Many movies feature a manic pixie dream girl with a positive outlook who helps a depressed boy see how amazing life and love can be. Examples include Elizabethtown, Along Came Polly, and Garden State. But some movies flip this trope on its head with a depressed lead female character and a sunshine-happy man. Check out 24 movies with sad girls and sunny, or at least energetic, boys.
1. Titanic (1997)
Titanic is one of the best love stories of all time and flips the manic pixie dream girl and sad boy trope on its head. Rose is severely depressed and unhappy with her life, to the point that she plans to end it all by leaping off the back of the ship. On the other hand, Jack looks at everything with a glass-half-full mentality.
2. She’s All That (1999)
She’s All That is one of those typical makeover movies where the nerd girl takes down her ponytail and is suddenly hot. But Laney has a melancholy vibe, while Zack is all smiles and laughs, so this movie fits the bill.
3. Sixteen Candles (1984)
I found Sam relatable and sympathetic when I watched Sixteen Candles as a kid. But now, I realize she’s just an angsty teen. Nevertheless, her woeful manner in the movie fits the sad girl character, while Jake has a dreamier air and doesn’t let much bother him.
4. Hope Floats (1998)
Birdee is pretty depressed at the beginning of Hope Floats, and rightfully so, as she’s been wronged. No one seems to care that she’s unhappy, and her peers even relish her misery, but Justin is the light in her dark world and helps bring her back to a happy place.
5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Yes, both Pat and Tiffany are chaotic and troubled in Silver Linings Playbook, but Pat tries hard to be a productive and positive person, while Tiffany wants to wallow in her existential dread. Rather than him pulling her out of depression and mania, the two balance one another out.
6. The Breakfast Club (1985)
I’m not talking about Judd and Claire because Allison and Brian are the pair who fit this dynamic. Allison is the weird, goth girl with some sad feelings, while Brian has a more positive outlook despite his low moments. And the two make an adorable, dorky couple.
7. Love and Other Drugs (2010)
This one is interesting because the sad girl doesn’t get a new outlook on life by spending time with the happy-go-lucky guy. Instead, her difficult situation and earnest emotions bring him down to earth and make him consider life more seriously.
8. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Holly Golightly is quite a complex character, while Paul Varjak seems more superficial. Her smile masks her complicated and unfortunate existence. Still, Paul eventually sees the real her and tries to convince her that she can find happiness and deserves to live a beautiful life.
9. The Shape of Water (2017)
The Shape of Water is an unusually brilliant movie. Elisa has a tranquil life but comes out of her shell and transforms when she meets the amphibian man. They fall in love immediately, and this whimsical creature shows her how magical life and love can be.
10. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
The two main characters in The Fault in Our Stars are similar. Still, Hazel has relegated herself to a sad life before her inevitable death, while Gus is determined to enjoy every moment of life. And before the tragic end, he helped her open up to happiness.
11. Pitch Perfect (2012)
Beca is one of the moodiest lead characters ever conceived, while her love interest, Jesse, could not be more opposite. He’s constantly cheerful, almost to the point of being annoying, while she remains dark and withdrawn until the very end when she lets him in.
12. Last Christmas (2019)
This is the perfect movie if you want to cry ugly during the holiday season. Katarina can’t seem to do anything right in her life and hates her job. But things look up when she meets Tom, a charming and cheerful man. I don’t want to give anything away, but he makes her whole again in the end.
13. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
I wouldn’t describe Patrick Verona as a sunny boy, but he’s more laidback and satisfied than Kat, who seems to detest everyone and everything. She’s given up on everyone around her until he shows her that not everyone is useless.
14. Casper (1995)
Casper is the cutest and happiest little ghost ever, while Kat is a morbid and sad girl. At the movie’s beginning, she’s disinterested in almost everything, but Casper’s perky and adorable ways make her embrace his company and the other people around her.
15. Juno (2007)
Juno is a brilliant example of a sad girl, constantly pushing boundaries and questioning things to the point that she loses hope in humanity. On the other hand, everything is all good with Paulie all the time, and he patiently waits for their relationship to blossom.
16. Bridesmaids (2011)
Of course, the romantic storyline is not Bridesmaids’ main plot or message, but Annie and Officer Rhodes have the sad girl, sunny boy dynamic we’re talking about. Annie’s life is falling apart, and she’s given up on her dreams, while Rhodes thinks the best of everyone.
17. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
In this scenario, Daniel is our sunny boy. He’s charming and outgoing, while Bridget is negative and awkward. Both characters have moments that showcase a more exciting range of emotions, but Bridget’s struggle with life and Daniel’s effortlessness fit this idea.
18. Practical Magic (1998)
After losing her husband, Sally Owens returns to swearing off love and falls into depression. While loved ones surround her, she carries a heavy weight on her until she meets Officer Gary, who brings positivity and love back into her life.
19. Barbie (2023)
One of the best parts of the Barbie movie is that Barbie is having an existential crisis, while Ken thinks everything is hunky-dory. Instead of making her happy, Barbie shows him how complex and unfair life can be, bringing them both into a harsh reality.
20. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Toula has given up hope for finding love and following her dreams, thanks to her judgmental but loving family. That is until she meets Ian, who convinces her she’s beautiful and can do anything. This might be the most lovable example of the sunny boy and sad girl dynamic.
21. Palm Springs (2020)
Sarah is not in a good place when she attends her sister’s wedding, and another guest, Nyles, seems to not think too seriously about anything. When she gets sucked into the same time loop as him, he tries to help her take things more lightly, but she ends up saving him with her determination.
22. Heathers (1988)
Again, I don’t think Jason Dean is a sunny boy, but he’s more motivated and gregarious than Veronica Sawyer. Veronica hates her friends, school, and life, but Jason flips her world upside down and makes her feel alive until he tries to kill her.
23. George of the Jungle
In George of the Jungle, Ursula is unhappy with her life and about to marry a man she doesn’t truly love. However, she finds happiness and fun when she meets George, the most fun-loving character ever. Together, they tackle life with a silly and kind outlook.
Meg is one of the best Disney sad girls. She had her heart broken twice by the same guy and now does Hades’ bidding, while Hercules is an idealistic young man who wants to save everyone. Together, they balance one another as she becomes more optimistic while he is brought down to reality.
Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor’s in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.
If she’s not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she’s binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.
She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.