Do you have a favourite romantic movie moment? The type where your heart skips a beat at every fresh encounter, no matter how vividly the dialogue may be emblazoned onto your memory. From tales of forbidden adoration, to the enduring fantasy of ‘happily ever after’, romantic films fan the flames of our earliest and deepest desires. They are the fairytales that we once aspired to; they are the tall, dark, handsome strangers who we imagined would, one day, sweep us off our feet.
Kindling romance in the Capital this summer, London's Southbank Centre introduces Love At The Pictures – a three week season celebrating all things romantic. With a programme that begins with Michael Curtiz's seminal romantic drama Casablanca and concludes with David Lean's Brief Encounter – complete with a live orchestral accompaniment from the London Philharmonic Orchestra – we couldn't help but ponder on our favourite romantic moments from film. Here are the AnOther team's top ten.
1. Roman Holiday (1953)
The breakthrough performance of a then-22 year old Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday is a delightfully nostalgic depiction of holiday romance, all set against the idyllic backdrop of Rome's baroque architecture. Through Hepburn's character, a princess determined to escape the constraints of royal duty, an audience lives out a life of whirlwind romance and fleeting, yet by no means tepid, emotion.
2. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Heralded as the paradigm of 90s teen rom-coms, 10 Things I Hate About You succeeded in capturing the turbulence and unadulterated excitement of high school romances. Heath Ledger's performance as the wayward protagonist, Patrick Verona, not only cemented his credentials as a male lead, but imbued his smitten audience with prevailing fantasies of being serenaded with a chorus of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'.
3. Lady And The Tramp (1955)
It's the timeless theme of love conquering all obstacles of socio-economic background – the difference being that the romantic subjects are dogs. Set to a soundtrack of mandolins and 'bella notte', Disney's Lady and The Tramp conveys poignant human relationships in a way that somehow manages to transcend the boundaries of species. It also elevates a humble plate of spaghetti to being the most romantic meal of all time.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Generally considered to be the pinnacle of Michel Gondry's directorial career, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind documents the dizzying heights – "I'm just exactly where I want to be" – and heart-rending pitfalls of relationships, challenging the very premise of falling in and out of love. Captivating and provocative, it considers the cliché that 'it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all'.
5. Romeo and Juliet (1996)
"For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo." Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is the undisputed, original love story, and in 1996, when Baz Luhrmann reimagined it in a startling contemporary context, a modern audience was truly able to relate to the eponymous couple. Surely there can be nothing as poignant, as resolutely emotive, as the iconic fishtank scene, where no words are verbalised but hundreds are expressed.
6. Brief Encounter (1945)
Capturing the essence of a by-gone era of British reserve and silent gentility, David Lean's Brief Encounter is an understated, yet beguiling depiction of unspoken feelings. The emotional guardedness of each protagonist, is permeated by brief glimmers of exposed affection, made all the more profound and poignant by their scarcity.
7. Secretary (2002)
Secretary enters into the world of fetish and dominance and emerges with a love story that redefines romance. The inspired pairing of Maggie Gyllenhaal and 80s icon James Spader intertwined in a tale of self-harm and sadomasochism reaches a wedding dress-clad climax of the most unconventional kind.
8. Juno (2007)
After receiving a standing ovation at its premiere, Jason Reitman's Juno has since been cemented as a film of the modern generation. Its endearing and naïve depiction of romance is thoroughly grounded in reality, and the believability only goes to increase the poignancy of small but meaningful gestures. We particularly love the tic-tac scene.
9. Lost in Translation (2003)
True to form, Sofia Coppola overturns the traditional conventions of Hollywood genres – in this instance, encapsulating the deep, palpable chemistry of a platonic relationship. Physically chaste they may be, but Murray and Johansson's characters exude emotional magnetism through a series of existential musings, from which they find solace in mutual empathy.
10. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
It's the fairytale of a social pariah who, against all odds, wins the heart of the princess. However, in Tim Burton's fairytale, the only 'happy ever after' is the contentment of a memory. This makes it all the more poignant – a love story retold through the eyes of a grandmother to her grandchild. Her feelings transport her, and a captivated audience, back to her youth, to a time of dancing in the snow.
Love At The Pictures is at London's Southbank Centre from August 13.
Text by Abigail Gurney-Read