One of the final lines of one my favorite movies is, “Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” My love of The Princess Bride (1987) is largely uncritical and unquestioning, and I’m pretty happy to keep it that way. It is a shamelessly romantic kiss in a surprisingly witty film, and sometimes I’m in a shamelessly romantic mood.
That being said, sometimes the Hollywood kiss bores me. It’s so often a handsome man kissing a beautiful woman. Both are young, both are white, and both are traditionally good looking. It does make a pretty picture, easy to light, easy to photograph and so familiar that the audience knows how they should feel.
Still, it doesn’t reflect my life or my experiences. I am not white or blond or 20 anymore or traditionally beautiful. Nor am I interested in a kiss that symbolizes eternal monogamous love. So here is a list of kisses from fantastic films I love, films that don’t follow that very familiar very dominant narrative. The Princess Bride was #1. So, on to #2.
I still remember the first time I saw this kiss. It’s not just that it’s two men locking lips. It’s not even that it is two fantastic gender bending characters locking lips, one explicitly bi and inspired by David Bowie (note Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s blue eye shadow). I love that the kiss is treated as wildly romantic, not a novelty. In the middle of a surreal press conference/circus, this kiss is shown in extreme closeup, and the soundtrack is completely silent. It draws you in and rivals even The Princess Bride.
I know this is a list of kisses, and the kiss is great, but let’s just take a moment to contemplate the amazingness of this tango between Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd. Although this dance is meant to tease the onlookers, I love the humor that these two women bring to this dance. Yes, it is intense and steamy, but they also seem to be having so much fun. The way that they intentionally tease the audience, but are still clearly very attracted to each other makes it so much fun to watch. I also love how the film embraces Frida Kahlo’s bisexuality and the consensual non monogamy that she practices with her hubby Diego Rivera.
My Beautiful Laundrette is one of my all time favorite movies actually. The chemistry between Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke is incredible. The movie successfully portrays an incredibly nuanced romance between the two leads. Honestly. there are more than a few excellent moments between these too so it was kind of hard to chose just one.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is one of my favorite German movies. It’s about a Moroccan guest worker and a German widow. Their age difference, his race, and his foreignness all have her family and friends in an uproar. His friends are also confused how he could be interested in a woman who is not conventionally considered sexy. Throughout the film, they dance together in a local bar. The dance may not be flashy or particularly graceful, but it shows their tenderness and deep love for each other.
This year brought us a wonderful new adaptation of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith set in 1930s Korea. In terms of strict and repressive cultures, it’s a fantastic fill-in for Victorian England. Also, if you like absolutely gorgeous films, do yourself a favor and watch this. The love between the two is wonderful, and the film does a great job expressing the longing they feel for each other.
Harold and Maude might be the ultimate December May film romance. Maude is a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I still love so much about this couple.Although it is in part played for comedy, their relationship is also surprisingly sweet. If you ever find yourself sick of watching 55-year-old men wooing 25-year-old starlets in Hollywood films, refresh yourself with Harold and Maude.
But I’m a Cheerleader is a classic for a reason. This was one of the first movies I saw about queer women. The fact that it was also happy made it even more remarkable to me. Yes, the depictions of conversion therapy are very goofy and campy, and, yes, the film uses any number of stereotypes, but it’s a movie that always makes me smile. And at its core, there are some very sweet love stories.
Boys Don’t Cry is a hard one for me. This film is not without it’s issues, but its wide success makes it worth mentioning. There are other films that treated the issues explored in Boys Don’t Cry with more subtlety, but the fact that so many people saw this one gives it power. In the end, it is a wrenching and beautiful film that is well worth watching.
Fire is an oddly quiet and lovely love story between two sisters-in-law in India. Radha and Sita slowly discover the attraction and love while trapped in stifling marriages. It was one of the first mainstream Indian films to portray same sex love, and it’s still very watchable today.
We all know what the dominant Hollywood narrative romance looks like. It can be compelling and wonderful, but it can also get old really fast. I just gave you a few of my favorite alternatives, but I’d love to hear from you. What are some amazing kisses that don’t follow the traditional Hollywood narrative?
Talia Squires is the editor in chief for bi.org. Talia has a degree in German Literature from Bryn Mawr College and a Master’s in Critical Studies from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She’s obsessed with good food, fantastic wine, and trashy television. She lives in LA with her husband and fluffy Lhasa Apso.