The worst romance tropes on screen, from rom-com classics to sitcom cliché

We lined up the most ridiculous tropes in romance which we love to hate

ridiculous romance tropes
Nothing sets the loving mood quite like a nice heteronormative romance trope (Photo by freestocks)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a romance film in a possession of a happy couple must be in want of a trope. 


a common or overused theme or device

If you’ve seen more than one romantic movie or TV show in your life, you know this to be a fact. For some people, this is the main reason to hate rom coms with a passion. For others, knowing exactly how events would play out brings a sense of comfort.

Regardless of what your personal feelings towards the genre are, one glaring truth cannot be ignored. More than any other category, romance relies heavily on tropes which are tired at best and cringeworthy at… well, most times. 

Below, we’ve rounded up the worst offenders:

Will they, won’t they

will they won't they romance
They will, of course

Yuck. Friends is by far the biggest culprit, with a love story so drawn out that by the end you’re begging for Rachel to get on the damn plane to Paris and end our misery. But the popular show is not the only guilty programme. Countless sitcoms such as New Girl and The Office, lay heavily into the familiar dynamic of having their protagonists pine after each other, then get together, only to have some mishap split them apart. Rinse and repeat. Maybe once it was a great way to keep viewers engaged, but now it’s almost a turn-off for those who want to see characters deal with meaningful conflict.

The love triangle 

romance love triangle
Were you team Edward or team Jacob? We didn’t care either.

We could do a whole article just on this cliché. Whether it’s an existing relationship which needs to withstand the attentions of a new (or old!) suitor, or two suitors competing for the love of the main character, the love triangle trope shows up time and again. Sometimes it’s more prominent, like the Twilight saga, while other times one “angle” exists purely to add drama (see every “bitchy” girlfriend, like Maggie in The Holiday). One thing all these have in common is the cringe factor. Surely in 2021 we have better ways to create tension than pitting men or women against each other? 

Fake dating 

fake dating romance
Peter Kavinsky is the best fake boyfriend anyone can wish for

Gotta give it to this cliché, it’s quite versatile. High-school polar opposites forced to fake a romance (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). Fake date to an ex’s wedding, family event or high school reunion. Employers stuck in the 50s need to see a serious relationship before handing out a promotion, because single people are notoriously untrustworthy. Or, the all-time favourite, anti-deportation marriage (The Proposal). The heroes in these stories make it look so easy, but in reality, if you suggested this madness, you’d get shot down.

Accidentally married 

They really shouldn’t be letting intoxicated people get hitched

You know these wild nights when you drink so much and party so hard that you wake up married to a total stranger? Me neither. But for a lot of rom com protagonists this is standard fare, judging by the sheer amount of movies centred around such ill-advised nuptials (What Happens in Vegas). They usually take place in Vegas, between two characters who couldn’t be more different. Hilarity ensues. Except you know full well any sane person would just get an annulment and be on their way.

The workaholic & the wholesome

hallmark romance
They live happily ever after… obviously

He worked hard. She loved to bake. Can I make it any more obvious? He wore a suit. She lived in the sticks. What more can I say? He came to town, to close down her shop, but secretly he wanted to quit his job. All will be fine, they’ll share some screen time, and he’ll be supporting all local stores. The oldest story in the book. (See: Christmas Cookies, or literally every other Hallmark film.)

“Locked room” romance

locked room romance
Bonus points if there’s only one bed

This type of romantic film is particularly disaster heavy. Snow storms, delayed flights, cars breaking down, double bookings, hapless characters getting lost in the wild with only the grouchy local willing to take them to their destination? Whatever the reason for the involuntary confinement, this trope ranks high on the forced romance scale. (See: Leap Year)

Reformed rake

He burns for you… and four other debutantes

We’ve all seen Bridgerton (and loved it), so what better example than that for our last trope? Alas, everyone’s favourite duke is just the last in a string of many romantic heroes who perpetuate the same misconception that any bad boy can be transformed into a doting husband if you just love him hard enough. We hate to break it to you, dear reader, but while some men might indeed change their ways, it’s always better to approach these situations with a “once a f*ckboy, always a f*ckboy” mentality.

We’re all one big (gay) family

Bonus: Still in the closet

With the recent rise of LGBTQI representation in romantic films, we’re immediately seeing a formula start to emerge: one (or both) of the main characters is still not out to their family and friends, which creates friction within the couple and leads to a series of misunderstandings. This one in particular is not bad in the cheesy sense, but it gets an honourable mention in our “Worst” list because of how painful it is to watch. Haven’t come across it yet? Check out The Happiest Season or Love, Simon.