Two strangers lock eyes across a crowded room. Suddenly, everyone around them starts to move in slow motion. The voices even somehow slow down to a murmur. It's as if the two lovers-to-be are suddenly stuck in their own version of time.
Real life? Nah, just the movies.
Movie love can be gooey and silly and totally over the top, confounding our expectations when we finally do lock eyes with that someone special across a crowded room, mall or gymnasium. But just like in real life, movie love can come in many forms. And they can provide us with some truly great Valentine's Day treats. Here are a few titles if a quiet dinner for two and a DVD are in the cards for you and yours.
"Lady and the Tramp" (1955) -- Does a movie kiss get any better than when those two pooches from opposite sides of the track smooch at the end of that spaghetti strand? No, of course it doesn't. People go their entire lives waiting for such a perfect moment. These canines know the secret of romance is a good restaurant, the right mood and some strategically situated pasta.
"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) -- "I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee!" "I can arrange that. You could use a good kiss!" "Why, you stuck-up, no-good, scruffy-looking nerf herder!" "Who's scruffy lookin'?!" "I happen to like nice men." "I'm nice men." "No, you're not." And, of course, the classic "I love you"/"I know" exchange. With such snappy repartee, Han Solo and Princess Leia were like an interstellar Bogey and Bacall in this first "Star Wars" sequel. Pursued by Darth Vader and the Empire across the cosmos, the devil-may-care space smuggler and the rebel princess fell in love while dodging asteroids, evading the enemy and facing capture on Cloud City.
Love conquers all
"Mississippi Masala" (1991) -- In truth, the formula of opposites attracting is the basis of countless movie love affairs as witnessed by several of the films mentioned in this article. But rarely has a movie explored this phenomenon so deeply and thoughtfully as "Mississippi Masala." Directed by Mira Nair, the film centers on an African-American man (Denzel Washington) falling in love with a woman from India (Sarita Choudhury) and how their respective families are forced to cope.
Love on the run
"Smokey and the Bandit" (1977) -- Personally, I fell in love with the car. But Sally Field found the driver -- the quick-steering, mustachioed "Bandit" Darville -- more appealing. While on the ultimate beer run, Bandit nicknames Field's character "Frog" and together the two hop across much of the Deep South chased by a redneck sheriff (Jackie Gleason) and law enforcement from several different states. The chase scenes are entertaining, but the verbal sparring by then-real-life couple Burt Reynolds and Field is what elevates the film to romance status. As Bandit tells her at one point, "I take this cowboy hat off for one thing and one thing only." To which Frog thinks for a second and then coos, "Take off your hat."
"The Notebook" (2004) -- This beautiful movie is one of the greatest examples you'll ever see of a love spanning decades. James Garner gives a touching performance as an elderly man caring for his wife of many years whose mind is slowly slipping away. His character's flashbacks to yesteryear as he reads aloud from a notebook of shared memories are what punctuate this truly memorable movie.
"Moulin Rouge" (2001) -- It's always the movie affairs that don't quite work out that really stay with us. The 1930s had Scarlett and Rhett. The '40s had Rick Blaine and Ilsa Laszlo. The current decade has Nicole Kidman's singer Satine and Ewan McGregor's struggling writer Christian. Their love was strong enough to lift both of their voices in song whenever they would meet. But, alas, it was not meant to be as Satine's secret illness eventually took her from him. But first she taught him the greatest lesson of all: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."
"Eyes Wide Shut" (1999) -- Do you remember the trailer for this final film from Stanley Kubrick? It had a series of shots of then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman looking very guilty and suspicious of one another, while Chris Isaak growls they "did a bad, bad thing" on the soundtrack. "Eyes Wide Shut" is definitely a movie that will make you feel good if you are in a solid, healthy relationship. Cruise's mild-mannered doctor goes for a walk on the wild side after his wife (Kidman) confesses that she has been mentally (though not physically) unfaithful to him on more than one occasion.
"Fatal Attraction" (1987) -- No movie in the last two decades has made couples in healthy relationships hold onto one another like this nasty, erotic thriller about infidelity from the late '80s. Michael Douglas should have known just from Glenn Close's uber-perm that the lady was bad news. But there was that rainstorm, that sharing of the umbrella, that quick bite at the local café while the wife and child were safely out of town. Pretty soon, Douglas is dodging phone calls, fibbing to his spouse and consoling his daughter after his tryst with the blonde nutjob brings an end to a beloved family pet. Rabbit stew, anyone?