This Year, Say It with a Kiss

Before Valentine’s Day was taken over by the chocolate-industrial complex, it was a Christian saint’s feast day honoring two[1] different St. Valentines — a Roman priest and an Umbrian bishop, both named Valentinus — who were both beheaded by the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus on February 14 in 269 and 270 CE, respectively, and then buried along the Via Flaminia.[2] So, how did beheadings become the symbol of romantic love? As is the case with many modern holidays,[3] there are those who believe that the veneration of the Saints Valentine was used by the early Church to take attention away from the even earlier pagan Roman celebration of Lupercalia, [4] which also took place in mid-February. Mostly, though, we can blame it on the Middle Ages and a general lack of fact checking.

Over time, Lupercalia’s fertility festival turned into a more chaste celebration of love,[5] which was then associated with the Church-approved veneration of the Saints Valentine. Meanwhile, French poets with nothing better to do developed the concept of amour courtois (courtly love), to be followed by Chaucer who connected the abundance of mating birds in mid-February with finding your beloved on Valentine’s Day: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”[6] Soon, the aristocracy[7] were sending love notes and handmade cards to each other in mid-February, timed to the mating birds. Even Shakespeare got in on the act when he had Ophelia sing: “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day; All in the morning betime; And I a maid at your window; To be your Valentine.”[8] It was only a matter of time before Hallmark weaponized Valentine’s Day and began selling mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards,[9] and thus the modern Valentine’s Day was born.[10]

Not to be outdone, the motion picture industry has always been happy to capitalize on romance, even before Hallmark commercialized the holiday. Back in 1896, the Edison company stunned the world with the salacious (for its time) silent short known as “The Kiss,”[11]featuring the mustache-twirling John Rice and his on-screen paramour May Irwin.[12] That kiss, however, comes nowhere near to being the best movie kiss of all time. For that, you need something more – something more compelling, something more passionate.[13] Something like the kiss between Westley and Buttercup at the end of The Princess Bride (1987): “Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that have been rated the most passionate, most pure … This one left them all behind.”

Thankfully, for all lovers of love who are celebrating Valentine’s Day, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw has done the exhaustive research necessary to compile a list of the best screen kisses of all time for his article “Say it with a kiss! The 20 greatest smooches on film – ranked!” For your reference, each film in this canoodle-fest can be found in the EIDR Content ID registry, because nothing says true love quite like globally-unique, curated audiovisual work identification supporting automation and multi-party media workflows.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

[1] A group of monks known the Bollandists, who spent three centuries studying all saintly matters, believed that it was likely just one Saint Valentine, who was only beheaded the once, and that the tale became a bit muddled in the retelling over the years. There’s even a third St. Valentine believed to have died on February 14, this time in Africa, but even the Bollandists couldn’t find evidence to back this up beyond the saint’s name and date of death.

[2] The road connecting Rome and Rimini, a city on the Adriatic Sea. Odd that so many beheaded saints named Valentinus were buried along the same stretch of highway.

[3] Christmas, Epiphany (12th Night), Easter, All Saints Day (Halloween), etc.

[4] Groups of mostly-naked young men would kill some goats and dogs then run through the streets whipping women with strips of animal skin to make the women more fertile. You know. Science.

[5] With less public nudity and, one presumes, less whipping.

[6]The Parliament of Fowls,” c. 1340s–1400.

[7] The only ones who were literate and could afford the expense.

[8] Hamlet, c. 1599–1601.

[9] In 1913, if you must know.

[10] Or Valentines’ Day, depending on how you count your Saints Valentine.

[11] See

[12] The two are reenacting a scene from the musical-comedy play The Widow Jones (1895).

[13] Something less mustache-twirly.

The 20 Best Screen Kisses of All Time

Rank Film EIDR ID
1 Casablanca (1942) 10.5240/85FE-AC4A-178F-C32D-0CF1-0
2 Moonlight (2016) 10.5240/501E-4EE6-FB6D-3007-C802-S
3 Lady and the Tramp (1955) 10.5240/5B61-6C3E-C243-5A21-DC08-U
4 From Here to Eternity (1953) 10.5240/7D62-F4C9-8E45-8708-6FC4-J
5 Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) 10.5240/EB97-70CD-866B-FE2C-A8D4-P
6 The King of Kings (1927) 10.5240/C4E0-5AD6-BBCB-5C75-25C2-E
7 The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 10.5240/0728-15BC-4706-83CB-7D55-W
8 Harold and Maude (1971) 10.5240/4C2A-8D46-395E-333C-0D1D-0
9 Notorious (1946) 10.5240/E707-E614-A2FC-1ADF-228C-H
10 Summertime [La belle saison] (2015) 10.5240/91CB-625E-8A07-AF2F-FE5D-0
11 The Age of Innocence (1993) 10.5240/7E44-D3A0-63F2-F3AA-0EEF-B
12 The Graduate (1967) 10.5240/1D49-1FC8-5164-77B7-7F53-I
13 Ghost (1990) 10.5240/1585-1965-8E6D-B606-FFEE-7
14 Bound (1996) 10.5240/8141-B9D6-A5E3-AFC8-2D0A-N
15 Titanic (1997) 10.5240/29E6-2D4B-B704-2B69-441F-8
16 Flesh and the Devil (1926) 10.5240/8FBD-A18F-EDBF-3DD1-0587-I
17 Brokeback Mountain (2005) 10.5240/2723-65F0-7686-82E1-D356-0
18 Show Me Love [Fucking Åmål] (1998) 10.5240/4F24-E2E6-FF1E-202E-C15E-S
19 The Princess Bride (1987) 10.5240/CD39-409D-1F11-C404-A4B7-7
20 Gone with the Wind (1939) 10.5240/FB0D-0A93-CAD6-8E8D-80C2-4