20 provocative movies for your home-viewing Hot pleasure, highlighting each one's most titillating sex scene. Films that require freeze frames, slow-motion, repeat performances or some carefully calibrated combination of the three. There's a lot to be said for watching a movie on the big screen — the hum of the projector, the collective experience of being in an audience, the sticky floors — but there are also certain films best enjoyed in the privacy of one's own home.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Ana López Mercado, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal
"Here's to life and love and sex!" toasts Ana (Ana López Mercado) to the two lovable, hormonally overwrought teen knuckleheads she's taken under her wing on an impromptu road trip through Mexico. The boys, played by Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, can scarcely believe their luck -- that a beautiful older woman has chosen to school them in those three subjects, particularly the third. But an evening that begins with a booze-fueled roadhouse session ends in a very adventurous motel ménage à tequila -- right before the movie reveals Ana's tragic secret.
Belle de Jour (1967)
Directed by: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti
Séverine, a gorgeous, chilly upper-class housewife compelled to while away her afternoons working in a brothel, has yet to truly throw herself into her work. Then along comes a stocky Asian fellow who's got a little box, and a little thing inside it that buzzes like a bee. All the other girls have a look in the box and back away... but Séverine, played to perfection by the ineffable Catherine Deneuve, decides to give it a go, and in the aftermath, we see she's been well and truly turned-out. Nothing explicit here -- we never see what's in the box, for one thing -- but proof positive that the imagination is the most potent erogenous zone.
Betty Blue (1986)
Directed by: Jean-Jacques Beineix
Starring: Béatrice Dalle, Jean-Hugues Anglade
Even the most hot-to-trot movies generally make the viewer wait before unveiling any erotic action, but not this crazily emotional romance, whose opening shot tracks in on title character Betty (a near-feral Béatrice Dalle) and her amiable paramour Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) whiling away a summer afternoon, rutting like maniacs. Their fierce bond is immediately established... and to this day, even the most disinterested of viewers may wonder whether the two performers were at it for real, such is the verisimilitude of their thrusts and cries.
A History of Violence
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello
Decent family people can have hot sex lives too, as the early-on coupling of Tom and Edie Stall (Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello) in this film demonstrates. Of course it helps that Edie's put on her old cheerleader getup for this particular occasion. "Holy... cow!" Tom exclaims. Later, when Tom's secret past is revealed, the emotions that come to the fore aren't nearly as pleasant, and the resultant sex-on-the-staircase remains one of this powerful film's most controversial and challenging scenes.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
Directed by: Philip Kaufman
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin, Daniel Day-Lewis
Shy Tereza (Juliette Binoche) and sassy Sabina (Lena Olin) both love the rakish Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) in a story set against the historical turmoil of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. Politics gets put aside for an intense encounter between the two women; shutterbug Tereza asks Sabina to pose for a nude photo session, which the latter does with ease; then, though, Sabina turns the tables on Tereza and persuades her to strip down. Their erotic rivalry metamorphoses into an erotic affinity in a scene of breathtaking intimacy.
Monster's Ball (2001)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Starring: Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton
"Make me feel good," the long-suffering Leticia (Halle Berry) begs prison guard Hank (Billy Bob Thornton), who, among other things, presided over her husband's execution. The line has been frequently lampooned, but seen away from the glare of its initial hype and Berry's Oscar, her plaint has a raw reality. And the ensuing sex scene is one of the frankest explorations of lovemaking as catharsis the screen has ever seen
Little Children (2006)
Directed by: Todd Field
Starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson
It's always a beautiful thing when misfits in suburbia find each other. Sad-sack househusband Brad (Patrick Wilson) kisses dissatisfied, arty Sarah (Kate Winslet) on a dare at the playground -- in front of the titular kids, even. Soon they're inseparable, even as they try to control their baser instincts. But one laundry session, it all comes apart, and they're going at it on the dryer. Gives a whole new meaning to the "extract" cycle.
Directed by: Steven Shainberg
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader
The entirety of this BDSM rom-com is one big teasing mindfuck until the last scene, which doesn't show any explicit sex but still offers the viewer a stingingly-sweet climax. After many flashes of leg and bum, spankings, crawling on hands and knees, and ornate equipment including a saddle, Maggie Gyllenhaal's titular secretary finally gets some TLC from her boss, the equally tormented James Spader. He gently unbuttons the wedding dress she's wearing (long story, but it will definitely have to be dry-cleaned before it's returned to her former fiancée's mother), bathes her and then lays her down on a bed of grass, surrounded by his precious orchids. (Seriously, there are more yonic flowers in this movie than at a Georgia O'Keefe exhibit.) Gyllenhaal's total openness in this scene -- her lolling head while she's being shampooed, her proud, comfortable nudity, the voiceover where she describes how "for the first time in my life, I felt beautiful" -- and Spader's tenderness is what makes this so hot.
