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26 Pop Culture Hugs to Celebrate National Hugging Day

Happy National Hugging Day! This completely made-up holiday (aren’t they all made up anyway?) is all about wrapping your arms around someone to spread joy, give comfort, show support, or celebrate something incredible. When it comes to TV and film, hugs are a powerful medium to convey strong emotions and signal to the audience that two or more characters have a profound connection with each other.

This method works for pretty much any story, even those in genre that sometimes feature sci-fi or fantasy elements. A well-placed and needed hug is a grounding force that is relatable for pretty much every viewer because we have all benefited from a wonderful hug. It’s hard to not feel something in the pit of your stomach when these embraces happen – even if you aren’t personally into hugs.

There are countless TV and film hugs in existence, but there’s something about these hugs that will really give you an array of feels:

Carol & Daryl

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The Walking Dead may miss the mark on some things but the show’s emotionally-charged reunion hugs are always on point. The zombie apocalypse series ushered in its fifth season with Carol’s destruction of Terminus. The previously banished group member revealed herself near the end of the episode, causing a surprising wave of emotion to come over her close friend Daryl.

He ran over and quickly scooped Carol into his arms for a warm embrace. Daryl briefly breaks away to reveal teary eyes before laying his head softly on her shoulder. Ahhh, the feels! Years later, it’s still one of the most memorable Walking Dead scenes.

Sansa & Jon

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In Game of Thrones, Ygritte told Jon Snow that he knows nothing, but that’s not true. The guy knows how to give some excellent hugs. One of his best hugs was with Sansa Stark, the not-really-half-sister whom he didn’t get along with at the beginning of the series.

Sansa and Jon’s years of separation, trauma, and betrayal along with a fear that every Stark was dead pushed all previous feelings aside when they saw each other. There was only happiness and relief to see another family member.

Tenth Doctor & Sarah Jane

The Tenth Doctor is the most hugging and feels-having incarnation ever. So, it’s no surprise that he is one half of one of the best Doctor Who hugs. He’s reunited with the incomparable Sarah Jane, who hadn’t seen in him half a dozen regenerations.

After finishing a mission together, The Doctor says goodbye to his Sarah Jane and gives her a big hug before taking off in the TARDIS. David Tennant and Elisabeth Sladen deliver the moment with absolute perfection. It’s a lovely bridge between the Classic and Modern eras of the enduring series and hits even harder considering that Sladen died in 2011.

Rocky & Adonis

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Rocky’s quiet existence changed unexpectedly when Apollo Creed’s son Adonis appeared in his life. The pair built not only a working relationship, but a father-son bond along the way. So, when Adonis and Rocky embrace each other right after the final round bell rings during the Conlan fight, it’s clear that this moment is so much bigger than who wins the title.

It’s about Rocky finding life again in the boxing world and beyond as he guides his deceased best friend’s son towards greatness. And Adonis comes into his destiny as a legit fighter worthy of carrying on the Creed legacy on top of taking care of Rocky during his treatment. They not only complete the fight but they also complete each other.

The Stranger Things crew

The final minutes of Stranger Things 3 are some of saddest scenes in the entire series so far.  The show shocked fans by revealing that Will’s family and Eleven were leaving Hawkins, Indiana to start a new life.

Watching the kids all hug and say their goodbyes is sad for so many reasons. There are a lot of relationships being shifted in this moment—Will and his buddies, Mike and El, Max and El (really, Eleven with everyone), and Nancy and Jonathan—and its going to change these kids in major ways.

It’s a bittersweet reminder of our own childhoods and how we didn’t realize that there would be a final day to us going outside to ride bikes with friends, playing at the park, kissing our first love, or hanging out at arcade on Saturday. And Hopper’s voice reading his letter to El makes it even more emotional.

Rocky & Creed

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Who doesn’t love to see Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed go in for an awkward hug during a training montage?  This Rocky 3 moment is funny, cheesy, and shows how their relationship progressed from being rivals to the two best friends in the boxing world.

The franchise didn’t know it but this scene parallels perfectly with Rocky training Apollo’s son Adonis, especially when they hit the punching bag together.

Bellamy & Clarke

Does anyone on TV hug more than Bellamy and Clarke? The 100‘s loyal fandom has shipped this pair for many years and it’s easy to see why they love Bellarke.

