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14 best literal stolen-heart scenes in TV and film

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This Valentine’s Day, we’re not looking for cutesy conceits. Seriously, skip all the star-crossed nonsense. Spare us the sappy theatrics. And for the love of Cupid, put the poetry down.

What we want is hearts. Literal hearts.

A “stolen heart” is a metaphor to most. You say someone stole your heart when you fall in love with a person or a pet. It’s a description of an emotional reaction so big it’s best likened to having a part of you taken and forever kept by another. It’s a feeling.

But on screen, stolen hearts can be — and often enough are — literal. Across movies, TV, and video games, hearts are constantly getting scooped, sucked, snagged, and snatched right out from under their rightful owners’ ribs. Yes, much of these scenes symbolize feelings of love or, conversely, hate. Still, they’re rooted in reality for a reason. Literal stolen hearts represent some of the most exciting entertainment moments ever, heightened by the grounded realness they require.

It’s a trope we’ve grown fond of over the years. Some might even say it has…stolen our hearts. So, to treat ourselves this V-Day, we’ve combed through all our favorite cardiac crimes and selected 14 of the most iconic hearts ever literally stolen on screen.

Most “Buzzy”: Yellowjackets

Some will say that not enough people got eaten in the Yellowjackets finale (a paltry zero!). But we glimpse the girls’ violent trajectory thanks to a bear that Lottie stabs in the woods. Alongside Van and Misty, she later presents its (massive) heart at an altar. “Spill blood, my friends,” Lottie says in French. “Let the darkness set us free.” 

This is a key moment in the girls’ journey from frightened survivors to full-on cannibal cult. In the present, Taissa has killed her family’s dog and offered up his heart at a makeshift altar of her own, and now we know it’s only the first step in a much darker journey. Proma Khosla, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Most Formative: The Simpsons

There’s a reason they’re called crushes, and it’s because they can be crushing. And you never forget your first. In “New Kid On the Block,” Bart falls hard for snarky teen Laura Powers (voiced by Roseanne‘s snarky teen Darlene, aka Sara Gilbert). When he finds out she’s got a boyfriend, his heartbreak is illustrated through this scene, where she not only rips out Bart’s heart — before punting it into a trash can — but also quips, “You won’t be needing this!” Been there. Felt that. —Kristy Puchko, Deputy Entertainment Editor

Most Expensive: Titanic

He put the diamond in the coat. He put the coat on her!

Titanic‘s jaw-dropping “Heart of the Ocean” necklace is one of the most recognizable movie props ever made. No, the precious gemstone, modeled after the actual Hope Diamond, wasn’t keeping Cal alive. And no, Rose wasn’t technically trying to “steal” it when she waded into the icy depths not knowing her pockets’ contents. Still, the opulent jewelry, famously referenced by Britney Spears in “Oops!… I Did It Again,” fits the spirit of this curation perfectly. Cal absolutely had a heart stolen. But it bears repeating: He put on the coat on her. —Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter

Crustiest: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Jack Sparrow is as baffled as anyone when Tia Dalma gifts him a jar of dirt in Dead Man’s Chest, but it’s exactly what he needs to stash Davy Jones’ heart during the film’s climax. Norrington takes the chest that initially contained the heart into the jungle to draw away Jones’ henchmen, but not before carefully appraising the jar. When Jack and the others return to the Black Pearl, he taunts Jones with the jar only to find out that it’s empty. 

“Where is the thump-thump?” Jack mutters anxiously. Alas, we won’t see it again until the sequel. —P.K.

Most Stolen Hearts (In the Aggregate): Weird Disney franchises 

For the most part, Disney and Disney-adjacent franchises use “stealing hearts” as an easy, kid-friendly metaphor for falling in love. Except for Snow White, which uses stealing hearts as a not-metaphor for cutting someone’s heart out and giving it to an Evil Queen. And Once Upon a Time, where many characters reach into another’s chest and rip their heart out to use as a form of mind control and/or murder. And Kingdom Hearts, which is frankly inexplicable but involves smacking the hearts out of millions of little shadow dudes to make a giant moon-heart in the sky. —Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Most Stolen Hearts (Per Capita): Organ horror

In the real world, there are only a few ways to steal someone’s heart. All of them are illegal and most of them are gross. Consider the Hollywood trope of organ-stealing horror, which crops up to easily identify villains and make people feel squicky about their bodily autonomy. There’s Repo! The Genetic Opera and Repo Man, two movies that both deal with a dystopian future in which companies can repossess transplanted organs when people don’t keep up with their payments. Or Turistas, which is about backpackers getting kidnapped by an organ harvesting syndicate and, well, getting their organs harvested. Of course, even when organs are harvested responsibly, there’s no guarantee that they won’t be stolen later (see: The Goodest Heart Thief). —A.N. 

