Scene: “You had me at hello.”
Cliched? Yes. Also, not technically a confession of love (Tom Cruise’s Jerry and Renée Zellweger’s Dorothy have already been married at this point). Still the two are still trying to figure out what exactly they have. In this iconic scene, Jerry lays out exactly how he feels. Along with “show me the money,” this is the moment that promoted Jerry Maguire from heartwarming seasonal dramedy (the film was released in mid-December) to pop-culture gold (with a guaranteed inclusion on every “Hollywood romance” montage from here to the end of time).
Scene: Cue Card Confession
Yeah, including two from the same movie is kind of a cheat. But when it comes to portraying love confessions of all varieties, very few can beat the kind on display in Richard Curtis’ epic romantic comedy Love Actually. The first is a tad more traditional. Juliet (Keira Knightley), a recently married woman, has just discovered that her husband’s best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) has been nursing a secret crush on her. One night, he arrives at their front door and silently delivers his long repressed feelings via hand-drawn cue cards. While certainly sweet and heart-warming, the inherent sadness that pervades this scenario—such a relationship can never work out between the two—prevents the exchange from being overly saccharine.
“The fucking love of my life!”
Though “love” and “romance” tend to frolic hand-in-hand much of the time, sometimes the greatest love of one’s life can turn out to be his or her best friend. Such is the case with one of Love Actually’s most charming storylines. Aging rock star Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is looking to revitalize his career by releasing a (dreadful) Christmas single. Despite Billy’s misgivings, he finds continual encouragement from his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher). Eventually, his single indeed hits the top of the charts and Billy heads to an Elton John party to celebrate. Then, in a move that surprises even himself, Billy ditches the party in favor of celebrating Christmas with Joe. When Joe asks why, Billy expresses his love and appreciation for his closest friend (but, you know, in a totally manly way).
Scene: Sam and Diane kiss
Nearly 20 years since Sam announced it was closing time, Cheers still stands as a towering achievement in American television writing. Among its contributions to pop-culture was the ever reliable sitcom trope of the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship. In the case of the first season, this involved the volatile relationship between former-athlete-turned-bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and college-educated Diane Chambers (Shelley Long). Their difference in class and personality always made for brilliant scuffles but, deep down, viewers knew that the two’s relationship was driven by more than just hate. Finally, in the stellar two-part season one finale “Showdown,” the two confessed their long-repressed attraction to one another.
Unfortunately, no stand-alone clips of this encounter are available, but the whole series can be viewed on Netflix.
Scene: Jim tells Pam he loves her
For 27 episodes, Office viewers watched in frustration as officemates Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) exchanged furtive glances and beat around the bush regarding their relationship. The sexual tension was there, and both characters knew it. Yet, as is the case in sitcoms, neither would dare speak a word, especially considering Pam’s engagement and upcoming nuptials. Then, when the season two finale rolled around and Jim found himself preparing to transfer to a different branch, it finally happened. Even if one knows the long history these characters will have in the next seven seasons, this long-awaited confession (from a script penned by none other than Steve Carell himself) remains haunting in its emotional intensity. If ever there was a moment where The Office firmly removed itself from the shadow of the British original, this was it.
Scene: New Year’s Confession
The movie that asked, “can men and women really just be friends?” (jury is still out on that one), When Harry Met Sally has since become a cornerstone of the modern romantic comedy. Tracing the relationship of Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) over the course of many years, the film makes it clear that the two are meant to be with each other, even as they attempt to keep their relationship purely platonic. Inevitably, in a moment of extreme vulnerability, the two end up sleeping together. Confused and frightened, Harry tries to break away. Only after some serious soul-searching does he run to find Sally on New Year’s Eve and deliver one of the most impassioned declarations of love in the history of rom-coms.
Scene: Louie tells Pamela he loves her
Some love confessions are sweet. Some are sad. Some are incredibly romantic. Some are awkward. When Louie (Louis C.K.) finally gets up the courage and confesses his love to long-time crush Pamela (Pamela Adlon), it’s a combination of all of the above. And that’s Louie in a nutshell. Besides boasting some of the most gut-busting laughs of any modern TV comedy, Louie works equally as an insightful and emotional drama. Like a lot of love confessions, Louie’s is filled with hyperbole (“I feel like I’m going to die if I can’t be with you”). But—tinged with earnestness and the near-pathological sadness that has defined Louie’s character throughout the show’s run—it comes across as a very real and very raw moment. When Louie finally asks Pamela if there would ever be a point where she’d requite his feelings, you get the sense that he’s made peace with the inevitable answer, no matter how badly it crushes him. The show has certainly had funnier and perhaps more tragic moments than this one, but rarely has it felt more relevant to the human experience than in these achingly beautiful two minutes. When Pamela tells Louie he’s doing “a good job,” you’re compelled to agree.
Scene: Holden’s confession
Anyone who has listened to enough hours of Kevin Smith’s podcasts or lengthy Q&A sessions knows that, behind his perpetual potty-mouth and flashes of egomania, Smith is a big softie at heart. After two films that reveled in crass slackerdom lifestyles (Clerks and Mallrats), Smith honed his writing voice for his third feature, Chasing Amy. The film stars Ben Affleck as an amateur comic book artist named Holden whose life is thrown awry when he meets a beautiful and vibrant girl named Alyssa (played by Smith’s then-girlfriend Joey Lauren Adams) and instantly falls in love. The problem? Alyssa is a lesbian.
Crushed but still determined to spend time with her, Holden develops a close friendship with Alyssa. Things appear to be going well—that is, until one rainy night when he can take it no longer. While driving Alyssa home, Holden pulls the car over to side and proceeds to confess his feelings. While Smith’s verbose syntax occasionally betrays the realness of the scene, it’s still the kind of outpour of emotion that you’d never thought capable from the man who popularized the term “snowballing.” It’s the kind of speech that anyone who has ever experienced a hurtful bout of unrequited love has tossed around in their minds but never found the words to express. In one fatal swoop, however, Smith articulates it perfectly. And, just so things don’t get overtly serious, Smith concludes the monologue with a great, irreverent capper.