In honor of ‘Love Actually,’ the best over-the-top romantic gestures in movies

Eleven years ago, and in perfect timing with the upcoming holidays, a little ensemble movie called Love Actually came into our lives. The movie is totally and completely about love in ever sense of the word. As Hugh Grant narrates for us, “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” So true. The movie is full of all these little moments that remind us how good it feels to love, and be loved by others. It also shows us how fragile love can be, too. And, in that same breath, we have to remind ourselves that there’s probably no chance someone will ever show up at our door with cue cards to profess undying love without looking for anything in return. But it happens in Love Actually, painting a clear picture of just how over-the-top romance can be in movies.

But that’s what rom-coms are for, right? To keep our expectations unreasonably high and to turn potentially cheesy, embarrassing moments IRL, into legit, unabashed romantic vignettes worthy of a slow-clap by a crowd of observant strangers. Movie magic, I tell ya. Here are some other romantically grandiose moments in cinematic history (spoilers ahead!). Just don’t get too upset if none of these things ever happened to you in real life. We’ve never experienced them either, and frankly, that’s OK.

Say Anything

In what is maybe the original classic over-the-top moment, Lloyd (John Cusack) drives to Diane’s (Ione Skye) house and holds a boombox outside of her bedroom window. He’s blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” which is their song.  Maybe the scene is so great because I don’t think boomboxes have been sold for the last fifteen years. It’s a retro romantic gesture. Remember when mixtapes on cassettes were the way to show true love?

10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You is one of the smartest high school movies ever made, and maybe chalk it up to the fact that it’s got Shakespearean roots (since it was loosely inspired by Taming of the Shrew). Going through high school I think we all wanted that one love-struck moment to happen to us, whether it was in the cafeteria, or the hallways, or the football field for all to see, as Heath Ledger dashingly demonstrates. He sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” to Julia Stiles and his dance moves are pretty great, too.

Pretty Woman

Vivian (Julia Roberts) described her prince charming in Pretty Woman as “this knight.. . . on a white horse with these colors flying would come charging up and draw his sword. And I would wave. And he would climb up the tower and rescue me.” I doubt she ever expected Edward (the perfect leading man, Richard Gere) to pull up in his limo and scale her fire escape to whisk her away. It’s a touch much, considering how they met, and the whole limo thing is super ’80s. But when you combine it with a sweet Roxette-driven soundtrack and Julia Roberts’ general jubilance, it’s a little heart-melting.

The Notebook

Nowadays you can just text someone to ask them out. Back in the time of The Notebook, Noah (the one, the only Ryan Gosling) first commandeers the ferris wheel car that Allie (the adorbs Rachel McAdams) is sitting in, and when she appears disinterested in him, he hangs off the side of the ferris wheel until she agrees to go out with him. It’s a stunt that is worth the risk. Second runner up moment goes to when Noah built Allie her dream home. Le sigh. That would be nice.

Sweet Home Alabama

Smooth Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) surprises his girlfriend Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) and takes her into Tiffany’s after hours to pick out her own engagement ring. The store lights up, she freaks out for a few moments, and then Andrew says, “pick one.” And of course, Tiffany’s is super open to this whole romantic gesture, and not a little bit concerned about their piles of diamonds just laying around. Oh, movies, you silly thangs.

Beauty and The Beast

Belle and the Beast get off to a rocky start with their relationship, but thankfully he’s able to redeem himself in the sweetest way. (Yes, he’s a cartoon character and yes, we secretly love the big lug.) Beast knows Belle loves to read, and as they grow closer together he takes her into one of his “off limits” locations, which just happens to be a sprawling library and Belle can barely contain her excitement. That’s really how to win a girl over: a library full of books. Well played, cartoon beast.

The Graduate

Maybe not the most romantic movie ever, but The Graduate takes its ending way over the top. Ben (a young, utterly crushable Dustin Hoffman) has to stop the wedding of the woman he loves, Elaine (Katharine Ross). First, his car runs out of gas, so he has to run the rest of the way to the church. Then, he gets to the church and he’s locked out. After climbing up a side set of stairs, he makes it inside to only scream “ELAINE!” until she screams back “BEN!” It’s all swell and romantic when they run away together, until they’re on the bus, and you know, those expressions of dread creep over their faces.

Big Fish

The only way for Ed Bloom (Ewan McGregor) to get his future wife to marry him is to place a thousand daffodils outside her bedroom window. It works. Duh.

Never Been Kissed

Josie (Drew Barrymore) goes under-cover at a local high school, posing as a teenage student herself. It’s there that she falls for her English teacher, Sam (Michael Vartan), but nothing can happen because Josie is technically his student. After Josie is exposed, others feel betrayed by her, including Sam. Trying to make it up to him, Josie stands in the middle of the baseball field to wait for her first kiss — something she was denied since she wasn’t a “cool girl” back in high school. At the last second, Sam rushes the field and literally the entire town cheers. First kiss in front of a giant crowd of people? Nightmare IRL, dreamy in movie-land.

When Harry Met Sally

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are the perfect duo as Harry and Sally respectively. They’re best friends, and that’s all they are — very good friends. But, as Harry reminds us again and again throughout the movie, the sex always gets in the way. In the eleventh hour — literally, because it’s New Years Eve — Harry realizes that he’s in love with Sally, and runs across New York City to find her at a party, where she’s having a miserable time. He professes his love to her just as the clock strikes twelve. And the way he professes his love—with that detailed speech about all the things she does that are kind of ridiculous—is pretty much the best thing a dude has ever said. It’s slow-clap worthy, for sure.

(Images via here, here, and here.)

Filed Under