Why I Love When Harry Met Sally

I’m coming up on an anniversary and it’s a big one! This February will be ten years of me spending Valentine’s Day cuddled up in a big blanket watching When Harry Met Sally.

In a previous post (or two), I’ve referenced this film as being my favourite rom-com, and I’ve been thinking lately about whether or not I should dedicate a whole post to this movie and why I love it so much. Initially, I steered away—it’s just a movie, after all. But this morning, while driving to work, I heard a radio host play a trivia game with a listener and one of the questions was all about this flick. I’m not one to ignore the signs, so here we go! Below are just a few reasons why I’m convinced that this 1989 masterpiece is the best when it comes to romance!

  1. It explores questions and topics that hold up today. When Harry first meets Sally, they have a whole discussion on whether or not men and women can actually be friends. Harry adamantly states it’s an impossibility because men will always want to have sex, and women will only think it’s truly platonic. This very question is one that people still debate—but with far less humour. So, you have to give Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner credit for staging this classic question on screen.
  1. It shows characters can evolve…sort of. Harry is a pessimist at core, and he is far from a romantic. But when he re-meets Sally, he tells her that’s he’s engaged. In that moment, you can see that although he’s still the same in many ways, there’s a glimmer of hope within him. And it’s this same hint of transformation that paves the way for Harry and Sally becoming friends the next time they bump into each other after divorce and break-ups have hit them both.
  1. Both protagonists are incredibly flawed. Harry decides that to deal with his divorce, he should explore casual relationships for a while. He’s happy to have sex without commitment and declares that his ex is not on his mind. But after running into her and the man she cheated on him with, he goes a little haywire and explodes on his friends. You can see in that moment how he hasn’t actually processed the pain and healed from his past, no matter how much he says he has. 
  1. This also kind of leads into another great aspect of the movie, which is that the characters are their own worst enemies. In most rom-coms, there’s some external force keeping lovers away from one another. Maybe they live far apart, maybe they have disapproving families, maybe one of them badly hurt another and caused a rift. Those things are really not at play in this movie though. The two main characters are both single and after bumping into each other that third time, they develop a close and intimate friendship of two years. The audience knows there is attraction between them, and yet, neither of them can act on it because of their own fear. They even try to lie to themselves and try to set the other one up with different people despite feeling some pangs of jealousy throughout. In another great moment of the film, their best friends wind up with each other… even though Harry and Sally brought them together to pair the other one up. It’s a moment that highlights that love and attraction is easily seized by some, but for people like Harry and Sally, they just don’t get it because their past hurts are controlling them on a subconscious level.
  1. The characters are relatable. Similar to some of the other points, both Harry and Sally have their own quirks to say the least. In one of my favourite moments of the film, Sally breaks down after her ex-fiancé calls her up to let her know that he’s getting married. In the midst of her tears, she blurts out, “AND I’M GONNA BE 40!” Harry responds by reminding her that she still has eight years before she hits 40. It’s a funny moment, but one that many single women in their late 20s and early 30s can definitely relate to. Whether it’s a function of our biology or the way we’re raised—or both—all we see is time ticking away, whereas our single male counterparts have the luxury of taking all the time in the world to decide about marriage and children. They have no biological clock ticking and social pressures are far less severe for them to partner up.
  1. It has the best ending! When Sally first realizes their friendship has another layer to it, she comes to the conclusion that she needs more or would rather have nothing. After a few funny moments that show Harry trying to re-claim his good friend when she pulls away, he finally starts to understand that she’s gone. Both characters are depicted as sad since they’ve lost the connection. But thankfully, in one of the most famous scenes of the movie, Harry races through the streets of New York on New Year’s Eve to get to Sally in time to confess that he does love her back. The scene itself is done incredibly well. Instead of cheesy flashbacks of Sally showing on screen, there’s nothing… It’s just Harry running, and the audience knows he’s had the realization and we know he’s on his way to save her from the world’s worst holiday. (Yes, this is a total aside—but New Year’s Eve is definitely the saddest holiday of all.) Sure enough, Sally is on her way out of the party because having another year without a midnight kiss in a room full of happy couples is way too depressing for her to handle. But Harry makes it in time to deliver the famous speech while Auld Lang Syne plays in the background. In the true fashion of the film, he makes a crack about not understanding a line in the song and she tells him that she isn’t sure what it means either, but she knows it’s about “old friends”. And just like that the movie concludes with a duo who went from not liking each other at all, to being friends, to being more.

So, there we have it—sort of. To be honest, I’ve left out a lot still. There’s the classic diner-orgasm scene which most people think of when this movie comes to mind. There’s also the snippets of married couples cut all throughout the movie detailing how they met. And there’s a lot more beyond that. Truly, it’s a movie that warms my heart. So if you’re unattached like me, maybe give this one a shot next Valentine’s Day because even if there aren’t affectionate notes or pretty carnations at your door on February 14th, at least you’ll feel uplifted watching these two good friends fall in love.

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