I'm not a fan of modern romantic comedy generally. To me, the screwball era did it properly and most of the films I've seen from this era were light on comedy and too high on contrived romance.

That said, this was fantastic. It deserves its reputation for a few reasons.

First of all, the dialogue was witty and fast - not screwball level exactly, but in the ballpark. The leads were terrific and consistently on point. Billy Crystal is always great, but he was especially charming here. Meg Ryan reminded me why she was such a big star and made me a bit sad she was no longer active.

Second, the structure really helped guide the film. Sprinkling in what appear to be real couples and their stories to reflect the action was an inspired choice. Showing the respective development of the characters over several years was as well. This decision resulted in an episodic quality that kept everything fresher than it might otherwise be.

Third, the twists and turns of the relationship over time were fascinating. The leads were so fully realized that their decisions - even the frustrating ones - were understandable and felt real. I see another comment suggested the supporting characters were undeveloped. This is true, but I view this as more a genre convention than a problem with the writing. The focus was on the leads, as it should be, and that was excellent.

Finally, as I noted above, 90s examples of this genre tend to be very light on the comedy. Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal in particular ensured that was not the case here. This was a genuinely funny movie, highly enjoyable, witty, well-constructed, thoughtful, and emotionally satisfying. In short, it was what every romantic comedy in the modern era should aspire to.