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What’s In A Name?: Re-Defining “CHICK FLICK”

Dear Readers,

Like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, I’m going to start this missive to you as if we are the dearest of friends and already in the middle of a conversation. (Ironically, I wrote the opening to this post weeks before Nora Ephron‘s premature demise (RIP Nora). But, as it is still apropos to the matter at hand, I’ve decided to keep it in her honor.) So, away we go…

In Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asks:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet[.]

(Act II, sc. ii, ll. 43-44)

If the Bard was correct those many years ago, then, pray tell, why are movies–even Bridesmaids, a critically-acclaimed, Academy Award® nominated film–seemingly desperate to avoid the “Chick Flick” label?

I define “chick flick” simply as: A movie I would want to see with my girlfriends.” (Though I’ve certainly seen any number of chick flicks with guyfriends, my most likely first phone call or text is going to be to my girls.)

Practically speaking, each and every movie distributed has a target audience. This market can be defined by characteristics such as age, socioeconomic status, level of education, race, and/or gender. I see “chick flick” merely as a label intended to convey that the film is targeted at women. And, as such, see nothing inherently negative about the designation.

Economically, targeting women is hardly an ill-conceived move. Last I checked, there were more women in the U.S. than men. And, although I cannot point to specific data, I’d hazard a guess that women (as a group, and generally speaking) currently have more disposable income than ever before. Going to the movies is only one of the many leisure activities and non-essentials that women can choose to spend those extra dollars on. So, to entice women into the theaters, it is completely rational to produce movies that women will want to see: i.e., chick flicks.

Some films have been smart enough to capitalize on this market. According to IMDb, Bridesmaids cost $32.5 million to make and grossed over $169 million (in the U.S. alone) within 5 months of its 2011 release. Mean Girls cost approximately $17 million, and grossed over $86 million (U.S.) within 4 months of its 2004 release. Figures like these indicate that filmmakers who deliver a solid product will be rewarded for their efforts.

Like films belonging to any other genre, all chick flicks are not the same. (Subtext: The Notebook is not emblematic of all chick flicks.) There are many structural and topical sub-divisions within the genre as a whole. The first example that comes to mind is the “Romantic Comedy,” or “Rom-Com.” Though I believe that all rom-coms are chick flicks, it is not the case that all chick flicks are rom-coms. In more visual terms:

All Rom-Coms = Chick Flick

All Chick Flicks ≠ Rom-Com

In my opinion, the rom-com sub-category includes movies like When Harry Met Sally…You’ve Got MailThe Holiday, Love ActuallyThe Wedding DateKeeping the Faith, and Moonstruck.

Other sub-categories can be defined by topic or what kind of chick you feel like being that day. So, here are some chick flicks for when you’re feeling:


(I think this is self-explanatory…we’ve all been there…)

Usually, this is a chick flick gone very wrong in at least one fundamental way. For example:

  • (Chick Flick) She’s All That: After his girlfriend unexpectedly “disse[s] and dismisse[s]” him, the most popular guy in the senior class BETS his buds that he can turn any girl into the Prom Queen. (Terms of the bet: loser streaks at graduation.) In the end, Popular Guy loses the bet, but gets the girl.
  • (Dark Chick Flick) Cruel Intentions: An Upper East Side Queen Bee BETS her step-brother that he can’t bed the daughter of the new school principal before school starts. (Terms of the bet: if Queen Bee wins, she gets Step-Brother’s classic convertible; if Step-Brother wins, he gets sex with his step-sister.) In the end, Step-Brother wins the bet, but gets hit by a taxi while saving the principal’s daughter and dies.

Others include: HeathersThe CraftJawbreakerBut I’m a CheerleaderDrop Dead Gorgeous, O, and Election.



(English majors and/or those who just love a good story and a happy ending)

Shakespeare in Love, EmmaPride & Prejudice (2005), Little WomenClueless10 Things I Hate About You, Easy A, and Get Over It!



 (History majors and/or those who know that South Park was right–“the movies [really do] teach us what our parents [and teachers] don’t have time to say.”)

The Young Victoria, Iron Jawed AngelsThe DuchessMiss Pettigrew Lives for a DayThe HelpMona Lisa Smile, and Dick.


Like a Tween or Teen Again

(a.k.a. rehashing the good old days)

Sixteen Candles, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused, Now and Then, SleepoverCamp Nowhere, Harriet the Spy, The SandlotLittle Giants, and The Breakfast Club.



(if only watching from the couch burned calories…)

A League of Their OwnLove & BasketballThe Cutting EdgeSummer CatchWhip ItWimbledonShe’s the Man, and Bend It Like Beckham.


Totally in love with your Clique or Besties

The First Wives Club, Mean Girls, BridesmaidsAll I Wanna DoDivine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodSisterhood of the Traveling Pants (and sequel), and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.


Like a Strong, Independent Woman

G.I. JanePrivate BenjaminTroop Beverly HillsDon’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s DeadLegally BlondeThe Devil Wears Prada, and Erin Brockovich.


Like you just wanna DanceSing, and/or Cheer

Dirty DancingCoyote UglyCenter StageHoneyBring It OnStomp the YardSister ActSister Act 2: Back in the HabitHairspray, and Spice World.


Thankful that your Family has your back

My Big Fat Greek WeddingThe Family StoneIn Her ShoesThis ChristmasWhat a Girl WantsFather of the Bride, and Father of the Bride Part II.


Like a world with vampires, werewolves, witches, spells, and the like would be more fun (Fantasy and Sci-Fi)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Teen WitchThe Twilight Saga, any Harry PotterPenelopeStardustand Casper.


Of course, many of the movies listed here fall into multiple categories within the chick flick genre. And by no means is this an exhaustive list, generally or even from my personal collection.

Oh, and by the way … lest any of you wonder whether I’m willing to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ on this topic: I own *every* movie listed above (on DVD, VHS, or both) except Teen Witch. (P.S. You’re welcome, entertainment industry.)

So, like Juliet to her Romeo, I ask you, Readers, “what’s in name?” Is Bridesmaids, Mean Girls, or any other movie listed above somehow lesser–in quality or enjoyability–simply because it is labeled a “chick flick”?

This chick thinks not.


Want more chick flicks?

Stay tuned to Screen Invasion for “This Chick’s Flicks” posts on chick flicks of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.


Follow Sarah Katz on Twitter (@sarahdkatz) for daily Chick Flick recommendations (or tweet her for more suggestions), and stay tuned to Screen Invasion via Twitter (@ScreenInvasion) and Facebook.


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The Author

Sarah Katz

Sarah Katz

Born-and-bred New Yorker. Lifelong film & TV lover—from chick flicks, rom-coms, rom-droms, rom-drams, and tweentertainment, to Shakespeare, period pieces, James Bond, fairy tales, and mafia movies.