Clarke and Bellamy have more than a handful of loving embraces over six seasons and will likely hug (and maybe kiss) at least once more during the show’s upcoming final season. Until then, a throwback hug from season two can be everyone’s happy fuel.

E.T. & Elliott

We all knew that E.T. would have to go home, but we didn’t know it would be such a sad goodbye. The friendly alien and Elliott bid each other a tearful farewell before E.T. wraps him up in a warm (and kinda long) hug.

The hug is sweet enough but the sweeping music is what really hits you in the face with all the feelings. Thank you John Williams for destroying us all.

Iceman & Maverick

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It’s always awesome when competitors become comrades. Maverick and Iceman’s final fight was filled with uncertainty because of the former’s lack of confidence but they stick together and come out on top of a dangerous situation.

The pair touch back down and give each other the most triumphant of hugs before Iceman says his classic line to Maverick—“You can be my wingman anytime!” The best part is, this duo is reuniting onscreen again in Top Gun: Maverick this year.

Buffy & Angel

Why does this scene still hurt in 2020? Buffy had to make one of the worst decisions ever when she had to kill her love Angel. She gives him a hug, kiss, and some final loving words before stabbing him through the chest.

It’s certainly not a hug that anyone wants but it was effective and made sense in the story. Love hurts.

Samwise & Frodo

What do you need right before your impending demise? How about a hug and kind words? Lord of the Rings besties Frodo and Sam hold each in an exhausted and melancholy way as they wait for what they believe are their final moments.

Everything about this scene is perfection: Sam’s emotions over Rosie, Frodo saying he’s glad to be in the midst of fire with Sam, and a happy ending with Gandalf sweeping in to save the hobbit pals.

Han, Luke & Leia

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This joyous Star Wars hug from A New Hope should be played on a loop. Luke runs to hug Leia, Han runs up to hug Luke, Han kinda smacks Luke in the face, and then Leia gets in between them for a group snuggle.

There may always be some kind of star war going on, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a happy hug!

Tony & Peter

Tony finally reciprocated the hug that Peter Parker awkwardly thought he was going to get in the car that one time, and its the best. It was Tony’s first time seeing Peter after he got dusted in Infinity War and his love for the kid couldn’t be contained. Peter’s talking 1,000 words per minute but Tony reels him in for a hug anyway. You can feel all five years of Tony’s pain and emotion and suddenly there is dust in your eye.

Jenny & Forrest Gump

Jenny’s life was tumultuous but one thing was always good to her: Forrest’s unconditional love. His unexpected reunion with Jenny at the “March on the Pentagon” rally is one of the most wonderful moments in Forrest Gump.

Watching Forrest dive into Washington D.C.’s Reflecting Pool in full uniform to meet a hippie Jenny almost erases all the times she broke his heart.

Dion, Mark & Nicole

Raising a curious kid with super powers is no easy task. It’s even harder when you discover deeper truths about your presumably deceased spouse Mark and his best friend. Raising Dion took fans on a twisty trip through the eyes of the young titular hero and his mom Nicole with an engaging story leading to one sentimental moment.

They are briefly “reunited” with Mark for a family hug. It’s emotional, yet hopeful as Dion vows to find a way to bring his father back before his image disappears.

Lito & Hernando

Sense8‘s time was far too short but it gave fans so many rich relationships. There are a ton of fabulous hugs in this series but one of the best is Lito & Hernando’s passionate hug and kiss during PRIDE.

It was touching to watch Lito, an actor who finally felt free to publicly declare that is is a gay man, bring his partner Hernando onstage in front on thousands of people and openly show him affection.

The moment is so freeing and validating for the character but surely for many fans watching who may not be famous actors but were not comfortable or didn’t feel safe enough to be their full selves in front of the world.

Dean & Sam

The Winchester brothers are big-time huggers. Supernatural in is the final stretch of its epic 15 season run so there are far too many great Dean & Sam hugs to pick just one.

Thankfully, YouTube channel Wayward One has complied a great list of the creature hunters best hugs. The order is up for anyone’s interpretation but its always touching to see guys subvert stupid stereotypes about it being “unmanly” to hug. Hugs are for everyone!

