It’s a tale as old as time, or at least the VCR: the way into a date’s pants is often on a couch, at home, watching a film that has been selected for its chemistry-sparking, pants-loosening potential. Selecting that film has traditionally been a stressful process. No longer! Here are enough to last you into your third marriage. As a bonus, we chose one scene in each movie that provides an ideal segue into your date’s personal space.
50. Bringing Up Baby
Are you and your date totally wrong for each other? Did you meet under the most awkward circumstances imaginable? Perfect! Bringing Up Baby is your movie. Often referred to as the quintessential screwball comedy, this Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant vehicle tells the story of a blundering Connecticut society girl who loses a leopard (yes, a leopard) and coerces a strait-laced paleontologist into helping her find it. Everything goes hopelessly wrong, and they fall in love in spite (or because of) it all.
Best scene to make a move: After the pair falls in a river, they camp out by the side of a hill discuss their predicament while Hepburn’s character accidentally lights Grant’s socks on fire. For the first time, it becomes clear how much fun they’re actually having. — Gwynne Watkins
49. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
It concerns a morbidly obese mother, a mentally handicapped younger brother and a desperate middle-aged housewife. But there’s something so fresh and simple about Johnny Depp and Juliette Lewis’s summer romance (she gets stuck in town with her grandmother after the truck pulling their motor home breaks down), that Gilbert Grape‘s other elements are overshadowed.
Best scene to make a move: Before the darker scenes involving Gilbert’s mother and the family home. Check back at the end, though; it has a hopefulness and simplicity that shouldn’t be missed. — Kristin Gangwer
48. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
For all their goofiness and length, there’s something hot about Bollywood movies. Maybe it’s their total lack of irony — if a Bollywood character decides to declare his love, you can bet he’s going to do it on a cliff, in the rain, on the eve of his beloved’s wedding — or maybe it’s just the scantily clad dance numbers. Regardless, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a great one. It’s the story of love triangle between three college students: big man on campus Rahul, sexy new kid Tina and tomboy Anjali. Rahul marries Tina, who then dies in childbirth. Eight years later, Rahul and Tina’s daughter finds a letter from her deceased mother, urging her to re-unite her father with Anjali. Convoluted, yes, but very fun and unabashedly romantic.
Best scene to make a move: The title song (translation: “Something is Happening”), a breathless fantasy sequence in which each character stands against a lush mountain landscape and sings about falling in love. — GW
47. Casino Royale
When I went on a date to see Casino Royale, I ‘d been watching nothing but black-and-white movies on TMC for months. I am a big fan of old movies, but it takes a hardcore action film to remind you what’s great about big screens, America and conventional heterosexual relationships. During the first chase scene, I gasped audibly as Daniel Craig and the bad guy jumped around a construction site way in the air. They burst through walls! They jumped from beam to beam! They almost fell to their deaths! I had every summer-blockbuster press-0quote reaction: my pulse raced, my heart pounded, my jaw dropped. And when it was over and our hero was safe(ish) on the ground after blowing up the embassy, I felt the whole audience relax with this realization: No one in that theater was going home alone. And Daniel Craig hadn’t even gotten naked yet!
Best scene to make a move: Every time Daniel Craig takes his shirt off. — Ada Calhoun
46. Edward Scissorhands
Possibly too sad to be effective, but if you and your date are tender sorts, you may be drawn together by sharing the heartbreak. Edward’s vulnerability is so palpable that even the funny scenes have a clenched-throat quality. Of all Tim Burton’s broken protagonists, Edward makes the most poignant metaphor for arrested adolescence; he is half-finished, and can only injure the people he wants to get close to. When Winona Ryder asks him to hold her, he only murmurs, “I can’t…” Sniffle. Anyone with any left-over high-school romanticism will crawl straight into your arms.
