Romantic Comedies and Their Mildly Deranged Stalkers

Why do so many romantic comedies rely on successful stalkers? We investigate some of the worst offenders.

This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.

Over the summer, I quit my job and spent three months on gardening leave waiting for my contract to end. Except I didn’t do any gardening; I just did a lot of watching rom-coms. And they all taught me one thing.

Not that perseverance pays off, or that love will conquer all, or even that you need a bit of hilarity and confusion to make getting the person you want that much sweeter when it finally happens. No, they all taught me that the best way to get someone is to just plain stalk them. 

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Because it seems that rom-coms aren’t actually all that romantic after all; they’re the tales of slightly deranged individuals who fixate on someone they hardly know, and decide that they must be together forever and ever and ever. And it works. They don’t end up with restraining orders, or in prison, or being heavily medicated by a psychiatrist. No, they win love and companionship, and a great big kiss before the end credits.

So who are some of these arguably criminal lovestruck fools? I’ve compiled a by no means exhaustive list of the top 10 examples.

Annie Reed, Sleepless in Seattle

Where else to start, but with the greatest stalker of them all? Meg Ryan’s Annie behaves in a way that isn’t so much lovestruck and romantic as downright certifiable. After hearing a man on the radio, she decides she’s madly in love with him. And then flies across the country to follow him about and spy on him and his young son.

Supposedly, it’s so she can “look into doing a story on the radio shows” she first heard him on, because somehow Annie has managed to keep her alarming behavior in check long enough to land a job as a journalist. But even the film doesn’t make any pretense that that’s what it’s really about.

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And yet, instead of being rewarded with a prison sentence, Annie leaves her charming fiancé on Valentine’s Day and wins the heart of Tom Hanks’ Sam the moment he sees her at the top of the Empire State Building. Makes perfect sense.

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Jane Nichols & Kevin Doyle, 27 Dresses

Providing great bang for your stalking buck, 27 Dresses not only features endless weddings, it’s also got an excellent chain of stalking. Katherine Heigl’s Jane is obsessively in love with her boss, and she gets away without looking too strange since an assistant is meant to know what their boss is up to at all times.

Meanwhile, Jane’s stalked by James Marsden’s Kevin, a journalist who steals her Filofax and aggressively and repeatedly tracks her down. But all in the name of a story, you understand.

So once again, we’ve got stalking masked as journalistic professionalism. At least the defense might hold up in court, I guess.

Jenna Rink, 13 Going On 30

Magazine editor Jenna Rink can’t let go of her teenage best friend. So she tracks him down after years of no contact. Never mind the fact that he’s got his own life, career, and relationship going on; Jenna must find him and force him to be with and love her again.

In fairness to Jenna, there are some mitigating factors in this one. She’s mentally 13 years old, so can’t be held entirely accountable for her actions. But going to his house and begging him to call off his wedding in tears is still a bit of a dick move, even for a teenager in Jennifer Garner’s body.

Will Thacker, Notting Hill

Proving that Hollywood stars really aren’t that hard to track down if you just try hard enough, Hugh Grant’s Will does an excellent job of stalking Julia Roberts’ Anna. He just turns up at her film set in London, and rather than being weirded out at the appearance of a man she hasn’t seen for six months who she thinks called the paparazzi last time they were together, Anna invites him to stay. Where is her security team?

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She should’ve seen the warning signs coming. Earlier in the film, Will had pretended to be a journalist from Horse and Hound after accidentally stumbling into a press conference. And we all know what those journalists are like.

Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason

In an interesting new twist on the stalker-romance genre, the widely beloved Bridget decides to get in on the action by stalking someone who’s already her boyfriend. Just because you’re already sleeping with them, it doesn’t make it any less creepy to sneak into their back garden, clamber across their rooftop and spy through their skylight. It’s just slightly easier because you already know where they live, and when you fall off the roof you might get invited in.

And guess what our lovely leading lady does? Why, yes, she’s a TV journalist. Should’ve seen it coming.

Knives Chau, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

While not strictly a “rom-com” in the traditional, trashy sense of the word, Knives couldn’t be left out of this list. For she is such an excellent obsessed stalker that her name became shorthand in my vocabulary for acting a bit mad about someone. But what does “yeah, I went a bit Knives Chau over him” actually mean?

Why, it means deluded, clingy, heartbroken behavior, of course. Knives spends much of the film basically fangirling over Scott, who is in turn fangirling over Ramona. But after Scott dumps Knives for his rainbow-haired beloved, poor Ms. Chau can’t handle it and takes to changing her hair and popping up all over the place when Scott least expects it. It’s a masterclass in trying to force someone to love you.

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Still, she proves pretty handy in a fight in the end, so doubtless Knives will move on and be fine. And at least she’s not a journalist.

Cameron James and Patrick Verona, 10 Things I Hate About You

Proving that the youth are not immune to the power of a stalk, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Cameron is totally obsessed with the lovely Bianca Stratford, a girl who is miles out of his league. But it’s okay, because Cameron is a man with a plan. A plan that involves recruiting and paying someone to date Bianca’s sister Kat, going through Kat’s room in the name of “research,” pretending to speak French so he can tutor Bianca, and forcing someone to throw a party that they really didn’t intend to and then getting their house a bit trashed.

Meanwhile, pay-man Heath Ledger’s Patrick is stalking Kat round bookshops, and music shops, and the aforementioned party. But that’s all fine, because he sings with a brass band and buys a guitar. Apparently, music really can fix anything.

Tom Hansen, 500 Days of Summer

Serial offender Joseph Gordon-Levitt is back, and he’s obsessed again. Honestly, he looks like such a lovely young chap. Why does he keep getting himself caught up in these situations?

Still, at least this time he’s not so much actively stalking as just harboring an all-consuming and slightly destructive obsession with a girl called Summer. After a few months of dating her, he’s surprised and devastated when she dumps him. Even though she told him she doesn’t believe in love and doesn’t want a boyfriend. Unable to move on, Tom starts fantasising about rekindling their actually pretty rubbish love and stays unhealthily dedicated to Summer for longer than they were ever together in the first place.

Still, at least no money changes hands this time.

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Lucy Moderatz, While You Were Sleeping

Sandra Bullock’s Lucy takes us right back into the realms of the true, dictionary-definition stalker. Yet somehow she comes out of this one looking like endearing kook, rather than a deranged psychopath.

And it’s a bit of a mystery how. She pretends to be the fiancée of Peter Gallagher’s Peter Callaghan, a man she’s never spoken to, dupes his whole family, and somehow doesn’t end up in jail once she’s been exposed. Instead she marries his brother, because she really does seem like the kind of girl you’d want to welcome into your family.

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Although the greatest mystery of this one will always be why eyebrows Callaghan has a picture of himself in his wallet.

Tim Lake, About Time

Closing out the list is another from serial offender director Richard Curtis. He’s not willing to let such small things as time get in the way of his characters’ stalky tendencies.

In between being a Weasley and the evil general in Star Wars, Domnhall Gleason kept up the misuse of his improbable powers. Because his character Tim has the ability to travel in time, and all he does with it is force Rachel McAdams’ Mary to love him by repeatedly going back and fixing his previous mistakes.

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further reading: The Best Time Travel Romances Ever

He could’ve done anything with his special gift, and he decided to stalk a girl. The selfish, time-traveling monster. Honestly, he should have a chat with the Doctor and find out how it’s really done…