28 Famous Kisses Captured on Film
Romance is usually a private affair, but there have been many instances throughout history when a loving embrace between two people — whether real or fictional — became famous in the public sphere as well. The most enduring have been immortalized through film or photography, so today we can look back at them all and consider the many forms and meanings a simple kiss can take.
One of the first films ever screened commercially, "The Kiss" was directed by William Heise for inventor and early motion picture innovator Thomas Edison. The 18-second silent film depicts the first kiss shown on film, a nuzzle and subsequent peck on the lips that sparked outrage upon its premiere and led the Roman Catholic Church to cry out in favor of its censorship.
Still the most successful film in box office history when adjusted for inflation, the epic Civil War romance contains one of cinema's most famous kisses, when Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) seizes Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) in an embrace still depicted on most of the film's promotional materials. Despite its fame, this and other scenes presented as romantic throughout the film have troubling implications today for their lack of clear consent.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman starred as Rick and Ilsa in another of Hollywood's most enduring classics. Though divided by personal and moral allegiances in the early days of World War II, the former lovers reconnect for one of film history's most iconic smooches, preceded by one of the film's most famous lines: "Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time."
In Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, one sailor celebrated America's newly announced victory over Japan by grabbing and planting a kiss on a nearby woman in a white dress, both of whom remained unidentified until decades later. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped a shot of the strangers apparently overcome with patriotic relief, which was published a week later in Life magazine and became emblematic of the conclusion of World War II.
Short lip-locks had become acceptable in Hollywood by 1946, but kisses longer than three seconds and "scenes of passion" remained taboo and prohibited by the Hays Code until 1968. Director Alfred Hitchcock got around the rule for his romantic spy thriller by having stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman exchange kisses between breathy, close-up dialogue for the duration of a two-and-a-half-minute unbroken shot.
The film version of "From Here to Eternity" toned down its source material but still titillated audiences for the famous scene in which Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr's characters share an adulterous embrace as the Pacific tide rolls up around them. Between the music, swimsuits, and steamy imagery, it was about as sexually explicit as Hollywood was willing to get at the time. The scene has been parodied numerous times since in TV and films such as "Shrek" and "Airplane!"
In another kissing scene that's been parodied ad infinitum, the titular star-crossed Disney canines slurp from a plate of spaghetti until one noodle draws them closer for an innocent, accidental smooch. Though Walt Disney was initially skeptical it could be pulled off, today the scene is arguably more famous than the film itself.
Film history is lousy with stars kissing in the rain, but this is arguably the original, when tantalizing socialite Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) and subdued writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) finally seal their love outside the cab waiting to take Holly to Brazil. The film remains one of film's most influential and well-regarded romances.
Made and released near the height of America's Civil Rights movement, "A Patch of Blue" follows the forbidden romance between a blind white teenager (Elizabeth Hartman) and a black man (Sidney Poitier). It became the first film to show a black man and white woman kissing, in a scene that was censored from the film's release in several of the Southern United States.
"The Kiss of Life" by Rocco Morabito captures the moment when power line worker J.D. Thompson performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on coworker Gilbert Champion while the two were suspended in mid-air. Seconds after the photo was taken, Champion was revived and Thompson shouted "He's breathing!"
Cited as the first interracial kiss shown on U.S. television, singer Sammy Davis Jr. gave show host Nancy Sinatra an affectionate peck on the cheek to end their performance of "What'd I Say." Though it seems spontaneous, the kiss was painstakingly planned by Sinatra, who made sure to shoot late in the day so producers couldn't ask for a retake without the kiss.
Only months later, U.S. audiences saw one of the medium's first interracial kisses of passion in a scripted series — maybe the most famous of them all. "Plato's Stepchildren" shows the white Captain Kirk (William Shatner) kissing Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) while controlled by telekinesis, avoiding implications of romance that might have stirred up controversy.
Shortly after becoming the first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong didn't let quarantine stop him from expressing affection for his children. This photo shows the Apollo 11 astronaut blowing a kiss to his two sons from a sealed trailer on July 27, 1969, the third day of his 21-day quarantine upon returning from space.
