In the 1989 classic When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal‘s Harry Burns laid in his bed watching Casablanca and speaking into the phone. During the famous final scene, he informed a confused Sally Albright on the other end that Ingrid Bergman was “low maintenance.” He then went on to call poor Sally “high maintenance” and criticize her difficult nature and demanding personality. Audiences – at least the men – likely disagreed as the movie has been one of the most watched romantic comedies in history and one of the main reasons was the loveable, sweet, beautiful Sally.
American males love to see scantily clad women parade on screen. There is really no other reason some low budget horror and prison movies got produced. But secretly, many men long for the All-American, soft-eyed sweetheart who melts their crusty exterior while still nudging their libido with her innocence and vulnerability. Note that we are not necessarily commenting on the actresses themselves. But naturally a gorgeous character will be played by a gorgeous actress. In addition, we’ll be sticking to somewhat recent films. It tends to be difficult to pick out the qualities we’re looking for in black and white, melodramatic pre-war movies. Here are 15 fictitious blushing beauties who you’d be proud to invite to dinner with the parents.
15. Gray Wheeler – Catch And Release, 2006
When any woman loses her fiancé only weeks before their wedding, it’s really hard not to feel sorry for her. When she’s a beautiful brunette with sultry eyes and a sweet disposition, it’s almost impossible not to want to console her, protect her, help her and eventually marry her yourself. That’s kind of what happens in this convoluted tear-jerker. The movie alternates between comedy and tragedy so it’s not really like most rom-coms. And the dysfunctional group of men who surround Gray in her life leave you wanting to beat the crap out of all of them and take her for yourself. Even if you don’t care for the movie itself, though, Jen Garner‘s vulnerability in this one will make you forget her Alias days and wish she would have done more like this (maybe one without the troupe of goofballs harassing her).
14. Lucy Moderatz – While You Were Sleeping, 1995
Lucy would likely be a little farther up this list if she wasn’t so…well…let’s just admit it: creepy. Yes, she’s cute and cuddly and all the things Sandra Bullock brings to most of her romantic comedies. But when you spend a ton of time at the bedside of a comatose man whom you don’t really know, you might lose a few points on the normal scale. That’s still not quite enough to leave her totally off the list, though. Lucy’s aforementioned cuteness comes all the way out as she ingratiates herself to her dream man’s family, coming to love them even if she hasn’t really fallen for him yet. It’s a clever enough set up to make you hope for her ultimate happiness and be anxious for his inevitable return to the world of expressed thought.
13. Rita Hanson – Groundhog Day, 1993
Does anyone who has seen this movie really think Bill Murray‘s character deserves Rita by the end? Even with all his purported “growth” and the implication that he has been stuck in Punxsutawney for months or even years, the guy has simply lied his way into her life. We doubt many males who were swayed by Rita’s perky personality, adorable face and lovable laugh were ready to hand her over to Phil Connors by the time the credits rolled. It’s like rooting for the shark in the Jaws movies. You take a smart, beautiful girl who in a perfect world would be swept off her feet by a Prince or a Billionaire and have her fall for a con artist. Nice job, fellas.
12. Maggie Carpenter – Runaway Bride, 1999
Here’s another girl whose mental health is a tad in question, but you can’t hate her for it. Guys can certainly understand commitment issues so maybe we can forgive Maggie’s abbreviated matrimonial forays a little easier. Some might have chosen Vivian from Pretty Woman as their favorite Richard Gere-eventually-ends-up-with-Julia Roberts movie character, but..she’s a sex worker. Not really the type mom is wanting to touch her favorite silverware when you bring her home. Instead we have this beauty who simply goes along with whatever her man currently desires in order to please him so he’ll continue to support her. Wait…maybe Maggie isn’t so different after all. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, though, she comes off as more down-to-earth and less whiny than the hooker while still sporting that gigantic pearly-white grin. That’s enough for most of us.
11. Jo Harding – Twister, 1996
For the rough and ready crowd, we have tornado-victim-wanna-be Jo Harding. Helen Hunt has made a career of playing a naturally pretty, practical woman who grabs your attention as much with her cool attitude and spunk as with her looks. Looking all tousled and spending most of her time in a really nice white tank top, Jo is a meteorologist who is dead set on chasing her own death in a truck while trying to win back her estranged boyfriend, played by the guy who was seemingly in every movie of the 90s, Bill Paxton. Her dedication to her craft is as appealing as her pleasant features and she comes across as a lady who respects and loves the man who is the best at what he does in his field. That or she simply wants to be buried next to his unrecognizable remains after a cyclone sends parts of them into five different counties.
10. Jodie Rutherford – Leading Lady, 2014
Katie McGrath is not as well known as other actresses on this list, but that may change soon. This gorgeous Irish actress plays a very proper, gorgeous teacher in this 2014 effort from director Henk Pretorius. Unlike some ditzier versions of similar characters, Jodie Rutherford is both erudite and flummoxed as she travels well out of her comfort zone for a change of career. It is this underlying confidence which endears her to you as you watch and experience a new culture right along with her. While unable to hide her confusion, she still is able to charm both audience and love interests throughout with her electric smile and smouldering eyes. This is why we expect to see more of McGrath in these types of roles soon.
9. Tamara Drewe – Tamara Drewe, 2010
OK, the inclusion of Ms. Tamara Drewe is not exactly in line with some of the other sweethearts on this list. While she is the girl next door in this film, she’s not really the girl-next-door type. She appears here as an homage to all the girls we wanted mom to like but she never did. Mom saw past their great looks, sleek body and fake manners and knew they would break our hearts. That’s kind of Tamara Drewe all summed up. In her first appearance we are smitten We want her attitudes and demeanour to match the outer perfection we can see. We even lie to ourselves when she doesn’t return our devotion. But just look at her and you’ll know why. The really cruel thing is she doesn’t even realize what she’s doing to everyone.
