The Most Iconic Meet-Cutes in Literature, Ranked
Personally, I have never experienced a meet-cute. I’m not convinced that it actually happens in real life. The closest I have ever come is that one time I bumped into a guy at Starbucks. I spilled my scalding hot coffee into his lap, he cried, and we didn’t go on a date.
In fiction, however, attractive people are constantly running into each other and falling in love immediately. And this doesn’t just happen in romantic comedies starring various Hemsworths—it happens in books, too. Here are just a handful, ranked from worst to best.
#8: Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind
The meet-cute: It's a complete and total mess. Scarlett declares her love for another man, who rejects her. She then slaps him and throws a sugar bowl, only to discover that Rhett Butler was eavesdropping nearby and heard the whole thing. To cap it off, she yells at him and then goes and accepts a proposal from another man entirely. As meet-cutes go, it’s, well, it’s not a great start.
The Hollywood equivalent: Something (sort of) similar happens with Alison Brie in How to Be Single.
#7: Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice
The meet-cute: You know the routine. Boy meets girl; boy refuses to dance with girl; boy insults girl’s looks, personality, and social standing; girl develops prejudicial notions about boy that will persist for many months, only to be disproved at a critical juncture. Actually, this is a subversion of the meet-cute trope. A meet-ugly, if you will.
The Hollywood equivalent: Think He’s Just Not That Into You, When Harry Met Sally, and Groundhog Day.
#6: Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre
The meet-cute: Jane is simply walking along one moonlit night when a passing stranger is abruptly unseated from his horse, which I think we can safely assume looked hilarious. He has a sprained ankle, and she offers him her hand. This would be cuter if she wasn’t thinking, “Man, what a completely average-looking human being,” if he didn’t later blame her for his fall by calling her a witch, and if he hadn’t been hiding his crazy wife in the attic the whole time.
The Hollywood equivalent: It’s kind of like Reality Bites, The Wedding Planner, and the first episode of Zoey 101 where Zoey sees Chase and he immediately runs into a flagpole.
#5: Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
The meet-cute: They meet eyes, hold hands, and lock lips within about five minutes of being in the same room for the first time. It’s sweet, if implausible. But this meet-cute is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that six people will ultimately die as a result of it, along with the fact that, barely two seconds ago, Romeo was lusting after Rosaline. The boy falls in love the way I devour pizza rolls, which is to say frequently and with great passion.
The Hollywood equivalent: Mean Girls, The Notebook, pretty much any time two characters who didn’t previously know each other make eye contact in Love, Actually.
#4: Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility
The meet-cute: Apparently, roughly half the meet-cutes in the eighteenth century involved someone twisting an ankle. While out for a walk, Marianne falls down a hill, requiring Willoughby to rescue her. The two don’t ultimately wind up together, but it would’ve been a cute story if they had, and I’m about one bad date away from throwing myself down a hill and breaking my ankle just to have a chance at finding love.
The Hollywood equivalent: 27 Dresses. You know, the bit where Katherine Heigl gets a concussion. Thank God James Marsden is there.
#3: Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby
The meet-cute: Look, I get that Nick and Gatsby aren’t romantically entangled, but you can’t tell me Nick saying “So where’s this Gatsby fellow, anyway? Seems kind of rude not to greet your guests, don’t you think?” to a nearby stranger who proceeds to say “Actually, I’m Gatsby” before flashing a wide, dazzling smile ISN’T a meet-cute.
The Hollywood equivalent: Legally Blonde and You’ve Got Mail
#2: Basically everyone in Love’s Labours Lost
The meet-cute: Never say you’re swearing off dating, because you’re not. “I’m just going to focus on me right now” is exactly what someone who’s about to fall head-over-heels in love would say. In Shakesepeare’s Love’s Labours Lost, the king and his three dudebros decide to take a break from women. Almost immediately, they meet a princess and her three ladies-in-waiting. Antics ensue.
The Hollywood equivalent: 40 Days and 40 Nights.
#1: Christine Daaé and Raoul de Chagny in The Phantom of the Opera
The meet-cute: When Christine and Raoul first meet as children, Raoul jumps into the sea to rescue her scarf, which is 10/10 adorable. Nothing about this encounter suggests that they will both one day be living at the mercy of some guy who lives a basement and hates chandeliers, but life’s funny like that sometimes.
The Hollywood equivalent: I’m certain Channing Tatum does almost exactly this in Dear John.