History’s Most Memorable Kisses

By Karen Harris

Cary Elwes and Robin Wright share a passionate kiss as Wesley and Princess Buttercup in "The Princess Bride" Source: (syfy.com)

A kiss can be many things…romantic, loving, forbidden, scandalous, and shocking. In the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride, the narrator notes that “Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the purest. This one left them all behind.” Well, we found more than five. In honor of Valentine’s Day, let us take a moment to look at some of history’s most memorable kisses. 

US sailor bending young nurse over his arm to give her passionate kiss in middle of Times Square as others look on during celebration of Japan's surrender to Allies at end of WWII. Source: (Lt. Victor Jorgensen/US Navy/The LIFE Picture Collection)

A Welcome Home Kiss

A photographer was snapping photographs of the people of New York celebrating the end of World War II on August 14, 1945, when he took what is perhaps the most famous and memorable kiss photo ever. A returning sailor, later identified as George Mendonsa, swept an unsuspecting nurse, who we now know was Greta Friedman, into his embrace, dipped her slightly, and kissed her passionately. This intimate interaction between total strangers might not fly in today’s era of heightened awareness of sexual harassment, but in 1945, it was a passionate display to celebrate victory and to celebrate life. 

TV's first interracial kiss was on "Star Trek" Source: (syfy.com)

TV’s First Interracial Kiss

In 1968, at the height of the fight for racial equality, TV’s Star Trek shocked fans with television’s first interracial kiss. In the episode called, “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which aired on November 22, 1968, Captain Kirk, played by the Caucasian William Shatner, passionately kisses Lieutenant Uhura, played by the African American actress, Nichelle Nichols. The first interracial kiss on American television was groundbreaking and helped to cast an approving light on interracial couples in the sixties, but there were many people who disapproved of the kiss. It never proved to have a negative impact on the television show, which went on to expand into a blockbuster movie empire. 

Things heated up at the 2003 MTV Video Awards. Source: (billboard.com)

The Britney-Madonna Kiss

Pop princess Britney Spears, rocker Madonna, and sultry singer Christina Aguilera opened the MTV Video Music Awards, which was held on August 23, 2003, with a mash-up of Madonna’s hit song, “Like A Virgin.” Without warning, Madonna and Britney Spears lean in together to share a lingering on-stage kiss, to the surprise of the studio audience and the millions of people watching the awards show live on television. While Madonna’s next move was to turn to kiss Christina Aguilera in the same lingering way, by this time, the television censors had cut to a different camera. The infamous Britney and Madonna kiss was the image that was flashed around in the coming days. Although many people saw the surprise girl-on-girl kiss as a message of acceptance to the lesbian community, Madonna later said that the kiss was done to excite the male audience. 

When Judas kissed Jesus, it was an act of betrayal. Source: (pinterest.com)

A Kiss of Betrayal

In the Bible, we learn that Judas planned to betray Jesus and turn him over to Pontius Pilate’s men. Judas meets Jesus and the other Disciples right after the Last Supper. Although Judas appears to greet Jesus with a kiss out of friendship, he is really signaling to the awaiting guards which man they should arrest. Judas’ kiss of betrayal, or kiss of death, has been featured in literature and art through the ages. 

Princess Diana and Prince Charles share a wedding day kiss. Source: (chicago.suntimes.com)

A Royal Kiss

The July 29, 1981, wedding of England’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was called the wedding of the century. The fairy tale wedding was televised all over the world to an estimated 750 million people and featured all the pomp and circumstance one would expect of a royal wedding. Following the ceremony, which took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the newlyweds stepped out on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the crowds of people who filled the streets. The onlookers were treated to a now-iconic royal kiss. 

A spaghetti kiss. Source: (islandpacket.com)

A Cartoon Kiss

Sweet and innocent, just like first love, is the best way to describe the spaghetti kiss in Disney’s 1955 animated film, Lady and the Tramp. The classic story of love between two people from different social classes, the canine musical included the iconic and often duplicated spaghetti kiss scene when Lady, the beautiful and refined cocker spaniel, knows she is in love with the lovable stray mutt, Tramp. Expect to see this scene recreated all over social media this Valentine’s Day. 

Electrical worker JT Thompson saved his electrocuted partner, Randall Champion, with the kiss of life. Source: (rarehistoryphotos.com)

Kiss of Life

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation has often been called the kiss of life. One riveting photo from July 17, 1967, showed the life-giving power of the kiss of life. Electrical crews were working on power lines in Jacksonville, Florida, near a railroad yard. News photographer, Rocco Morabito, happened to be at the rail yard capturing images of a worker’s strike and was in the right place at the right time to snap the most memorable photograph of his career. High on the utility poles, an electrical worker named Randall Champion touched a live wire, sending 2400 volts of electricity surging through his body. He lost consciousness and his heart stopped and he was left dangling upside down from his safety harness. His co-worker, JT Thompson, came to his rescue. Thompson administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the upside down Champion, saving his life…all while Morabito captured the moment on film. 

Tobey Maguire was breathless kissing Kirsten Dunst in "Spiderman". Source: (cbsnews.com)

Speaking of Upside Down Kisses

In the 2002 movie, Spiderman, Spidey, played by Tobey Maguire, shared his first kiss with his crush, Mary Jane Watson, portrayed by Kirsten Dunst, in a typical spidery fashion…upside down. Well, Spiderman is upside down…Mary Jane is not. Although the hot and steamy kiss is one of the most memorable film kisses of all time, Maguire remembers it a different way. He later told Hollywood reporters that the whole time he was dangling upside down, water was running into his nose. Then, when Dunst pulled up his mask to kiss him, he couldn’t breathe at all. How romantic. 

Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O'Hara that she should be kissed by someone who knows how. Source: (cornel1801.com)

“You Should Be Kissed…And Often”

Flirty Scarlett O’Hara, played by Vivien Leigh in the 1939 classic, Gone With the Wind, bats her Southern belle eyelashes at the rogue, Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable in one memorable scene from the movie. Rhett responds by telling the pouty Scarlett, “No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” Spoiler alert…later in the film, he demonstrates that he is just the person to show her how. 

Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker share a socialist fraternal kiss. Source: (dw.com)

A Weird Political Kiss

When Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker shared an on-the-mouth kiss on October 7, 1979, they were not giving the world a public display of affection, but rather engaging in an odd Communist ritual known as the socialist fraternal kiss. The socialist fraternal kiss, a special greeting between important Communist people, usually consists of three cheek kisses on alternating cheeks. But on really special occasions, it includes a mouth kiss, just like the one between Brezhnev and Honecker in East Germany that was captured by photographer, Regis Bossu. 

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in a sand and surf kiss. Source: (pinterest.com)

An Eternal Kiss

The Academy Award-winning film, From Here to Eternity, which was released in 1953, told the stories of servicemen and their ladies in Hawaii in the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Among the star-studded cast were Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. Kerr and Lancaster made movie history with a steamy, passionate beach scene in which the lovers kiss on the sand and Kerr’s character delivers the memorable line, “I never knew it could be like this. No one ever kissed me the way you do.” 

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Karen Harris


Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.