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Top 10 Movie Marriage Proposals

All mentioned films in article

Valentine's Day in a Leap Year. The perfect time for men and women alike to pop the question. If you need a few tips before going down on one knee, Cinema Paradiso reflects on some of the screen's most iconic marriage proposals.

Although it was released in UK cinemas to mark the Lunar New Year, Sunny Chan's Table For Six 2 also works as a Valentine movie. Bernard (Louis Cheung) has started a wedding planning agency and lures e-sports star brother Lung (Charm Man Chan) into giving the press launch a memorabe finale by proposing to Taiwanese social media influencer, Meow (Lin Min-Chen). It's all going so well until Lung's chef girlfriend, Josephine (Ivana Wong), gets jealous and knocks Lung out cold with a well-aimed rolling pin.

There are a couple more proposals before the closing credits, with Lung making up to the pregnant Josephine and Bernard going down on one knee to his long-suffering partner, Monica (Stephy Tang). Cinema Paradiso has already covered the bride and groom's big day in its three-part Brief History of Film Weddings (1, 2 and 3). But in this Valentine special, we focus on the various ways in which characters in your favourite films and TV shows have popped the question.

Acting on Impulse

A still from Gone with the Wind (1939) With Vivien Leigh And Rand Brooks
A still from Gone with the Wind (1939) With Vivien Leigh And Rand Brooks

Having been spurned by Ashley Wilkes in Victor Fleming's lavish adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1939), Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) impetuously accepts the proposal of the smitten Charles Hamilton (Rand Brooks). He dies of pneumonia during the Civil War and Scarlett refuses to wear black to mourn him because she's 'too young to be a widow'. She next steals her sister's beau, the wealthy and trusting Frank Kennedy (Carroll Nye), who perishes trying to avenge an incident in the shanty town. At his funeral, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) mockingly goes down on one knee to Scarlett and jokes, 'This is an honorable proposal of marriage made at what I consider a most opportune moment. I can't go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands.' When she resists, he continues, 'You've been married to a boy and an old man. Why not try a husband of the right age, with a way with women?' Following a clench, Butler pushes his case. 'Say you're going to marry me. Say yes. Say yes.' And he gets the answer he was looking for. As he leaves, Scarlett asks if he isn't going to kiss her goodbye and he responds, 'Don't you think you've had enough kissing for one afternoon?'

Reluctant to let brother David (William Holden) seduce chauffeur's daughter, Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn), Linus Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart) starts to state his intentions during a car journey in Billy Wilder's Sabrina (1954). 'Suppose I were ten years younger,' he begins. 'Suppose you weren't in love with David. Suppose I asked you to - well, I suppose I'm just talking nonsense.' And the question remains unasked. Forrest (Tom Hanks) isn't one to die wondering, however, and he surprises Jenny (Robin Wright) in Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump (1994) with the line, 'Will you marry me? I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is.'

A still from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
A still from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Ian Miller (John Corbett) is canoodling in bed with Toula Portokolos (Nia Vardalos) in Joel Zwick's My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), when he bashfully mumbles, 'I don't know how to say this...will you marry me?' He gets a tearful response when he produces a ring, but the family clearly goes in for spur of the moment proposals. Toula's father, Gus (Michael Constantine), chooses being carried into an ambulance as the right time to ask Maria (Lainie Kazan) to marry him (after discovering that their initial wedding five decades earlier had been invalid) in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016).

Persistence is the name of the game for Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) in James Mangold's Walk the Line (2005), as he follows up being spurned on the tour bus by refusing to start a song on stage during a concert unless June Carter (Reece Witherspoon) agrees to become his bride. This isn't quite how things actually happened in real life, but the couple were together for the next 35 years.

Tears of Joy

In Robert Z. Leonard's adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1940), Darcy (Laurence Olivier) seems surprised when Elizabeth Bennet (Greer Garson) turns down a proposal inspired by his decision to overlook the inferiority of her family to his own. 'Do you expect me to thank you for this extraordinary offer of marriage?', she gasps. However, worse is to come, when Mr Collins (Melville Cooper) announces, 'I have singled you out as the companion of my future life.' Fortunately, Darcy gets to ask again in the family garden and all ends well.

However, Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005) probably did the scene greater justice. As Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) tells Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), 'You have bewitched me, body and soul and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.' Cue the tissues.

