Study Guide

When Harry Met Sally Introduction

When Harry Met Sally Introduction


Release Year: 1989

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Nora Ephron

Stars: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal


When Harry met Sally, the romantic comedy genre changed forever. That's really the long and short of it.

Released in 1989, When Harry Met Sally became a massive critical and commercial success. How'd it pull that off? With the perfect rom com recipe:

  • 1 part Meg Ryan
  • 1 part Billy Crystal
  • a dash of the Big Apple
  • a pinch of irony—okay, more like a healthy heaping
  • 6 adorable old couples

et voila! Romantic comedy magic.

Written by the indelible Nora Ephron and directed by the ever-charming Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally tells the twelve-year love story of two neurotic but lovable New Yorkers who start off hating each other (in true screwball comedy style), wind up being best friends, and then find themselves head-over-heels in love. It's a story we've all seen before—on TV, in movies, even in pop songs. But we credit When Harry Met Sally with putting that whole friends-turned-lovers thing on the map.

Since its release, people have been congratulating the movie for being awesome in just about every way possible:

Fans and critics alike responded to the chemistry between the stars, the fresh and zesty humor of Ephron's script, and the plot's forthright, unflinching attitude toward sex and love. Combine that with everyone's secret dream of falling madly in love with a best friend, and you've got a surefire formula for box office success.

Decades later, fans are still celebrating the movie as the pinnacle of the romantic comedy genre, and critics are still pondering its influence over every romantic movie that came after. Shmoopers, that's when you know you have a classic.

  

What is When Harry Met Sally About and Why Should I Care?

HARRY: You realize of course that we could never be friends. […] men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

With those immortal words, Harry Burns set gender relations on its head. We're still debating this today, albeit with a more post-gender-binary spin. But really, don't we all still wonder if Harry isn't a little bit right?

His frank assertion—one that both he and Sally waver on throughout the rest of When Harry Met Sally—is proof positive that this movie is about more than just a man's and a woman's paths to true love. When Harry Met Sally also tackles gender dynamics for the modern world.

Is it a progressive flick? One that shows that men and women can be friends, despite all the old-school gender roles—and the sex, of course—that would seem to get in the way? Or does When Harry Met Sally stick to the tired idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus and never the twain shall meet?

The truth is, the movie doesn't fit so neatly into either option. Harry and Sally are more than just a man and just a woman, after all. They're round characters with their own quirks and neuroses that go far beyond their interest in the opposite sex. But wherever you think the movie lands when it comes to its central question, this much is true: we'll still be arguing about it for years to come.

Trivia

It wasn't always Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. Lots of other actors were considered for the roles, including Albert Brooks and Molly Ringwald. And may we just say? That would have been a weird combo. (Source.)

If you visit Katz's Deli in NYC—the site of the infamous you-know-what scene—you can sit in Harry and Sally's booth underneath this sign.

Billy Crystal is known for his improv, so it makes sense that he threw some into the movie. Our favorite moment? He improvised the line "But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie." You can tell because Meg Ryan laughs spontaneously and briefly looks off camera to Reiner, who encouraged her to go along with the scene. (Source.)

When Harry Met Sally Resources

Websites

Hungry?
If you're as picky as Sally, we think these recipes might help.

Meet Meg
For the skinny on Meg Ryan's life, check out Biography.com.

What Would Harry Tweet?
We don't know, but we do know that Billy Crystal's twitter is worth a gander.

Fans Unite
The FanPop site for When Harry Met Sally has everything you fanboys and fangirls need.

Adaptations

The Play's the Thing
In 2004, When Harry Met Sally was adapted for the stage in a production starring Alyson Hannigan and Luke Perry.

Articles and Interviews

A Woman's Perspective
Check out these two film and culture critics as they go head-to-head on the merits of When Harry Met Sally.

Happy Anniversary
There were a ton of articles circulating in 2014 about the 25th anniversary of When Harry Met Sally, but this one is by far the most adorable.

An Original Review…
Roger Ebert knows what's up.

…And a Contemporary Review
It still holds up.

Video

What is Paprikash, Anyway?
We don't know, but it sure sounds good in Harry's accent.

What is She Having?
Fair warning: this is not exactly safe for work, if you catch our drift.

How to Lose at Pictionary
Baby fish mouth is sweeping the nation.

The OG Trailer
Imagine seeing this on the big screen while sitting down to watch… whatever else came out in 1989.

Best Friends Forever
Reiner and Crystal have a boatload of fun reintroducing their old classic to a new screening audience.

Audio

Nora Knows What's Up
Check out this old interview with Ephron, re-released in her memory upon her death.

Billy Crystal Breathes Some Fresh Air
In this recent interview, he talks about When Harry Met Sally, among many other things.

Images

Princess Di, is that You?
We're guessing Harry and Sally are pretty pumped that royalty showed up to their movie premiere.

Behind the Scenes
Seriously, how adorable is this trio?

The Poster With the Most…er
This poster practically screams 1989.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...