In movies, grand romantic gestures always get all the credit – whether it’s flying across the country to crawl over someone you heard on the radio (à la Insomnia in Seattle), or play with your school’s jazz band to impress the girl (as seen in 10 things i hate about you).
However, what many viewers forget are the small acts of kindness, care, and genuine interest that turn into lasting romantic love. So many characters fall in love with each other in the moments between the first kiss, the big fight, and the life-changing “I love yous.” So here are the subtle moments when these couples knew they had found their chosen one (even if they weren’t ready to admit it yet).
Millie & Keys – Free Guy (2021)
In free guy, Keys has been in love with Millie since they started creating the code for their video game, but Mille didn’t see it romantically, just calling them friends in an interview. When Millie enters the game using an avatar, she encounters Guy, who also has a thing for chewing gum ice cream and the song “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.
These subtle romantic details draw Millie to Guy, but her affection was misplaced. Guy later explains to Millie that Keys’ codes were inspired by little details about her, and that’s why she and Guy are so compatible. Although there is a romantic connection at the end of the film, these subtle gestures ultimately seal the deal for Millie and Keys.
Ron and Hermione – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
This Harry Potter The film is arguably the most hormonal, with tons of new couples to follow and plenty of interpersonal drama. Ron even has a new girlfriend, and their makeup looks are the focus of much of the movie. That is until Ron is hit by a love potion and accidentally drinks Professor Slughorn’s poisoned wine.
While in the infirmary, Ron’s girlfriend Lavender sits by his bedside, calling him “Won Won” and holding his hand. But when he said Hermione’s name in his poisonous sleep, there was clearly no way to stop their growing connection from blossoming into something more.
Pat & Tiffany – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After a stint in a mental health facility, Pat is desperate to win back his ex-wife at Silver Linings Playbook. Meanwhile, his best friend’s sister-in-law, Tiffany, takes an immediate interest in Pat after crossing paths in one of the best romantic encounters. When Tiffany convinces Pat that she will help him find a way forward in his marriage and seems to be working on himself, he agrees to enter a dance contest.
However, Tiffany realizes that Pat will never come to terms with her situation, so forges a letter from her ex, Nikki, to encourage her to stay on a positive path. Pat soon realizes the letter was a fake, but does not confront Tiffany; instead, he hands her a letter after the pageant confessing that he knew she had cheated on him. But he also says he’s loved her since they met and he only just realized it. This sweet written exchange is certainly one of the more subtle undercurrents of an extremely unsubtle film.
Harold & Ana – Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Harold Crick is an IRS auditor sent to examine Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character, Ana, who owns a bakery. Although Ana initially has no respect for Harold’s work and tries to make the audit as difficult as possible for him, he eventually grows on her. She hands him a cookie to make up for it, saying “It was a really awful day, I know. I made sure of that.”
But things are going south because it could be construed as a “gift” that the IRS won’t allow. But when Hiccup realizes she made the batch of cookies for him, he instantly regrets rejecting her kind offer, saying, “You’re just trying to be nice and I completely screwed up.” Luckily, the couple come back from their hurt feelings, and this sweet interaction is the catalyst for the two to become vulnerable in their future romantic relationship.
Jackson & Ally – A Star Is Born (2018)
A star is born is full of big romantic moments, like the first time Jackson sees Ally sing “La Vie En Rose” in the club, but for some reason one little moment feels bigger than the rest. As Ally removes her stage makeup, he asks to remove her fake eyebrow, which is taped off. He does, and she hides her face behind her hand. When he asks why, he goes on to say “the fact is I can see your face”.
Jackson brings out an authenticity in Ally that doesn’t exist with her stage persona. Although the viewer sees them struggle as Ally’s career takes off and her costumes and makeup become even more elaborate, this first moment demonstrates her longing for their mutual vulnerability.
Anna & Kristoff – Frozen II (2019)
Even though Kristoff and Anna reunite in Frozenhe proves he’s Disney’s ultimate boyfriend in the sequel. Anna is distracted by her sister Elsa, who puts herself in danger in the search for the source of her magical powers.
Although Kristoff expresses confusion at the distance he feels, he doesn’t let their current situation deter him from wholeheartedly supporting her. When Anna apologizes for being distracted and absent from their relationship, Kristoff says, “My love is not fragile.” Though he saves Anna as she flees the Giants of Earth, which is a great romantic gesture and a swoon-worthy Kristoff quote in Frozen IIit is his small reassurances that solidify and maintain their relationship despite the obstacles.
Nick & Liz – The Parent Trap (1998)
As one of the funniest romantic movies of the late 90s, The parent trap still holds today. Viewers might assume the girls reuniting with their parents, or Nick and Hallie Parker flying to London to win her mother back would be the shining moments of the whirlwind trip. But a quieter moment actually solidifies what the viewer has always known, and what is only hinted at by the subtext when the pair are first reunited after 11 years.
Nick takes Liz into the cellar of his vineyard (already an incredibly romantic setup) and they go through his favorite and rarest wines. He then reveals that he found the wine they drank on their wedding night and now owns all the bottles ever made. This secret gesture confirms that he never stopped loving her, despite their divorce and separation.
Margaret & Andrew – The Proposal (2009)
Proposal is an incredible example of the enemies-lovers trope. The main characters become “engaged” in order to avoid Margaret’s expulsion, and as her boss, she blackmails Andrew into damaging his career. So they fly to his family home in Alaska and play lovebirds.
But when they have a late-night chat, the couple dives into their personal stories for the first time. She tells him, “My first gig was Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock.” When he asks who they are, she sings a brief snippet of their song “It Takes Two”. That is, until he admitted he already knew the song and just wanted to hear her sing it. Then, softly, he sings it himself, hitting aching falsetto notes and instantly cementing their romantic relationship.
Bridget & Mark – Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
One of Colin Firth’s strengths in Bridget Jones Diary it’s the subtlety with which he plays the feelings of his character Mark. Although it’s clear he has feelings for Bridget, it seems like he’s ready to give up on their relationship when he accepts a job offer in New York. However, at the end of the film, he shows up at Bridget’s apartment to win her back. Unfortunately, he comes across a journal entry in which she criticizes him, and he leaves.
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Although the big romantic gesture showed up on her doorstep in the first place, the deal is sealed when Mark buys a new diary for Bridget so they can create a new narrative for their relationship. This gesture confirms that he is the constant and patient partner who will go through their future together, mistakes and all.
Joel & Clementine – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
In Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, the relationship between Joel and Clementine is the guiding light that brings the non-chronological plot into its own perfect, fractured reality. When Clémentine and Joël meet for the real first time, Joël goes for a drink at Clémentine’s. Her fiery spirit seems to be in direct contrast to Joel’s understated presence and it’s unclear how he feels about her at first.
He then calls her from his apartment the same evening. She playfully asks him, “What took you so long?” He replies, “I just walked in.” With this gesture, Joel put aside his shy, nice guy tactic and followed his instincts, reassuring Clementine of his interest after leaving a potentially ambiguous impression.
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