The proposal is more of a deal in Leo McCarey's An Affair to Remember (1957). Having enjoyed a shipboard romance, the already entangled Nick Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) agree to meet at the Empire State Building in six months if they are free to marry. However, their rendezvous never happens. Things work out better for Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif) and Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand) in William Wyler's Funny Girl (1968), as he makes good on his promise to propose - which is what people do 'when they sort of love each other' - by winning enough at cards to call his wife-to be by the name that leads into the song, 'Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady'.

A still from When Harry Met Sally (1989) With Bruno Kirby And Carrie Fisher
A still from When Harry Met Sally (1989) With Bruno Kirby And Carrie Fisher

In the years that followed a shared car ride in 1977, Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) had formed the impression that they best they could ever hope to be was friends in Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally... (1989). But at a New Year party in 1988, they realise they had been wrong all along. We all know the speech. Altogether now: 'I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.'

By contrast, Jo March (Winona Ryder) believes that waiting is the best policy in Gillian Armstrong's take on Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women (1994). When Laurie (Christian Bale) enquires, 'What could be more reasonable than to marry you?', Jo replies,'But we'd kill each other.' He claims he could never stand by and watch her marry another, but Cinema Paradiso users know the path to true love takes many twists and turns.

If this scene in a sunny woodland glade tugs the heartstrings, what about the stargazing scene between teenagers Landon Carter (Shane Wright) and Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) in Adam Shankman's A Walk to Remember (2002) ? Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel that was inspired by the life of his sister, the story sees Landon build a telescope on Jamie's balcony so that she can see a passing comet. She's dying of leukaemia and, having asked if she loves him, he proposes with the words, 'Will you do something for me?'

More eyes are bound to moisten while watching Nick Cassavetes's The Notebook (2004). Heiress Allie (Rachel McAdams) is pushed by her family into marrying Lon (James Marsden). But her heart belongs to Noah (Ryan Gosling), a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, who is warned off by Allie's mother, Anne (Joan Allen). We learn the reasons for her opposition after Noah renovates the house he wants to share with Allie and tells her, 'I want you. I want all of you, forever. You and me, every day.'

There's plenty of vociferous opposition to the union of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). She's taken aback in David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) when he asks her to stop undressing him as they kiss. But he explains that he comes from an era in which things were done differently. Going down on one knee, Edward presents her with his mother's ring and asks if Bella if she 'would you do me the extraordinary honour of marrying me'.

A still from Jane Eyre (2011)
A still from Jane Eyre (2011)

An equally old-fashioned feel informs the proposal of Rochester (Michael Fassbender) to Jane (Mia Wasikowska) in Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (2011). He begins by declaring, 'I've a strange feeling with regard to you, as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And, if you leave, I am afraid that that cord of communion would snap.' But he goes on, 'I ask you to pass through life at my side' before imploring, 'poor and obscure as you are, please accept me as your husband.' What would Lizzie Bennet have said?

Kinda Cute

Some proposals make you smile because they just hit the right note. In the case of Arthur Hiller's Love Story (1970), Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) is entirely serious when he ask Jenny Cavalleri (Ali MacGraw) to marry him, as they are about to go their separate ways after college. When she teases, 'Why', he replies, 'Because.' Just as quaint is the proposal of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in John G. Avildsen's Rocky II (1979). He takes Adrian (Talia Shire) to one of his favourite haunts, Philadelphia Zoo in winter, in order to mumble, 'What do you think you're doing for the next 40 or 50 years? I was wondering if you wouldn't mind marrying me very much.'

Who could refuse? He's a little more direct than Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in John Hughes's Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) thinks he's joking when he mentions marriage on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. So, she simply responds, 'Sure.' But Ferris tells the audience at the end of the film, 'I was serious when I said I would marry her,' and Sloane must have known too, hence the final line: 'He's gonna marry me.' Lisa (Shari Headley) doesn't know what to think when Akeem (Eddie Murphy) follows her on to the New York Subway after she discovers he's really the Prince of Zamunda in John Landis's Coming to America (1988). With the other passengers hanging on their every word, he proposes. But, even though one woman encourages her to 'take a chance', Lisa disembarks at the next stop and Akeem gives her earrings to an elderly stranger.