8. Veronica Vaughn – Billy Madison, 1995
Being the love interest in an Adam Sandler movie may disqualify a character to some. Miss Vaughn, however, is awfully hard to dismiss. The tall and demure Bridgette Wilson-Sampras fills this character with enough innocence to make her believable as a grammar school teacher while still making Bill Madison’s lower regions tingle. Yes, she’s a bit of a tease and her choice in men is highly questionable but what 30 year old man doesn’t remember the young teacher he once had who kept him up nights? Miss Vaughn remains sweet even as she’s attempting to mold a cretin into an actual student, and leaves most male audience members wishing long-legged blondes were more commonplace in our educational system.
7. Kelly Foster – We Bought A Zoo, 2011
It’s really difficult to look at Scarlett Johansson and not see Black Widow these days. But before she immersed herself in Marvel’s Universe, she was already beguiling movie goers with her piercing gaze in pictures like this understated family story. Kelly Foster is the resident zoo keeper who new-zoo-owner Benjamin (Matt Damon) must rely upon to make his venture a success. Unlike her sexier, more sophisticated characters, Scar-Jo plays Kelly as a solid and invested country girl who makes you forget how attractive she is initially. Her first allegiance is to her animals and it is this dedication, along with a genuine sweetness which makes Benjamin and the audience fall for her.
6. Caroline the Waitress – Untamed Heart, 1993
Caroline must have a last name but she’s not telling. She’s considerate and undemanding and has that Marisa Tomei realness that her fans have come to expect. The movie may not be your cup of tea if you don’t like love stories drenched in elements of what can only be called story book fantasy, but the precious Caroline will still make you want to search greasy spoons and coffee shops the world over to find such a creature. Her relationship with a withdrawn and quiet busboy reminds you a little of a Beauty and the Beast motif, while her work ethic and desire to better her life add an aspect of inspiration. This girl and this film are for you if you dreams there’s a hidden gem in a skirt just waiting to be discovered in your every day life.
5. Anna Brady – Leap Year, 2010
Here’s another film where our heroine is far too good for the guy she ends up with. Leaving aside the dork she is trying so hard to be engaged to at the start of the movie, Amy Adams‘ Anna Brady spends the rest of the film being irritated, mislead, harassed and only superficially helped by an Irish man who may not be a hoodlum but is far too close to it for our tastes. Her incredible eyes and hopeful smile are all Anna needs to draw us in to caring for her. But it’s her willful desire to be with her man and her drive to achieve it that makes us want her for ourselves. Anna is at once a dreamer and also that of which dreams are made. It has to be difficult to write a character to be as lovely on the inside as Anna is on the outside, but it has been achieved here.
4. Yvonne Biasi – It Could Happen To You, 1994
This list wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from 90s sweetheart Bridget Fonda. Yvonne is an ordinary waitress who somehow manages to really like people. She treats her customers with care and makes them feel at home. Yes, she can be a little moody but her overt positivity comes through with her brilliant smile and we feel invested in her after she almost lets Nic Cage‘s policeman Charley character scam her. Not true? Remember, even after realizing he had a winning ticket, he offers her the “opportunity” to pick double her tip or the winnings. What a great guy. Yvonne could have opted out of her share while Charley went home to his shrew of a wife. And somehow she falls for this scam artist. You deserve better, Yvonne.
3. Sally Albright – When Harry Met Sally, 1989
A tad neurotic, it’s true, but our girl Sally is still the queen of the classic romantic comedy. From her period hair styles to her meticulous nature, Meg Ryan‘s version of this quirky New York journalist pulls off something you don’t often see – a character having annoying habits that don’t really bother you that much. Playing against Harry Burns’ chauvinistic attitudes and regular-guy lifestyle, she holds her own and despite her own relationship trials, still doesn’t think all men are pigs. Right up until Harry, himself, proves he is indeed porcine. While she seems dainty at times, the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene makes us want to find out exactly what beast lurks beneath her proper exterior. A multi-layered darling, for our money, Sally is the ultimate 80s girl.
2. Paige Collins – The Vow, 2012
We’ve all heard of the saying “a face that lights up a room.” That phrase was coined for Paige Collins. Truthfully, Rachel McAdams‘ face has done this in more than one movie and many fans might choose her character in The Notebook as their favorite. Well, maybe we’re just suckers for traumatic injury but we like this sympathetic, recently liberated lovely who actually displays two somewhat distinct personalities. Both are energetic, thoughtful and generous but differ in what they desire out of life. Trouble is, only her pre-injury persona is in love with her new spouse. Channing Tatum does a nice job of playing her tortured husband, Leo, who is a rarity in romantic films: a guy who truly appreciates what he has before he loses it. As the story moves forward, Paige’s confused but earnest attempt to put her life back together moves us in several directions but still leaves us wanting her back just as much as Leo does.
1. Joyce Palmieri – Kindergarten Cop, 1990
What more can you ask for? Soft eyes, electric smile, long, shapely legs, and a tender, welcoming demeanour. All that and apparently she has a fetish for hulking Kindergarten teachers who speak broken English. Yes, you have to ignore the homicidal ex-husband who is stalking her and her son but we can’t be picking nits here. Penelope Ann Miller has played a diverse array of roles in her career but she was born for this one. Joyce starts off as Arnold’s only friend in the school and soon charms the crusty cop facade right off of him. In the span of several weeks, he morphs from a tough narcotics officer into a tender school teacher. So it also doesn’t hurt that she’s gullible as all get out. So what if her situation almost gets him and her son killed? Man up, Schwarzenegger. She’s still as delicate and delicious a character as you’ll find in film.