We live in a world where real-live sex of every description can be watched on the Internet at any time for free. Given that fact, why would any man sit through the entire length of a feature film just for a few fleeting minutes of female flesh?
There’s basically two reasons. The first is that the movie has some redeeming artistic value. It may be a total snooze without the nudity, but is worth seeing, or is at least worth being able to tell people you’ve seen it. Maybe you wouldn’t have seen it if it wasn’t for the promise of a good sex scene or two, but you’re willing to stick around for the more enlightening parts.
The second reason is that the feature film can bring a good, possibly full-frontal look at a real Hollywood starlet. True, you could wait a couple months and see the key scenes on the Internet, once the DVDs, Blue-Rays and/or bootlegs hit the web. But there’s some value to the full theater experience, especially since the quality of the movie is giving you some cover (“yes, the cinematography in that three-way lesbian scene was quite evocative”). Some of the movies on this list are very good (some certainly aren’t). But the key question is: how likely is it that a man would go see these movies in the theater on his own, if all the sex and nudity were cut out? If the movie’s a hard-pass without the sex, then it makes this list.
12. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Quick: can you tell me the plot of Mulholland Drive? No, I mean it, I’d really like to know. David Lynch movies are known for their surreal qualities and unusual structure – think Wild At Heart, Blue Velvet and Inland Empire. This means that if you’re not feeling him or are just not in the mood, his movies can be something of a forced march to get through. Luckily, he likes to sprinkle his winding, surrealist adventures with a fair share of nudity. There’s Laura Dern in Wild At Heart. There’s the surprise topless scene in Inland Empire. And the all-time winner: Mulholland Drive, which features graphic lesbian and masturbation scenes with Naomi Watts, one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood over the past 15 years.
11. Under The Skin (2013)
Under The Skin is a contemplative, slow-paced, often elliptical rumination on what it means to be human. Not sold? OK, what if I told you it stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien who uses sex to entrap men for some undeclared extraterrestrial purpose, only to have the tables turned and find her own sexual awakening among the Earthlings. That description is probably a bit more tempting. The movie, of course, is both: thought provoking and boring at the same time, with Johansson’s sexuality as the main driving force behind both the action on screen and the audience’s attention.
10. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Everyone loves Stanley Kubrick, director of Eyes Wide Shut, as well as classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. But we can still be honest: all of his movies are a little boring. The famously meticulous director may infuse every shot the artistic equivalent of a Rembrandt portrait, but his insistence on multiple takes tends to drain every performance of energy (Jack Nicholson in The Shining being the main exception) and almost every movie is overly long. Eyes Wide Shut is no exception, except it does constantly tease us with the prospect of a Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman sex scene (it never happens, despite this promise being the cornerstone of the movie’s pre-release press). However, the movie does end with cinema’s most famous orgy, complete with masked weirdos and plenty of naked women – too many naked women as it turned out. The studio had orgy guests strategically CGIed into many shots to tone down the movie slightly.
9. Cold Mountain (2003)
Cold Mountain has all the hallmarks of an art-house snooze-fest. Let’s go through the checklist: It’s based on a 350-page literary novel (check); it’s a costume drama set in the Civil War (check); it’s nearly two and a half hours long (check); and it’s directed by Anthony Minghella, Oscar-winning director of The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley (check). It does have a lively cast, centered around Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger. The movie also has a lengthy semi-orgy scene set in some backwoods cabin. As a bonus, it has some glimpses of Nicole Kidman, but, let’s be honest, that’s not a particularly rare sight in cinema.
8. Monster’s Ball (2001)
The main plot of Monster’s Ball: a guard working death row, who comes from a racist family and alienates his son to the point of suicide, starts a romantic relationship with the poor African American wife of one of his prisoners. So to review: we have death row, suicide, racism and poverty. Turned on yet? Admittedly, it’s not really the formula for a crowd-pleaser, especially if your goal is sexiness and titillation. But Monster’s Ball has a trump card: it contained one of the most famous sex scenes of its time. Male fantasy Halle Berry appearing in her first major nude sex scene (she had appeared topless earlier in Swordfish, but Monster’s Ball was a – excuse the pun – monster step beyond that), a lengthy, graphic, and surprisingly emotional encounter with Billy Bob Thornton (it wasn’t all sexy). The naked portrayal (in both senses, of course) won her an Oscar that year.
7. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)
It is a nearly three-hour-long French (meaning subtitles) teen coming-of-age movie, the absolute definition of an art-house bore. But Blue Is The Warmest Colour also contains something like 20 minutes of graphic, lesbian sex scenes. The sex scenes eventually caused a controversy – not because they appeared in the movie (by 2013, graphic sex in a mainstream movie wasn’t that headline-inducing), but for the way they were shot.
