My use of the word passion here does not always mean sex. I feel that the audience (well, at least me) never really want to see explicit love scenes. We are emotional beings who thrive more on the portrayal of intimacy, vulnerability, tenderness as well as desire. These movies must stir within the audience some sort of rapture or induce within us fits of sighing. Here are my top 10 picks.
#10: Terminator (1984)
I know what you must be thinking, how on earth is this movie a passionate or romantic one? The answer: Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor. James Cameron may be a controversial director, but he sure knows how to construct a passionate love scene. If you ever have any doubt about this, all you need to do is look at the mega-hit that is Titanic. Reese’s entire monologue before they make love is the stuff of romantic dreams. The fact that he traveled across time for her, left everything he knew behind for her, makes the conception of John Connor all the more powerful.
#9: Casino Royale (2006)
While I have never been fond of the objectification of women that seems to be a staple in these movies, I do see them for what they are — the ideal manifestation of masculine fantasies. So it surprised me when I started to enjoy the franchise, in part due to Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the iconic character but cemented mostly because of Eva Green’s enigmatic Vesper Lynd.
From the first conversation Vesper and Bond share, I could already sense the sparks flickering between them. It continues to build, as the two share not only playful banter but also near-death moments that bring them closer together. No other James Bond relationship can rival what he shared with Vesper Lynd.
#8: Cold Mountain (2003)
When the cast boasts the likes of Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, you know you are in for a treat. From the passionate first kiss the characters share, till their reunion years later, I was transfixed by their love story. There is so much waiting, and such yearning encased in it. Jude Law’s utterance of how her picture pulled him out of the dark place is so riveting to watch. It may be cold on the mountain, but all that passion is enough to keep anyone warm.
#7: Ghost (1990)
Patrick Swayze is the ultimate leading man. He has such chemistry with all his co-stars, you only have to look at Dirty Dancing and North and South to know that I am right. His chemistry with the beautiful Demi Moore in this movie is no exception.
Ghost makes pottery-making look sexy, which is no mean feat. So much passion conjured between the two from mere gazing. And of course, this entry would not be complete if I didn’t mention “Unchained Melody”, which is such an emotionally tumultuous song. I feel the actual tug of my heartstrings every time I hear it playing on the radio.
#6: The Notebook (2004)
I have a confession to make: I used to love reading the mush-filled romances of Nicholas Sparks. I have since grown out of them, because he is still using the same tired formula of tragedy romance. The Notebook, however, is proof that even the sappiest premise can succeed with the right lead actors. Cringe-worthy lines like, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” somehow sounds charming when Ryan Gosling is the one saying them.
The director felt that Gosling was just weird enough to play the kind of guy who could look at someone and instantly know she was the one for him. Casting Rachel McAdams wasn’t as straightforward though. She wasn’t as well known at that point, and there were quite a few established actresses in the running, like Ashley Judd, Jessica Biel and Reese Witherspoon. Even Britney Spears auditioned for the role! However, after McAdams came in to do a screen test with Gosling, they knew they had found their Allie.
The passion is particularly intense probably because Gosling and McAdams were genuinely attracted to each other, since they became a couple after the movie. Their reenactment of their award-winning Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards in 2005 is still the undisputed best acceptance of the award, and for a long while, made us believe in the possibility of true love in Hollywood.
#5: Pride and Prejudice (2005)
No list like this would be complete without the inclusion of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. While my favorite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle (it has Colin Firth jumping into a lake, so enough said), the more modern one with Matthew MacFadyen and Keira Knightley does an adept enough job. I have always been a sucker for rainy confessions and dancing simmering with a burning passion, which this movie delivers.
#4: Wuthering Heights (1992)
Before Ralph Fiennes became Voldemort and as a consequence, a regular feature in my nightmares, he was the consummate brooding leading man aka Mr. Steal Your Girl. I didn’t realize how many fictional married women were led astray by the charming Mr. Fiennes until I started this list (The End of the Affair and The English Patient are other examples). The choice of Fiennes to play the role of Heathcliff was a controversial one, since Heathcliff is of gypsy blood, and Fiennes is an English man. While he doesn’t possess the physical looks expected of the character, he definitely does justice to the essence of Heathcliff.
When watching this movie, or any adaptation of Wuthering Heights, it is important not to romanticize these characters and their relationship. Cathy (played by Juliette Binoche) and Heathcliff are toxic people, and the relationship they share is far from healthy. However, one can’t help but get drawn into the passion they have for each other. I can’t imagine any of us wanting to be haunted by our loved ones after their passing, which makes Heathcliff’s request such a bleak and painful one.
#3: Call Me by Your Name (2017)
At this point, you are probably sick of me mentioning this movie in a lot of the lists that I do. But I just can’t help it. If you watched the film, you would understand. The connection between Elio and Oliver is cerebral, physical, and emotional. Playful teasing blossoms into a real love. One can’t help but lament the destination of their love story, wishing for a different outcome.
#2: Atonement (2007)
If you have read any of Ian McEwan’s books, you will know that things never end happily in his novels. Well, at least the ones I have read. Hence, knowing the way Atonement ends while watching the movie was certainly not a fun experience, especially when the characters are played so well by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley.
There is so much communicated between the pair with their shared looks of longing and desire. I never knew how much emotion the eyes could convey until I watched these two. So many good scenes between them, like the fountain scene, their rendezvous in the library, but my favorite is their reunion scene. Who knew the mere act of pouring and sharing tea could be so heartbreaking yet exquisite to watch? “Come back to me,” she says, and he does.
#1: The English Patient (1996)
The English Patient is a searingly beautiful love story, with a bunch of accolades to its name, like Best Director and Best Motion Picture at the 1997 Academy Awards. It is a well-made film, with an impressive cast, which once again includes Ralph Fiennes. He is reunited with Juliette Binoche in this movie, though she is not his love interest this time. That role goes to Kristin Scott Thomas.
The two share a clandestine affair, filled with so much passion I sometimes feel the need to avert my eyes because it feels all too real. She slaps him, he tears off her dress and confronts her angrily when he sees her touching someone’s collar — it does sound a bit alarming. But I guess this is what happens when one is engulfed in the flames of passion, “the heart is an organ of fire” after all.
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