Year in, year out, the big screen is never short of a new romcom or two. But away from the obvious romantic titles, the movies are full of other standout dating moments that make us laugh and cry for a multitude of reasons. So, without further ado, here’s a list of our favourite on-screen dates – some are meet cutes, some are breakups, some involve being in love with a phone – for your viewing pleasure. (We cannot be held responsible if the rest of your day is accompanied by a Woody Allen-esque narration.)
This article is sponsored by At Seven. Join free.
Before Sunrise – the listening booth
Frankly, we could submit this entire movie for consideration as Best Movie Date, being as it is a feature-length meet cute between Céline (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), two strangers on a train who gradually fall in love over the course of a long Vienna night. But it’s during this gorgeous little scene where the seeds of romance first start to blossom: browsing vinyl in a record shop, the pair squeeze into an intimate listening booth, and as Ruth Bloom’s Come Home warbles in the background, Céline and Jesse exchange a nervous smile here, an awkward glance there. The chemistry, made so much more powerful by what is left unsaid, fizzles like a Viennese spritzer. If only real-life dates were like this.
Wall-E – silence is golden
“Eeeeeve-aaaah.” Just when everyone’s favourite trash compactor gets the white bot to take notice of him, he gets stuck with the silent treatment. But never has a Pixar character been more chivalrous than Wall-E, putting the inanimate Eve’s safety before his own. Our favourite bit? The improvisational gondola ride through mucky waters. This series of dates may end up a little one-sided for Wall-E, but we all know it pays off in the end. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.
Annie Hall – subtitles on the balcony
Woody Allen’s peerless, timeless romantic comedy features plenty of dates – of varying success – between Allen’s Alvy and Diane Keaton’s Annie. (A fanciful encounter in a cinema queue is notably great.) But this balcony scene sticks out for its perfect incisiveness. Early in their relationship, as they sip drinks on a Manhattan rooftop, Alvy waffles pseudo-intellectualism and Annie responds self-deprecatingly; on-screen subtitles convey their real thoughts (“I wonder what she would look like naked?”). The foibles and insecurities of dating, on both sides of the table, have never been presented more honestly, or more wittily.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. – deconstructing the date
After initially rejecting Jacob’s (Ryan Gosling) advances at a local bar, Hannah (Emma Stone) soon finds herself back at the handsome stranger’s pad. Fascinated by the man who never struggles to take a woman home, Hannah sets out to deconstruct Jacob’s winning formula, only to discover that his secret weapon is Patrick Swayze. Though Baby Goose’s tried and tested method is made to sound borderline ridiculous by Hannah, it's the way she stands up to him that makes this the perfect date. Why? Because, although she may give in to the Dirty Dancing lift, Hannah has shown Jacob a woman who will actually require him to think.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Lucas Lee fight
Not many dates end in a fistfight which sees one of the combatants explode into a cloud of a thousand coins, but not many films are like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. What starts out as a chilled date in the park (“chilled as in cold!”, quips Michael Cera’s dorkish hero) ends with Scott battling Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and his team of leather-jacketed stunt men. The course of true love never ran smoothly, sure, but rarely do such courses involve a fight to the death.
Once – making sweet music
The entirety of John Carney’s 2007 Oscar winner is essentially one long date. The guy and girl at its heart just never admit it. Their first proper musical encounter in a Dublin music shop is where we first fall in love with the unnamed pair, and where we’re pretty sure they start to fall in love with each other, too. For us, it’s a joy to see these two musicians at work. For them, they realise they’ve just found musical solace from their rather broken lives. (Just look at Glen Hansard’s face when Markéta Irglová starts harmonising with him...)
Roman Holiday – the Spanish Steps
“Why don’t you take a little time for yourself? Live dangerously. Take the whole day!” When Gregory Peck makes you an offer like that, it’s hard to refuse. And when Audrey Hepburn says, “I’d like to walk in the rain... maybe some excitement...”, it is similarly very hard to flatly ignore the chance at some excitement with an icon like Hepburn. William Wyler’s Roman romcom is a star-cross’d sort of affair between a lofty princess and a lowly journalist, but the Eternal City effortlessly engenders an eternal entanglement. Bellissimo!
(500) Days Of Summer – living in IKEA
We’ve all been there. Wandering around IKEA, pretending to live in the various sections. Quirky duo Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) do just that in this movie date – though Tom is soon brought crashing back down to Earth when the lady of his dreams reminds him she’s not after anything serious. Way to crush his flatpack dreams, Summer. But let’s forget that for now, instead pretending we’re eating bald eagle in one of our two kitchens, just like this ultimately mismatched couple.
The Social Network – you don’t mess with Rooney Mara
It’s brutal, it’s ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ dialogue-wise, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best date scenes of all time. It’s an absolute pleasure watching Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara spar (it’s easy to see why the latter piqued David Fincher’s interest when it came to casting his Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), and although it’s not particularly comfortable for the pair at the table, it’s a showcase for all involved. Not least the guy in charge of the words these two spit: Aaron Sorkin. And, hey, being dumped by Erica didn’t end so badly for Zuckerberg in the end, did it?