Best scene to make a move: The ice-sculpture scene. — PS
The ultimate high-school black comedy, Heathers is a must-see for anyone born post 1970, and, speaking from experience, can be watched upwards of twenty times without getting old. A sixteen-year-old Winona Ryder plays Veronica, the fourth member of a vicious clique whose other members are all named Heather (one of whom is played by Shannon Doherty). Veronica starts dating J.D., an outsider who tricks her into killing the popular kids and making it look like suicide, spawning a national suicide craze.
Best scene to make a move: Two words: strip croquet. — Sarah Harrison
The scary movie is quintessential date fodder, but it’s a path you must tread lightly, lest you stray into the too weird or too gory. You want a creep-fest, but you also want camp, both in equal measure and both in earnest. Poltergeist meets the challenge by providing occasional “BOO!” scares that will make you jump into each other’s arms, while also making you laugh with its dated special effects (see: tree trying to eat son of Craig T. Nelson) and its pristine ’80s Spielbergisms (see: Jobeth Williams wheeling the television out of the family’s motel room at the end of the movie).
Best scene to make a move: Roughly twenty minutes into the film, when Jobeth Williams turns around to find all of her chairs arranged precariously on her kitchen table. Any couple, anywhere, will inch just a little closer together on the couch from the raw creepiness. — John Constantine
43. Big Trouble in Little China
There’s no one thing that makes Big Trouble in Little China a perfect date movie. It’s an amalgam of little eccentricities that manage to bring a budding couple close together and closer to hopping in the sack. Take the art on the DVD case the painted caricatures of Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall, positioned over the looming, ridiculous image of James Hong, just beg for a coy witticism to pass between two people who can’t stop touching each other, as they stroll through Blockbuster trying to pick something out they can ignore on the couch. It’s entertaining, nostalgic and silly.
Best scene to make a move: Kurt Russell drives off into the night at the end of the movie, barking across a CB radio, and you and your date stop making out for five seconds to think, “Geez, it’s done already?” — JC
42. The Terminator
With an economy unmatched by its bigger budget sequels, James Cameron’s first movie (unless you count Piranha II: The Spawning) delivers a lot of tension and a surprising amount of romance. Michael Biehn is one of the most underused stars of recent decades, and his mixture of toughness, vulnerability and dedication to saving Sarah Conner’s life (“I came across time for you”) is sure to touch both genders in their no-no spots. In fact, I had a girlfriend once who watched this explosion-packed, low-budget action spectacular with much enthusiasm, then turned to me as the credits rolled with a shit-eating grin and remarked, “My favorite part was when he said he loved her.”
Best scene to make a move: You may have to save your move for the end — even the sex scene poses the threat of intervention by gun-toting Austrian robot.— PS
41. Out of Sight
I always thought director Steven Soderbergh was slumming with this Elmore Leonard caper, but there are moments when his true genius shines. Case in point: A seduction scene between Jennifer Lopez’s cop and George Clooney’s smooth criminal that cuts back and forth between a bar conversation and a bedroom tryst. The sequence is choppy with cuts and freezes that feel true to the exhilaration and dizziness of a midnight romp. The movie is cute, but that scene is sizzling.
Best scene to make a move: When the cop and the robber first meet for drinks. — Sarah Hepola
This cult-hit spelling-bee documentary makes one feel good about the world and thereby warmly disposed to one’s date — who you may well find yourself realizing is, like the film’s charming stars, endearingly eccentric rather than nerdy and weird. The movie is almost tailor-made as a prompt to talk about your childhood, your family, your geekiest ambitions. Bonus: if your date doesn’t like the bonkers ADD boy, you know he or she is not worthy of your attention.
Best time to make a move: At the end, after the final-round catharsis. — AC
39. The Triplets of Belleville
Was there ever a more adorable film about cycling? Besides Rad, I mean. The story of the old woman determined to save her Tour de France-competitor grandson from the clutches of the French mafia can lead to some pretty sweet emo sex. (Unless your date has a calves fetish, in which case this movie will function as straight-up animated porn.) But the best thing about The Triplets of Belleville is there’s no dialogue, so when you start making out halfway through, it’s not like making out during Speed, for instance, where you have to awkwardly try to ignore Keanu Reeves’ disembodied voice in the room with you (“Cans! They were just cans!”).
