Throughout movie history, sexual chemistry has made the screen sizzle and pop whenever the right two stars are cast together. This chemistry, combined with realism and believability, makes for a romantic memory that will stay with the viewer long after the movie is over.
We all have our favorite romantic onscreen couples. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh carved their place in film history as the roguish Rhett Butler and Southern minx, Scarlett O’Hara. In a contemporary cinema favorite, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan revived old-fashioned romance in Sleepless in Seattle when their characters finally meet on top of the Empire State building.
There are many examples of romantic couples in classic and contemporary movies, but what about in the western genre? As a western romance author, I started thinking about the romantic relationships featured in my favorite western movies and realized there are many. Here are my top ten most romantic couples found in western movies:
10. Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro (Antonio Banderas) and Elena Montero (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in The Mask of Zorro. Most romantic scene: Zorro enters the barn and is surprised by Elena, who challenges him to a fencing duel while dressed in her underwear. They rip each other’s clothes as they battle wits with their swords. He plants a big kiss on her and asks, “Do you surrender?” “Never,” she answers. When he slices her clothes and they fall off, they kiss again and Zorro leaves Elena in a love daze.
9. Monte Walsh (Tom Selleck) and Martine (Isabella Rossellini) in Monte Walsh. Most romantic scene: Monte knocks on Martine’s door after being months away on the range. Her smile widens. “You need a haircut,” she says. “I didn’t want to waste any time,” he replies. While kissing her passionately, Monte sweeps Martine into his arms and carries her to the bed.
8. Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) and Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo) in Quigley Down Under. Most romantic scene: Matthew rides away on his horse, leaving Cora behind, and then stops at the top of the hill and looks back at her with his hand thrown over the saddle horn. You need to watch the movie to understand why this simple gesture represents romance of the purest kind.
7. Conn Conagher (Sam Elliott) and Evie Teale (Katherine Ross) in Conagher. Most romantic scene: Evie walks through the swinging saloon doors to find Conn beat up. “Mr. Conagher, I think you should come home now,” she says. Showing her one of the notes he’s found stuck in tumbleweed, he asks if she wrote it. “I was lonely,” she admits. “I had to write someone. There was no one.” Conn replies, “There was, Evie. There was me.” They kiss, and it’s the perfect Happy Ever After ending.
6. Joseph Donnelly (Tom Cruise) and Shannon Christie (Nicole Kidman) in Far and Away. Most romantic scene: Joseph and Shannon have been thrown out of the boarding house. It’s winter and they are walking the streets, starving. They enter a grand house and pretend the home is theirs, they are married, and they love one another. As the snow falls outside the window, they share their first kiss.
5. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) and Stands With Fist (Mary McDonnell) in Dances With Wolves. Most romantic scene: Stands With Fist boldly enters Dunbar’s tipi. It’s dark, but the fire is glowing. She stands in front of him and her deerskin dress slides off her shoulders and falls to the ground to reveal she is naked. No words are spoken as he takes her in his arms and lays her down.
4. Lewis Gates (Tom Berenger) and Lillian Sloan (Barbara Hershey) in The Last of the Dogmen. Most romantic scene: Lillian tells Lewis she’s staying with the tribe. “What would you say to a goodbye kiss?” he asks. She replies, “I’d say it’s about time.” After he gives her a peck, she complains, “You call that a kiss?” and lays a big one on him. Lewis rides off on his horse, only to stop and gallop back. He jumps off his horse, grabs Lillian and kisses her passionately.
3. Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) and Pilar (Elizabeth Pena) in Lone Star. Most romantic scene: Pilar finds her childhood sweetheart, Sam, waiting for her outside in his car and tells him to follow her. It’s late. They go to her mother’s closed diner and slow dance in the dark to a Mexican song Pilar selects from the jukebox. “The other day you asked why I came back,” Sam whispers to Pilar. “I came back because you were here.” Chris Cooper plays a man burning with desire for his woman, which is why this scene ranks #3 in my romantic picks.
2. Johnny Gault (Tim Daly) and Rebecca Yoder (Naomi Watts) in The Outsider. Most romantic scene: Johnny rides up to the cabin on his horse to tell Rebecca the boys are already in the field. “I know,” she says. “I sent them there.” She takes his hand and leads him inside to her bedroom. This love scene is so beautiful, with him gently removing her cap and dress, and her taking off his gun belt and lightly touching the scars on his back. The fact that Johnny is a hardened gunfighter and Rebecca is the sweet member of a strict religious sect makes their forbidden love even more intoxicating. Plus, Tim Daly is really hot in this role!
1. Drover (Hugh Jackman) and Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) in Australia. This romantic couple rates #1 for me because their chemistry sets the screen on fire from the moment they meet. Most romantic scene: There are so many romantic scenes between these actors in this movie, but one of my favorites is when Drover surprises Sarah by showing up at the ball, looking so handsome, clean-shaven and in a white dinner jacket, and they end up kissing in the rain.
Who are your favorite romantic onscreen couples?