6 Hollywood Rom-coms That Made Us Suffer the Second Lead Syndrome

Antara Kashyap
·4 min read

The Second Lead Syndrome popularised by Korean Dramas, is a situation when the audience roots for the second male lead in the film or the show more than the lead characters. These second leads are usually nicer to the girls, have tragic backstories sometimes and always deserve better.

While the world is now rooting for Taylor Zakhar Perez's character Marco Penã in The Kissing Booth 2, let us look at the other films where we were rooting for the second lead.

Something's Gotta Give

Nancy Myer's adorable comedy about an elderly couple falling in love gets a lot of praise for how brilliant Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton were. However, the film left many hearts broken for Keanu Reeves' character Julian Mercer because not only was he extremely charming, but also treated Erica Barry (Keaton) much better than Harry Sanborn (Nicholson). The scenes where Julian gets stood up at a fancy restaurant and where the trio celebrates Erica's birthday in Paris, always leave you wanting better for him.

Pretty in Pink

Howard Deutch's classic 1986 rom-com starring 80s teen movie queen Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer and Andrew McCarthy, Pretty in Pink is a classic case of the viewer suffering from second lead syndrome. Introverted high-school student Andie (Ringwald) has only two friends Iona (Annie Potts) and Duckie (Cryer), who has been in love with Andie since childhood but cannot tell her. Her life then starts getting complicated when a popular boy Blane McDonough (McCarthy) takes interest in her. Every 80s movie enthusiast will remember feeling bad for Duckie, who makes the sacrifice for his best friend. Also another reason to watch the film: gorgeous young James Spader as mean boy Steff McKee.

Reality Bites

Ben Stiller's coming-of-age film about a bunch of friends who live together and have to navigate ambition, love, sexuality and friendship is criminally underrated. Starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Stiller in the lead, and Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn in supporting roles, Reality Bites is a love triangle at heart. Aspiring documentarian Lelaina Pierce (Ryder) likes coffee house guitarist Troy Dyer (Hawke) but they don't confess their feelings for each other.

She soon starts dating TV executive Michael Grates (Stiller) who airs her documentary on his channel. While Michael's act of editing Lelaine's film is seen as criminal and causes their break-up, it is actually just a professional disagreement. Meanwhile Troy is flaky, has commitment issues and is basically rude to Lelaine, making us feel bad for Michael when Troy ends us "getting the girl."

My Best Friend's Wedding

We are including this 1997 classic by PJ Hogan because even though the second lead here is not male, there isn't a single person who has watched this film and doesn't think Kimmy Wallace deserved better. Starring Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz, the film tells the story of Julianne (Roberts) who realises she is in love with her best friend Michael (Mulroney) after he is engaged to Kimmy (Diaz) and plans to sabotage his wedding. The scene where Kimmy first realises that Julianne fancies Michael is still unforgettable due to Diaz's performance. The film also inspired Bollywood's own ‘Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai’ and we all collectively agree Jimmy Shergill deserves better.

Enchanted

Directed by Kevin Lima, this Disney film starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden is the story of a Princess who is banished from her kingdom by her lover's evil stepmother and turns up in New York City. Princess Giselle (Adams) meets lawyer Robert Phillip (Dempsey) and falls for him. When her lover Prince Edward (Marsden) also comes to the real world in search of her, she has to choose between her destiny and a new adventure. James Marsden often plays characters like this (Lon Hammond in The Notebook) and hence we want to see him getting his due. Also the naive Prince Edward did nothing wrong, Giselle just didn't get to know him better.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before: PS I Still Love You

The sequel to the popular modern rom-com To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Michael Fimognari, dealt with Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) in a conundrum when her childhood crush John Ambrose McLaren (Jordan Fisher) came back into her life after getting one of her secret love letters sent out by her sister. Since the first movie had established Noah Centineo's Peter Kavinsky as the boyfriend of the year, people were less than excited when the sequel announced a new lead. But when the film released, we found out that John Ambrose was an equally suitable match for Lara Jean, if not better. And when Lara Jean chose Peter, the audience had no option but to feel sad for John.