The following statement will surprise absolutely no one: Best Kiss has long been the most iconic MTV Movie & TV Awards category (no offense, Best Sandwich in a Movie). Since its inception at the very first show in 1992, the award has come to represent the emotions we want our favorite movies (and starting this year, TV series) to stir within us — adorable young love, wild passion, and the occasional much-needed laugh.
Of course, the award is in a very different place in 2017 than it was in ’92, when two innocent 11-year-olds named Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky nabbed the golden popcorn for locking lips in My Girl. This year's nominees include actors from Moonlight, Beauty and the Beast, La La Land, Empire, and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. But the rich history of the Best Kiss award affords modern audiences a chance to sort through its rogues' gallery of winners and almost-winners to find out what we've learned in the past quarter-century.
The long history of the Best Kiss award, which gets its next addition on Sunday (May 7) at the 2017 Movie & TV Awards, can most effectively be consolidated into the following eras.
Experimenting in the ’90s
It began earnestly enough with My Girl, but by end of the ’90s, the category had shifted a bit. Free Willy got a nom for its sweet interspecies kiss of freedom, though more importantly, the nomination of 1996 crime film Bound made history for its first-ever same-sex kiss in the category (between Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly). The following year saw another for Chasing Amy — and who could forget the hotel threesome scene from Wild Things?
The ’90s were weird, man. We can all agree on that now, especially since the smooch between Will Smith and Vivica A. Fox in Independence Day was considered the top-tier peck of its time, beating out all the star-cross'd smooches Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes gave each other in Romeo + Juliet. The New Millennium was coming, though. Things were about to change.
Ryan, Rachel, and Everyone Else
Cruel Intentions' Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair became the first same-sex pair to take home the award in 2000, and they made sure their red carpet pics turned out just as steamy as their film kiss. This set a precedent for plenty of female pairs (and trios) to be nominated throughout the decade, including for Starsky & Hutch and Not Another Teen Movie.
The exceptions, though, were important. Brokeback Mountain won in 2006, making Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger the first men to win together, and Milk's Sean Penn and James Franco saw a nomination in 2009. Of course, the 2000s "two dudes kissing lol" trope also saw wins for American Pie 2 and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
But everyone knows that what happened in 2005, when real-life lovebirds Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams ran across the entire stage before embracing in an unfurling display of passion to recreate their rain kiss from The Notebook, is and will always be the apex of Best Kiss. Everyone else can go home.
The Twilight Era
From 2008 to 2012, the five Twilight films had an almost supernatural impact on the category (and on pop culture at large), inspiring die-hard fandom and murky backlash in equal measure. One thing was certain, though: the chemistry of its two leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who took home Best Kiss trophies for four consecutive years in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Puckering Up for the Future
Two years after James Franco and Seth Rogen's ridiculous lip-locking earned The Interview — a.k.a. the silly movie that raised international tensions — a nom, we've arrived at a possible win for Moonlight — a.k.a the heartfelt movie in which two gay, black teenage boys sit on a beach under a gorgeous moon learning how to feel like their true selves. Even if the film doesn't win, it already seems like a massive step forward.
Oh yeah, and thanks to Beauty and the Beast, interspecies kissing is back! And there's also Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who might finally win after being snubbed in 2012. Plus, for the first time ever, a TV show could win. But people may want to see Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron, both Movie & TV Awards favorites, kiss the most. We'll see what happens.
Be sure to tune in to the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards on Sunday, May 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. And check MTV News for all your updates on the big show.