As we approach Valentine’s Day (yes, it’s just a few weeks away) I think it’s only fitting that the topic of romance come into play in anticipation of the day meant to celebrate all things feelings. I’m not sure about you, but I have actually never celebrated Valentine’s Day with a loved one not related to me. Instead I spend the day (or week) loading up on conversational hearts, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and a collection of melodramas so depressing I become skeptical that love can actually end in anything but death. Regardless of my tendency to eat my feelings while crying over the tragic love found in Douglas Sirk films, I do enjoy happy love stories and tend to pair the sadder movies with some of my must-have romances. In honor of the big V-Day, I’d like to share my favorite 14 romantic scenes and also open it up the floor to hear your suggestions.
Today is my bottom seven romantic scenes, and next week we’ll post the remainder. I like to keep you all on tenterhooks.
14. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
I will be the first to admit that I am not the girliest of girls. I’ve never had a penchant for fluffy or flowy fabrics, I do not know how to fasten a ribbon to my hair, and it wasn’t until I went to a college that I grew to appreciate the color pink. But, like so many women I have an endearing love for Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s character Holly Golightly. Holly is a glamorous yet lost woman, spending her days in New York daydreaming of a life beyond her means. She lives in a tiny, yet romantic walkup, which is just as charming as its owner. Her new neighbor, Paul (George Peppard), falls quickly for the intriguing young woman but her own neuroses seem to dip more into the troubling side of the pool over endearing.
Regardless, Paul loves her and wants nothing but to make the pretty young woman feel safe, comforted, and most importantly cherished. But Holly tests his strength and in the final moments of Breakfast at Tiffany’s Paul finally releases all the hurt and anger he’s felt by Holly’s flighty ways. He lets her know she isn’t capable of love, no matter how much she’s in love with the idea of love. Before he leaves the close quarters of their taxi, he throws an engagement ring at her, punctuating his disgust with the whole situation. But in this final, rainy scene Holly fingers the ring, flees the cab, and runs after Paul. She is ready to love someone other than herself and we fall in love right along with her.
13. Velvet Goldmine
Todd Haynes’ homage to Citizen Kane, Velvet Goldmine is not intrinsically a love story, however it has one of the sweetest love scenes between aging rocker Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) and young glam fan Arthur (Christan Bale). Arthur spends the majority of the film recalling his own experiences with the glam kings Curt and Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), before revealing in the last few minutes his love affair with Curt. Paired with trippy shots of a space ship and grainy footage of the lovers cuddling in their own little world on a city roof, when we finally see that Curt and Arthur were truly and fantastically in love it makes it all the more tragic when they later cross paths many years later. The rest of the film may not have the happiest undertones, but these intimate shots of the couple at least leave the viewer feeling a little relief.
12. The Notebook
While many The Notebook fans might argue the reunion kiss between Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) is far more romantic than the death scene between older ailing Allie (Gena Rowlands) and her patient husband Noah (James Garner), I would have to disagree. The entire film is spent regaling us with their youthful love story, but by the time the ending occurs we have also fallen in love with the elder Noah. Noah’s eternal love for his wife allows him to day after day recount the same story in the hopes that she might, for even the smallest amount of time, remember their life together. Dying in each other’s arms is the ultimate romantic gesture (hey, worked for Romeo and Juliet), and in that moment the cursed couple can finally find peace.
The robot WALL-E in Pixar’s WALL-E was lost in a fantasy world inspired by movies—just like us. His self-sacrifice to save humanity (and art) from a terrible end left the sweet machine broken. His fancy lady friend, EVE, wouldn’t stand for that and quickly went to work fixing her robot love. Frantically she nudges him to remember his former self, but the repaired WALL-E is suffering from soap opera level amnesia. She tries everything to get him to remember, almost losing hope that he’ll come back to her. EVE reaches out for him, desperate for anything, and in this final tender attempt WALL-E grasps her hand, holding on to her while his eyes come into focus on all things EVE. If your heart doesn’t sigh after this scene then you’re clearly a zombie.
10. Romeo + Juliet
Who would have ever thought a fish tank could be so sexy? Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet’s (Claire Danes) meet-cute is so overwhelmingly adorable. They wordless flirt with a tropical fish tank between them, both succumbing to love at first sight before being ripped away by their respected parties. Juliet must dance with her new fiancé Paris (Paul Rudd), while Romeo’s crew’s party crashing ways have been found out by the hosts—Juliet’s parents. The camera stays on them, capturing all the tormented and loving moments the young couple experiences before the tone changes and they’re true identities are discovered. Their love is a tragic love, but in this brief time by the fish tank, they got to live a fantasy.
9. Moulin Rouge!
Speaking of tragic love, Moulin Rouge! is another one of those films where nothing goes the way it should. Christian (Ewan McGregor) is captivated by the courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), a woman he both cherishes and wants to change. She is a woman paid to appear to love men, yet she has never felt love herself. That is until Christian sneaks away to her room and convinces her through song that she not only deserves to be loved but that she can love in return with no consequences. Little do they know that of course there are consequences to love, but that is for later. The “Elephant Love Medley” is a manic depiction of the many stages of love, beginning with the reluctance of one who is afraid of emotions and ending with their loving embrace. It’s also a damn catchy song that I hope is now plaguing your brain just as much as it is plaguing mine.
Our half-way marker brings us back full circle to Audrey Hepburn, an actress who has become legendary for her iconic romantic characters. Almost a decade before she played Holly Golightly, Hepburn brought charm to the ugly duckling tale in Sabrina opposite Humphrey Bogart (Linus). Rather than play the prototypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl (with a brain), here we see a vulnerable yet strong woman who is dead-set on marrying the man of her dreams, David (William Holden). She is poor, having grown up the daughter of an employee to brothers David and Linus, yet her ambitions take her to Paris where she becomes refined, dignified, and determined to win David over after years of pining for the charmless lothario. Unfortunately for her, David is an ass and demands his older brother Linus distract her.
As you can see in the clip, Linus is the real winner here. He is sweet with a gruff edge, yet completely in love with gorgeous Sabrina. He patiently listens to her as she recounts why David is so wonderful, and then surprises her by remembering moments from their pre-Paris life. When he finally takes her in his arms to dance around the indoor tennis court, we are sold on their romantic future. It’s just a shame that it takes Sabrina a bit longer to see the great man she has in front of her.
Come back next week for the conclusion to this list. Think I forgot a crucial romantic scene? Share it in the comments below.