Following the love triangle of a sculptor played by Murray Head, this film by director John Schlesinger was progressive for its era for showing gay characters as normal and well-adjusted rather than deviant and self-loathing. The kiss between Head and Peter Finch was the first between two male actors shown in mainstream American film.
Among the least romantic kisses in film history must be this one Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) gives to his brother Fredo (John Cazale) after his betrayal. This scene of Michael marking his brother for death has also been parodied numerous times and helped make the mafioso's "kiss of death" a common crime movie trope.
Musician and former Beatle John Lennon was murdered mere hours after taking this revealing cover photo for Rolling Stone with his spouse Yoko Ono, consistently ranked as one of the most iconic magazine covers of all time. "This is it," Lennon said upon seeing the shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz. "This is our relationship." The cover ran Jan. 22, 1981, less than two months after Lennon's murder.
Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker celebrated the German Democratic Republic's 30th anniversary with what's known as the "socialist fraternal kiss," exchanged as a demonstration of affection between Eastern Bloc statesmen. This instance was immortalized in a piece of protest art on the Berlin Wall painted by artist Dmitri Vrubel with the caption, "God help me to survive this deadly love affair."
The wedding of Prince Charles to Princess Diana reached a global TV audience of 750 million, and its most iconic moment was the royal couple's kiss, which helped crystallize a public obsession with the couple while starting a tradition of on-camera kisses at subsequent royal weddings.
When it comes to scripted TV, there's no onscreen couple more influential than Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long), whose will they-won't they relationship started the template sitcoms have followed since. By contriving ways to keep the two apart, the writers made their passionate first kiss in the first season finale "Showdown" count all the more.
Second only to Sam and Diane, the troubled romance of Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) provided a narrative throughline for the popular, otherwise plotless sitcom, especially in its early seasons. Their most memorable embrace remained their very first, when they kissed after-hours at Central Perk in the second season episode "The One Where Ross Finds Out."
Like "Gone with the Wind" decades before, "Titanic" combined tragic romance and historical drama to become a top-grossing film. The kiss on deck between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) as well as the steamy love scene to follow became a cultural hallmark and helped propel the careers of two of the 21st century's biggest stars.
You know a kissing scene makes a cultural impact when it's parodied to oblivion in the years following, as was the case with this upside-down smooch between Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) from Sam Raimi's original "Spider-Man" film.
Provocateur pop stars Britney Spears and Madonna made headlines and sparked controversy by making out onstage at MTV's Video Music Awards. Madonna locked lips with her other fellow performer Christina Aguilera for a shorter time, pushing buttons and briefly dominating the press cycle with the display of female sexuality.
After "Breakfast at Tiffany's," this may well win runner-up for cinema's best scene of kissing in the rain. The image of stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in a drenched embrace features prominently on the movie's DVD and Blu-ray art and has been listed frequently as one of the most memorable kisses in all of film.
Director Ang Lee reached a milestone in mainstream gay cinema by depicting the conflicted love between Wyoming cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) with the passion of a heterosexual romance like "Titanic." Though the film missed out on the Academy Award for Best Picture, Ledger and Gyllenhaal's on-screen embrace was enough to score the MTV VMA for Best Kiss.
A kiss isn't always pleasant, especially when it lasts for longer than two days. Thai natives Ekkachai Tiranarat and Laksana Tiranarat locked lips for a world record 58 hours, 35 minutes, and 58 seconds during a Ripley's Believe It or Not! event for Valentine's Day in Pattaya, Thailand. They won $3,300 in cash and two diamond rings.
Richard Dowling and Cormac Gollogly became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in the Republic of Ireland on Nov. 17, 2015, about 24 hours after the act was legalized in the predominantly Catholic nation. The kiss that sealed their union was captured on film and printed in international newspapers.
Though polling fourth among Democrats in the primary race for governor of Maryland, Richard Madaleno aimed at boosting his profile with a firmly anti-Trump campaign ad aired during "Fox & Friends" the morning of June 7. It concludes with Madaleno kissing husband Mark Hodge to "infuriate" the president. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, this is the first political ad to feature a candidate kissing their same-sex partner.
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