The on-screen moments that 100% define Big Romantic Gestures


How do you define a Big Romantic Gesture? Is it writing someone a sappy love song? Is it leaving a trail of rose petals to your bed? Is it handing someone a heart-shaped box of Thorntons? No, it’s more epic, more dramatic. Its sole aim is to widen someone’s eyes, loosen their jaw and – as the cliché goes – sweep them off their feet. Big Romantic Gestures are basically the mother of all romantic moments. And in the movies, you can find heaps of epic examples. Meaning when 14th February rolls around, and you’re racking your brain for ideas, you could do worse than to copy these guys. So grab a pen and press play on the on-screen moments that define Big Romantic Gestures.


Lloyd Dobler hoists his boombox in Say Anything

When love-struck Lloyd loses the girl of his dreams, he doesn’t 100% accept it. He’s a creative guy with bulldog tenacity, and boy does he have a plan to win her back. The only option, clearly, is to throw on his favourite trench coat, grab his boombox, and drive to the girl’s house in the early hours. Thankfully her window is half-open. He cranks Peter Gabriel’s heart-wrenching ballad "In Your Eyes," raises his boombox, and so an iconic movie scene is born. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it, for two reasons. First, she might have an aversion to Peter Gabriel; second, she might not even sleep with her window open. Then there’s the fact that this gesture – turning up unannounced at your ex’s house – might appear creepy in a creepy-stalker way.


Heath Ledger sings “Can't Take My Eyes Off You” in 10 Things I Hate About You

Observe, lovesick hopefuls. Here’s Heath Ledger’s guide to impressing a girl. First, slip into the commentators’ box above your school’s playing field. Fiddle with some knobs, take a deep breath, and grab the mike. Sing the words to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" like you’re a 1950s crooner. Descend the stairs of the auditorium, mike in hand, striding like Gene Kelly, never for one second taking your eyes off The Girl. As the school band you paid-off kicks in, and as the security guards chase you, point to the girl and sing for your life. This is what going all-out to get the girl looks like. Bonus points for slapping the security guard’s butt.


A couple’s names flash on NYC skyscrapers in Hackers

Classy gestures like singing Frankie Valli are all good and well, but if you’re a hacker, don’t waste your gift; learn from Dade Murphy. He not only treats his date to a dip in a rooftop swimming pool, he hacks the lighting system in two NYC skyscrapers so the words "CRASH AND BURN" (their hacker aliases) flash on the side of the building. “Beat that!” says Dade… Indeed.


Benjamin runs like the wind to the church in The Graduate

The best time to make your Big Romantic Gesture is probably not when your beloved is getting married. I mean, there’s late and there’s late. And then there’s Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. The girl he loves, Elaine, is literally in her wedding dress walking down the aisle. He’s driving there to declare his love but then runs out of gas. Simon & Garfunkel’s "Mrs. Robinson" is pumping. Benjamin does what any person in love would do: he sweats buckets, running like his life depends on it. To physically push your body to that extreme is like declaring your love without verbalizing it.  


Seth Cohen climbs onto a coffee cart in The OC

Orange County’s resident emo kid has balls of steel. When his secret girlfriend, Summer, staffs a kissing booth to raise money for the water polo team, Seth interrupts proceedings. “Acknowledge me now or lose me forever,” he says, climbing onto a coffee cart. A jock turns to Summer: “You’re dating this emo geek?” Seth: “Yeah I’m a big dork and I listen to emo – and I’m dating her.” He extends his hand and, after what seems like an eternity, she takes it. Who’d have thought standing on a coffee cart could be so romantic?


Harry turns up last-minute to a New Year’s party and lists things he loves about Sally in When Harry Met Sally

Sally goes to a New Year’s party alone after a fight with Harry. Then, at the stroke of midnight, he shows up in his casual clothes to say, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and the thing is, I love you.” She doesn’t buy it. So what does he do? He reels off all the things he loves about her: “I love that it takes you an hour-and-a-half to order a sandwich; I love it when you get a little crinkle above your nose when you look at me like I’m nuts; I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes.” Does his speech work? Hey, this is Hollywood we’re talking about.


Adam Sandler sings "Grow Old With You" at 39,000 feet in the air in The Wedding Singer

When Adam Sandler’s wedding singer realizes the waitress he met is The One, he buys a first class ticket to Las Vegas, where she’s set to be married. On the plane, he tells his story to enthused first-class passengers – including Billy idol. He spots her in coach, whips out his guitar, and slowly approaches her, singing his song "Grow Old With You." Despite his all-white suit and his mullet (hey, it’s the 80s!), she loves every second of it. I hope the cabin crew bumped her up to first.


Dan drives across the city late at night to return a girl’s roller skate in Adventures in Babysitting

During a night of crazy adventures in Downtown Chicago with the kids she’s babysitting, Chris Parker meets her dream guy. But they never exchange numbers and when she finally makes it home to the suburbs, the regret hits her. Then he shows up out of the blue with one of the kid’s lost roller skates. The address was written on it and he followed it like Cinderella’s slipper to her door. “You came all the way out here just to return this?” she says in disbelief. “I’m looking for a babysitter,” he says. The little girl interrupts them, shouting from her bedroom window. “Kiss him!”


Mark declares his love on Christmas Eve in Love Actually

Here’s another gesture that could have easily backfired. Consider: You turn up to your crush’s house. It’s Christmas Eve, her husband inside, and you proceed to show her giant cue cards declaring your love for her. “To me, you are perfect,” one reads. It’s like Bob Dylan’s iconic music video for Subterranean Homesick Blues, only 100-times less retro and intellectual. Again, there’s plenty of reasons not to recommend this. What if the husband answered the door? What if the husband believed that there were carol singers and wanted to hear them too? What if she slapped him across the face? That’s a lot of what-ifs.  


Celine writes and performs a song to Jesse right before his plane in Before Sunset

What makes Celine’s sweet song a big romantic moment here? Context. Quick recap: Celine and Jesse had a brief encounter nine years earlier. They meet again in Paris, their romantic feelings rushing back. In this final scene, Jesse visits Celine moments before he has to catch a plane. She plays her siren song A Waltz for a Night, a beautiful ballad that as much as says, Please don’t leave. She finishes and looks at him. “Baby, you’re gonna miss that plane.” He looks her in the eye and simply says: “I know.”

Words: Oliver Lunn