The two main actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, complained about how director Abdellatif Kechiche handled the set. Seydoux was most outspoken, calling the process “humiliating” at times and saying that it made her feel “like a prostitute.” The sex scenes reportedly took 10 days to shoot, with the actresses, according to Seydoux, having to “fake…orgasm” for six hours a day in front of three cameras filming simultaneously. Despite the hardships, it was a career-making film for the actresses. Blue Is The Warmest Colour won a strong following, as well as a number of awards, including the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
6. Love & Other Drugs (2010)
Director Edward Zwick isn’t known for his erotic fare. His most high-profile movies include Glory, the story of the first African American regiment in the Civil War; The Last Samurai, a Tom Cruise vehicle set in 19th century Japan; and Blood Diamond, Leo DiCaprio‘s earnest battle against the exploitation of poor African villagers in the name of commerce. Love & Other Drugs mines the same straight-forward, well-meaning political storytelling, except this time with a good deal of nudity. It centers on the relationship between a Viagra salesman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and a young woman with a rare disease that the medical establishment can’t be bothered to cure (Anne Hathaway). In general, it’s a 112-minute screed against the values of the pharmaceutical industry. But now and then, Anne Hathaway gets naked, and the moral diatribes are punctuated by sex scenes between the two attractive stars.
5. Nymphomaniac (2013)
Nymphomaniac is a two-part epic explicitly about sex. Its inclusion on this list might be a little unfair – obviously, if you cut the sex and nudity out of a movie about sex and nudity, there isn’t much reason to see the movie. Still, the two volumes of Nymphomaniac come to 325 minutes in the uncut version. That’s right: well over 5 hours. Unless you’re into tantric, that’s even a long time for sex. If you need that in perspective, that would be a little like watching Titanic all the way through, and then immediately watching it again for another two hours, or – I’m guessing – roughly until the boat starts to sink (again). But while Titanic just had a brief glimpse of Kate Winslet topless, Nymphomaniac contains a string of sex scenes, complete with lesbian encounters and threesomes.
4. 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
A classic in the genre of boring movies with a sexy draw, 9 1/2 Weeks was nearly two hours of overwrought cinematography and dull romance. But it has some of the most famous sex scenes of its time. The movie turned Kim Basinger into one of the top sex symbols of the era and solidified the reputation of Mickey Rourke as a Hollywood bad boy. Or maybe it sent his career down the road of ruinous erotica. It depends on your point of view, but 4 years later he would release Wild Orchid, the absolute peak/through of the only-has-sex-going-for-it genre. He also starred in 1997’s Another 9½ Weeks, but probably the less said about that the better.
9 1/2 Weeks was directed by Adrian Lyne, who has made something of a career of crafting these kind of movies. His credits include Fatal Attraction, Flashdance, Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful. He also made the controversial 1997 remake of Lolita.
3. The Brown Bunny (2003)
The Brown Bunny was one of the most controversial movies of 2003. It drew significant critical ire, including a well-publicized feud between star/director Vincent Gallo and famed movie critic, Roger Ebert. Ebert lambasted the film, declaring it the worst movie in the history of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and calling it “so unendurable boring that when the hero changes into a clean shirt, there is applause.” Gallo in turn called on evil forces to give Ebert cancer of either the colon or the prostate (there was later some controversy about what body part the director had attempted to hex).
Eventually, though, the filmmaker took the critic’s advice and cut more than 20 minutes from the movie, a move that eventually earned the film a positive review from Ebert. The edit hardly would have mattered. The movie had one selling point that would have overcome any issues with interminable length: an explicit sex scene involving actress Chloë Sevigny, who at that point had made a name for herself with roles in Kids and Boys Don’t Cry, and who would go on to even bigger success in films like Zodiac and as a regular on the TV show Big Love.
2. Showgirls (1995)
Showgirls isn’t just a boring movie with sex in it. It’s a boring movie about sex. The movie reunites director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas, the team behind Basic Instinct, the sex-drenched erotic thriller that became a surprise blockbuster in 1992 and made a sex symbol out of Sharon Stone. Your judgement on the artistic value of Basic Instinct probably varies with your taste, but no one can claim that it is boring, even aside from its famous sex scenes. The same can’t be said about Showgirls, which vacillates between boring, ludicrous and bizarre, even within a given sex scene. Starring Saved By The Bell alum Elizabeth Berkley in a performance that was supposed to change her good-girl image (it worked, but probably not in the way she envisioned), the film is still one of the most infamous sex movies ever released by a major Hollywood studio.
1. 50 Shades Of Grey (2015)
50 Shades Of Grey is a terrible movie made from a terrible book (any story that starts out as Twilight fan fiction has a steep road to climb, even if its goal is mediocrity). The novel (and its sequels) earned best-seller status and the movie became a box office sensation by exploiting both aspirational fantasies and a taboo subject. In the movie, the mysterious tycoon Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) introduces the shy, innocent Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) into the world of sado-masochism. It’s a weird subject for a global blockbuster and an excruciatingly long movie at over 2 hours in running time. But it does feature prominent nude scenes from Johnson, one of the most promising up-and-coming actresses on the Hollywood scene.