A still from Pretty Woman (1990) With Julia Roberts And Richard Gere
A still from Pretty Woman (1990) With Julia Roberts And Richard Gere

While we debate whether Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) arriving in a white limousine and climbing a fire escape to rescue Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) at the end of Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman (1990) counts as a proposal, we return to Austenland for Douglas McGrath's Emma (1996). Having been critical of some of her 'badly done' meddling, George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) is irresistibly drawn to Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) and wonders whether 'it's our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another'. The same could be said of William Thacker (Hugh Grant) and Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) in Roger Michell's Notting Hill (1999), although we also have question what kind of proposal 'I'm also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her' actually constitutes.

Record store owner Rob (John Cusack) doesn't quite seem to know what he wants to say to Laura (Iben Hjejle), either, in Stephen Frears's adaptation of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (2000). 'I'm tired of the fantasies because they don't really exist, and there are never really surprises - and it never delivers,' he explains about the fading allure of other women. 'I'm tired of it, but you'll never see me get tired of you,' he concludes, eliciting a wry, 'Thank you.' Cusack also headlines Peter Chelsom's Serendipity (2001). But Jonathan Trager doesn't get to make the grand romantic gesture to Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale). Instead, the honour falls to Lars Hammond (John Corbett), his musician rival, who fills a room containing a large box with flowers and candles. As Sara opens each smaller box inside the next, she finally gets to an empty ring box. That's when Lars appears to say, 'You have to say yes first,' and get a deserved kiss for his efforts.

The aptly named Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor) uses dozens of daffodils to aid his case in Tim Burton's Big Fish. But it's his readiness to take a beating without breaking a promise not to fight back that convinces Sandra Templeton (Alison Lohman) that she prefers him to her thuggish fiancé. Saying and doing the right thing also works to the advantage of Jamie Bennett in Richard Curtis's Love Actually (both 2003), as he learns Portuguese and enlists the help of his beloved's entire family in order to propose to housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) in her native language. Her response in English, is even cuter: 'Thank you. That would be nice. Yes is being my answer.'

Colin Firth finds himself in the middle of another awkward proposal scene in Beeban Kidron's Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason (2004), as Mark Darcy's attempt to ask Bridget (Renée Zellwegger) a question is met with the response, 'Okay. As long as it's not, "Will you marry me?"' Of course, that was precisely what he was going to suggest, so Bridget has to rush back to the corridor door in the hope of recreating the moment and promising not to say anything.

Ben (Seth Rogen) presents Alison (Katherine Heigl) with an empty jewellery box in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up (2007) and promises to buy her a ring as soon as he can afford one. She's touched by his novel proposal, but suggests they'd be better off getting to know each other before coming to any conclusions. Hoping to make the most of his opportunity after a prolonged separation in Phyllida Law's Mamma Mia! (2008), Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) goes down on one knee, tweaks the lyrics of ABBA's 'I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do', and gets the help of a chorus of her female family and friends in an effort to coax Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) into tying the knot.

Who knew that a pair of cargo shorts could be the way to a woman's heart? But it's only after the commitmentphobic Neil (Ben Affleck) has lost Beth (Jennifer Aniston) in Ken Kwapis's He's Just Not That Into You (2009) that he realises he can't live without her and secretes a ring in his laundry before kneeling to pop an apologetic question. Anna Brady (Amy Adams) also comes to the conclusion she's made a mistake in schlepping across Ireland to propose to doctor boyfriend Jeremy Sloane (Andrew Scott) in Anand Tucker's Leap Year (2010). However, Declan O'Callaghan (Matthew Goode) is not impressed when she declares in the local pub, 'I propose we "not" make plans. I propose we give this thing a chance and let it work out how it works out.' Instead, he fetches his mother's Claddagh ring and gives her his answer: 'I wouldn't be holding this ring if it weren't for you. I reject your proposal. I don't wanna "not" make plans with you. I wanna "make" plans with you.'

A still from Jumping the Broom (2011)
A still from Jumping the Broom (2011)

Wires get deliberately crossed in Salim Akil's Jumping the Broom (2011), as Jason (Laz Alonso) tells Sabrina (Paula Patton) that he doesn't believe in long-distance relationships. However, he's positioned a small band around the next corner to serenade her while he goes down on one knee. Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) proves a little less smooth with Kristen (Gabrielle Union) in Tim Story's Think Like a Man (2012), as he dips in front of house-hunting strangers and says, 'I want to be your wife, and I want to be your husband,' before correcting himself, with 'I want to be your husband, and I want you to be my wife, so bad.'