Hermione & Harry

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Hermione and Ron may have made the eventual romantic connection but her friendship with Harry is just as awesome. They have hugged quite a bit over the years but there’s no hug quite like Hermione running to greet her bestie in The Philosopher’s Stone.

It’s joyous, adorable, and a reminder of how much these magical kids have grown since this movie dropped nearly 20 years ago.

Lila, Ruth & Bo

Fast Color

Fast Color is a unique story about three generations of super-powered Black women and girls. There is a lot of action, heart, and, yes, a couple of hugs in the mix.

The best one comes in the final scene when Bo offers herself to the scientists who were after her and her daughter Ruth and  holding her granddaughter Lila hostage.

Lila’s tearful embrace towards Bo before running into the arms of her mom caps off this brilliant saga of power, reconciliation, love, and sacrifice.

Red & Andy

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest friendship films of all-time. It’s not an overly sentimental story but rather the natural progression of a bond over time between a framed man and someone who offered him friendship during the most dire season of his life.

Red and Andy’s reunion and hug in the final moments is the perfect happy ending after years of abuse, pain, and hard times in prison. The camera is actually moving away from them as they embrace, but fans don’t need to see their faces to feel the impact of this scene. It’s clear that they are happy and ready to spend the rest of their lives in paradise…together.

Mulan & Fa Zhou

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Mulan certainly brought honor to her family by taking her father’s place in war. She brought gifts back to Fa Zhou in hopes that he would be proud of her accomplishments. He places them aside and bends down to give her a hug.

Her father says the greatest gift and honor of all is having her as his daughter. Awwww.

Spock & Uhura

Spock and Uhura’s romantic relationship was a welcome element to the 2009 Star Trek film. Uhura brings him in for a tender hug after he loses his mother and his home planet.

Spock initially has a stoic expression when Uhura puts her hands on him but he briefly melts into her hug before asking her to make sure his comrades continue to perform admirably. If there was ever a time to be “emotionally compromised,” it is during this moment.

Tyrone & Tandy

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The Cloak & Dagger duo gave fans two layered and complex teen superheroes. Tyrone and Tandy were infamous for arguing and making mistakes as they tried to figure out their complicated regular and hero lives but they were undoubtedly each other’s anchors.

They initially couldn’t come in close proximity without their powers repelling, which made it even more sweet when they were finally able to hug. That means every single time they embrace each other is the greatest Ty and Tandy moment.

Honorable Mention: Will & Uncle Phil 

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air doesn’t fall into the geek/nerd/sci-fi realm but it’s impossible to have a National Hugging Day list and not include this gem of a hug. It is perhaps the greatest TV embrace of all-time and will make every human cry.

Will’s feigned indifference over his father leaving him once again quickly flows to anger, confusion, and eventually pain as he parses through his heartbreak in front of Uncle Phil.

The “Why don’t he want me, ,man? ” line followed by Uncle Phil’s fatherly embrace is the most memorable moment from the show and still touches the hearts of fans over 25 years later.

Honorable Mention: Blanca & Damon

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The groundbreaking FX series Pose has picked up where documentaries like Paris is Burning left off by exploring ’80s and ’90s ball culture. As Blanca expertly explains to Damon, balls are a gathering and celebration of those (specifically LGBTQ people of color) who are not welcomed nor celebrated anywhere else.

The people in the community formed houses aka chosen families dress up and walk in different categories in hopes of snagging trophies and securing legacy. Damon, a gay teen discarded by his parents, is taken in by Blanca, a trans woman whose HIV diagnosis pushed her towards building a legendary house.

She pushes him to his dance dreams and he eventually travels the world. But, when Blanca is hospitalized, her baby boy wastes no time surprising her at the hospital with a big hug.

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Hugs are an essential part of the human experience. They give us hope in the shadow of fear, love in the midst of heartache, and an additional boost of joy and confidence. A hug is a greeting, a goodbye, a sermon, and a love letter depending on when they happen. This is why they are so prevalent in pop culture pieces. Today is a great day to ask a loved one for a hug or dish one out to someone you adore (just make sure you ask first!).

If you haven’t passed out from the overflow of feelings, let us know your favorite TV and film hugs in genre.

Featured Image: Gene Page/AMC