Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My favorite romantic movie scene of all-time

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching (too fast for most guys), our thoughts turn to romance or execution-like gang slayings in Chicago.

Love stories are the driving force of most movies. DIE HARD is essentially a love story. So is KING KONG. And SHREK. (I still can’t tell you what INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is). We’ve all been moved at one time or another by a romantic scene on the silver screen. So my question for today: what is yours?

And I’m talking romance not what is your favorite steamy scene? William Hurt throwing a chair through a window to get to Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT was pretty smoking, but the charge you got was in your loins not your heart. I’m talking romance. I don’t know of any hearts that melted when Hurt later took Turner from behind.

My favorite romantic scene is somewhat unconventional I would say. I’m not a big fan of schmaltz. Sweeping music builds to a crescendo; two starry-eyed lovers embrace in the rain and breathlessly confess their undying love for each other. Ugh. Or anything from TITANIC. Call me a cynic but in JERRY MCGUIRE they lost me at “Hello.”

(In general, I’m not a big fan of catch phrases. “You make me a better me.” “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” “Stella!!!)

So there are many great ones to choose from. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meeting on the Empire State Building in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. Practically any scene from CASABLANCA. Jon Cusack holding up the boombox in SAY ANYTHING. Lady and the Tramp eating the same piece of spaghetti.

To me the perfect scene is one that is…

Deeply heartfelt
Doesn’t take itself too seriously
Something I wish I had done

So this is my pick. It’s from LOVE ACTUALLY. This poor schlepp has been trying to tell Keira Knightley that he loves her the whole movie. She’s now married to his best friend. He finally has the courage to declare his love. Here’s how he does it:

Damn!  It kills me every time.


Jeremiah Avery said...

"Casablanca" is my #1 all-time favorite film and I agree about the abundance of romantic scenes in it.

From another movie, I think of a scene from "It's A Wonderful Life". It's where George is in Mary's living room and though Mary is trying to set the mood, George is being a curmudgeon. The romantic part, at least for me, comes when they're both listening in on the phone and are so close together. You can feel the tension building by how they're looking at each other. George's subsquent yelling but then breakdown and holding Mary I think works so well. Mileage may vary but a lot more great moments are in the classic films.

Hamid said...

Sorry but I have a strong aversion to Richard Curtis, except for his work on Blackadder.

My favourite is the ending of the original ROCKY. Apollo Creed is declared the winner but Rocky doesn't care, all he wants is to see Adrian. And when she arrives, the first thing he says is "Where's your hat?" At that moment, he doesn't care about the fight or anything else, he loves Adrian so much that he notices she's not wearing her hat.

Nick Alexander said...

You cannot beat the B/W classics. Random Harvest, Remember the Night, Notorious, Rebecca, From Here to Eternity, and City Lights.

ODJennings said...

"Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meeting on the Empire State Building in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. "

I've never understood the popularity of that movie. Reverse the sexes of the lead actors and it's a horror film, or at the very least a very special episode of Law and Order SVU.

I mean, woman hears total stranger's voice on the radio, fantasizes about total stranger, becomes obsessed, stalks total stranger, travels cross country to stalk total stranger in person, lures total stranger's young child to late night meeting at deserted location in NYC --the last scene should have been Meg Ryan hauled off in handcuff or taken out by SWAT Team snipers, but America fell in love with the damned thing.

You want romance? Watch Jimmy Stewart walk Donna Reed home from the dance in It's a Wonderful Life.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Definitely a big favorite here is the scene in L.A. Story with Enya in the background and the weather changing while Steve Martin waits and Victoria Tennant realizes she can't leave LA.

A big opposite-of-favorite: the kiss at the end of AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Yes, yes, Jack Nicholson is great, but watching Helen Hunt kiss that withered old face all you want to say is, Honey, he's a jerk, even on medication, and he's old enough to be your grandfather. *YOU CAN DO BETTER.*


Dixon Steele said...

Still don't understand the hate for INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, one of my faves of the year.

Yes, I get it, he's not a sympathetic character. Talk about simplistic.

But hey, taste is a personal thing. I always found BECKER to be an unfunny, obnoxious asshole, riding off Ted Danson's charm.

