Review: When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Director: Rob Reiner
Screenwriter: Nora Ephron
Starring: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Michelle Nicastro
Genres: Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Release Dates: 7/12/89 (Theatres); 1/9/01 (DVD); 11/28/16 (Streaming)
Runtime: 1h 35min
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Where to Watch: HBO
Oscars: Nominated–Original Screenplay

I had seen When Harry Met Sally at least a few times before rewatching it recently (actually, it was my first watch of 2021), when we stumbled across it on HBO and my brother said he’d never seen it before. That was reason enough to revisit the Rob Reiner-directed classic, which has called by many to be the best romantic comedy of all time. And, for someone like me who isn’t all that fond of this particular genre, I can safely say that it is one of the best rom-coms of all time. 

Everything comes together in this film so closely, starting with the smart, clever, funny, romantic-without-being sappy script written by the late, great Nora Ephron, who received a deserved Oscar nomination for this film. Of course, the script wouldn’t have worked without the tremendous chemistry of the two leads, played by Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal at the peak of their careers. Despite the 13-year age different between the two — sure, it’s hard to believe that they’re supposed to be the same age — they play off each other so well that it’s easy to understand how their characters, Harry and Sally, become best friends and then [not-quite spoiler alert] lovers. Their character are so remarkably different from each other that they’re the epitome of “opposites attract.”

The movie is, at times, truly laugh-out-loud funny, especially in the infamous orgasm scene — which was apparently acted out by Reiner himself, and the woman who says the oft-quoted line, “I’ll have what she’s having,” was his mother. The only thing that bothers me about this is that it seems out of character for Sally to do this, as by that point we’ve come to know her as a type-A, practical person who would easily be embarrassed by something like this. That said, it’s still an entertaining, hilarious scene that has Ryan’s commitment to physical comedy on full display. 

Other than the minor nitpick I just mentioned, I can’t find any real flaws with the movie. The main characters’ progression from acquaintances to friends to lovers is surprisingly natural, if not predictable. You can also tell, in some moments when Crystal is being particularly funny, Ryan is trying not to laugh out of character. Late actors Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher are pretty great, too, and it’s a shame that they’re both no longer with us. This is such a cheerful, positive, entertaining movie that if you don’t like it, then I give up.