On-screen sex is incredibly common. Bare rears pumping, shots of boobs and torsos, legs intertwined, blah, blah. My reactions range anywhere from, “Ick, gross,” to, “Wow, that’s sexy,” to, “Hahahahaha!” Because sex, while a lot of fun in the doing, has the potential to be highly comedic.

But for real heat, nothing works like a well-done on-screen kiss. And by well-done, I mean the kind of kiss that quivers on the edge of erotica without ever going any farther than four lips meeting for the exchange of souls.

Have you seen the newest PBS version of JANE EYRE with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens? Do you remember the scene after Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire in his bed? They stand in silhouette against the firelight. He wraps a blanket around her shoulders. And they don’t kiss … they look at each other.

Right there on the couch, I froze, unable to move, my coke halfway to my mouth, my eyes straining, while passion smolders between them. What makes it better is — she doesn’t know what is happening, she doesn’t know what to do — and he does. And he’s right there. He could seduce her. He wants to so badly, I could taste it. And he restrains himself.

If I had spilled my drink into my lap, steam would have risen.

Later, there was more, when he was trying to convince her to stay with him, but that one scene in silhouette is seared onto my eyeballs. Sexual tension is not about heaving bottoms. It’s about one man and one woman yearning for one thing and one thing only — each other.

So in no particular order, here’s my very incomplete list of the best movie kisses.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA At the end when Christine is trying to go with Raoul, she plants a good one on the Phantom, and one thought and one thought only runs through the mind of every woman watching. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? YOU’RE LEAVING GERARD BUTLER FOR PRETTY BOY RAOUL? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR FEEBLE GRASP ON REALITY? SO THE PHANTOM’S FACE IS A LITTLE MESSED UP! AND HE SEEMS JUST A LITTLE INSANE AND KILLS PEOPLE! YOU CAN CURE HIS WOUNDED SOUL! AND IF YOU CAN’T, I KNOW WHO CAN! ME! ME! ME! ME!

DON JUAN DE MARCO Early in the movie, there is this scene with a woman in a restaurant. She’s obviously waiting for a man who doesn’t value her as he should, and Johnny Depp (dressed as Don Juan de Marco in a cape and a mask), sits down at her table. He kisses her fingers one by one while saying, “These women… have fingers, with the same sensitivities as their legs. The fingertips have the same feelings as their feet, and when you touch their knuckles, it is like passing your hands along their knees. And this, tender, fleshy part of the finger, is the same as brushing your hands along their thighs. And… finally…”

One word. Wowsa.

The kiss at the end of A&E’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE — okay, it’s barely even a real kiss, but the lead-up is six hours of Colin Firth brooding over Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Talk about a build-up of sexual tension that can only be released by … one … thing!

LAST OF THE MOHICANS DA! DA DA DAH DAH! DAH DAH DAH DAH! A hot kiss, a great theme, and a fabulous line delivered by an intense Daniel Day-Lewis.
“What are you looking at, sir?”
“I’m looking at you, miss.”

And last but not least, in THE ILLUSIONIST, Edward Norton rejects Jessica Biel and at the same time, he’s kissing her because he can’t control himself. I watched that part of the DVD so many times I may have melted the plastic. For sure, I melted something.

Yes, there’s a difference between a movie kiss so boring I toss popcorn into the air and try to catch it in my mouth, and a movie kiss so hot it sears the scene onto my eyeballs. Viva la difference!

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