Mark Patterson said...

I've always had a problem with that aspect of Love Actually, a movie both my wife and I adore.

You have a man trying to break up his best friend's marriage. I was on his side right up until that scene...he was in love with her, but he knew he couldn't have her, and he was deliberately (and responsibly) keeping himself out of the situation, up to and including being actively antagonistic towards Knightley's character. Then he does the scene you linked to, and in the final bit in the airport, he's starting to hang out with the happy couple. That's going to end well.

My favorite part of that movie is Hugh Grant's line as he closes his office door after meeting Natalie:

"Oh. That is SO inconvenient!" Even before the reveal, I knew why he was saying that. It was perfectly understated.

Barbara C. said...

I love everything about Love Actually. It is so real and so outrageous at the same time.

"Don't buy drugs..... Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!"

Carol said...

Oh, golly, this is a tough one.

Agree about LA Story. I love that movie - although my favourite part would probably be when he's voice-overing 'wonderful, wonderful, wonderful' from As You Like It when he's walking with Whatshername.

I think the 'When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible' from When Harry Met Sally is one of the great romantic moments.

Oh, and of course 'I love you.' 'I know'. From Empire Strikes Back.

JED said...

One of my favorite movies has my favorite romantic scene. A Little Romance with Diane Lane and Thelonious Bernard (and a great cast of Hollywood stars in support) shows a romance at its purest with great music from Vivaldi and original pieces by Georges Delerue. The scene of them kissing under the Bridge of Sighs is wonderful.

Anonymous said...


I love the scene in "I Know Where I'm Going" at the end when Wendy Hiller and the man she loves--who is NOT the man she thought she would marry--walk up the hill after leaving the ruin of the castle with the pipers following them.

Jeremiah Avery said...

@Nick Alexander - I agree with "City Lights", that ending (and the overall arc between the Tramp and the Flower Girl) is so touching. The woman's realization that the Tramp was her benefactor and his nervousness as she discovers the truth is a wonderful piece of cinema. The expressions sell the scene so well.

Scooter Schechtman said...

"You disgust me!"
"You make me sick!"
"Are you as turned on as me?"

m stillman, toronto said...



JAMIE: So, unfortunately I need you and you need me.
MAGGIE: No I don’t.
J: Yes you do.
M: No I don’t.
J: Yes you do.
M: Stop it. Stop saying that.
J: You need someone to take care of you.
M: No I don’t.
J: Everybody does.
M: I’m going to need you more than you need me.
J: That’s okay.
M: No it’s not. It isn’t fair. I have places to go.
J: You’ll go there, I may just have to carry you.
M: I can’t ask you to do that.
J: You didn’t.

jbryant said...

GROUNDHOG DAY is surprisingly romantic.

slgc said...

At the end of Dirty Dancing, when Patrick Swayze lipsyncs to Jennifer Grey the lyrics to Time of My Life because they say everything that he can't find the words for on his own.

Dave Wilson said...

Tony and Maria meeting for the first time in the gym in "West Side Story" as they slow dance to a syncopated version of "Maria" with the gym background faded out. Now that's love at first sight!

johnachziger said...

Speaking of the Empire State Building...An Affair to Remember!

Charles H. Bryan said...

From AS GOOD AS IT GETS, when Nicholson says to Helen Hunt "You make me want to be a better man." If you haven't felt that way about someone -- that they make you wish that you were better, worthier of them -- you haven't really been in love. That line has stuck in my head ever since first seeing that film.

I also enjoy every moment of screen time that Dick Powell and Myrna Loy share in THE THIN MAN movies. Married couples do not have to be dull and loveless.

I agree with OD Jennings' opinion on SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. Ick. An opinion I also extend to YOU'VE GOT MAIL. Extra ick with a side order of blechh. The relationships that develop in those movies are repellent and pathological.

Shai said...