Jim (Mahershala Ali) also has an audience in Theodore Melfi's Hidden Figures (2016), as Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) is joined at the table by her mother and three young daughters, as he goes down on one knee to present her with his mother's engagement ring. As his parents had been married for 52 years, he reckons it's lucky and Katherine is so overwhelmed that she blurts out 'yes' before he's even popped the question. Now that's how to do it.

Small-Screen Schmaltz

As viewers spend so much longer with characters in TV shows than they do with any film counterparts, each birth, marriage, and death has a greater emotional impact. Having watched relationships develop over several episodes or even seasons, audiences have an investment in their futures. Hence, the significance of water-cooler events like marriage proposals.

The romance between Niles Crane (David Hyde-Pierce) and Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) in Frasier (1993-2004) was slow burning. But the proposal episode was particularly memorable, as Niles had planned a surprise evening, only for Daphne to turn up with a cold, leaving Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) to smuggle everyone out of the apartment so that the couple can be alone. Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) and Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) get less privacy in Friends (1994-2004), as only Ross is absent, as his best friend proposes to his sister. Monica had tried to make a candlelit proposal of her own. But, when words fail her, Chandler steps in with, 'You make me happier than I ever thought I could be and, if you let me, I will spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way.' Further down the line, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and Mike (Paul Rudd) also dance around proposing and don't get us started on Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).

Charlotte (Kristin Davis) met Harry (Evan Handler) when she was divorcing her first husband in Sex and the City (1998-2004). But it's a chance meeting at a singles night that prompts the lawyer to pop the question and convince some of the other minglers to pay a return visit if the mixers get such positive results. Lorelei (Lauren Graham) needs a little longer to sort things out in Gilmore Girls (2000-16). After teacher Max (Scott Cohen) proposes to her over the phone, she responds to the news that daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) is refusing to go to Harvard by asking diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson) to marry her.

While Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Peyton (Hilarie Burton) are forever proposing, getting engaged, or eloping in One Tree Hill (2003-12), it's a married couple who show them how it's done. Nathan (James Lafferty) and Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz) are already husband and wife. But he feels the need to propose all over again on a wooden bridge over a lake because he wants them to make their vows in front of all their friends. By contrast, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) - who has already turned down ex-boyfriend Kevin (Kal Penn) - has given up on Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) ever settling into a stable relationship with her and believes he is going to propose to Patrice (Ellen D. Williams) in 'The Final Page', a two-part episode of How I Met Your Mother (2005-13). When she discovers she's been tricked, Robin is ready to dump Barney until he tells her to turn the page of his notorious playbook.

While the British version of The Office (2001-03) was over almost before it had begun, the American incarnation, The Office (2005-13), lasted considerably longer and threw up a couple of classic sitcom proposals.

Jim (John Krasinski) persuades Pam (Jenna Fischer) to meet him at a highway service station halfway between Scranton, Pennsylvania and New York in order to go down on one knee on the forecourt in the pouring rain. Dunder Mifflin boss, Michael (Steve Carell), goes about things in a more convoluted way by having various employees ask Holly (Amy Ryan) to marry her while leading her into a room filled with candles. Here, he adopts a Yoda voice to say, 'Holly Flax, marry me will you be?' and for her to reply, 'Wife becoming be will I,' just as the fire sprinklers go off.

Two proposals stand out during the long run of Grey's Anatomy (2005-). We quite like the operating theatre crossword challenge involving Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Ben (Jason George), complete with a 'Will you marry me?' clue. But the great love story in the series is between Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo). Of all places to propose, he chooses a hotel elevator decorated with CAT scans. But who can deny the charm of his declaration: 'I'm not gonna get down on one knee, I'm not gonna ask a question. I love you Meredith Grey, and I wanna spend the rest of my life, with you.'

Having been turned down by Hannah (Katheryn Winnick) because she's not the marrying kind, Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) struggles with her suggestion that the proposal never happened in Bones (2005-17). But even though he has no hesitation in accepting when Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) asks him to be her husband, fans of the show will know what happens next. Those Cinema Paradiso users who don't need to click on the show's page and start doing some bingeing.