Best scene to make a move: During the first swanky, down-beat musical performance by the triplets. — Will Doig
38. Run Lola Run
I just watched this movie with a date the other night, who agreed with me on two things: anarchy-chic fashion is due for a comeback, and Franka Potente should be made to run everywhere she goes at all times. Saving her boyfriend from certain doom, she makes commitment look terribly sexy — you know they’ll still be having incredible sex on a nightly basis when they’re old and grey. And while the bounce factor should be an issue in a film featuring ninety minutes of running in a tank top, Potente’s breast-management is handled with German engineering — they’re not lewdly flopping about, but she’s not bound in a straightjacket either.
Best scene to make a move: When Lola decides to take the gun from Manni and help him rob the supermarket to get the money he owes his debtors. — WD
37. Kicking and Screaming
Arriving amidst a wave of Gen-X-type slacker comedies, Kicking and Screaming was largely dismissed upon its 1995 release, but retrospect shows it to be far more insightful than Reality Bites and its kin. Whereas Reality Bites, Empire Records et. al., were all caught up in how cool it was to be ironically disaffected, Kicking and Screaming was about the pain of ironic disaffectation; about how sad it is to be unable to voice your sincere feelings in anything but ironic terms. When Jane leaves Grover to move to Prague, he can only fume through comedy: “Prague! You’ll come back a bug!” Most of the film concerns Grover’s bitterness, and the matching aimlessness of his friends (“I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now.”), but flashbacks reveal the opening moments of his relationship with Jane, and they’re every bit as tender, delicate, funny and sweet as the rest of the film is sharp.
Best scene to make a move: Wait for it. — PS
36. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
A truly unique film, in that a) it’s a rock musical, and b) it’s actually good. Strike that — it’s fantastic. We still don’t quite understand the mysterious creative alchemy that separates John Cameron Mitchell’s breakthrough from Rent and all the other Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-with-more-guitars musicals bringing the masses an understanding of bohemia, but whatever it is, it works.
Best scene to make a move: Early on, during the swelling, romantic “The Origin of Love.” — PS
35. Star Wars
Warning: this one only works if your date watched it 500 times as a kid. Those who watch Star Wars for the first time as adults are usually bewildered; it is a movie that has been survived by more hype than it can ever live up to. But for those of us who were raised on it, Star Wars is the rare movie that has it all: it’s a science fiction-Western-adventure story about a teenager who’s called to save the universe from an evil empire with the help of a motley rebel crew.
Best scene to make a move: The triumphant celebration at the end, when Luke has blown up the Death Star and all the characters are hugging. Most of the sexual tension in this film is corrupted in retrospect by the knowledge that Luke and Leia are siblings. — GW
34. Annie Hall
This obvious choice is also a perverse one, since it’s one long relationship post-mortem. It’s also hilarious, sincere and joyful; very much worth the risk, since it could well set a valuable precedent of honesty in your relationship. Besides, you need the eggs.
Best scene to make a move: The lobster scene. — PS
33. The Science of Sleep
I once dated a boy because he was different from all the other boys — vulnerable, sad, delicate. I fell in love with the idea of helping this boy, assuaging his troubled mind. But I soon learned that thinking you can cure someone who is fundamentally damaged simply by becoming their steady, affectionate companion is arrogant and naïve. The Science of Sleep knows this, and the conclusions it draws about dating crazy people aren’t exactly sexually stimulating. But just like the best date movies — Annie Hall, Before Sunrise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — we love it for its honesty.
Best scene to make a move: As Stephanie discovers that Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) has implanted a motor in her toy horse, allowing it to gallop. — WD
32. Urban Cowboy
This one has all the trappings of a stellar date movie: country accents, cowgirls and mechanical bulls. John Travolta and Debra Winger star as Bud and Sissy, two young Texans who meet at Gilley’s Club, the local bar, and marry. They proceed to fight, ride the bull (also at Gilley’s Club) and fight some more.