Another one that I enjoy is Roxanne. Obviously, because CD supplies Chris with romantic poetry, there are some romantic moment/scenes. But I think one of the things I enjoy most is that the climactic lines (and they're fairly conversational too, which is nice) come from the female which seems pretty rare...
Roxanne: You know, I've been thinking about what attracted me to Chris. It wasn't the way he looked. Well, that's not true, at first it was the way he looked. But it was how he made me feel. He made me feel romantic, intelligent, feminine. But it wasn't him doing that, was it? It was you. You and your nose, Charlie. You have a big nose! You have a beautiful, great big, flesh-and-bone nose! I love your nose! I love your nose, Charlie. I love you, Charlie...Well?
C.D. Bales: Are you kidding?

old lady said...

The Notebook. Sorry.

sanford said...

to charles Braun I think you mean william powell in the thin man. What an excellent paring.

RCP said...

A couple that come to mind: Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck looking at each other during the press conference at the end of "Roman Holiday". "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", when Rex Harrison's ghost returns to claim Gene Tierney - the score by Bernard Herrmann didn't hurt (it sounded nothing like Psycho).

Charles H. Bryan: You mean William Powell. Nick and Nora are one of my favorite screen teams too.

iain said...

Myrna Loy & Fredric March in the homecoming scene from "The Best Years Of Our Lives":

VincentS said...

Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.

MikeFab said...

I'm not a very "romantic" guy, but a scene that sticks with me to this day is from a 1951 remake of "Bird of Paradise" which I saw on TV when I was just a little kid. Debra Paget and Louis Jourdan are lovers on a Polynesian island. And I'm pretty sure I wanted to be her lover too. Anyway, a volcano becomes active on their island, and the local Shaman, aptly named Kahuna, decides the only way to calm it is for Paget's character to sacrifice herself by jumping in. Romance and tragedy. Sometimes they go hand in hand.

Sharon said...

I love the end of SERENDIPTY when John Cusak and Kate Beckinsale finally meet on the ice rink. What really seals the deal for me is the single tear that falls down his cheek. There are no histrionics, just a real sense of the overwhelming joy and relief that these two people feel that they finally are standing face to face. Gets me every time.

mmryan314 said...

Wow- I've never seen this movie but I love the clip. Something about forbidden love coupled with integrity that is always so appealing.

brian t said...

Not a huge RomCom fan, but I have a soft spot for "One Fine Day", the 1996 film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney. The ending is realistically romantic: after the hectic (but fine) day they'd just had, they ... just fall asleep, together.

Sue said...

Agree with Carol on the When Harry Met Sally scene. My other all time favorite is from The Apartment.

Jack Lemmon:"Your hear what I said Miss Kubelik, I absolutely adore you...

Shirley MacLaine:"Shut up and deal."

Loosehead said...

You got mail. Tom and Meg in Central park, when the dog barks.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Charles H. Bryan: I'd rather hear "You have *made* me a better man." People fail at what they *want* to do all the time!


Pat Reeder said...

I don't understand why "Love Actually" has become such a big cult favorite. Aside from the nude scenes and a few comic bits here and there, I didn't care for it. I actually liked some of Richard Curtis' earlier films ("Four Weddings & A Funeral," "Notting Hill" and especially "The Tall Guy"), but I thought "Love" was the one where he just piled the cart too high with curdled treacle and drove it over a cliff. I would have titled it "It's An Annoying, Annoying, Annoying, Annoying World." If I want to see a movie that's both hilariously funny and romantic, I'd take "The Princess Bride" over "Love Actually."

I agree with those who cited the ending of "City Lights" ("Yes, I can see now") as the single most moving scene. It's the only romantic scene that always gives me a lump in the throat, although I will admit to getting verkempt at the endings of "Avalon," "The Shootist" and "Old Yeller," but for different reasons.

benson said...

Carol and Scooter, YES! to both.

One I hate to admit gets to me, chokes me up and all, is the Tom Hanks Meg Ryan AOL movie. At the end, when he and the dog show up at the rendezvous, and she says "I hoped it would be you.". Or words to that effect.

Mitchell Hundred said...

I'm not an avid watcher of romantic movies, but the Before trilogy is pretty great. The most romantic is the first (of course), and this scene is pretty sweet.

Jeffro said...

Poor Andrew Lincoln. Not only does his love for Keira Knightly go unrequited, he winds-up spending most of his living days fighting zombies.

