Sex. Sexy, sexy sex. It's what's keeping the human race alive. But it also serves a non-procreative purpose, we're reliably informed.
Hollywood thrives on it. If characters in films aren't getting it, they're searching for it, begging for it, or are in despair at the lack of it. Yet many of the most famous sex scenes out there aren't actually that sexy.
Yeah, everyone knows about the infamous butter scene in Last Tango In Paris, but it's basically rape, so to say it's not a turn-on is the understatement of the century.
Eyes Wide Shut? Daft. Any Bond film? Gross with an underlying aftertaste of misogyny (Pussy Galore you say? Sure…) Fifty Shades of Grey? Don't make us laugh. Actually, it does make us laugh.
But every now and then they get it oh-so-right, making the act of getting down to it as alluring as Keanu in that wetsuit in Point Break. Here, then, are nine films that'll get you all hot under the collar every time.
1. Don't Look Now
This one is, if you'll pardon the expression, the crème de la crème of movie sex, stunning in its intimacy and realism, as grieving parents Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland find comfort in their marriage. Such is the honesty, affection and passion on display, everyone involved has spent the last 44 years denying that the pair were going at it for real.
Sex up against the bookshelves would get you thrown out of your local library, but that's not a problem for Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, who send sparks flying in Joe Wright's stunning drama. From Knightley's initial come-on, to the first lightning-bolt kiss, to satin slipping from bodies, the whole thing is so infused with unbridled lust, it makes the consequences it unleashes all the more tragic.
3. My Beautiful Launderette
What's glorious about Hanif Kureishi's coming-of-age drama is that, even though it's set against Thatcher-era racism and homophobia, the romance between young British-Pakistani man Omar (Gordon Warnecke) and former fascist punk Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) seems entirely matter-of-fact, culminating in a tryst in the backroom of Omar's glamorous suds-palace on its opening night. Funny, sweet, moving and thought-provoking, this scene was a major step forward for audiences – particularly young, gay audiences – in mainstream British cinema.
Parodied so regularly over the last 27 years, it's easy to forget how dang sexy it was in the first place – Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze were surely directly responsible for a spike in the sales of pottery wheels. There's nothing remotely subtle about Moore squeezing her clay into a phallic column, while Swayze wraps his biceps around her to get good and dirty too, but that's why it stands up as one of the steamiest moments of the 1990s.
5. Mulholland Drive
Sing hosannah, it's a movie in which lesbian sex is there as an integral part of the story rather than just lame titillation for the boys. Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring are femme-fatale beautiful, and their blossoming love, leading to a soft and sensual physical connection in the aftermath of a gruesome discovery, is a gorgeous moment of clarity in an otherwise mind-bending plot.
6. Blue Valentine
There are blow jobs galore in mainstream Hollywood movies, but the guys in the films rarely return the favour, which is, frankly, just a bit selfish. Blue Valentine was perfection in its raw honesty, from the blissful early days of a relationship to its disintegration and upsettingly messy end, but the moment that stands out is when Ryan Gosling goes down on Michelle Williams. The censors clutched their pearls and gave it an NC-17 rating – the rest of us suddenly felt all tingly.
7. 9 1/2 Weeks
Like Ghost, the famous sex scene in 9 1/2 Weeks has been parodied to death, but your weekly grocery shop has never looked this exciting, as Mickey Rourke feeds Kim Basinger all the sticky, slurpy, sweet, and ultimately messy foodstuffs in the fridge.
It's sex as play and food as sex, but while they make rolling around in a vat of honey look erotic as hell, you wouldn't want to be the one to clean it up.
Blue Valentine wasn't the first film to celebrate cunnilingus – that accolade goes to Ecstasy, way back in 1933, in which a maritally unsatisfied Hedy Lamarr's frustrations are eased thanks to a sexy and willing mechanic.
As she gasped with pleasure, Lamarr became the first woman to depict the female orgasm on screen, causing a scandal at the time and breaking an important taboo for the future. It still crackles with sexual energy today.
Fun fact: a self-taught inventor, Lamarr also invented the frequency-hopping radio technology that prefigured wi-fi. Beat that, Gosling.
9. Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Who knew that just by making a sex scene a realistic length of time could lead to such a memorable moment of cinema?
This exploration of the growing feelings between schoolgirl Adele and student Emma, both young enough to still be working out who they are in the grand scheme of things, reaches a peak with six whole minutes of graphic, unashamed lovemaking, which is so intimate it almost dares you to look away and is vital in the context of their relationship.
10. Y Tu Mama Tambien
Gael Garcia Bernal's Julio and Diego Luna's Tenoch are two cocky teens who think they know all there is to know about love and sex, until they go on a road trip with the older, wiser Luisa – who has a big secret. In the film's, ah, climactic scene, they top off a perfect night of friendship with a perfect night of lovemaking, the two laaads even crossing their own boundaries and discovering a mutual desire.
That this leads to no change in the boys' lives – in fact it's pretty much the end of their friendship – only adds to the poignancy.
Notable for three reasons: first, it's a Spielberg sex scene. They don't happen often. Second, it depicts sex between a married couple (urgh! That's like your parents!) and third, one of the participants (Daphna Kaufman, played by Ayelet Zurer) is pregnant – without that being a subject of creepy fetishisation.
The couple are reunited after a period of extreme danger and separation, leading to a tender reconciliation. Then, unfortunately, Avner (Eric Bana) starts to imagine the acts of terror that kickstarted the plot and sexytime is over for the audience.
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