Best scene to make a move: Everyone knows that Bud and Sissy really belong together, so make your move during the middle of the movie, when they’re fighting and fucking other people. Then, you can come up for air during the final bull-riding scene and heart-warming reconciliation. — S. Hepola
31. His Girl Friday
Revisiting the journalism comedy His Girl Friday can be strange; you always remember the banter and forget the dark plot about a man wrongly accused of murder. But then, it’s really the banter that makes the film; as far as screwball, rapid-fire chemistry, Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant are tough to beat (“This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley !” “It’s the other way around.” “Don’t get technical at a time like this!”)
Best scene to make your move: Any single smooch comes at the risk of missing a dozen zingers, so wait for a break. — PS
30. Rear Window
Hitchcock indulged his romantic side from time to time, and the playful courtship between young socialite Grace Kelly and seen-it-all photographer Jimmy Stewart adds a buoyant electricity to this tense thriller. Stewart’s character is wheelchair-bound and occupies himself by spying on his building’s other residents from his window. When he sees something suspicious, he and his fiancee start playing amateur sleuth — only to find themselves at the mercy of an actual murderer.
Best scene to make a move: The scene where Grace Kelly begins casually unpacking her suitcase in front of Jimmy Stewart, holding up her night clothes so very nonchalantly, telling him exactly what she plans on doing to him later that night without saying a word. — GW
29. High Fidelity
John Cusack atones for making other dudes look schlubby in contrast to Lloyd Dobler. His Rob Gordon makes the rest of us look good. As he himself notes, he’s a fuckin’ asshole, though not without a certain charm. Besides that credit, High Fidelity is also the rare Hollywood rom-com that’s honest about long-term commitment. Rob’s proposal to Laura should be bronzed.
Best scene to make a move: “Most of the Time.” — PS
28. Brokeback Mountain
Romeo and Juliet leaves us flat. It’s just too dated, too bourgeois. But Brokeback Mountain, the story of two lovers who stand together against the hostility and ignorance of the whole world (between fishing trips), will give even the most heterosexual date the urge to write silly romantic poetry. Plus, Jake Gyllenhaal pulls off a moustache against all odds, which will make your date’s ludicrous hair or accessories seem sort of okay.
Best scene to make a move: When Ennis and Jack punch each other goodbye — in the face — right before they part ways for four years. — WD
My girlfriend had just broken up with me, and I was stuck in Paris when I was supposed to be visiting her in Spain. The city’s innumerable beautiful women caused me six degrees of pain, and the girl in the hostel who I asked to the movies was shipping back to Argentina before the next showtime, so I ended up seeing the truly romantic Sabrina all by myself, at the back of a little arthouse near the Sorbonne. (The girl at the counter was gorgeous too, incidentally, but I figured she’d already seen it). As for the film, it’s Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn and a grumpy Humphrey Bogart, all at the peaks of their power. Needless to say, I barely kept it together, but looking back, I’m glad I went.
Best scene to make a move: The last scene. — Peter Smith
26. An Officer and a Gentleman
A young Richard Gere smolders as rebellious Zack Mayo, a naval aviation officer candidate, in An Officer and a Gentleman. Mayo and his naval buddy Sid Worley waste no time in bedding two local factory workers, Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger) and Lynette Pomeroy. The ladies are looking for a way to escape their hometown, and can think of no better way than becoming “aviator wives.” Drama ensues for both couples; while only sadness is in store for Sid and Lynette, romance is in store for Mayo and Paula.
