Top 10 Unlikely Sex Moments on Film
discussion on sex in movies doesn’t necessarily have to devolve into an exhaustive symposium on whether Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie actually “acted” during a certain scene in Don’t Look Now or the wider cultural significance of the ménage-a-trois in Wild Things. Here are ten movies that push the boundaries of on-screen sex: good sex, bad sex, downright bizarre sex. Scenes that have the only common denominator of being so utterly anarchistic they are almost unjustified. Bring it on.
10. Everyone in Crash (Cronenberg, 1996)
Orgasmic car wrecks, automobile fetishism and underground perversion: such thrills-through-extreme measures wouldn’t have worked in anyone else’s hands. But this is Cronenberg we’re talking about. The movie exhausts nearly every possible combination of sexual partners available to it and still manages to repulse. All of the sex makes it sound like porn, but porn it isn’t. Buckle your seatbelts.
09. Anonymous French people in The Good Old Naughty Days (Reilhac, 2002)
Any presumption about the prudishness of the 1920s was forever dashed when director Michel Reilhac dug up this silent-era collection of twelve single-reel French porn films that together add up to more raunch, hilarity and ludicrous sodomization than the contents of your local x-rated video store. If ever there were taboos, your French grandparents didn’t know them. With setups ranging from the porn-familiar (teachers spanking naughty schoolgirls, a smutty reworking of Puccini’s Madame Bovary and homosexual rape) to the weird (heart attack-inducing mouthjobs) to the downright nasty (bestiality and nunsploitation), this collection is at least three steps ahead of anything you could legally (or illegally) rent right now.
08. Selma Blair and Robert Wisdom in Storytelling (Solondz, 2001)
In another of Solondz’s damning parades of suburban family dysfunction, Selma Blair is humped up against a wall by her black, “whitey”-hating creative arts professor while being told to shout “Fuck me nigger!” This is Solondz taking an ironically negative stance on political incorrectness and controversy by, well, being politically incorrect and controversial. Too bad, then, that his esoteric Americana is often as austere as this “sex” scene: the red square censoring the shot not so much a middle finger at the US “establishment” as a nonsense shock tactic without the shock part.
07. Everyone in The Idiots (Von Trier, 1998)
Looking for sex in a Dogme movie is a bit like expecting romance in a Meg Ryan film: it’s there even if it isn’t shown. Von Trier’s self-important scattershot satire worked conspicuously well on a proto-philosophical level—it’s the little details he got carried away with. A graphic, all-out, spazzing orgy involving a group of middle class individuals feigning mental retardation ended up being not only a slap in the face to common decency, but an unheralded send-up of their pseudo-liberal communard ethic.
06. Ned Beatty and Crazy Hillbilly in Deliverance (Boorman, 1972)
If images of a bare-chested Burt Reynolds braving the “the last un-fucked up river of the South” in a sleeveless wetsuit weren’t conspicuously suggestive enough, director John Boorman tarted the movie up with a “sex” moment that was, at once, unsexy and hilarious: Ned Beatty forced to strip naked and made to squeal like a pig while Crazy Hillbilly butt-rapes him. A tender tale of two men bonding in the woods, no less. That the rest of this classic film went downhill from there has, I suspect, something to do with it.
05. Alejandro Ferretis and Magdalena Flores in Japon (Reygadas, 2002)
Disguised beneath layers of consummate reconnaissance, Reygadas’ sparsely scripted tale of self-discovery opened surely enough, as an innocuous homage to Tarkovsky and the heart-rending Mexican countryside. But just before going all Malick on us, Reygadas blows up all traces of spiritual jolt and any suggestion of transcendence he might have intimated by propelling a marijuana-smoking 80-year old granny in bed with a depressed, gimpy painter half her age without attempting to conceal anything. Unnecessary, unlikely, unsexy, but we all watched it.
04. Willem Dafoe and Barbara Hershey in The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988)
It’s been called blasphemous, denounced by Christian communities across the world, threatened to be deleted. Yet Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a pinnacle of infamous cinema, is not the religious porn film you read about. Christ on the cross is tempted with visions of a life with Mary Magdalene, replete with sex, marriage, and children. Yes, the “sex scene” lasts for a mere few seconds, but it feels longer than that. Just ask Mel Gibson.
03. Nacho Pérez and Raúl García Forneiro in Bad Education (Almodovar, 2004)
Classic Almodovar: Two young Catholic-school boys mutually masturbating each other in a Franco-era movie house. While Almodovar was presenting the episode as the outgrowth of emotional repression and educational hypocrisy, it seemed closer to gratuitous fornication to everyone else. But the “ick” factor was shattered by the way Almodovar treated the encounter as more of a fleeting afternoon game than the forbidden sexual awakening of two boys. It still raised eyebrows, but the contextualization of the “incident” was unpretentiously elegiac: somehow, seeing it wasn’t as bad as thinking about it.
02. Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
An obvious, unavoidable choice. Attempting to distill any of Blue Velvet’s sumptuous complexity down to a few short lines would be like pretending I understand any of The Iliad in original Greek. Frank “I’ll fuck anything that moves” Booth’s curious idea of foreplay was right up Dorothy Vallens’ alley – the crotch-humping, velvet-eating, oxygen-sniffing sadomasochistic rapefest detonated into a reality so perplexing it threatened to clobber our dreams to sanity – and, every now and then, still does.
01. Marlon Brando and Maria Schenider in Last Tango In Paris (Bertolucci, 1972)
When asked to get some butter from the kitchen, little did Jeanne, the 20-year old French nymphet played by a very game Maria Schneider, know dinner would be served “at home.” X-rated on release in ’72, Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris had moments sizably more brutal than the butter-through-the-backdoor incident, but none tops it in terms of sheer vulgarity and utter hilarity. Despite emerging from Bertolucci’s own perverted desire to bone an anonymous woman he once saw, thirty years and a million jokes later, the movie remains a staple for both food-lovers and sex fanatics still trying to figure out whether butter is, in fact, better than margarine.