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The Most Pause-Worthy Kisses In TV History

As TV fans, we know that — much like real-life smooches — not all on-screen kisses deliver on their promise. Sometimes, however, television kisses can be satisfying. On occasion, they can even become monumental pop culture moments.

The best TV kisses are the ones that leave a lasting impression. Perhaps it's because the characters (and maybe even the actors) are experiencing their first kiss in a tender coming-of-age display that reminds us of our own youth, or perhaps it's the first time a highly anticipated couple is puckering up. Or maybe it's just a good old fashioned makeout scene. All can be great.

We've taken a deep dive into television history and come up with a list of some of the most iconic kisses ever to grace the small screen. Though this list skews modern — which is only natural, given how censors have loosened up in the last few decades — these smooches come from a variety of time periods and reflect numerous genres. Some were boundary-breaking, while others were key moments for the show and the characters involved.

A small disclaimer: We've limited ourselves to one smooch per series (otherwise this list could have been, like, 50% "Dawson's Creek"). Here are some of the all-time most pause-worthy kisses in television history.

The Good Wife: Will and Alicia (Season 1, Episode 17)

There are so many things to love about the kiss between Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) and her longtime friend — and boss! — Will Gardner (Josh Charles) in Season 1 of "The Good Wife." For starters, it was the first kiss for the couple and many fans had been rooting for it all season long. Sure, Alicia was technically still married, but given that her husband Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) cheated on her and publicly humiliated her, she basically had a free pass. It's a great character moment, and the actors do it justice — the chemistry between Margulies and Charles is off-the-charts good.

The smooch takes place at the couples' workplace of Stern, Lockhart & Gardner after Alicia walks into Will's office. It ends just as suddenly as it begins, with Alicia bolting for the elevator. We love that the show avoided the cliché of having Will chase her and stop the elevator doors from closing at the last moment, like every rom-com ever. We also appreciate that the actual kiss did not happen in the elevator, because elevator make outs have been done to death. Then again, we would have taken any Alicia-Will kiss we could get back in Season 1.

Castle: Castle and Beckett (Season 3, Episode 13)

Our second smooch also depicts a first kiss moment between a much-shipped couple, but with a very different context. Viewers were thrilled when crime novel writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) planted one on Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), the NYPD officer that he shadowed on the regular, in Season 3 of "Castle." The kiss in question is not so much of a show of true affection as it is a ploy to create a diversion, but it works on multiple levels. It tricks the person it's intended to trick, and it gives viewers a memorable moment between the couple known to fans as "Caskett." At one point, Beckett retreats from Castle, looks him directly in the eyes, and then goes back in for more.

The Castle-Beckett romance may have started with a ruse, but it did not end there. Beckett eventually breaks up with her boyfriend, Dr. Josh Davidson (Victor Webster), but refutes or ignores Castle's proclamations of love after she does so. At the start of Season 5, they are revealed to be officially an item. Caskett marries in Season 7, briefly splits up in Season 8, and then reunites toward the end of the show (it ended with Season 8). In a flash-forward sequence, the couple is shown together with three kids — and who knows if Beckett would have ever unlocked her feelings if not for that initial kiss.

Dawson's Creek: Jack and Ethan (Season 3, Episode 23)

This is a kiss for the record books — no, really, it was actually historic. When Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith) made a play for his crush Ethan Brody (Adam Kaufman) in the third season of "Dawson's Creek," it marked a clear advancement for same-sex affection on television. It all went down in the season finale, wherein Jack proclaimed he had feelings for Ethan. He then went in for a smooch, right in front of Ethan's boyfriend, with whom he had recently reconnected (Jack had no idea). This kiss is often referred to as the first "real" — in that it's an actual passionate kiss and not just a peck — kiss between two men ever to air on network television (via NBC News).

"Dawson's Creek" aired on The WB, the now-defunct network that was combined with UPN to create The CW. It was geared toward youth, and it moved the needle on LGBTQ+ depictions, much like The CW does today. But this was a big moment in queer history, and everyone involved knew it. "Nobody had really done it before, and I was being asked to do this," Smith told Us Weekly when interviewed for the scene's 20-year anniversary. "I said, 'All right, let's make some history. Let's change the way people think.'" The character Jack may have experienced heartbreak, but for many LGBTQ+ people, this lip lock marked a moment of triumph.

Fleabag: Fleabag and the Hot Priest (Season 2, Episode 4)

It is almost unbelievable that "Fleabag" only ran for two seasons because it offered so much in each and every one of its jam packed 12 episodes. After all, there is a reason it earned 64 awards — and another 69 nominations — during its short run, including six Primetime Emmy Awards. All of these Emmy nominations and wins came during the show's second season, and we don't want to say that it is because of the hot priest, but it's not not because of him. The hot priest (Andrew Scott) had incredible chemistry with main character Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), despite their romance being strictly off-limits.