Best scene to make a move: There’s no better time than the final scene, as Mayo carries Paula out of the factory where she works, toward their new life together. It’s foolproof: men in uniform put everyone in the mood. — KG
25. Singing in the Rain
This giddy musical comedy tells the story of two beloved silent-film stars, played by Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen, who are struggling with the transition to “talkies” — struggling, because Jean Hagen’s character has a speaking voice that could shatter glass. When Kelly’s character falls in love with a sweet-voiced chorus girl, played by Debbie Reynolds, an ingenious solution presents itself. The film is practically a montage of memorable moments, but Gene Kelly dancing in the gutters during a rainstorm may be the finest expression of unadulterated joy ever captured on film. Who hasn’t woken up the morning after getting laid and felt like swinging on a lamppost?
Best scene to make a move: To romance a reluctant Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly brings her to an empty soundstage, turns on a spotlight and a wind machine, and serenades her with “You Were Meant For Me.” — GW
24. The Descent
How many groups of spelunking hot women do you know? Probably none! To remedy this, watch The Descent, one of the best horror movies in recent memory. Six women get trapped in an uncharted cave populated by “crawlers,” sallow human-like creatures that kill. It’ll make you scream — a good tension-reliever. You’ll want to squeeze someone’s hand or arm during the scariest parts, which could happen spontaneously, or at least look like it did.
Best scene to make a move: After the cave collapses and the women realize they’re stuck. It’s early enough that you won’t miss any of the crawler-action and the movie is terrifying enough that you won’t want to let go once you’re holding on to someone, so you’ll get to stay entwined for at least a few more minutes. — S. Hepola
This is the romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies. Why? At every turn, the smart, sensible characters tell the sentimental, lovestruck characters they’re acting like idiots — then sleep with them anyway. Cher plays Loretta, a middle-aged but still smokin’-hot woman who believes she’ll never find true love because she has “bad luck,” as evidenced by the fact that her first husband got hit by a bus. She agrees to marry boring Danny Aiello because she’s eminently practical and knows no one better will come along. Then, when she’s contacting family members before the wedding, she meets her future brother-in-law — the sweaty, tortured, Puccini-obsessed Ronny, played by Nicolas Cage — and falls hopelessly, inconveniently in love.
Best scene to make a move: When Loretta tells Ronny that she can’t see him anymore. As snow begins to fall around them, Ronny tells her: “Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice — it ruins everything.” Then he tells her she’s going to sleep with him, and she does. — GW
22. The Hustler
For sheer macho swagger, it’s hard to beat Paul Newman wielding a cue stick and a cigarette. George Clooney wishes he were this charming. The Hustler is a perfect combination of macho poolhall debauchery and love story, though it all ends tragically. Newman is the classic antihero: Men want to be him, and frankly, women wish men could be him, too.
Best scene to make a move: Any poolhall scene. While they set up the shot, make yours. — S. Hepola
21. Me and You and Everyone We Know
You have to love a movie that reminds you there’s someone out there for everyone. When cab driver and video artist Christine (Miranda July), first meets shoe salesman Richard (John Hawkes), you’ll be so grateful to be with your date (and not either of them), you won’t be able to resist making a move. That’s the perfect time, too, because you don’t want to miss some of the later, funnier scenes involving Richard’s two sons, two neighborhood girls and some very unusual cybersex. — KG
Woody Allen’s romantic masterwork (no, it wasn’t Annie Hall) is more about falling for a city than it is about real-life relationships. The Gershwin score, those long, loving shots of skyscrapers and bridges — it’s a ridiculously soft-focus version of a place where homeless men regularly shit themselves on the subway. But Allen shoots Manhattan in the same way we fall in love: by focusing on the beautiful, and cropping all the trash and ugliness out of the frame.
Best scene to make a move: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s flirtatious, rainy-day visit to the planetarium. — S. Hepola
19. Chungking Express
We’ve got to give Quentin Tarantino a little credit for bringing Wong Kar-Wai’s third film to the States. And when Tarantino remarks, in his deeply ’90s filmed intro to the DVD, that he cried the first time he saw it from the sheer filmic ebullience of the thing, we can’t help but agree. Though its parallel stories of heartsick cops are both bittersweet, the picture is filled with a joyful vitality that will put you and your date in the good moods necessary for effective mating.