Midnight In Paris – a walk in the rain
Owen Wilson effectively embarks on three romances during this latter-day Woody Allen classic: first with his philandering fiancée, Rachel McAdams; then, with a magical past-dwelling Marion Cotillard; and finally, the present day Léa Seydoux, with whom he shares a love of Cole Porter and Paris in the rain. The climactic stroll down the banks of the Seine could so easily be clichéd, but Wilson’s stumbling and fumbling – you’d expect nothing less from a Woody surrogate – makes it utterly charming.
Carrie – the prom
“It’s like being on Mars!” Ahh Carrie, it was all going so well. The golden-haired boy of your dreams asks you to the prom, you’ve been crowned Prom Queen, and you’ve finally stood up to your mother just so you could attend. Shame Chris had to mess it all up... But let’s focus on the positives before you got covered in pig’s blood, shall we? YOU WERE HAVING THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR LIFE, CARRIE.
Adventureland – Brennan gets a ride
Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg – truly, the Bogie and Bacall of the Millennial generation – first made on-screen googly-eyes at each other in Greg Mottola’s titanically-underrated teen comedy. Like some of the most powerful dates, it’s largely wordless. The pair bond over Hüsker Dü’s Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely blasting over a car radio, and clumsily discuss university plans over a swig of vodka, but you find the frisson from reading between the adolescent lines.
Silver Linings Playbook – Raisin Bran
The first of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s award-winning pair-ups, David O. Russell’s romantic drama finds the duo thrown together at rather dubious stages of their respective lives. From Tiffany’s folded arms, to Pat’s choice of Raisin Bran (“it can still be a date if you order Raisin Bran”), to the Halloween setting, this diner meetup is scrappy and completely unromantic. But it’s a meet-up of two people who need each other – and the moment we (and they) recognise the depths of their undeniable chemistry.
You’ve Got Mail – the coffee shop argument
Nora Ephron was the queen of romantic comedies, and You’ve Got Mail is, perhaps, the quintessence of the genre. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, bringing a bit of old school Hollywood glamour to an achingly modern template (Emails! Chatrooms! AOL!), indulge in a lively bit of Belligerent Sexual Tension during this memorable coffeehouse exchange. They’re spiteful and barbed but ultimately it doesn’t take a 56k modem to realise that these two are a match made in dial-up heaven.
Like Crazy – wordless infatuation
Go-karting, beach dates, dancing down the street: this might just be the perfect day for this crazy-in-love couple. Felicity Jones is the British student who falls for Anton Yelchin’s American in Drake Doremus’ 2011 romantic drama. Though Jake and Anna face much hardship throughout the film (not least when the latter is banned from the US after outstaying her visa), the moments where they’re not separated by thousands of miles and stretches of ocean are simple and undeniably beautiful.
10 Things I Hate About You – paintball
Few late '90s VHS collections went without this landmark teen favourite, which presented an alt-romance to the usual prom kings and queens of high school movies. The courtship of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles is an unconventional one: scrappy, antagonistic, predicated on a bet, and this date is as likeably messy as the rest of the movie – even if it ends, like a couple of Jane Austen lovers, with the two of them rolling around in the hay.
Pitch Perfect – a movie education
She’s fun, she’s musical, but she hasn’t seen seminal '80s classic The Breakfast Club. Unforgivable? Maybe. But this does give the very smitten Jesse (Skylar Astin) an opportunity to introduce Beca (Anna Kendrick) to said seminal '80s classic. The zingy dialogue and relaxed atmosphere – until Beca’s roommate barges in – combine to make the perfect low-key date for this particular, chilled-out Barden Bella. (Even if the two are definitely-still-only-friends-promise at the time of Judd Nelson’s airpunch.)
Blue Valentine – ukeleles and tap-dancing
Derek Cianfrance’s first rodeo with Ryan Gosling is a bona fide heartbreaker; and not just because of the smooth moves Baby Goose pulls on Michelle Williams at the start. Before proceedings get messy, the pair wander the New York streets together (Gosling and Williams went unscripted), falling in love and fooling around – the highlight of which has to be this infectious little ukelele number. Blue Valentine isn’t exactly date movie material, but its hopelessly romantic, optimistic parts are just as honest and touching as the segments that track this pair’s doomed marriage.
The Naked Gun – montage
The Naked Gun series is bursting with parodic romance (choice quote: “she had breasts that seemed to say, ‘Hey, look at these!’”), but the date montage in the first film might be its most brilliant example. Frank (Leslie Nielsen) and Jane (Priscilla Presley), having practiced safe sex with man-size condoms, embark on the date montage of all date montages: running in slow-motion on a beach; eating candy floss; getting matching tattoos; having a ketchup fight with a hotdog vendor; having a good old chuckle at Platoon – all, as we eventually learn, in the space of a day. Something tells us we’re into something good here.
Her – the beach
Even though Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) can’t see her, she makes him very, very happy. The ‘her’ in question is Theodore’s OS system, ‘Samantha’ (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This scene may be about Theo’s ex-wife for the most part, but the pair’s openness (again, this whole film could be viewed as one long affair) is what makes this so intimate. The most romantic part? It’s a tie between Samantha writing Theodore a song, and the way he lets Samantha’s camera peep out of his pocket so she can appreciate the view. Bless.