We get back to the reassuring with the reasons Dexter (Michael C. Hall) gives Rita (Julie Benz) for wanting to get married in Dexter (2006-13). 'I want us to always go out for banana splits,' he explains. 'And replant the lemon tree that keeps dying. And I never ever want to miss a pizza night. And that's how I know I want to marry you.' The motive is less romantic for Chuck (Ed Westwick) and Blair (Leighton Meester) in Gossip Girl (2007-12), as it's suggested that they tie the knot so that she doesn't have to testify against him following the death of Bart (Robert John Burke).

Back to the lighter side, they liked a proposal on The Big Bang Theory (2007-19). Bernardette (Melissa Rauch) interrupts Howard (Simon Helberg) in mid-flow as he goes down on one knee bearing a ring during a communal takeaway before Sheldon (Jim Parsons) much later responds to a shock kiss from an admirer to fly to New Jersey to kneel before Amy (Mayim Bialik) with a ring box. But the specialists in popping the question are Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco). She's appalled when he first asks during sex and not much more impressed when he drops to his knee when she sees an old flame proposing to his girlfriend in a restaurant. Ironically, it's Penny who proposes next, while drunk after her bit part is cut from a medical show. However, she stops Leonard from asking again at Professor Proton's funeral. Finally, after their accidental Las Vegas marriage has been annulled, Penny calls Leonard a 'stupid Pop Tart' after she's fired from Serial Apeist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill and he just happens to have a ring in his wallet.

All it takes is a glance for Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), as they kneel beside a car to change a tyre in Modern Family (2009-20). Breaking out in beaming smiles, they each say 'yes' without either asking a question. Quite a bit more gets said when Ben (Adam Scott) turns up at the house he was going to buy with Leslie (Amy Poehler) in Parks and Recreation (2009-15). Brandishing a ring box, he goes down on one knee and declares, 'I am deeply, ridiculously in love with you. Above everything else, I just want to be with you forever. So, Leslie Knope, will you...' However, she interrupts, saying, 'Wait, wait...I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is, right now, at this exact moment.' But silence proves too much and Ben blurts out the rest of his proposal.

Having segued from 'Hand in My Pocket' into 'Feel the Earth Move', Santana (Naya Rivera) dips down to Brittany (Heather Morris) in the music room in Glee (2009-16) and suggests a lifelong mash-up. Kurt (Chris Coffer) enlists the help of virtually everyone at McKinley High to belt out 'All You Need Is Love' to Blaine (Darren Criss) in the same show. In replying, Blaine confides he always knew that their 'hands were meant to hold each other fearlessly and forever'.

Despite having rifles slung over their shoulders and the ring having come from a slain walker, there's still something touching about the way Glenn (Steven Yuen) proposes to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in The Walking Dead (2010-22). Much more the ticket is the manner in which Matthew (Dan Stevens) suggests a union in Downton Abbey (2010-15), with the words, 'Lady Mary Crawley, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?'

A still from Die Hard 4.0 (2007) With Justin Long
A still from Die Hard 4.0 (2007) With Justin Long

Following two sorta proposals, Jake (Andy Samberg) gets to spring a surprise on fellow detective Amy (Melissa Fumero) in Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-21). He's even willing to overlook the fact she doesn't like the 'Die Hard' films (1988, 1989, 1995, 2007, 2013) in order to make her his wife.

In a special musical episode of The Flash (2014-23), Barry Allen (Grant Guestin) sings 'Runnin' Home to You' to Iris West (Candice Patton) before popping the question. He does so again in a room full of candles with the ring his great-grandfather had bought during the Second World War. And he gets the same answer. A grandparental ring also helps Mike (Patrick J. Adams) avoid wasting 40 years wondering why he didn't ask Rachel (Meghan Markle) to marry him in Suits (2011-19).

Used to Schmidt (Max Greenfield) acting oddly in New Girl (2011-18), Cece (Hannah Simone) gasps, 'Oh, God. You're going to say something stupid, aren't you?', when he shows her the $5 bill that he had placed in his jar on informing her that he was going to marry her on the first day they met. Having discovered she's been accidentally inseminated with another woman's baby, Jane (Gina Rodriguez) proposes to Michael (Brett Dier) by listing the reasons she doesn't like him in front of all of his colleagues at the police precinct in Jane the Virgin (2014-19).