Best scene to make a move: When Faye Wong redecorates the apartment. — PS
18. Almost Famous
This is easily one of the warmest films ever made, and it somehow manages that without a cloying minute. It’s hilarious (“And you can tell Rolling Stone magazine that my last words were… I’m on drugs!”), but also poignant to an almost painful degree, a wounded and heartfelt reminiscence and a tribute to romantic youth. Look at it as a litmus test. If you get choked up (as we do, every damn time) when William runs through the airport waving at Penny’s plane, and your date doesn’t — or if it’s the other way around, heaven forfend — it’s simply not meant to be. Otherwise, you’re all but guaranteed some post-movie snogging.
Best scene to make a move: When everyone sings “Tiny Dancer.” — PS
17. Dirty Dancing
No one puts Baby in the corner, but that’s exactly where you and your date should be — in the darkest corner of the theater or couch. Because there is no hotter movie for any woman who’s ever been a lonely teenager, or for any man who ever idolized Patrick Swayze (and I think there’s something wrong with any man who didn’t).
Best time to make a move: When they practice lifts in the water. — A. Calhoun
16. Back to the Future
Why? Just ’cause. Because quasi-flirtatious relationship between Marty and Doc aside, you and your date will quickly fall into mutually relatable ’80s nostalgia banter. Pop-culture references! The failsafe antidote to first-date discomfort. Remember that show Salute Your Shorts on Nickelodeon? Remember Til’ Tuesday? Remember when we were young and life was simple and exciting instead of awkward and confusing like this first date? There are lots of ’80s movies that could aid this collective mental regression, but somehow a movie about time travel seems most appropriate. That, and Lea Thompson’s inappropriately sultry sexiness.
Best scene to make a move: Just as young George McFly is helping young Lorraine out of the Studebaker after knocking out young Biff. — WD
15. The Jerk
Date not funny? Have more wine. Still not funny? Pop in The Jerk. There are many Steve Martin films that should be kept at hand in case of a boring-date emergency, but The Jerk uber alles, simply for the fact that it has basically no unfunny moments. I’ve dated people whom I didn’t really like, using Blockbuster nights with movies like The Jerk to prop up an otherwise humorless relationship. In a pinch, this one is fast and effective.
Best scene to make a move: When Marie (Bernadette Peters) knocks out the biker chick who’s pursuing Navin (Steve Martin). — WD
14. The Apartment
This delightful Best Picture winner with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, directed by Billy Wilder, is a classy choice if you’re not sure where your date’s tastes lie. Office underdog C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) has been strong-armed into letting four company managers use his apartment for their illicit romantic encounters, a fortuitous precedent if you, too, are in an apartment and hoping for an encounter. Baxter’s neighbors think he’s a womanizer; little do they know that he’s a just a lonely guy who pines after an elevator operator, Miss Kubelik (MacLaine).
Best scene to make a move: After Baxter has received a promotion and Miss Kubelik has agreed to go out with him. Lean over for a kiss, then pull away and say, abashed-Baxter-like, “Sorry, I was just infected by Baxter’s excitement.” Then kiss again. — SH
13. The Graduate
If you’re dating a woman who’s old enough to be your mother (perhaps she’s a friend of your mom’s?), don’t rent The Graduate with her. It’ll make her feel old and worried you’re crushing on her daughter. But if you’re dating someone roughly your age, definitely rent The Graduate. I know I’m in the minority in not fully understanding the sexual appeal of a young Dustin Hoffman, but Anne Bancroft — her I would hand-feed Centrum Silver tablets every morning in bed. Afterward, your date can throw on some Leggs and the two of you can act it out.
Best scene to make a move: Obvious: as Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) asks Mrs. Robinson, “Are you trying to seduce me?”— WD
12. Cinema Paradiso
Movies don’t get much more bleedingly romantic than this sweetheart of an Italian film, in which a director recalls his childhood friendship with a movie theater’s elderly projectionist. The end of the movie — a montage of classic cinema moments set to a stirring Ennio Morricone score — is such tearjerker the sequence should be sponsored by Kleenex.
