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It's been a decade dominated by lonely superheroes and robots beating each other up, and when movies were aimed at women craving romance, they usually turned out more like Bride Wars than My Best Friend's Wedding. But over the last 10 years, it hasn't been the typical romantic comedies that got romance right; it was the oddball comedies, the foreign romps, even the tragic Oscar nominees that managed to pair up two actors, have them stare at each other for a while, and somehow conjure the magic of love.
It seems kind of crazy to try and list the best romantic scenes of the decade, because the whole thing is so subjective from the get-go. If I consider one scene more moving than another because it reminds me of a breakup I went through, does that make it better for everyone? But every top 10 list is subjective, of course, and this one just wears it honestly. So there. The movies on this list might not be the most romantic, or even the best, but each of them captured something great about love. Here are my 10 favorites.
"You Make My Dreams Come True."
This is not a love story, as the movie says from the beginning, and most of the romantic scenes between Tom and Summer are tinged with the knowledge that, no matter how happy they think they are, they're not all that good for each other. But the morning after Tom first sleeps with summer, when he's so thrilled with himself he sees Han Solo in his reflection and so smitten with her that everyone he sees is wearing her signature blue, he can't do anything but dance about it. What feels like that but love?
Jamie proposes to Aurelia.
This movie is probably overstuffed with romantic moments, people running to the airport and baring their souls and all that, but something about the language barrier and Colin Firth's awkward proclamations makes his mangled Portuguese proposal both touching and hilarious. It's a nice spin on the public proposal where everyone claps in the end, because the people in the restaurant seem as glad to see Jamie and Aurelia together as they are to get this crazy Englishman out of their restaurant. "I know I seems an insane person - because I hardly knows you - but sometimes things are so transparency, they don't need evidential proof."
Nino arrives at Amelie's apartment.
In a movie full of romantic gimmicks and wild sprints across the city, it's a simple meeting of two people who, until this moment, have been too afraid to face each other. But it's not just your typical energetic embrace; Amelie takes the time to kiss Nino, on each cheek and on the forehead, and waits for him to do the same before she kisses him properly. No games, no photo scraps or crazy fantasies, just two grown-ups who have finally found each other.
The pool murder.
Murder is pretty much never romantic, but when you're an adolescent boy in love with an ancient vampire, the rules are out the door to begin with. Oskar spends the entire film struggling with bullies at school as well as his feelings for Eli, and just when he thinks that Eli has left him for good, we see-- in one beautiful extended shot-- just how much mayhem she can cause in his name. Immediately afterwards we see the two of them traveling together on a train in the only way possible, heading off to an uncertain future-- but one where we know Eli will protect Oskar, and Oskar the same for Eli.
"Come What May."
It's not the best song in the movie or the most fun to watch, but it's got such emotional resonance for coming in the sweet middle of the movie, when Christian and Satine are in the middle of preparing their show and are convinced nothing can get in their way. Of course, we all know better, which make their stolen kisses behind the scenes all the more precious. The song is even better for the fact that Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor aren't really singers, their vocal ranges stretching as far as possible to capture that yearning energy of new love.
Their relationship has been marked by things unsaid and things misunderstood, but when it finally comes time for Bob to tell Charlotte everything, we're left out of the conversation. The busy Japanese streets that have marked the entire film surround the two of them like a river, two people paused in the middle for a moment, appreciating the change they've made in each others lives for the last time. Speculate all you like about what he said; I'd rather it be a secret.
The fake breakup.
Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow have spent their entire tentative relationship promising each other that they won't be cheaters like their spouses. But even as they've been keeping their relationship strictly platonic, they've been falling in love, and they admit as much to each other when they stand together in a dark, rainy alley and practice breaking up with each other. But Mrs. Chan can't stand it, and as she sobs into his arms, we see for the first time just how deep their love has grown as well as how devastating it will be for them to separate for good.
Jack and Ennis stand by the fire.
During their final fight, right after the immortal "I wish I knew how to quit you," Jack flashes back to a moment during their first summer on the mountain, when Ennis hugged him from behind and simply held him there. As the short story writer Annie Proulx put it, "that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives." Nothing was lost in Ang Lee's translation.
As the ship's captain learns about all the potential wonders of earth, and two passengers look another human in the eye for the first time in years, Wall-E and Eve frolic outside the Axiom's windows, showing them the purest robot form of love. She's just decided she doesn't want to go on without him, and he, for the first time, has seen his devotion reciprocated. No human actors have ever looked this joyful onscreen.
Joel and Clementine under the sheets.
So much of Joel and Clementine's relationship was about neediness-- her need for him to prop her up, his need for her to open him up-- and this scene is no exception. What makes it beautiful, though, is it's a rare moment in which these two people, guarded in even their most romantic moments, open up to each other; she confesses she considered herself ugly as a child, and he does what he can to comfort her, kissing her and tell her she's pretty. It's a moment so perfect that Joel, in the midst of having his memories erased, begs to just keep this one.
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