Business partners David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) become lovers in Schitt's Creek (2015-20), with their moment of truth coming at the top of a mountain when the latter presents the former with a selection of rings to choose from in order to help him make the 'easiest decision of my life'. Toby (Chris Sullivan) confronts Kate (Chrissy Metz) with $200-worth of zip-up hoodies as she protests that she wants a simple wedding rather than a splashy affair in This Is Us (2016-22).

Of course, there are dozens more. But just in case you think we've forgotten you're favourite, let's just namecheck Clark (Dean Cain) and Lois (Teri Hatcher) in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-96), Aaron (Dylan Neal) and Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) in Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2002), Cole (Julian McMahon) and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) in Charmed (1998-2005), Robin (Jonas Armstrong) and Marian (Lucy Griffiths) in Robin Hood (2006-09), Daniel (Josh Bowman) and Emily (Emily VanCamp) in Revenge, Lavon (Cress Williams) and Lemon (Jamie King) in Hart of Dixie (both 2011-15), Killain (Colin O'Donoghue) and Emma (Jennifer Morrisson) in Once Upon a Time (2011-17), Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) in Arrow (2012-19), and

Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Dawson (Monica Raymund) in Chicago Fire (2012-22).

The Quirky Side of Quaint

A still from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
A still from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

While there's much to be said for the traditional approach to proposing, audiences warm to those who dare to be different. Such as Charles (Hugh Grant) in Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), who has had second thoughts about what a happy ever after might look like after being socked in the kisser at the altar by Henrietta (Anna Chancellor). So, when he finally plucks up the courage to confide his feelings to Carrie (Andie MacDowell), he suggests, 'Do you think you might agree not to marry me? And do you think not being married to me might be something you could consider doing for the rest of your life?' Jack (Jeff Daniels) also opts for a novel way of making his intentions known to Lucy (Sandra Bullock) in Jon Turteltaub's While You Were Sleeping (1995). As she works at a ticket booth for the Chicago Transit Authority, he places an engagement ring in her token tray, with his entire family watching on to prove they bear no grudges for the deception involving Jack's brother that had brought the couple together.

Jerry might have had Dorothy at 'hello' in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire (1996), but he still has a way to go to persuade her he's husband material. However, when he realises that everything he loves is about to disappear to San Diego in a hire van, Jerry pops the question and finds his answer in the tears behind Dorothy's sunglasses.

Unconvinced by love and certain that no one will marry her, Loretta (Cher) accepts Johnny (Danny Aiello) when he proposes in Norman Jewison's Moonstruck (1987). She then realises she loves his younger brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage), and when she returns the engagement ring to Johnny, Ronny asks if he can borrow it because he might have a use for it.

A still from The Wedding Singer (1998)
A still from The Wedding Singer (1998)

It's plane sailing for Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) in Frank Coraci's The Wedding Singer (1998), as he enlists the help of Billy Idol and several other people aboard his flight to serenade Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore) through the loudspeaker system with 'Grow Old With You'. And, just in case she didn't get the message, he also points out, 'That song was about you.' Staying in a jet cabin in Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians (2018), Nick (Henry Golding) clambers up the steps to prevent Rachel (Constance Wu) from leaving Singapore for New York with his mother's approval for their match and a large sparkly ring.

In Chris Columbus's Stepmom (1999), Luke (Ed Harris) opens up to Isabel (Julia Roberts) with a ring box containing a cotton bobbin. 'Even when things are hard and you feel like giving up, you have to hang on to that decision, that choice to love each other. Even if it's only by a thread. I let that thread break once. This time, it won't. Will you marry me?' The clincher is the ring he slides down the thread, but Julia Roberts has some winning lines of her own (albeit slightly secondhand) in Garry Marshall's Runaway Bride (1999), as Maggie tells Ike (Richard Gere): 'I guarantee that we'll have tough times. And I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us will want to get out. But I also guarantee that if I don't ask you to be mine, I'll regret it for the rest of my life. 'Cause I know, in my heart, you're the only one for me.'

Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) had set up the perfect proposal using letters held up by the kindergarten kids taught by his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo), in Jay Roach's Meet the Parents (2000). But he abandons the scheme when Pam's sister calls to announce her engagement and he decides he needs to ask her father (Robert De Niro) for his daughter's hand. Thinking outside the box pays off slightly better for Massimo (Justin Chambers) in Adam Shankman's The Wedding Planner (2001), when he proposes with a ring inside the doll's house he has built for Mary (Jennifer Lopez) and she replies with tiles from a Scrabble board.