Best scene to make a move: That brilliant, weepy movie montage. — S. Hepola
11. Donnie Darko
Almost certainly the greatest time-travelling high school romance of all time (unless you prefer #16). Do not allow Donnie Darko ‘s current hipness, or Jake Gyllenhaal’s overexposure, to blind you to the sexiness of this film. Detractors call Donnie the patron saint of sensitive emo types, but that does no justice to his sharp intelligence or capacity for destruction — both key elements of sexiness. Avoid the director’s cut, which unforgivably swaps “The Killing Moon” out of the opening credits.
Best scene to make your move: When “Love Will Tear Us Apart” comes on at the Halloween party. — PS
10. Before Sunrise
It’s like Slacker for hopeless romantics, starring two of the ’90s premium hotties having the best date ever, over the course of ninety minutes in Vienna. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s funny, smart, stream-of-consciousness conversation after they meet on a train makes us pine for that serendipitous moment — a date that springs not from personal ads or meat-market trolling or friends who mistakenly think you’d be perfect together, but from being in the right place at the right time. Linklater built a career on showing people having natural, meandering conversations, where awkward silences and pretentious posturing are banished; maybe his sensibilities will rub off on your date.
Best scene to make a move: When they fall asleep side by side in the park. — WD
9. Double Indemnity / Body Heat
Fred MacMurray plays a jaded insurance agent who falls hard for scheming femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in this hardboiled film noir. The two characters have barely known each other ten minutes when they devise a plot to off Mr. Dietrichson and split the insurance money. But those ten minutes are filled with so many double entendres that it’s a wonder they even wait so long. If you’ve got a long summer night to kill, watch this back-to-back with 1981’s Body Heat, a neo-noir that replaces the double talk with actual sex (and a smokin’ Kathleen Turner).
Best scene to make a move: Possibly the best flirtation ever captured in dialogue: it begins “There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.” — GW
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This Charlie Kaufman-Michel Gondry collaboration manages to epitomize the happily-ever-after romance by being its polar opposite. The mind-bending plot centers around a fictional medical procedure that can erase any person from one’s memory. When Joel, played by Jim Carrey, discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine, played by Kate Winslet, has “erased” him, he decides to undergo the procedure in retaliation. He realizes halfway through that he’d rather keep the painful memories than lose the good ones — but by that time, it’s too late. Or is it?
Best scene to make a move: The one where Clementine and Joel are lying on the frozen Charles River. You’ll recognize it from the poster. — GW
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark
We all know how this one goes: Harrison Ford (at the height of his young-Harrison hotness) plays a WWII-era college professor who moonlights as a globe-trotting archeologist. (The franchise roughly defines archeologist as “guy who runs through underground tunnels fending off bad guys while things explode.”) In the first and best of the Indiana Jones films, Indiana must beat the Nazis in a race to locate the mythical Ark of the Covenant, which the Nazis plan to use as a war-winning weapon.
Best scene to make a move: During a brief respite from the action sequences, Indy and his feisty ex-girlfriend Marion find themselves in the cargo hold of a steamer. “You’re not the man I knew ten years ago,” says Marion. “It’s not the years, honey,” says Indy, “it’s the mileage.” Then she kisses him on the only part of his body that doesn’t hurt: his left elbow. — GW
6. Swing Time
Basically anything with Fred & Ginger, one of the most chemistry-laden couples of all time, will do the trick, but this one has the incredibly relevant “Pick Yourself Up” dance number. In it, Astaire pretends not to know how to dance and submits to a lesson by the incredibly hot but schoolmarmish Rogers. Just when she’s given up hope on him, she finds herself thrown all over the dance floor in a flurry of finesse. It’s a nice lesson in how it’s never too late for your date to surprise you.