Angel Heart (1987)
Directed by: Alan Parker
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet
This super-creepy horror movie is infamous for its sex scene involving a pre-plastic surgery Mickey Rourke, Cosby kid Lisa Bonet, and buckets of fake chicken blood. The oh-so-nearly X-rated Angel Heart is why unrated DVDs were invented. The plot twist at the end will make you feel totally dirty (and not necessarily in a good way) long after the credits roll. There's no proof that Bonet's role as Epiphany Proudfoot got her kicked out of the Huxtable household, but later that year she flew the coop and landed on her own, Cos-approved show A Different World.
Blow Up (1966)
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: David Hemmings, Veruschka
As a metaphor, perhaps it's a bit hackneyed, but as erotic moviemaking, it's still incomparably cool and fresh. Slim David Hemmings, as a photographer who can't get no satisfaction even in Swinging Sixties London, is doing a standard-issue fashion shoot with stick-figure-thin supermodel Veruschka (as herself, of course). Bored to distraction with the standard camera-on-a-tripod setup, he goes handheld, and soon he's straddling her as she writhes underneath him, his directions growing more explicit, her hauteur melting into something both feral and languid, his shouts metamorphosing into orgasmic moans of ecstasy. When it's over, the two recoil from each other, instantly donning a cloak of ennui that could just as well be revulsion. Just like all couples do after sex.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Starring: Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe
He disguised himself as a woman in order to escape from killer mobsters. But Tony Curtis soon finds good reason to go back to being male -- he re-disguises himself as the heir to the Shell Oil fortune, the better to impress his gold-digging (or so he thinks) new colleague Sugar Kane (the luscious Marilyn Monroe). And then he pretends to be impotent -- the better to maneuver her into seducing him while he's got her on "his" yacht. (Long story.) Her efforts and his resistance, intercut with real millionaire Joe E. Brown's attempts to melt down a still-in-drag Jack Lemmon, not only steam up the screen (as well as Curtis's glasses), they prove that sex really is comedy. (And by the way, the heat wasn't all movie magic; describing the shooting of that scene to Premiere in 2001, Tony Curtis recalled, "[Marilyn] liked to lie on me and grind. And as soon as she knew she'd aroused me, she'd look down on me as if to say, 'There you are, you naughty boy.' And I loved it.")
Last Tango in Paris (1973)
Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider
"Maybe we can come without touching." Oy, these kids with their wacky idealism. Marlon Brando's Paul makes very down-to-earth requests of Maria Schneider's Jeanne, e.g., "Get the butter." But the gamine is the one who comes up with the truly crazy idea. Brando's character is game -- more pliable than he will be in later, more explicit moments, when Paul tries to dominate the young stranger he has seduced, and later still, when the poor fool has fallen in love with her. But at this moment -- with the two of them facing each other, naked, bathed in improbably warm Parisian sunlight -- one can almost believe in the no-names-please sexual utopia that these two erotic desperados are trying to build. We know that the actors are faking it when they make it "come" "true." But are the characters faking it? We don't know, which is one reason we keep coming back to this ever-provocative film.
8. ...And God Created Woman (1956)
Directed by: Roger Vadim
Starring: Brigitte Bardot
It must have been an unbelievable sight in 1956 to see Brigitte Bardot in Cinema-Scope, nude from head (right side of screen) to toe (left side), sunning herself on her stomach behind a clothesline-held sheet. Such is the sex kitten's introduction in Roger Vadim's she-ain't-no-delinquent-she's-misunderstood melodrama, which is basically a string of scenes in which various suddenly-highly-focused men lose their wits (such as they are) over her. Here it's stiff bourgeois businessman Curd Jurgens, flirtatiously mocking the seemingly materialistic young Bardot with a model of a sports car and not even pretending to do the gentlemanly thing and avert his eyes as she stands to receive his "gift." He thinks he's suave, we think he's a drip, and she flatters us by letting us think she's leaning toward our side. Just as we ourselves are losing our wits, along comes Bardot's guardian (the poor coquette's an orphan) to call her a slut. Buzzkill? Yeah -- the whole movie's like that. It was 1956, after all.
Body Heat (1981)
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner
Dopey but attractively trim lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt), who's obviously never seen Double Indemnity, has been going at it with Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), the coolly elegant trophy wife of a local big shot, for at least a little while before we get to this brief bit. But what happens here is obviously the deal clincher -- that is, there's no way he's going to say no to helping her out with killing her husband after this. The shot begins with the camera lingering on an overflowing ashtray; we hear box springs being tested and breath running out. The camera moves up, and there's Matty, on her stomach, face turned to the camera. The first word she says -- and she's barely able to speak at this point -- is "Don't." The second word, which takes what seems like an eternity to spill out, is "Stop." Do we have to spell it out for you? The following shot of the couple in an ice-filled bathtub could fill in the blanks for those who don't get it. Strangely, every subsequent film directed by Kasdan seemed to deny that this, or really any other, kind of sex actually existed.
