An Unlikely Love Story: “When Harry Met Sally”


Quote from a pivotal moment in the rom-com, “When Harry Met Sally”.

To Harry and Sally. If Marie or I had found either of them remotely attractive we would not be here today,” toasted Jess, one of those best friend characters that are only found in rom-coms. But in this one, the main characters, soon-to-be love interests, are those best friends that some people would be only lucky enough to have. 

Inspiration for this movie was close to home, the friendship between the screenwriter Nora Ephron and director Rob Reiner. Their personality quirks to their candid discussions about men and women’s differences inspired the material for the film. Meg Ryan’s character, Sally Albright, and Billy Crystals persona, Harry Burns, discussed everything in quick-witted humor, just like Ephron and Reiner.

The story begins with the two meeting–Harry being the pessimist that’s going with Sally, the optimist, best friend, already annoyed with each other, driving from the University of Chicago to New York together. Sally described the overnight drive as the worst night of her life. They part ways only to reunite a couple of years later in LaGuardia Airport, both in happy relationships. They end up on the same plane and Sally relives her nightmarish road trip all over again. Five years later, they run into each other once again in a bookstore, Sally has recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, and Harry in the midst of a divorce. This time they decide to be friends, very good friends. 

The chemistry between the two main characters was easy. From the beginning, they were easily meant for each other, even though they were made to hate each other. But these two characters became so hard to hate because so many people could easily relate to them. As Sally would say, “you make it impossible for me to hate you!”

Speaking of friends, when it came to casting Harry for the movie, there was a concern. Producers originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role. They also considered Albert Brooks, Harrison Ford, Michael Keaton, and Bill Murray. Once Billy Crystal eventually landed the part, Rob Reiner was apprehensive about working with one of his best friends, thinking it would create tensions between the two. He’d later say, “I had no reservations about him playing the part, I just wanted to make sure.”

One can’t talk about When Harry Met Sally without mentioning that one scene. That one scene delivered a genius act made up by Meg Ryan herself as well as one of the most famous lines in cinematic history. “I’ll have what she’s having,” was stated by a random old lady right after Ryan’s scene. Truthfully, the lady wasn’t thrown in the movie haphazardly. It is Estelle Reiner, the director’s own mother. Katz Delicatessen, famous for its pastrami, is as well famous for being the setting of such an admired scene. Today, it has a sign above the table that reads, “Where Harry met Sally…Hope you have what she had, Enjoy!”

When it comes to rom-coms and academy awards, chances are slim, especially when the movie starts out with bad reviews from critics and one of the stars [Billy Crystal] thought it would bomb. When Harry Met Sally changed the future of romantic comedies. It was a box office hit, being the 11th highest-grossing movie of the year, trailing behind Ghostbusters 2 and Batman. As for awards, it was actually nominated for an Oscar, a truly rare snag, and Nora Ephron received a nomination for screenwriting but the trophy ended up in the hands of the Dead Poet Society. Not completely unfortunate though, because Ephron would later receive a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay. Also, famously Harry Connick Jr. won his first Grammy award for his work on the soundtrack of the film. The relatively new name produced original pieces for the album. The soundtrack went double-platinum and won Harry his first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Male Vocal Performance.

What else makes the film unique and lovable? How about those elder couples that pop up every few scenes telling the story of how they met and got together? Ephron originally interviewed these real couples who worked at the film production company. The stories were adapted into the script and scattered throughout the movie. So for those already wishing for a story just like Harry and Sally’s, they also wish for old-fashioned stories like the ones in the film.

When Harry Met Sally is the coziest movie next to any Christmas movie. The perfect setting includes gloomy rainy weather, fuzzy socks, and a cup of hot tea. It is the type of movie that will have you smiling in the end because it gives you a warm feeling inside, is it hope or glimmer of happiness that is the matter-of-fact comedy of Billy Crystal? It is the type of movie that is a uniquely classic enemies to friends to lovers trope. The only part that’ll have people scratching their heads is what exactly paprikash is and if it really needs pepper.