Best time to make a move: During “The Way You Look Tonight” (the Jerome Kern version): “Some day, when I’m awfully low, When the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you… And the way you look tonight. / Yes you’re lovely, with your smile so warm And your cheeks so soft, There is nothing for me but to love you, And the way you look tonight.” — A. Calhoun
The odd thing about Barbarella is that while it’s often thought of as a hilarious piece of camp — and it is — it’s also a genuinely transporting, genuinely sexy fantasy. The credits sequence, featuring Jane Fonda (at her most spectacular) disrobing in zero gravity, is gorgeous, worth the price of admission by itself. And the whole thing has a high-energy silliness that could inspire you and your date to some fun-time impulsive behavior. By the time the mad scientist Durand Durand has Barbarella trapped in his orgasm machine, you may be too distracted to laugh.
Best scene to make a move: Probably during Barbarella’s intimate encounter with Dildano. But you’ve got a lot of options. — PS
4. To Have and Have Not
Supposedly Howard Hawks bet Ernest Hemingway that he could make a hit movie out of his worst book. (Papa: “Which one is that?” Hawks: “To Have and Have Not, of course!”) And so he did, though he fudged a little, dropping most of the book’s plot and bringing in William Faulkner to write the screenplay. Much of the new story was shoehorned in from Casablanca, a recent hit at the time, and Humphey Bogart was again brought in to star, but his chemistry with nineteen-year-old Lauren Bacall, who he soon married, makes the film a pleasure all its own. From her first entrance (“Anybody got a match?”), Bacall is maddeningly sexy, and Bogart is Bogart, and that should be all you need.
Best scene to make a move: Any time the leads are on screen together, it’s probably a safe bet. — PS
3. Say Anything
If you really need convincing, I can offer some personal testimony to the date-movie status of Say Anything. In my senior year of college, I was Lloyd Dobler for Halloween, and I had to beat off the ladies with my “In Your Eyes”-looping boom box. Actually, everyone at that party seemed to react to me just like people do to Lloyd on film. Girls cooed; guys high-fived (“Lloyd Dobler — all right!”) The only risk is that Lloyd’s gallantry — Pauline Kael noted that the movie is unabashedly romantic about his capacity for commitment, which might be part of his dreaminess to girls — will make you look like a schlub by comparison. (Chuck Klosterman has railed against this phenomenon.) Be warned.
Best scene to make a move: Right around “the light, the heat.” — PS
True measure of Casablanca‘s date importance: after Dylan and Kelly watched it together on 90210, Dylan cheated on Brenda. Such is the potency of Casablanca — it can raise feelings to tornado-like levels of destruction.
Best scene to make a move: The Paris flashback. — PS
1. Some Like It Hot
Tony Curtis famously compared kissing Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot‘s love scene to kissing Hitler. To quote Roger Ebert: “You remember what Curtis said but when you watch that scene, all you can think is that Hitler must have been a terrific kisser.” The film centers around two down-on-their-luck Prohibition-era musicians, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, who accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. As a desperate attempt to evade both death-by-gangster and unemployment, they don dresses, assume unconvincing female identities and join an all-girl band. Curtis immediately complicates things by falling for the band’s singer, played by Marilyn Monroe in her most effortlessly sensual performance.
Best scene to make a move: See above, and sig heil. — Gwynne WatkinsAnyone waxing nostalgic about the innocent past presumably hasn’t seen Some Like it Hot. It may be coy, but Billy Wilder’s film has more sexuality on view than a dozen sperm-as-hair-gel contemporary sleazefests. As often happened in that era, censorship forced the filmmakers to be more suggestive than explicit, and thereby all the sexier. Starting with Jack Lemmon’s first description of Marilyn Monroe (“Like Jell-O on springs!”), Some Like it Hot is a non-stop masterpiece of innuendo, about as sexy as a comedy can be without driving viewers out of the theater to hump. Plus, it ends with a legendary note of acceptance (“Nobody’s perfect!”), sure to provoke warm, sticky feelings between you and your date.
Best scene to make a move: Monroe and Tony Curtis on the yacht. — Peter Smith