meet cute Verb, e.g., Katherine Heigl and James Marsden meet cute in a cab in “27 Dresses” (2008). Adjective (hyphenated), e.g., Modern meet-cute scenes do not have the class tension of the 1930s variety.
Definition: A scene in which future romantic partners first meet in unusual and often comic circumstances.
History: A screenwriters’ term that dates back to the “screwball comedies” of the Great Depression. The first meet-cute scenes needed unusual circumstances because they threw together people of different economic classes, e.g., heiress Claudette Colbert and worldly reporter Clark Gable meet on a bus in “It Happened One Night” (1934), heiress Carol Lombard and vagrant William Powell meet in a city dump in “My Man Godfrey” (1936), and heiress Katharine Hepburn and penniless paleontologist Cary Grant meet on a golf course in “Bringing Up Baby” (1938). The couples’ exchanges highlight their differing social statuses but with a cute undercurrent of mutual attraction.
Although common to romantic comedies, meet-cute scenes appear in other genres, e.g., the Hitchcock horror film “The Birds” (1963), in which heiress Tippi Hedren verbally spars with criminal lawyer Rod Taylor in a pet shop. And in most modern versions, personal differences other than social status drive dialogue. For instance, in “27 Dresses” (2008), James Marsden’s disdain for marriage disgusts Katherine Heigl, who has been a bridesmaid at 27 weddings. One thing true of all meet-cute scenes: they are a kind of "worm hole," that is, they speed forward a couple’s relationship to accommodate a film’s 2-hour time limit.