15 sexy movies that steamed up the big screen

 10 sexy movies that actually steamed up the big screen, including Body Heat.
Credit: Warner Bros/Alamy

"Sexy" is subjective, of course, but there are clear standouts when it comes to the sexiest movies of all time, those sensual features that tantalize, titillate and, yes, turn on audiences both in theaters and at home. Unlike these "sexy" TV shows and movies that left us cold, these films more than live up to their pleasure-filled promises.

From alluring arthouse provocateurs like Y Tu Mamá También and Secretary to blockbuster crowd pleasers like Magic Mike, these are 15 seriously sexy flicks to add to your next steamy movie marathon. (Movies listed in no particular order).

15 sexy movies that steamed up the big screen

1. Y tu mamá también

Y tu mamá también
Y tu mamá también

Alfonso Cuarón's gorgeous coming-of-age road movie — which follows a pair of randy Mexican teens (played by real-life best friends Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) and the 20-something Spanish woman (Maribel Verdú) who becomes entangled in their trip and their lives — is about sex, sure. (It does feature one of the most infamously erotic threesomes in film history, after all.) But, more specifically, it's about the openness and sheer abandon of sexuality, the way lust can transcend age, gender, country and even death.

2. Secretary

Secretary
Secretary

Secretary is the movie that Fifty Shades of Grey thinks it is. Where that softcore schlock barely dipped a toe into the world of BDSM, Steven Shainberg's erotic romantic dramedy is an often funny, sometimes freaky and surprisingly thoughtful depiction of a sadomasochistic sexual relationship. The flick centers on Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a troubled young woman whose new role as the secretary of a demanding lawyer (James Spader) is a normal office job — that is until he spanks her over a typo and she realizes that she likes it.

3. Unfaithful

Unfaithful
Unfaithful

When you think of the sexiest scene from Unfaithful, the suspenseful 2002 entry to Adrian Lyne's already expansive filmography of erotic thrillers (Fatal Attraction, 9 1/2 Weeks, Indecent Proposal), your mind likely conjures up one scenario in particular: that ultra-charged train ride that Diane Lane's dissatisfied housewife Connie Sumner takes following her first physical encounter with Olivier Martinez's Paul, the impossibly sexy Frenchman with whom she's cheating on her husband (Richard Gere). As Connie remembers the racy specifics of their tryst, every minute emotion flashes across Lane's face —guilt over the infidelity, of course, but also cheek-flushing, eye-tearing shock, secretiveness and, yes, satisfaction — a sheer fantasy about to become all too real.

4. Out of Sight

Out of Sight
Out of Sight

Any movie with lead actors as preternaturally good-looking as Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney is sure to get hearts thumping. But J Lo and George don't just rest on their pretty faces in Steven Soderbergh's sexy caper — they imbue their game of cat and mouse (she a strong but seductive federal marshal, he an exceptionally charming escaped inmate) with tension as stifling as the cramped car trunk they find themselves trapped in when they first meet. "If we met under different circumstances… if you were in a bar and I came up and we started talking… I wonder what would happen," Clooney's Jack Foley purrs behind her. That chemistry? Out of sight, indeed.

5. Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing
Dirty Dancing

It's well-known cinematic lore that Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze disliked each other while portraying one of movie history's most-loved couples, Frances "Baby" Houseman and Johnny Castle. But, famously, the real-life friction between the actors translated to sizzling onscreen tension between their characters, a naïve New York teen spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family and the magnetic dance instructor who sparks her journey of sex and self-discovery. As the '80s classic progresses, their connection gets more palpable, the clothing gets markedly smaller and the dancing gets, yes, even dirtier.

6. In the Mood for Love

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

The eroticism permeating Wong Kar-Wai's glamorous romance, set in 1960s Hong Kong, is of the contained kind: all furtive glances and fleeting touches, dark alleyways and unrequited love. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung star as a pair of neighbors who, in discovering that their spouses are having an affair with each other, form an intensely romantic albeit unconsummated bond. Theirs is a connection marked by loss, yes, but also longing, a desire so potent that it slowly seeps out no matter how hard they try to suppress it.

7. Body Heat

Body Heat
Body Heat

The best erotic thrillers are the ones that are equal parts sex and crime, and this sultry 1981 neo-noir starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner — who makes one of the most sensual screen debuts of all time, a live wire beneath all those button-down blouses — as a hapless lawyer and a wealthy wife whose passionate affair turns into a murder scheme, masterfully marries both compulsions. It's the rare movie that fully commits to the boldness of its title.

8. Moonlight

Moonlight
Moonlight

Some love scenes are less of a romp and more of a swoon. Some love scenes don't even have to feature physical sex at all. Case in point, that yearning diner sequence between Trevante Rhodes' adult Chiron and his one and only schoolboy love Kevin (André Holland) in Barry Jenkins' Best Picture-winning queer masterpiece. It's all charged close-ups and racing hearts and smoky exhales, Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger" dreamily crooning from a jukebox. Moonlight never treats sex with gratuity, only grace, but that doesn't make its moments any less sensual.

9. Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut

In this psychosexual thriller — Stanley Kubrick's final movie — then real-life spouses Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman portray a well-off and exceedingly attractive New York couple whose picture-perfect marriage becomes marred by the revelation that she has fantasized about sleeping with a man who is not her husband. This mental cuckolding sends Cruise's Dr. Bill Harford out on the town seeking carnal adventure, famously ending up at a masked orgy held at a private mansion, a veritable funhouse of sexual transgression. Just like with off-screen sex, the onscreen acts performed here are admittedly a little absurd — and more than a little hot.

10. Magic Mike

Magic Mike
Magic Mike

Not all sexy movies need to be a slow burn or a subtle seduction. Sometimes, they can just be a shirt-ripping, pants-stripping good time, as is the case with Steven Soderbergh's 2012 beefcake dramedy, which pulls from lead actor Channing Tatum's real-life past as a male exotic dancer in Tampa, Fla. All three movies in the Magic Mike trilogy are six-packed with fun (especially Joe Manganiello’s convenience store dance in Magic Mike XXL), but the first installment does the best job of both unabashedly pandering to the female gaze and humanizing the hunks being gazed at.

11.  9 1/2 Weeks

Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks
Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks

Long before there was the Fifty Shades franchise, there was 9 1/2 Weeks, the 1986 Adrian Lyne-directed erotic drama chronicling the kinky sexual relationship between a mysterious Wall Street trader John (Mickey Rourke) and Soho art gallery assistant Elizabeth (Kim Basinger). There's a lot of sex had between John and Elizabeth, from clocktower romps to striptease sessions and dalliances with bondage and voyeurism, but the most famous explicit encounter in the movie is "the food scene," where Rourke's character blindfolds his partner and feeds her all sorts of strange stuff: sweet cherries, spicy peppers, salty olives, even jiggly Jell-O. It must have been an absolute mess for the lovers to clean up after, but honey never looked so hot.

12. Call Me By Your Name

Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name
Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Director Luca Guadagnino is one of cinema's greatest living sensualists, in that he films everything — from the lush Italian countryside to a tanned body in a bathing suit to, yes, a juicy, freshly picked peach — with the same amount of carnal appreciation. His 2017 masterpiece Call Me By Your Name stars a breakout, live-wire Timothée Chalamet as a young man who falls for the handsome doctoral student (Armie Hammer) working as an intern for Elio's academic father. Every scene of their summertime romance is so textured and tactile that you feel like you can reach through the screen and join them in that sun-drenched pool or at that lively breakfast table.

13. The Graduate

BANCROFT,HOFFMAN, THE GRADUATE, 1967
BANCROFT,HOFFMAN, THE GRADUATE, 1967

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me... aren't you?" The answer, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), is an emphatic yes. The married older woman (played by Anne Bancroft) — the wife of his father's business partner, in fact — was very much trying to get the virginal college grad into bed and using every leggy move in her book to do so in the 1967 Mike Nichols classic. Their passionate May-December affair might not have lasted long, with Benjamin majorly complicating matters by falling for and later running off with Mrs. Robinson’s more age-appropriate daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), but the memory of those steamy hotel trysts — as well as Bancroft's stockinged gam — have lived on for nearly six decades.

14. Cruel Intentions

Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions
Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions

We wouldn't have pulpy, rich-kid soaps like Gossip Girl without this 1999 cult classic, which follows a pair of wealthy, manipulative step-siblings (played by Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar) who craft a scheme against the virginal daughter of their new school headmaster. While Phillippe's Sebastian tries to deflower Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), falling in love with her in the process, it's actually Gellar's Kathryn who scores the most memorable kiss in the high-school drama. Taking revenge on her ex-boyfriend's new beau, the innocent Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair), Kathryn tries to corrupt her through various means, the most famous being the charged, tongue-heavy smooch the duo share in Central Park under the guise of teaching naive Cecile how to make out.

15. Basic Instinct

Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct
Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct

It's cinema's most famous (and frequently parodied) leg cross: in a very memorable scene from Paul Verhoeven's 1992 erotic neo-noir, prime suspect Catherine Tramell (a star-making turn from Sharon Stone) knowingly shifts her legs during a police interrogation, revealing that she's not wearing any underwear beneath her skirt to intimidate the officers. Given that brazen confidence and raw carnality, it’'s not all that surprising that police detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) himself falls for the blonde bombshell, engaging in a tense sexual affair with the seductive crime novelist. But it is a shock when the people around him begin winding up dead in the same manner as Catherine's characters on page.

Also check out our list of the 10 sexiest TV shows of all time.