Best Erotic Movies

From kinky obsessions to passionate affairs, cinema has always explored the mysterious realm of the flesh. From shockingly raunchy to sublimely sensual, these best erotic movies will challenge your wildest fantasies.

From 1980 to 2002, erotic thrillers ruled the box office and dinner-party conversations. Now they’re a rare sighting, but this genre isn’t completely dead yet.

The Kiss (1896)

One of the first romance films to ever hit the silver screen, this 47-second reenactment of May Irwin and John Rice kissing in the finale scene of stage musical The Widow Jones caused a minor scandal back in its day, but now it’s a historic film landmark that’s still worth watching.

The Kiss was filmed at the Black Maria studio in April of 1896, just a year after Thomas Edison’s eponymous invention of cinematography itself. Despite its tame nature, it managed to raise the hackles of moral code culture, and was criticized as a “sinful perversion” in many newspaper editorials and calls for police action wherever it was shown.

Yet, according to Charles Musser, The Kiss was Edison’s most popular film of the year – and it remained in their catalogues until 1901. Perhaps this was due to its relatively new subject matter, or perhaps because it incorporated close-up framing that must have been a revelation to audiences, who had until then only experienced long shot film subjects at the Kinetoscope and Edison Vitascope.

Although The Kiss is a fairly simple affair, its eroticism lies in its use of suggestive compositions, lighting, and camera movements. It suggests yearning and hostility, defiance and pleading, male domination and female assertion. It is a forest of sexual semiotics, full of unlikely physical contortions and a whole lot of hair-stroking and cheek-caressing.

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Last Tango in Paris (1972)

In a movie culture where sex, violence and curse words are treated as equally objectionable elements to be weighed and rated (and Last Tango in Paris, of course, was rated X upon its US release), Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1972 masterpiece shattered boundaries with raw, naked sexuality. Paul (Marlon Brando) debases himself and Jeanne (Maria Schneider) over and over, using sex and sexual violence to work out his aggression.

In her famous New York Times review, Pauline Kael was so struck by Last Tango in Paris that she likened it to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a work that caused a riot at its premiere. She hailed Bertolucci as “a major filmmaker who has opened the way to a new kind of cinema.”

Last Tango in Paris stars Jean-Pierre Leaud, a key figure in the French New Wave movement who had appeared in Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Rivette’s Day for Night. Leaud embodies the aloof male gaze that typifies many of Bertolucci’s films, a gaze that often devalues women’s bodies while simultaneously fetishizing them for its own sake.

Of course, sex isn’t really what the film is about. The characters use it as a means to express other feelings: their anguish, their desperation, their frustration and pain. When Jeanne tries to convey a more tender sentiment, she’s usually met with another burst of degradation and absurdity from Paul (including his infamous speech about farting and vomiting pigs). The movie’s depiction of sex serves as a metaphor for the characters’ shattered lives.

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Y Tu Mama Tambien (2016)

Cuaron’s film is a testament to the power of great acting. While the characters may be horny ciphers, they feel real and their actions resonate with authenticity. This is largely due to the intrepid commitment of its three leads, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal as Tenoch and Julio respectively. The film wouldn’t work without their willingness to take risks and explore a world that Hollywood either refuses to acknowledge or only glamorizes through pornographic lens.

Sex is a major part of the film, but rather than being used as a climax to built up tension and drama, it serves as a means to understand these characters’ growth. Cuaron never lets his characters settle in their sexual identities, allowing them to experiment and push the boundaries of their relationships. This is what makes Y Tu Mama Tambien so refreshing, especially when compared to contemporary American films that treat sexual liberation as an end-product.

The film’s sexy scenes are also unique in that they aren’t overly erotic, thanks to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. He keeps the camera mostly still and avoids using a variety of angles or cutting that could make the sex look gratuitous or fetishistic. Instead, the director captures the boys’ awkward interactions with Luisa in a realistic and un-glamorized way, giving the female protagonist a sense of passion and power over her less experienced trip buddies.

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Crash (2004)

A voyeuristic tale of two performers and their hidden desires, this drama explores the nature of lust in its various forms. The staged erotic story lets repressed lusts find an outlet and is both provocative and sensual at the same time. This sexual tension is conveyed in a subtle manner and the film also features the talented actors Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner, making this movie an interesting watch.

After the erotic thriller craze of the ’80s, films like Fatal Attraction paved the way for the new generation of sex movies with a more psychological approach to the genre. Stanley Kubrick’s last movie centres on a couple and the moral dilemma of what they would and wouldn’t do for love and money. The movie is highly erotic and even features nudity in the form of a masturbation scene.

Jasmine is a successful fashion editor with a steady boyfriend, but on a night out she meets Dallas, an irresistible roofer who pursues her relentlessly. As they embark on a steamy affair, she is surprised to discover that her sex life is far from perfect. She soon realizes that she is falling for a man who doesn’t have the courage to tell her the truth. This movie is one of the best lesbian romance movies and was a huge hit when it released.

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