Then again, the fact that it was off-limits was what made it so exciting, both for the characters and the audience. How often do we get a storyline where a total hot mess of a human gets with a man of the cloth? Not often! The couple's best moment was hands-down their first kiss, which occurred in Season 2. After a raw and vulnerable confession, hot priest walks over to her side of the box, bends down, caresses her face, and plants one on her. The music and the dark lighting only intensify the drama. "For an audience seeking a morally ambiguous relationship that they can still enjoy — a rarity in an era of sexual ugliness being dragged into the light — Fleabag and The Priest hit the spot," the Catholic journal Commonweal said.

The Vampire Diaries: Damon and Elena (Season 3, Episode 10)

It was hard to pick just one kiss from "The Vampire Diaries," because there were so many good ones during the show's eight seasons. In fact, we could populate half a list with just kisses between Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and the vampire siblings she falls for, Stefan and Damon Salvatore (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder). Seventeen magazine has suggested that Elena and Damon's motel kiss is their most memorable, but we had to go with a different one, their first kiss. To be technical, the kiss in question was not actually the first one to occur between "Delena" — by the strictest definition, Elena gave Damon a small kiss in the Season 2 finale when she thought he was dying. But that was a tiny peck and a dying wish she fulfilled while still dating Stefan, so we don't think it really counts.

The actors (who famously dated for a few years while on the show) also kissed at the end of Season 1, but the characters did not, as Damon later found out he has actually smooched Elena lookalike Katherine Pierce (also played by Dobrev). The first true, full-blown kiss between Elena and Damon did not arrive until Season 3 of "The Vampire Diaries." "You know what? If I'm going to feel guilty about something, I'm going to feel guilty about this," Damon said before planting one on his brother's girl. Their front porch snog did not lead directly to their coupling, but they eventually got — and stayed — together.

ER: Carol and Doug (Season 6, Episode 21)

We know that Juliana Margulies is represented twice on our list, but she just so happens to be part of some of television's most noteworthy smooches and there is no way we could leave this one out. "ER" is one of the biggest shows of all time, after all. It lasted a whopping fifteen seasons, continuously topped the ratings charts, and is one of the most Emmy nominated series ever (it received an eye-watering 124 nominations). Key to the show's success were its leading actors, especially George Clooney, who played Dr. Doug Ross.

Doug's relationship with nurse Carol Hathaway (Margulies) was one of the show's most popular storylines, but one kiss stands out in particular — the kiss the pair shared in Season 6, Episode 21. Clooney left the show after Season 5, which is what made this particular kiss so unexpectedly awesome. In the episode, Carol realizes how much she loved Doug, who has since moved away to Seattle despite sharing twins with Carol (he left before he knew she was pregnant). So, she heads to Seattle to see him. Though it starts off tentative before developing into a full-blown passionate make out, the smooch they share proves nothing has changed between them. Their reunion was also the perfect way to end the Doug-Carol love story, as Margulies left the show after the episode, and the fact that the show was able to keep Clooney's guest appearance a surprise only added to the excitement.

New Girl: Nick and Jess (Season 2, Episode 15)

It was clear early on that "New Girl" was setting up a romantic pairing between Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) and her roommate Nick Miller (Jake Johnson). The question was never so much if they would get together, but when. And even though the show made us wait until Season 2 for that first kiss between them, it was well worth it. It does not hurt that the episode in question — Season 2's fifteenth episode, entitled "Cooler" — is incredibly funny and cleverly written. It's also incredibly poignant for a show that often borders on ridiculous.

In "Cooler," viewers are led to believe that Nick and Jess are going to kiss as part of a game with their friends. Having been locked in a room while playing True American, a drinking game the show made up, the pair are told they will only be released when they kiss. Nick refuses to do it ("Not like this," he says) and jumps out a window, only to return later. When they finally do kiss, Nick and Jess are alone and it totally takes Jess by surprise — but in the best possible way. "I meant something like that," he says afterward. By the end of Season 2, the couple are sleeping together, and by the start of Season 3, they are officially dating.

Killing Eve: Eve and Villanelle (Season 3, Episode 3)

When we first met Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), she was married to a teacher named Niko (Owen McDonnell) and seemingly happy with him. But as Eve began tracking professional assassin and all-around psychopath Villanelle (Jodie Comer), she developed an obsession with the woman. Over time, that obsession became erotically charged, and both women developed unexpected feelings for one another. We were not surprised when they crossed that line and kissed, but we were surprised by when and how it happened. By the time they kissed, Eve and Villanelle had already been through much together, including Eve stabbing Villanelle (in Season 1) and Villanelle shooting Eve (in Season 2). And they say romance is dead!

In the big kiss scene, Villanelle boards a bus that she knows Eve is on, which causes a scared Eve to lunge at her. Eventually, Villanelle restrains Eve on one of the bus seats. "Smell me, Eve," she asks. "What do I smell like to you?" Eve then leans up for a kiss, pulls back so the two can share eye contact, and then headbutts Villanelle. It's intensely violent and sensual all at once, and Oh and Comer sell the hell out of it (as they do everything). "I really just wanted to subvert those expectations and have it at a moment when, not only does the audience least expect it, but Eve would least expect it too," showrunner Suzanne Heathcote said in an interview with Decider.

