It’s Valentine’s Day again so that means it’s time for mushy stuff.
Movie romances are a dime a dozen. Whether they are in romantic dramas, comedies, or even shoehorned into action flicks, romances are found everywhere in film. The reasons range from film to film, but on-screen love is nearly ubiquitous. But while there are plenty of cheap and cloying examples of movie love, there are also numerous powerful and real movie romances that have been made over the years. And of these great romances, there exist many incredibly romantic moments that exist preserved in film forever. When a romantic scene is done just right, it sings.
The following 10 scenes are some of the most real and emotional romance scenes committed to film. From moments of love triumphant to doomed lovers facing down their fates together, these are a few of my favorite romantic scenes in cinema ever.
Love Goes On and On – Disney’s Robin Hood
Like most Robin Hood stories, the Disney animated version finds much of its narrative propelled by the love between Robin and Maid Marian. Two star-crossed lovers who have been separated for years, Robin and Marian find themselves reunited and finally professing their love for one another when the outlaw is captured by Prince John, leading to a massive battle and escape. But the most romantic moment of all comes afterward as the two wander through a nighttime forest accompanied by moonlight, fireflies, and the song “Love” by Nancy Adams. Not a single word is spoken, but the moonlight romance that leads to a quiet marriage proposal is sweet and so perfect.
The Carbonite Chamber – The Empire Strikes Back
Unlike many of the other moments on this list, the most romantic scene in all of the Star Wars Saga isn’t a moment of triumph, but rather of doomed love. After slowly falling for one another, Han Solo and Princess Leia finally profess their feelings for one another (“I love you.” “I know.”) as Han is about to be frozen in carbonite by Darth Vader and The Empire. The power of the scene is due to the dizzying swell of emotions. Love, joy, fear, despair, they are all here at once as the two star-crossed lovers finally find love in one another, only for it all to be ripped away, perhaps permanently. Doomed love is power stuff and its presence here informs one of the most powerful scenes in the entire series in its best ever entry.
The Greatest Kiss – The Princess Bride
Wesley and Buttercup’s romance is the heart and soul of The Princess Bride. All those swashbuckling duels and moments of comedy are just part of the adventure surrounding it. So when the two are finally together again after hardships as seemingly insurmountable as death, the joy that derives is palpable. Having been set up earlier in the story, we once again hear about the greatest kisses in the history of the world. Reunited, Buttercup and Wesley share the greatest kiss of all time. And it’s not just the narration that has us believe it to be true; it’s the love and happiness seen on screen that truly makes it special. A true storybook ending in every way and a completely deserved conclusion for characters we’ve come to love and root for throughout the film.
Your Hands are Cold – Pride and Prejudice
So much of Pride and Prejudice revolves around the turbulent relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, as each have their misconceptions about the other. Here, Elizabeth walks out into the fields around her family home in the early morning as she realizes how much Darcy has done for her family after an earlier bewildering profession of love from the man. But suddenly, Darcy appears walking out of the morning mist, revealing that everything he has done has been for Elizabeth and that he still loves her. The difference this time is that she loves him too and the two finally unite as the sun rises in a truly perfect and deeply emotional moment. Oh, and that score by Dario Marianelli is insanely gorgeous. I’m crying again. Moving on.
Read the Letter – Silver Linings Playbook
An often unconventional romance that still plays on aspects of romantic comedy, Silver Linings Playbook is about two people, Pat and Tiffany, who work to overcome their mental health issues as they grow closer to one another. Through the ups and downs of struggling with bipolar disorder and trauma, Pat and Tiffany come together and break apart, but manage to find the small victories that matter. But things are still keeping them apart, namely, Pat’s chances of reuniting with his estranged wife and Tiffany’s lying in order to get him to perform in a dance competition with her. But when Tiffany runs away believing that Pat will return to the wife who cheated on him, he runs after her. Pat catches up to her and has her read a letter from him that reveals he has known the truth for a while. His vulnerability and profession of love are not only the final steps in the path toward being together, but is the beginning of a new and healthier life.
Here’s Looking at You, Kid – Casablanca
Taking another breaking from triumphant love, the ending of Casablanca is a wonderful example of the power of sacrificial love. This is an ending that has been engrained in the minds of audiences everywhere, as Humphrey Bogart’s Rick lets Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa leave on a private plane out of Casablanca with her husband. The two former lovers have finally reconnected, but Rick knows that her leaving is for the best so she and her husband can continue their fight against the Nazis. No kissing and no professions of love here; that’s all been done already. But Rick’s final trick allows the woman he loves to escape and live a better life without him, which is an act of true love in the most romantic and Hollywood of ways.
Through the Fish Tank – Romeo + Juliet
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is all about the transcendent and destructive nature of infatuated love, and Baz Lurman’s modern day retelling in Romeo + Juliet gets that right in every moment from beginning to end. While there are scenes where that love reaches a higher crescendo, the first sighting between the two young lovers is easily the most sweetly romantic and captivating. Here, the two experience love at first sight through either side of a fish tank. Playfully watching one another through the blue illuminated water, we see them slowly become fascinated with one another while “Kissing You” by Des’ree is sung in the ballroom nearby. Exceptional for doing so much without using a single word from Shakespeare’s play, this scene works wonders in a small but significant moment between two strangers.
Falling Slowly – Once
Once is the story of two strangers falling for one another and helping each other through a difficult time in the course of a day, and its strength comes from the naturalism of its actors and the great songs found throughout. This is demonstrated the most fully in a sweetly romantic and wonderfully tender scene in which the two central characters learn the song “Falling Slowly” and play it together in a music shop. First of all, it’s a powerful song on its own that is filled with emotion and meaning. But having it in this live performance in the context of the movie makes it even more special within the context of the movie. It’s a sweet, real, and subtle piece of romance that feels far more powerful than most romance scenes that too often attempt to artificially force feelings.
Tale as Old as Time – Beauty & the Beast
There is simply no animated film more romantic than Beauty and the Beast. And in a film filled with romance, the crown jewel is Belle and The Beast’s waltz to “Tale as Old as Time.” There’s really no need to explain the moment here, save to say that the entire narrative rests on this moment as the two find themselves silently falling in love with one another. The sweeping animation that seamlessly blends hand drawn animation of the characters with the CGI animation of the ballroom creates a sweeping and elegant piece of cinematography. But it’s Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts singing that informs the gentle and warm love of the moment, making this tale of fairy tale love seem far more real and powerful. You simply melt.
On the Ferris Wheel – Before Sunrise
Having spent their day slowly connecting with one another as they walk through Vienna, Jesse and Celine get a view of the city from the famous ferris wheel at sunset. They both realize that now would be the perfect time to finally kiss and as Jesse struggles to get the words out, Celine finishes his sentence for him, leading to their first kiss. But just as romantic as their kiss is the long and intimate hug they share afterwards, an expression of the happiness and comfort in being with one another. This moment and the many that both precede and follow make Before Sunrise one of the all-time great romantic movies.