What makes a great love scene? Everyone has his or her own criteria, obviously, but for me it's always come down to some alchemical combination of intimacy and intensity. Plus, good lighting always helps. For this list I tried to avoid the go-to pictures - Don't Look Now, Bad Timing, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, The Tall Guy - and consider instead some more recent accomplishments.
Out Of Sight
Steven Soderbergh intercuts George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez's long-in-coming love connection in a hotel room with their relaxed flirtation earlier that night in the bar downstairs. It's a tender interlude in the middle of a chase that might last for the rest of their lives.
"Have you done this before?" "I don't know." Sure, Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring's love scene is smoking hot (and, given the head-spinning identity crises at play in David Lynch's oblique L.A. story, metaphorically loaded), but it's the combination of vulnerability and honesty that makes it so moving.
Diane Lane's made a second career out of playing exasperated women shocked by the mid-life discovery of their own erotic potential. Watching her goofing around with libertine lover Olivier Martinez in Adrian Lyne's gauzy montage sequences suggests she's found her niche.
My Summer Of Love
Pawel Pawlikowski's precisely calibrated coming-of-age drama about a Lancashire lass (Nathalie Press) drawn into an all-consuming affair with an upper-class neighbour (Emily Blunt) spends its first half practically shuddering in erotic anticipation of the characters' initial coupling. It's sex as self-discovery - lyrical and smouldering at the same time - and it's awfully hot.
The big sex scene between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal is more about the initial burst of attraction than the long-simmering passions that will define (and destroy) these unlikely lovers. But in that final shot, when Ledger quietly, gently strokes the shoulder of his lost soulmate's shirt... yeah, that's the stuff.