I'm sort of drawn towards the tragic romances, like the kind in The English Patient: "I've Always Loved You".
Although that movie also had the happier romance between Hana and Kip, particularly in this scene.

Cold Mountain is another, with scenes like these:
"The Kiss"
"I Marry You, I Marry You, I Marry You"

I was going to also suggest the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, but, depending on my mood, sometimes I feel like the young actors (traditionally older actors are used to play such difficult roles) are in over their heads (especially after looking over some YouTube clips for this posting), and sometimes I buy enough into the story and can look past their so-so performances. Still, it's probably the best movie adaption of the play.


Powerhouse Salter said...

Audrey Hepburn singing "Moon River" to herself in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.

Greg said...

The scenes leading up to the moment and the actual instant when George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) faces the truth about his feelings for Mary (Donna Reed) while they are both on the phone with "Hee-Haw" in "It's a Wonderful Life".

Anonymous said...

The last two minutes of "Brief Encounter"

Anne Eston said...

When Colin Firth goes to the restaurant to propose to Aurelia, from the processional with the entire town behind him to "Just in cases." Also the last scene in Some Kind of Wonderful, where Mary Stuart Masterson is putting on the pearl earrings that should have been hers all along, and Eric Stoltz says "I never knew you wanted these" and she answers "well, you're stupid; I always knew you were stupid."

RyderDA said...

SHALL WE DANCE -- the American remake. The original Japanese movie was wonderful, and for a change the re-make didn't wreck it.

Best scene: Richard Gere come up the escalator to meet his wife (Susan Sarrandon) who thinks he is off at a party without her (to the sound of an awesome Peter Gabriel song).

"Why aren't you at the party?"
"Oh, because its a dance, and to dance you need a partner... and my partner's right here."

Gets me every time. Though I ADORE that LOVE ACTUALLY scene, too.

Tom Galloway said...

A scene from 10 Things I Hate About You of Heath Ledger singing to Julia Stiles in an unexpected setting (and to her complete surprise, as so far he's been portrayed as rather thuggish). About 45 seconds in, the other shoe of the performance drops, making it one of those well-planned surprises Ken likes.

(Admittedly I may be biased on this one due to my own, non-romantic, experiences involving the Harvard-Yale Game, the Harvard Stadium sound system, and the equivalent extra touch in the scene but from MIT)

Also, the scene from the much lesser known these days than it should be 1979 film Breaking Away where Dave is outside Katherine's dorm room serenading her in Italian. A couple of years later I was watching the movie on tv in an actual dorm lounge, and I swear after that scene finished, every girl in the room looked at us boys with a "why don't you do things like that?" expression.

DBenson said...


"Little Shop Around the Corner" -- Definitive, essential romantic comedy.

"The Apartment" -- Pitch-black comedy or witty melodrama? Love the movie but still can't classify it.

"The Little Minister" -- Kate Hepburn being all cute and Scottish in a relic dripping with quaintness, but dang if it doesn't work.

"The Cameraman" -- Buster Keaton delivers the big gags, but his shy wooing of a pretty secretary is surprisingly persuasive.

"Random Harvest" -- Great MGM soaper with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. If anybody tries to tell you the plot before you see it, hurt them.

"Beauty and the Beast" (Disney version) -- Beast's death scene gets me every time.


"Pretty Woman" -- A wet dream for hedge fund managers.

VP81955 said...

"Little Shop Around the Corner" -- Definitive, essential romantic comedy.

I presume you mean "The Shop Around The Corner" (and not "The Little Shop Of Horrors")...Ernst Lubitsch, James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and my favorite Frank Morgan performance (one of the very best character actors ever). I love that film, too...and it's amazing to think that Stewart, the quintessential American actor, could play a Budapest resident so well.

Pat Reeder said...

"The Shop Around the Corner" is practically a genre until itself. Its penpals plot inspired a movie musical ("In The Good Old Summertime"), a Broadway musical ("She Loves Me") and a modern romcom ("You've Got Mail"). Even the British sitcom "Are You Being Served?" was inspired by it.