Directed by: Russ Meyer
Starring: Erica Gavin, Jon Evans
The title character (played by pneumatic, weirdly eyebrowed Erica Gavin), called "Vix" by her biker brother Jud, is a tightly wound coil of sexual tension who can't seem to let go of her disagreeability even as those around her indulge her every whim. Her hubby's laissez-faire for the most part, the attractive guests at their lodge make willing partners, but Vixen just bitches and lashes out at everybody regardless. She saves much of her wrath for her brother and his black comrade, who have biked over into their Canadian lair to avoid the draft. Constantly baiting Jud and calling his pal "Sambo," she's really asking for it, or so the conventional wisdom holds. Turns out she really is asking for it; one day while Jud is showering, she walks in, stark naked, and asks him to soap her back. He balks, and balks and balks, and she taunts him into letting her have it, right there in the shower stall. "Come on, baby brother!" For a minute we forget these are actors, and the sense of transgression is palpable; it's one of the most unpleasant turn-ons out there, all the more of a turn-on for being so unpleasant. Avoid this movie, unless you're some kind of total perv.
The Hunger (1983)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon
This was director Tony Scott's first feature; hence, his directorial tics/tricks that have since come to tire us were forgivable, even exciting. That overhead shot of a too-juicy steak presented after an episode of vampiric enthusiasm seemed not just funny and startling but actually interesting. Ah, how naive we were, and how generous -- the guy whose inchoate "touch" we appreciated turned out to be a genuine menace, no? Still, this scene, in which a centuries-old vampire played by Catherine Deneuve defeats the scruples of a reluctant would-be disciple (Susan Sarandon), needs zero special pleading. It's a favorite bit of homoerotica for straight men, true, but gay women also find it moltenly hot -- if you ever run into one who denies it's a turn-on, just get a couple of drinks into her and ask her again.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Directed by: David Lynch
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring
One could watch this scene a thousand times (no wisecracks, please) and still not be able to pinpoint who initiates its amorous component. After, um, Betty (Naomi Watts) helps, um, Rita (Laura Elena Harring) devise a -- gee, is it her third? -- persona by putting a silvery-blond wig on her, the duo's rompings as would-be girl detectives turn even more strangely desperate, and poignant, and the pair find themselves achingly alone, and achingly, well, horny. After a good-night kiss turns passionate, Betty asks Rita, "Have you ever done this before?" prompting the amnesiac's classic response: "I don't know. Have you?" Betty says, "I want to... with you," and all abandon is abandoned. The ensuing love scene is one glimpse of heaven before the two descend into a distinctly Lynchian hell. And to think this scene would have never been shot had ABC accepted Lynch's pilot for the proposed Mulholland Dr. series...
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Jenny Agutter, Lucien John
A more pedestrian director would have constructed the scene thusly: Teen girl swims nude in a lush outback pond when the teen aborigine who is escorting her and her brother spies her, and is transfixed with primordial lust. But since Walkabout was directed by the very not-pedestrian Nicolas Roeg, the scene unfolds quite differently. The girl, graceful Jenny Agutter, swims, observed by her brother (the angelic Lucien John, Roeg's son), who then goes off to join the aborigine, who is hunting for food. Roeg intercuts the tranquil views of innocent eros with blunt moments of spearing and hacking; the aborigine and the girl never appear in the same shot in this sequence, but it's here that we learn that she's gotten into his blood, fatally.
Sex and Lucía (2001)
Directed by: Julio Medem
Starring: Paz Vega, Tristán Ulloa
Sad but true: One of the most effective ways of insuring a hot sex life is to... well, is to be pretty damn hot yourself. That's a crass generalization, granted, but it's one that's harder to deny once you've checked out this film -- which actually posits that hotness doesn't necessarily guarantee lasting happiness. In a story line that must flatter the vanity of every writer, would-be or otherwise, the title Lucía -- Paz Vega, who must represent some sort of Platonic ideal of sexuality -- semistalks novelist Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa, who isn't bad-looking himself) and, once she's able to have a conversation with him, convinces him that she should move in with him. Yeah, in my dreams, too. This particular sequence -- to my mind a lot more moving than the Hollywood-processed-cheese striptease of 9 1/2 Weeks -- represents the height of their domestic bliss. The knotty structure of Medem's film lets you know right off the bat that both of them pay a price for their fun. But this scene convinces you that it's worth it.
Five Sex-tras SILENT BUT HOT: Louise Brooks i...
SILENT BUT HOT: Louise Brooks in 1929's Pandora's Box
STUPID BUT HOT: Jane Fonda's writhings under the opening credits of Barbarella
HOT DESPITE HAVING THE VOICE OF LOUISE LASSER: Akiko Wakabayashi in What's Up Tiger Lily
HOT IN A BORED, GERMANIC, "I'D-JUST-AS-SOON-NAP" WAY: Hanna Schygulla in Beware of a Holy Whore
HOMICIDALLY HOT: Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy