When Harry Met Sally…: The Perfect Rom-Com

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally... (Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer)

When Harry Met Sally… still holds up as one of the greatest romantic comedies as the Rob Reiner/Nora Ephron film celebrates the 30th anniversary in 2019.

The film starts at the University of Chicago in 1977 when Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) leave for New York.  At the time, Harry is dating Sally’s best friend, Amanda.  This trip to New York consists of their views when it came to relationships.  Being in complete contrast to each other, it’s no wonder that the two are insufferable by the time they reach their destination.

Some years later, the two happen to run into each other on a flight.  How have things changed?  Sally is dating a neighbor of Harry’s, Joe.  Meanwhile, Harry is engaged but suggests that the two of them can be friends with each other.  Alas, fate isn’t meant to be.  Not yet, anyway.

It’s not until the bookstore encounter that things change.  By this point, Sally and Joe have broken up while Harry and his then-wife, Helen, are in the process of a divorce.  It’s a turning point for the two of them as they learn that they can become friends.  Of course, they’ll be more than that by the time the film ends!  Even amid this attraction to each other, they inadvertently set up their best friends, Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher).  There’s more fighting between Harry and Sally but inevitably, they end up together.

When Harry Met Sally… isn’t only one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time but the source of one of the greatest laughs in cinematic history.  This comes by way of Estelle Reiner’s “I’ll have what she’s having” at Katz’s Delicatessen in Manhattan.  It’s impossible to discuss the greatest on-screen laughs without speaking of this scene.  To think that Rob Reiner had to direct his own mother in doing so!

This isn’t an easy genre by any means.  Perhaps it may explain as to why romantic comedies are seemingly hard to pull off.  I cannot tell you the number of rom-coms I’ve watched over the years that felt so full of cliches that it just stings in viewing.  This is the beauty of Nora Ephron’s script and how Rob Reiner beautifully executes the film in his direction.  It was in part adapted from their own life experiences with Sally standing in for Ephron while Harry stands in for Reiner.  This even includes Reiner’s own experiences in marriage, including a divorce from the recently diseased Penny Marshall.

There’s one instance that prevents the film from being a perfect movie.  This comes at the beginning of the film when Harry and Sally leave Chicago for New York City.  With the way the establishing shots are set up, we’re under the belief that they drove straight from University of Chicago in Hyde Park.  If you’re familiar with the city of Chicago, they would not be taking Lake Shore Drive south towards the Magnificent Mile.  Hyde Park is well south of the Mile so this shot alone only serves to hurt the film in terms of perfection.

One establishing shot aside, When Harry Met Sally… remains the gold standard some thirty years later when it comes to the romantic comedy genre.

Special Features:
  • NEW transfer restored from a 4K scan of the original camera negative
  • NEW Scenes from a Friendship – interview with Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal
  • Audio Commentary with Rob Reiner, Nora Ephron, And Billy Crystal
  • Audio Commentary with Rob Reiner
  • How Harry Met Sally Documentary
  • Vintage Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Music Video by Harry Connick Jr.

DIRECTOR:  Rob Reiner
CAST:  Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby

Columbia Pictures opened When Harry Met Sally… on July 21, 1989.  Shout! Factory releases a 40th Anniversary edition on Blu-ray on January 8, 2018.  The film is also available on DVD and Digital.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.