Romy & Michelle: Every Hit Film They Inspired | TIME CAPSULE

Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is weirdly relevant today for a late ‘90s movie about a couple of late ‘80s best friends. It wasn’t a big hit when it came out in 1997, yet it lives on as a beloved comedy classic of its era, and not just because it has some especially quotable lines. It managed to anticipate many of the anxieties about status, self-image, and expressing your true self that drive people in the current age of social media – despite being released at a time when most people were still going on the internet through AOL.

Romy & Michele in Their Time and Ours

On paper, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion should seem incredibly dated, yet the central conflict of the movie feels timelier than ever: lifelong best friends Romy and Michele start to feel insecure about the prospect of showing up to their reunion as 28-year-olds without glamorous jobs, husbands, babies, or a lot of money.

An important aspect of the movie is that – outside of these reunion-spurred anxieties – Romy and Michele are very happy thanks to their friendship (both in high school and as adults). They don’t feel dissatisfied, or even initially realize that their lives might appear disappointing or embarrassing to others. What makes them feel frustrated and inadequate is only when they begin comparing themselves to the classmates they’re going to meet again.

Does this sound familiar? Thanks to the 24-hour reunions many of us have access to on social media, it’s possible to compare your lives to the lives of your former classmates – or current friends, or influencers you’ve never met – constantly. The American Psychological Association mentions how studies link Instagram to issues involving depression, body image, self-esteem, and social anxiety.

Romy & Michele offers this in a microcosm; the best friends’ conflict with each other, the strange extended dream sequence that precedes their actual reunion, and the lies they attempt to tell about their lives, like that they’re the inventors of Post-It Notes, are all fueled by paranoia that their peers are leading richer, better, cooler lives than they are – even though it turns out their mean-girl rivals actually aren’t at all as happy as they make themselves appear.

Instagram is a particularly apt comparison point for Romy & Michele, because these characters are so fashion-oriented – and because the movie ultimately doesn’t condemn the idea of caring about your appearance or curating your personal aesthetic. At the reunion, Romy and Michele wind up ditching their power suits, changing into the outfits they like and that they designed themselves which eventually leads to them becoming successful – in other words, by staying true to that fashion sense. As former teenagers of the ‘80s, the importance of being true to yourself is a lesson Romy and Michele would have grown up hearing from plenty of movies and TV shows. But that lesson has important resonance for today’s social-media dynamics: If you’re working to keep up with others and put forth a successful image, being on Instagram or other socials can be exhausting and unsustainable. But if you’re working on your image, or your body, or your career, out of actual love and enjoyment, that process can be rewarding and empowering – as long as you’re doing it for you and not for the likes.

The Daughters of Romy and Michele

Romy & Michele is a product of two different and distinct time periods. Its sensibility reflects the ‘80s, in that Romy and Michele grew up in that time and affect Valley Girl-like personas that were often portrayed and spoofed in comedies of the era. In fact, Romy and Michele were first created as part of a 1987 play called Ladies Room, in which they were broadly drawn supporting characters. Their movie also fits with other movements of the latter half of the ‘90s – specifically the blonde-girls-having-misadventures teen comedies of that era, like Clueless and Dick, plus the early-2000s likes of Legally Blonde.

Thematically, it’s a version of the quarterlife crisis narrative pioneered by The Graduate in 1967 – and often reserved for young men. Case in point: The exact same month that Romy & Michele was released, in April 1997, the same movie studio put out Grosse Pointe Blank, another comedy about a ten-year high school reunion where the main characters wonder about the life choices that led them from their carefree ‘80s youth to their ‘90s adulthood angst. The two movies were seen by a near-identical amount of people during their original runs – but one major difference is that Grosse Pointe Blank centers a male crisis of confidence while Romy & Michele offers a more female-centric version, which was a far rarer point of view at that time.

And in the long run, this may have made Romy & Michele more influential than its then-popular contemporary male equivalent. As it turns out, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion has a lot of descendants, including:
What Romy and Michele Can Teach Us

  • The female buddy duo: Romy & Michele helped pave the way for movies centering two funny women, like The Heat or Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar. They helped normalize the idea of a duo that could be more like Mary and Rhoda, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, rather than Mary and some guy she’s dating. There’s also…

  • The quarterlife crisis narrative: Romy and Michele’s willingness to follow characters who don’t find a high-school happy ending and flail when they grow into adulthood is a major influence on comedies like Bridesmaids and Young Adult, and TV shows like Girls, Broad City, and Insecure. And of course…

  • The self-image comedy: Since the days of Romy & Michele, movies have become more aware of how women in particular are expected to put forward a certain image, and often want to attain that image in their real lives. Movies like I Feel Pretty, the college-reunion comedy, Girls Trip, and the family-centric Bad Moms movies address the ways of navigating that minefield of women trying to feel good about themselves and their life choices without necessarily conforming to a picture-perfect, social-media-ready version of those choice. The social-media comedy Ingrid Goes West goes even further, exploring the lies and self-deception that can get wrapped up in an Instagram obsession. It’s easy to imagine Ingrid, the lonely stalker at the center of the movie, as a version of Romy or Michele who grew up without a best friend – and then used social media in an attempt to fill that void.

So Romy & Michele has a good message, endearing characters, and influence – but there are also three other reasons it’s stuck around in the culture this long. First, its decades spanning timeline played a big part. By mixing ‘80s teen-movie touches in its flashbacks and fashion with a ‘90s setting and more outsider-friendly sensibility, the movie has a doubly nostalgic effect. Also, the movie’s comedic nods to trends of the ‘80s and ‘90s reassure us that what’s considered cool in a particular era tend to be pretty fleeting – so you should pick and choose from whatever styles and eras bring you joy. This idea makes the movie feel timeless.

The film has also endured thanks to its emphasis on the bad parts of social status and peer pressure extending into adulthood.The high school reunion is a catalyst for Romy and Michele’s success, not because they’re able to win the acceptance of the A-group, but because it reminds them how important their friendship is to each other and reconnect with the sense of fun they had as teenagers. They also figure out that almost everyone deals with insecurities about their social status.

Lastly, It puts an unexpected face on feminism. Like other blonde-girl-hijinx comedies of its era like Clueless and Dick, Romy and Michele might not have seemed like a feminist statement to audiences at the time. But with its story about female friendship, self-acceptance, and rejecting superficial markers of success, it joins those movies, as well as female-bonding comedies like 9 to 5 and First Wives Club, as feminist classics that truly center female stories.

Of course, all those details might not resonate if the movie wasn’t also so much fun. On the film’s 25th anniversary in 2022, Mira Sorvino summed up the movie’s appeal: “I think what the world needs now is Romy and Michele to cheer them up. The lightness of it, the silliness, but the values of love and being yourself.”


Abrams, Zara. “How can we minimize Instagram’s harmful effects?” American Psychological Association, 2 Dec. 2021,

Kacala, Alexander. “The cast and creator of ‘Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion’ are ready to reunite.” Today, NBC Universal, 27 Apr. 2022,

The Learning Network. “What Students Are Saying About How Social Media Affects Their Body Image.” The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2022,