But I don't blame it for "The Lake House," that Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock movie where the people exchanged letters through a time machine mailbox that delivered letters from two years before. I think that was just inspired by the US Post Office.

Dave Arnott said...

Have always LOVED the idea behind that Love, Actually scene, as well. But at the risk of being one of those guys, what brings it down a peg for me every time is this: he's not playing actual carol singers on his boom box. It's always struck me as a really silly mistake, especially since you know the music was added later in post.

Ellen said...

My favorite romantic movie scene of all time is from a TV show, and it hits the same emotional notes as your favorite scene. It's from The Office (American), where Jim tells Pam he loves her. Clip here:

Aaron Sheckley said...

I'd never seen Love Actually before I read this column, so I checked it out on Netflix. It definitely subscribed to the theory that, if a little cotton candy is good, then having a truckload of it jammed down your gullet will be exquisite. Good casting, but it combined just about every rom-com cliche into one single movie until it was in danger of imploding under its own treacly mass. A little restraint on the part of the director might have made for a few less "you have got to be kidding me" moments.

jbryant said...

MikeFab: I haven't seen Bird of Paradise, but any self-respecting Debra Paget film must see her "snake dance" from Fritz Lang's The Indian Tomb. It's not romantic, per se, but it will definitely put you in the mood for love, so to speak.

RyderDA: The Japanese Shall We Dance is one of my favorite movies, so I've always avoided the remake. You may have convinced me to give it a shot.

Pat Reeder: I know it's a minority opinion, but I really liked The Lake House. I'll admit, however, that Portrait of Jennie, with Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones, is the one to beat for time-shifting romance.

jbryant said...

Eh, obviously I meant "Debra Paget fan" above, not "film."

Zack Zupke said...

That "Love Actually" scene gets me every time, do many others in one of my favorite all-time films. It's one of my favorites because it takes such an unpredictable/original approach to real love stories. Who hasn't been in love with their best friend's incredible wife/husband? Who hasn't felt the crush of grade-school love? Who has never met their soulmate on a porn set? Well...the best love stories are so often those you never see coming and those simply between two people who find out they care deeply about one another. Like when we learn Jack and the Duke have become the best of friends in the train in "Midnight Run." "Sometimes you just have to let go - get yourself a new watch," Charles Grodin's character counsels the softy thug who's got him cuffed to the boxcar. What a love story.

chuckcd said...

Most of my romances end as an execution-like gang slaying in Chicago.

Lorimartian said...

Richard Gere surprising Debra Winger and carrying her out of the factory at the end of "An Officer and a Gentleman" is memorable for me. (This is a movie that Lorimar put into turnaround and instead made the stinker "Lookin' to Get Out.")

Storm said...

Several people have mentioned "It's A Wonderful Life", but no one has mentioned my favourite romantic moment; when newlywed George Bailey, exhausted and denied a honeymoon because of the craziness at the Building & Loan, comes home to the old Granville house, to find Mary waiting for him with (makeshift) dinner cooking, and beaming with love, says "Welcome home, Mister Bailey". Then she melts in his arms and confesses that *this* was what she wished for when she threw the rock through the window so many years before. *sigh* Just SO romantical!

Cheers, thanks a lot,


CRL said...

It's from Big Fish.

Our hero knows nothing about the woman he has fallen in love with except her favorite flower. One morning the girl wakes up, looks out her window, and sees him standing in a field of daffodils that have magically appeared overnight.....

Edd Weeks said...

Mark Patterson: In your summary of this plotline in "Love Actually," you left out an extremely important point. The Andrew Lincoln character does not admit his love of the Kiera Knightley character until AFTER she accidentally finds out about it. (Did you perhaps choose that moment to go to the restroom?) He does not, as you imply, just randomly decide to tell her. He had, till then, been trying to hide the truth from everyone, but once she knows their relationship becomes very awkward and he is forced to make a statement.

Robo said...

"Brief Encounter" - the goodbye scene where she returns to her husband.

"Brief Encounter" - the scene where she is with her husband in the ending scene.

"Notting Hill" - Julie Roberts and Hugh Grant's "I'm just a girl.... asking a boy... to love her" scene.