movie, skipping out of theaters singing, critics flooded comment sections with negative reviews. One comment reads, “This cannot be the same movie I watched.” A New York Times critic concluded that “Sweeney and Powell could do wonders with a better script."

Though Anyone But You may be an exciting and enjoyable movie, it fails to evoke the nostalgic wonder of our beloved '90s and early 2000s rom–coms. While viewers loved hearing “Unwritten” in theaters, the use of an early 2000s song indicates that modern rom–coms are struggling with originality to set them apart from their forebears. 

If viewers have a hankering for a rom–com night, they can choose from dozens of old reliables on Netflix. Andie Anderson’s rendition of Carly Simon's “You’re So Vain” and her iconic yellow dress from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days started trending on TikTok nearly 20 years after the film’s release. This is just one example of TikTok users being more privy to the resurfacing of older rom–coms instead of new releases.

While production companies keep trying to churn out the “next big rom–com,” it may be time to accept that the era of our comfort rom–coms cannot be beat. These films are magical, allowing us to reminisce on a decade we were not even part of. Anyone But You and the slew of failing 2020s rom–coms have not satisfied our cravings for originality in the rom–com universe. In fact, it has made us yearn for the feelings we felt when we watched Crazy, Stupid, Love. for the first time.