From romantic comedies to dramas, many films require a scene where the future love interests meet. There’s love in their eyes, even if one or both of them don’t realize it yet. This is the meet cute, and if you’re writing a script with a romantic plot, then you need to know how to answer, “What is a meet cute?” It’s often regarded as a cliche staple of romantic genres but it can be much more than that. Let’s look at some meet cute examples from movies that elevate these scenes beyond the cliche. Then we’ll talk about the four different types of meet cute scenes that you can write in your next script.
Watch: 4 Ways to Write a Meet Cute
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What is a Meet Cute?
Understanding the Meet Cute
What does meet cute mean? It should be more than a chance encounter between two characters. It is establishing that these two characters will fall in love eventually and that you, as the audience, should root for them to get together.
MEET CUTE DEFINITION
What is a meet cute?
A meet cute is a common scene found in romantic films in which the love interests first meet. The typical approach to these scenes is comedic and/or romantic. They can include awkward misunderstandings, slapstick comedy, or love at first sight. In most cases, the characters feel either a mutual attraction, aversion, or some combination of the two.
The term “meet cute” originated back in 1938 in the film Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife. Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper meet while shopping for pajamas, and it turns into a delightfully cute conversation, hence the name.
Types of Meet Cute Examples:
- Pull / Pull — the characters are instantly and mutually attracted to each other
- Push / Push — the characters are instantly and mutually disinterested in each other
- Push / Pull — one character is instantly attracted but the other character is disinterested
- Neutral / Nervous — one character awkwardly tries to hide their attraction while the other character is oblivious to the situation
Meet cutes can be awkward or sexy. Perhaps everything flies off the rails, but it should be a fairly lighthearted moment. That doesn’t mean as a screenwriter, you have to settle for something conventional.
There are many ways to write your meet cute, and before putting pen to paper, you need to understand the four different types of meet cutes that can exist.
To figure out which one is best for your script, you need to consider your characters and how they would likely react to meeting a potential romantic interest. Let’s examine how four films do each of these meet cutes well and what you can learn from each one.
The Pull/Pull meet cute occurs when the chemistry is readily abundant when two characters meet. It may be one of the more unconventional meet cute examples, but let’s look at the first time Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) meets Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) in the 2013 film Her.
Throughout the first interaction, they make each other laugh. From the first question, it’s clear Theodore is anti-social, but he seems at ease with Samantha. He’s impressed with the artificial intelligence, and we see a different side of him come to the surface.
One issue screenwriters often encounter with this type of meet cute is that there’s typically no underlying tension. Both people (or computer programs) like each other, so what moves the plot forward?
In this instance, it’s the fact that Samantha is an AI program. Theodore’s first thoughts aren’t to pursue a romantic relationship with his software. Even when he does, it presents challenges. We've imported the scene into StudioBinder's screenwriting software to take a look at the scene as it was originally written.
This scene in Her is sweet, but it keeps the audience guessing what will happen next. Is this guy really going to get into a relationship with Siri? That’s what keeps the viewer interested and the plot engaging. Don't stop there — read and download the entire Her screenplay.
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989)
You don’t have to worry about conflict when you utilize the push/push type of meet cute. As opposed to the two characters automatically falling in love, they are disinterested or even outright hate each other at first. For this meet cute example, let’s look at one of the most famous push/push scenes in film from When Harry Met Sally…
In the scene, Harry and Sally are sharing a car ride to New York City. They only know each other because Harry’s dating one of Sally’s friends, and they banter about Sally’s career aspirations, which Harry dismisses, as well as the concept of death. It’s clear they have radically opposed ideologies, which creates tension and leaves the audience wondering how they will ever end up together.
As the film goes on, we see Harry and Sally meeting at various points in their adult lives. They grow and mature, and although they can’t be together for various circumstances initially, their friendship grows. They become friends, which gradually turns into a romantic relationship.
The meet cute shows them as immature college students, and we see them grow into functional adults capable of an actual relationship. As you brainstorm your own meet cute ideas think of how your characters would actually get along. If they have opposing ideologies, what would make those two people fall in love? Want to read the entire When Harry Met Sally... script? Of course you do.
THE NOTEBOOK (2004)
So far, we’ve examined how you can write a meet cute when the two characters share mutual feelings. However, when you decide to make one character smitten and the other repulsed, it inherently makes for engaging conflict. Just watch what many consider to be one of the most romantic scenes in movies from The Notebook.
Ignoring the problematic nature of threatening to injure yourself if a girl doesn’t go out with you, the scene is a good example of the classic push/pull. Noah instantly falls in love with Allie. However, she’s on a date at the fair with another guy.
Noah has to get creative to get her to go out with him, so he hangs from one of the bars and threatens to let go if she doesn’t say, “Yes.” Allie has her time to shine when she pulls his pants down, showing she has a sense of humor.
The scene shows exactly how you can make a push/pull work to your advantage. Noah has an obstacle (the girl he likes being on a date), and he has to overcome it. It will be the first in man as Noah, a poor lumber mill worker, works to keep Allie, who comes from wealth. This meet cute lets the audience know exactly the lengths Noah will go to in order to keep Allie in his life.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
For writers who want to get really creative, there’s the neutral/nervous meet cute. In this example, the protagonist is nervous meeting the object of his or her affection while the other person is hard to get a read on. A perfect example of this is when Toula meets Ian in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
This has all the hallmarks of a great neutral/nervous meet cute. Toula begins the encounter by awkwardly staring at Ian. When she finally goes up to talk to him, she stumbles over her words, and now, she can’t even look him in the eyes.
Ian laughs at her awkwardness, and while he may be charmed, it’s clear he sees no romantic prospects with her. They meet later after Toula undergoes a makeover, and that is when the romance truly begins. However, it all began with one awkward meeting, which is so often the case with real-life couples.
When picking the right type of meet cute for your film, you need to remember what would work best for your characters. If your protagonist is an introvert, then the neutral/nervous may work in your favor. Use these meet cute examples as your guide, but remember to make yours stand out so that the audience dreams of meeting their one true love in the same way after watching your film.
Iconic and romantic love quotes
Now you know how to answer, “What is a meet cute?” It’s time to turn your attention toward another pressing film question, “What should my characters say next?” You need romantic, compelling dialogue that makes it clear these characters are head over heels for one another. Look for inspiration from the best by reviewing dozens of the best romantic love quotes in film history.