The OC: Seth and Summer (Season 1, Episode 20)

Oh, how we loved the pairing of nerdy Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) and popular girl Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) on "The O.C." It was such a win for awkward dorks and social misfits everywhere, even if Seth was a lowkey hunk. Seth and Summer's relationship certainly wasn't a stable one (they had plenty of memorable "breakup and makeup" moments), but what teenage relationship is? The couple ended up tying the knot in the finale, wrapping the hit series up with a neat little bow. "The glossy teen show had a huge cultural impact — and it's still kind of perfect," The Guardian said in 2022.

When it comes to Seth and Summer's most memorable kisses, there are many to choose from. Marie Claire Australia has suggested that their "Spider-Man" inspired upside-down kiss is their greatest, but, while we did love that one, we are more partial to their snog in Season 1, Episode 20 — their first public kiss. It occurs after Seth jumps up onto a coffee cart to declare that he and Summer are dating, in front of basically the entire school. "Acknowledge me now or lose me forever," he tells a mortified Summer. But then she takes his extended hand, gets up on the cart with him, and kisses him, right there in front of everyone.

MTV VMAs: Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera

This is the sole entry on our list that does not come from a fictional series, but it is too monumental a pop culture moment to ignore. People are still talking about the performance where Madonna kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, despite the fact that it happened nearly two decades and hundreds of awards show performances ago. To this day, we still do not see nearly as many same-sex kisses in pop culture as we do other-sex kisses, especially when it comes to mainstream events like the VMAs. When Adam Lambert tried it a few years later, it was much less well-received (per CNN). More recently, Lil Nas X kissed a male dancer during his BET performance, but, even in 2021, some people still reacted with homophobic remarks (per USA Today).

Sexual double standards are real; when Madonna kissed two of the reigning princesses of pop, there was no real outrage. Instead, people treated it like an exciting stunt with a juicy amount of shock value, particularly enhanced by the immediate cutaway to Justin Timberlake's stone-cold reaction face. Spears and Aguilera were both dressed in tiny white outfits, having just finished singing "Like A Virgin" with Madge, and Madonna suggestively removed Aguilera's garter as she sang her hit "Hollywood." She then turned to Brit and gave her a sloppy kiss, before planting one on X-Tina. The performance was history in the making.

Gossip Girl: Dan and Serena (Season 1, episode 5)

As we're only including one "Gossip Girl" smooch on our list (honorable mention to Chuck and Blair's first kiss), we've opted for the kiss that started the love affair between "lonely boy" Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) and "cool girl" Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively). This kiss set the stage for their whole downtown-uptown relationship and the juxtaposition between their worlds, which was a defining aspect of the show.

It occurs in Season 1, Episode 5, as Dan and Serena walk the streets of New York. The pair had just successfully tracked down Serena's brother Eric (Connor Paolo), who had gone missing from the mental health facility he was placed in after attempting suicide. Once their mission was complete, and once Serena saw what a mensch Dan could be, she put all her cards on the table. She called him out for not having kissed her yet, prompting him to stop walking and go in for a smacker.

The lovebirds were on and off throughout the series, but "Gossip Girl" gave us a flash-forward sequence in the finale that revealed Dan and Serena eventually married.

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Shameless: Mickey and Ian (Season 4, Episode 8)

"Shameless" was a very important show for queer representation, highlighting multiple LGBTQ+ characters and relationships over the years. The most central one of these was the relationship between Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and his eventual husband Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher). While Mickey was not a very good person — nor was he an especially good boyfriend when the pair first got together — he pushed against cultural stereotypes and presented a very different gay man compared to what is typically seen on television. Monaghan and Fisher also had amazing chemistry, making us root for the relationship.

Many of Ian and Mickey's early love scenes lacked intimacy and tenderness. This is because the couple began as a clandestine pair and because of Mickey's own internalized homophobia. They had a sexual relationship long before they had an emotional one, and the couple, known to shippers as Gallovich, did not even kiss until Season 3, Episode 5. That is why the smooch we have chosen — which happened in Season 4, Episode 18 — was so monumental. It takes place in a club and marks the first time Mickey shows true affection to Ian in public. You can feel the passion, and it deeply enhances the depth of the characters' relationship.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy and Spike (Season 6, episode 7)

Unlike so many smooches that don't live up to the hype, the first real kiss between Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and William "Spike" Pratt (James Marsters) was tremendously memorable, sexy, and exciting. We say their first "real" kiss because, technically, they did make out in Season 4 due to a spell — but we don't think that counts, given that they had no agency in the matter. That Buffy and Spike did not end up together when the show called it quits doesn't even matter (besides, we were Team Angel).

Well before "Twilight," "True Blood," and "The Vampire Diaries" made vampires the go-to supernatural bad boy, Spike was the ultimate undead beau. With his punk rock vibes and bleached blond hair, he exuded an air of mystery and evolved tremendously throughout the course of the show, to the point where Joss Whedon called him his most fully developed character (per Sci-Fi TV). Spike and Buffy kissed in the musical episode of the show — one of its most memorable episodes, hands down — and it was almost like a scene from "Moulin Rouge." It made us forget how much of a villain Spike once was, and how he at one time obsessed over killing Buffy.