The kiss is the pinnacle of any romantic movie. It gains interest through three key questions: will they actually kiss, how will they kiss and when will they kiss? Spanning a variety of genres, the movie kiss is one of the most overloaded and cinematic of moments.
It was in fact the subject of one of the first films ever made. Aptly titled The Kiss (1896), William Heisse’s film depicted a heterosexual couple re-enacting the climatic kiss of a musical. Naturally, its raunchiness was instantly condemned by the Catholic Church, setting a precedent for sexual censorship in movies for many years to come.
Nevertheless, from there it has become a staple of romantic movies, signifying the peak in most blossoming relationships. Changing drastically over the years, from pecks on the cheek to full blown snogs, the kiss is both a symbol of love and of sexual desire, and one of the key building blocks of our cinematic fabric.
There are countless movie kisses to choose from, but we believe this list contains the best movie kissing scenes of all time. From noir to introspective arthouse, American New Wave to superhero movies, we have it all covered here. Sound off in the comments below if you think we have missed anything.
Warning: spoilers may follow!
10. Fucking Amal (Lukas Moodysson, 1998)
The central kissing scene in this movie is all about the timing. The two protagonists bundle into the back of a stranger’s car, trying to hitch a ride to Stockholm. “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner is playing. They look at each other awkwardly, not sure what to do. They ask each other just what they hell they are doing, and one of them says “we’re so fucking cool.”
Then, just as the song rides into the chorus, they start to make out. Almost instantly the driver of the car sees them, and kicks them out of the car. Their trip to Stockholm is over, but their personal journey together has just begun.
As a representation of teen horniness, confusion and impulsion — as well as being out-and-out hilarious due to the way it is timed and framed — we have no qualms in declaring this kiss the greatest of all time.
It is the randomness of that particular song being on at that particular time that makes it funny and heartwarming, as if both the girls feel they just ought to kiss. Widely considered a landmark LGBT teen movie, Fucking Amal is a declaration and celebration of lesbian love that puts two strong fingers up at the haters. The kiss is a central part of that.
9. Spider-Man (Sam Raimi, 2002)
With so many superhero movies now released every single year, it’s hard to remember a time when they were actually an event. The first Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, was such a huge moment, and remains one of the best superhero movies for the way it really focuses on the human aspects of its hero. The key part that makes this film so endearing is its kiss.
It’s a classic superhero set up. Mary Jane is attracted to Spider-Man, but is only friends with Peter Parker. Therefore, when Spider-Man has his chance to kiss her, after saving her from some robbers, he only allows her to take half the mask off, thus still shielding his eyes. This is made even more iconic by the fact he is swinging upside down.
With the current crop of DC and Marvel movies, too few modern superhero movies take their time to build up a scene such as this. The dramatic irony on hand here makes us feel for both characters, wanting them to really get together by the end. Shot in the rain — classic weather for kissing — this represented superhero movies at their most glorious and romantic, and already makes Spider-Man look like something from a bygone era.
8. The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes, 2004)
Why just kiss normally when you can kiss in the rain? From Four Weddings and a Funeral to Match Point to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, this use of pathetic fallacy is a staple of romantic cinema. Perhaps the best use of this conceit is from The Notebook.
Caught in the rain while boating on a lake, it causes them to alight onto the bank and start an argument. She says that she waited for seven years and he didn’t do anything before he explains that he actually wrote her 365(!) letters in the first year. From there he says it still isn’t over, and they kiss dramatically.
The Notebook has been unfairly criticised for being maudlin, but while this can be applied to some other adaptations of Nicholas Spark’s novels, this movie rises above the bait and actually delivers a genuine and stirring melodrama.
Directed by Nick Cassavetes, son of the infamous John Cassavetes, there is strong, realistic drama here, splendidly acted by both Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The kiss here is the central part of the movie, unafraid to go for those big lump-in-throat emotions and knocking it out of the park.
7. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
Sometimes the simplest movies are the best ones, and few have a simpler premise than Before Sunrise. It tells the story of Celine and Jesse, who meet on a train heading to Vienna and decide to spend the day together. It is a meeting of minds, whereby the two of them slowly fall in love due to each other’s intellect and emotional empathy.
It’s a reminder that what people really find attractive is the ability to articulate one’s desires and feelings in a concrete way. The city is beautiful, and they walk and talk, discussing everything from mortality to love to their relationships with their parents. Sooner or later, they end up taking a ride on the famous Wiener Riesenrad, a ferris wheel that is an iconic feature of the Viennese landscape. When they are up there, they kiss, framed against the slowly setting sun.
It is famous for also being the wheel where Harry and Holly meet up for the first time in The Third Man, making this moment especially satisfying for movie lovers. From there Before Sunrise only gets better, resulting in a deeply moving conclusion. Thankfully for us there are two sequels, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, which are also very good.
6. Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011)
Drive is a violent movie. It is also a film about loneliness, starring Ryan Gosling as a man who has built up walls of intense masculinity around himself as a means not to let anyone else in. Winding Refn uses a strong visual style to define his main character, rarely letting him speak unless he really has something important to say.
This is why the major kissing scene works so well; it is a perfect culmination of his character — both violent and alone, striving for something meaningful and sensitive while remaining outwardly tough.
It takes place in a lift. Filmed in slow motion, his first move after seeing the man next to him with a gun in his jacket pocket is to push his lover away into the corner. The lights change and they share a deep-throated and extraordinarily romantic kiss that lasts just under a minute. Almost straight afterwards, he grabs the thug and kicks his face into mush.
Both violence and romanticism combine in the space of three minutes, creating an unforgettable moment. Really the crux of the entire film, it remains a kiss that is hard to beat in the action genre.