The 11 most excruciatingly bad sex scenes in film
When sex scenes go wrong, the results are embarrassing, bewildering and, most of all, funny. As the second instalment of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is released, we take a look at the finest bad sex scenes, featuring Sharon Stone, sexy turkeys and a lot of thrashing about in a swimming pool. Agree? Disagree? Let us know on Twitter @TelegraphFilm.
1. Body of Evidence (Uli Edel, 1993)
There’s a roaring fire. There are billowing net curtains. And there are candles, great pillars, next to Madonna’s bed. “My way”, she insists, thankfully not in the form of a Frank Sinatra impression. She then straddles Willem Dafoe, in the role of Gullible Defence Attorney, and proceeds to pour molten wax over his chest, with a chaser of champagne dribbles, laps up this dubious cocktail, and then moves to repeat the process… lower down. We’re spared the exact sight of what follows, but not repeated close-ups on Madonna’s intent sexy-starey face (this was at the height of her Erotic phase).
2. Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction (Michael Caton-Jones, 2006)
You could fill this whole list with Sharon Stone sex scenes, from her weepy congress with William Baldwin in Sliver (1993), to the muscle-bound shower action with Sly in The Specialist (1994). And the first Basic Instinct has a host of deliriously softcore examples. But we’re going with the opening sequence from its jaw-dropping sequel, in which Sharon is speeding around Canary Wharf with none other than Stan Collymore. He seems heavily under the influence, perhaps of Rohypnol, and while Sharon fumbles for his gearstick, she also shoves his hand energetically between her legs. Cue much moaning, writhing and “erotic” laughing while performing the least believable handbrake turns in all cinema, before they crash into the drink and (spoiler) he drowns.
3. Damage (Louis Malle, 1992)
The tradition of gruelling bad sex in art-house drama is a long one, taking in Marlon Brando’s butter lovin’ in Last Tango in Paris (1972), the whole tasting menu of twisted rutting in Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing (1980) and the frottage with Rosanna Arquette’s leg wound in Crash (1996). For unintentional parody of the same, try the scenes between adulterous lovers Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche in Louis Malle’s frosty autopsy of an affair. Ecstasy on hardwood floors and up against door-jambs rarely comes less dignified, or orgasms less well-acted.
4. 300: Rise of an Empire (Noam Murro, 2014)
“You fight much harder than you f---”, sneers rape-hardened Achaemenid warrior queen Artemisia (Eva Green) to Athenian “shock combat” specialist Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) after their sweaty, grunting mid-film encounter – words directly translated from Herodotus, or at least we’d like to think so. It’s in the grand tradition of classical hate sex, which we can tell from Green’s impression of a ravenous cobra who looks likely to bite off Stapleton's appendages at any moment. He throws her forward onto some sort of map table, but she looks underwhelmed by the attempted pillaging that follows. “Join me!” she hisses. “No!”, his face says. How Stapleton got out of this scene alive is a genuine mystery.
5. Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1996)
Joe Eszterhas and Paul Verhoeven, sultans of operatically tawdry mainstream kink, outdid themselves with the whole of Showgirls, but especially the legendary late-night swimming-pool communion between Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan. Every touch is de trop – the quantity of bubbles as she sinks below the surface, his hands groping playfully through a water-fountain, the entire lighting scheme, but especially their bucking bronco routine at the pool edge. Watching Berkley thrashing sideways and in circles like some kind of demented rubber sex toy, as she reaches a backwards fit of massively implausible ecstasy, it’s more or less impossible to avoid bursting into hysterics.
6. Gigli (Martin Brest, 2003)
It’s not so much a scene as a line – a defining line, which tipped this over-budgeted, aggressively misjudged Bennifer fiasco into the category of outright laughing stock. J.Lo’s character, until this point a lesbian, decides Affleck may be a candidate to convert her, in the same way he previously managed with Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy (1997). But first he has to pass the test. Which test? “It’s turkey time,” she hints, swishing her legs open and shut on the bed. “Huh?”, he responds. “Gobble gobble!”. Invitations to oral sex have rarely come more irresistible, I hope we can agree. It’s a wonder Affleck doesn’t turn gay on the spot.
7. Killing Me Softly (Chen Kaige, 2002)
This campy howler of an erotic thriller, directed in pricelessly tone-deaf fashion by Chen Kaige, is worth exhuming for all sorts of reasons. Joseph Fiennes and Heather Graham – he a blatant serial killer, she a slow-off-the-mark Guardian journalist – are candidates for serving up the lowest-IQ “edgy” sex in the genre’s history. He ties a silk scarf around her neck, creates a pivot for it above the fireplace, and yanks the two ends in his hands like reins, imprisoning her in a flimsy cat’s cradle. “I gave up all control,” whispers Graham in voiceover. “I loved it.” Then they collapse onto the regulation deep-piled hearth rug. If any sequence on this list feels like a 50 Shades precursor and/or cautionary tale, it’s this one.
8. Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005)
Munich’s a good film, by and large, but its climactic sex scene is strikingly absurd and makes no sense. Eric Bana’s Mossad agent is home from his traumatic revenge mission, and trying to seek cathartic comfort in the arms of his wife (Ayelet Zurer). Nearing the point of orgasm, he’s miles away, having agonised flashbacks to the hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympics, which wreak havoc with his rhythmic thrusts. It’s very bizarre that Spielberg should molest poor Bana with these images, rather than the bloody killings his character has subsequently perpetrated, since the film makes it clear he wasn’t even present at the main event.
9. Color of Night (Richard Rush, 1994)
Just what the world was waiting for – a few fleeting and underwater glimpses of Bruce Willis’s circumcised todger. This crazy mess of a psychological thriller, which sank the once-fascinating career of Richard Rush, brings Willis and a disturbed patient (Jane March) together for a mid-film montage of world-beating botched intensity and batty editing. They flap around in a pool for a while, then up against a glass shower partition, then switch to a sauna. March mimes facial approval up against a random piece of exotic statuary. It’s hard to know where to look, but the statue’s probably the safest bet.
10. Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck, 1986)
If the career of Lea Thompson teaches us anything, it’s that human-duck coitus is not a great recipe for professional longevity. This George Lucas-produced megabomb, based on Marvel’s surrealist comic of the same name, reaches a nadir when Thompson gets into her skimpies in full view of her titular feathered friend. Heavy petting ensues. “Howard, you really are the worst!” she tells him. “Come on, let’s watch David Letterman!”. In fairness, the silhouetted encounter that follows only shows them getting to first base but, heaven help us, it’s enough.
11. Fifty Shades Darker (James Foley, 2017)
The awkward second instalment of EL James' erotic trilogy, charted by new director James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, House of Cards), is unsatisfying in terms of head, heart and, well, elsewhere. It’s an alleged 18-rated, adults-only filth-fest that behaves like a flustered PG. And while the sex scenes are stylish enough – though they lack the marble-cold, sculptural feel of the first film’s – would I sound like a ravening pervert if I complained that there weren’t enough of them?