The cute words of six years olds leave a deep impression in Andy Tennant's Sweet Home Alabama (2002), as Jake (Thomas Curtis) responds to a dubious 'Why would you want to marry me for, anyhow?' from Melanie (Dakota Fanning) with the timeless line, 'So I can kiss you anytime I want!' Yet Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) tops it in the mind of the grown-up Melanie (Reese Witherspoon), when he proposes at Tiffany's after hours and rounds off his spiel with, 'Pick one,' Even the mumbled proposition made by Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) in David Dobkin's Wedding Crashers (2005) feels more sincere, even after Gloria (Isla Fisher) misunderstands his concept of taking their relationship 'to the next level' and agrees to a fling with the Brazilian twins they had met at the ball game.

Sean (LL Cool J) chooses an unusual location to declare his feelings in Wayne Wang's Last Holiday (2006), as Georgia (Queen Latifah) is on a ledge trying to persuade Matthew (Timothy Hutton) not to take a New Year plunge. Leaving things even later, Tom charges into the Scottish church where Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) is about to marry Colin (Kevin McKidd) and makes a counter-proposal in Paul Weiland's Made of Honor (2008).

A still from Sex and The City: The Movie (2008)
A still from Sex and The City: The Movie (2008)

Having left Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) at the altar, Big (Chris Noth) has ground to make up in Michael Patrick King's Sex and the City (2008). Fittingly, for someone who has had cold feet, he decides to propose again with a blue Manolo Blahnik stiletto in a walk-in wardrobe. Of course, we all know where the shoe technique came from and Andy Tennant reworks it to perfection in Ever After (1998), a charming retelling of the Cinderella story that has Prince Henry of France (Dougray Scott) place a slipper on the foot of Danielle de Barbarac (Drew Barrymore). A glass slipper also comes in handy in Kevin Lima's Enchanted (2007), as Prince Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) bounce back from being jilted by Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) to engage in a little proposal scene of their own.

Aware that she is predestined to marry Henry (Eric Bana) in Robert Schwentke's adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, Clare (Rachel McAdams) has a bit of fun by rejecting his proposal. However, she quickly changes her mind by saying, 'No. I don't mean that. I just wanted to try it.' Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) is keen to make sure the words are not just right, but are also spoken sincerely when Canadian boss Margaret (Sandra Bullock) proposes so that she can get a Green Card and remain in the United States in Anne Fletcher's The Proposal (both 2009). He even makes her go down on one knee in the street before accepting. However, events conspire to force Andrew to do the proposing at the end of the film, when he comes up with the choice line: 'Marry me. Because I'd like to date you.'

Furious because Fletcher (Chris Pratt) has hidden an engagement ring in a fortune cookie to propose to her friend and rival Emma (Anne Hathaway), Liv (Kate Hudson) storms into the office where Daniel (Steve Howey) is working and demands, 'Will you just marry me, already?' in Gary Winick's Bride Wars (2009). Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is a bit more discreet when he takes a second turn at asking Mary (Rachel McAdams) in Richard Curtis's About Time (2013). After getting a sleepy brush off, he comes back with, 'Will you marry me? Any thoughts on the answer? "Yes". "No". "Get out of my life, loser." They're all possible.' He's relieved, however, when she responds with, 'I think I'll go for yes.'

The patter doesn't go as smoothly as it might, either, in Tim Miller's Deadpool (2016). Wade (Ryan Reynolds) is trying to be romantic with his spiel, 'Your crazy matches my crazy, big time...And, uh, we're like two jigsaw pieces, you know, and we have curvy edges.' But Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) beats him to the big question and is very curious when he produces the ring while naked from the waist down in bed: 'Where were you hiding that?' Compare this scenario with the one in Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born (2018), in which Jack (Cooper) uses a guitar string as the ring to propose to Ally (Lady Gaga) in a moment of intimate simplicity.

But we end with a bang, courtesy of Malcolm D. Lee's Night School (2018). Having blindfolded Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) for the last surprise of a special evening, Teddy (Kevin Hart) pops the question at the barbecue supply store where he works. However, he also pops a champagne cork that hits the lever on a propane tank and the leaking gas means the evening literally ends with fireworks.

A still from Night School (2018)
A still from Night School (2018)
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