Goodest Heart Thief: One Tree Hill

Medical shows have long made delicious drama out of stolen, lost, or otherwise placed-in-peril donor organs. But no series did a patient dirtier than One Tree Hill, in which the villainous Dan saw his replacement heart dropped and then carried off by a golden retriever in Season 6, episode 18, “Searching for a Former Clarity.” It’s far and away the nuttiest thing this show, or really any show, has done with the stolen heart trope. But who can stay mad at that face?! —A.F.

Best Intentions: Spongebob Squarepants

There’s not a better friend in Bikini Bottom than Spongebob Squarepants. In Season 1’s “Valentine’s Day,” everybody’s favorite yellow sponge decides to gift his pal Patrick a gigantic chocolate heart balloon. But when scallops attack the floating confection, Spongebob’s hyping up of the surprise backfires, and Patrick’s intense excitement turns into a full-on meltdown.

PATRICK NEEDS LOVE TOO!” the emotionally volatile starfish screams, while destroying a Valentine’s Day-themed carnival piece by piece. Luckily, Sandy manages to save the day and the iconic duo’s friendship by using her Texas talents on the unruly mollusks. Yeehaw! —A.F.

Cute, but Cursed: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is full of talk of witches and wizards stealing hearts, but only one person actually loses theirs: Howl. The notorious wizard gives it to the fire demon Calcifer as part of a magical deal. This means he’s cursed to lose his humanity, but at least he gets to hang out with Calcifer, whose grouchiness only makes him cuter. 

Don’t worry too much about Howl: Even after the Witch of the Waste tries to steal his heart, Sophie manages to put it back, making this the only entry on this list in which someone regains their stolen heart. Belen Edwards, Entertainment Reporter

Problematic Fave: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Even when it came out in 1984, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was criticized for racist stereotypes, misogynistic jokes, and blatantly misrepresenting Indian culture with scenes of monkey-brain feasts and ghoulish human sacrifice. While this scene in particular is deeply problematic, it’s also undeniably iconic. The over-the-top temple production design, the throbbing score, the fearsome red lighting, the practical effects that detailed a human torso down to a field of chest hair and pliable flesh, all sets the stage. Then, Amrish Puri made it his own as a high priest who loves getting his hands dirty. All these years later, we’re still screaming. —K.P.

Worst Date: Iron Man

Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were the MCU’s first and foremost romantic relationship, and it all started with this Iron Man scene. A panicked Pepper has to pull a copper wire out of Tony’s chest to replace his arc reactor, and ends up sending him into cardiac arrest just before they succeed, her hands still dripping with plasmic discharge.

“Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever ask me to do anything like that ever again,” she says as they laugh with relief.

“I don’t have anyone but you,” Tony says softly, and they share the briefest of moments. He tells Pepper to dispose of the old arc reactor, but it ends up being one of the most poignant props in MCU history, even after Tony is gone. —P.K.

The Circle of Life: Video games

In video games, hearts represent life, death, and the endless cycle of rebirth that is unique to this flavor of entertainment. We begin with full hearts only to watch them slowly diminish as fresh challenges deliver lessons packaged in pains and failures. When all the hearts are gone, so is our life — but it’s just one of many. And so the cycle continues. Not every game uses the heart-shaped iconography that Zelda fans (among others) know so well. But so many adhere to the multifaceted spirit of beginnings, endings, and renewals. —Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Thanks, But No Thanks: Dumb and Dumber

In his own mind, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) is the hero of an epic romance, nobly traveling cross-country to return lost luggage to his dream girl Mary (Lauren Holly). She’ll reject him in the end, but in his fantasy sequence of their reunion, it’s someone else whose heart gets ripped out. Beyond imagining fireside love-making, Lloyd envisions a chance to defend Mary’s honor against overly amorous restaurant workers. Taking macho displays to a ludicrous peak, Lloyd ultimately tears the heart out of a chef’s chest, then puts it in a doggy bag to add insult to injury. Sure, it’s hilarious. But bro, Mary’s just not that into you! —K.P.    

Queen of Stolen Hearts: Emilia Clarke

Beyond stealing our hearts with her charismatic performances, Emilia Clarke has solidified herself as the MVP of literal on-screen hearts. As Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, she consumed an entire horse’s heart — made of solidified jam — in one of Season 1’s most hardcore scenes. She then went on to star in holiday rom-com Last Christmas, which takes Wham!’s lyrics “last Christmas, I gave you my heart” very literally. You can’t waste a heart transplant from Henry Golding, Emilia Clarke! But you can accept your crown as queen of this list. Congratulations! —B.E.

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