April 16th, 2019 | Updated on January 12th, 2021
These are not straight-up porn movies. The list prepared by Rotten Tomatoes has sleaze, international and arthouse flicks as well as LGBTQ-focused stuff that are seductive, titillating, thrilling in equal measure.
Here are the 30 best erotic movies ranked by Rotten Tomatoes.
1. La Belle Noiseuse (1991)
- Director: Jacques Rivette
- Writers: Pascal Bonitzer (scenario), Christine Laurent (scenario)
- Stars: Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, Emmanuelle Béart
We’re in the south of France, in the 18th-century Chateau d’Assas, where Nicholas (David Burztein), a young painter, and his girlfriend, Marianne (Béart), are visiting aging, semi-retired painter Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli).
Frenhofer, the great artist, has painted nothing for ten years. He threw down his brush in the middle of painting what was intended as his masterpiece, to be titled “Le Belle Noiseuse,” or “the beautiful nuisance.”
Nicholas offhandedly offers up Marianne as a model for the old man. Frenhofer accepts, seeing the opportunity as a chance to resuscitate, or reinvent, an abandoned piece he had originally begun featuring his wife (Jane Birkin).
Review: Roger Ebert
The great central passages of the film involve creation. In his cavernous stone studio, which reminds Marianne of her boarding-school chapel, Frenhofer begins to sketch her. We observe over his shoulder.
Rivette use a static camera and long takes. He rarely cuts away We see a blank sheet of paper, and the drawing taking shape there. We see the physical process: First, Frenhofer’s obsession with arranging his pens, his brushes, his inks and paints.
At first we observe Emmanuelle Béart as a woman. Then we see her as a model. Slowly we come to see her as Frenhofer wants to: The woman inside, the essence, the being.
Does it sound boring to watch a man simply drawing for extended periods? Yes, it does. But it is not. Suspense is building.
2. The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
- Director: Peter Greenaway
- Writer: Peter Greenaway
- Stars: Anthony Higgins, Janet Suzman, Anne-Louise Lambert
A young artist is commissioned by the wife of a wealthy landowner to make a series of drawings of the estate while her husband is away.
Mr. Neville, a cocksure young artist, is contracted by Mrs. Herbert, the wife of a wealthy landowner, to produce a set of twelve drawings of her husband’s estate, a contract which extends much further than either the purse or the sketchpad.
She means to surprise her husband with the drawings, in the hope that he will be appropriately grateful. Neville does some coercing of his own, refusing to cooperate unless Mrs. Herbert bestows him with requested sexual favors — she agrees, but is not happy about it. But Mrs. Talmann is as sexually starved as her mother. The daughter, still without a child and oblivious to her husband and his effete ways, also begins to dally with the shrewd, talented Neville.
Having completed his contract and gone away, Mr Neville comes back for a visit. Mrs Herbert offers him one more tryst in exchange for one more drawing, and he agrees. What happens after this?
”THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT” may well be cinema’s first Restoration comedy-mystery. It’s a none-too-solemn, enigmatic tale of murder set in a great English country house in 1694, when morals among the newly rich were as loose as absolutely possible and manners were mad mannerisms of dress, speech and behavior.
Peter Greenaway creates an extraordinarily detailed picture of a historical period, not as it was, but as it is imagined by a somewhat surreal artist today.
3. Body Heat (1981)
- Director: Lawrence Kasdan
- Writer: Lawrence Kasdan
- Stars: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna
In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.
Ned Racine is a seedy small town lawyer in Florida. During a searing heatwave he’s picked up by married Matty Walker. A passionate affair commences but it isn’t long before they realise the only thing standing in their way is Matty’s rich husband Edmund. Since Matty signed a prenuptial agreement that would provide her nothing upon a divorce, they decide instead to murder Edmund
A plot hatches to kill him but will they pull it off?
As the murder plans develop, Ned makes a surprise visit to see Matty and finds another woman meeting with Matty. Matty introduces her as “Mary Ann Simpson”. Who is the Mary Ann Simpson?
In 1981, Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat helped usher in a resurgence of interest in film noir. With the cinematic beats of film noir so familiar, Kasdan makes little effort trying to disguise the plot, instead of revelling in the depth and intrigue those beats provide. And yet that predictability doesn’t lessen Body Heat’s impact. Film noir is renowned for style and murder – this isn’t the genre of complicated plotting and surprise-laden twists and turns.
4. Exotica (1994)
- Director: Atom Egoyan
- Writer: Atom Egoyan
- Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Don McKellar
The action in this film revolves largely around the Exotica strip club, a faux-tropical hothouse where young female dancers cater to their customers’ sexual and psychological needs. As the film hypnotically unfolds, the relationship between troubled taxman Francis and young stripper Christina is slowly explored.
The club itself is owned by Zoe, who inherited the business from her mother. Zoe hired Eric to be the club’s main DJ and announcer, the two who entered into another mixed business/personal arrangement.
Christina is one of the club’s dancers/strippers, her on-stage persona being the naughty Catholic schoolgirl. She got the job at the club through Eric, the two who used to date.
Francis, one of the club’s regulars, always has Christina dance at his table for him, those dances which Eric continually tells the club’s patrons over the loudspeaker are only $5 a dance. Francis and Christina’s relationship seems to be more than just a business one, something that Eric notices.
Eric is jealous that Christina has broken up with him and he resents the attention that Francis gains from the young dancer, so he anonymously suggests that Francis touch Christina as she performs, an act that the two men know is prohibited.
Review: FILM FREAK CENTRAL
When Exotica debuted at Cannes in 1994, Atom Egoyan had already earned a reputation for curious, low-key explorations of memory and alienation. Exotica represented Egoyan’s commercial breakthrough in part because he found an enticing venue for those observations.
It’s fearless in its psychology, giving Francis a mix of paternal grief and queasy desire that only seems comprehensible when framed by the film’s surpassing humanity. In its insistence that ordinary, decent human beings can be pushed by circumstance into toxic behavior, and that it will take other ordinary, decent human beings to rescue them from that downward spiral, Exotica finds a moral imperative in the apparently inconsolable sadness of others.
5. Belle De Jour (1968)
- Director: Luis Buñuel (as Luis Bunuel)
- Writers: Joseph Kessel (novel) (as Joseph Kessel de l’Académie Française), Luis Buñuel (adaptation) (as Luis Bunuel)
- Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli
Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve), is a 23-year-old. beautiful, newlywed housewife, married to the respectable and uninteresting surgeon, Dr. Pierre Serizy (Jean Sorel). She loves her husband dearly, but cannot bring herself to be physically intimate with him. She indulges instead in vivid, kinky, erotic fantasies to entertain her sexual desires. Eventually, she becomes a prostitute, working in a brothel in the afternoons while remaining chaste in her marriage.
Haunted by childhood memories involving her father, Séverine goes to address of the high-class brothel, leaves, and then enters, meeting Madame Anaïs (Geneviève Page). Reluctant at first, she responds to the “firm hand” of Madame Anaïs, who names her “Belle de Jour,” and has sex with her first john.
While visiting a ski resort, they meet two friends, Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) and Renée (Macha Méril). Séverine does not like Husson’s manner and the way he looks at her.
Husson discovers her secret one afternoon when he comes to the brothel for sex. Séverine at first demands he leave, then offers to have sex with him, but he says he was more attracted to her when he knew she was the wife of a “Boy Scout” and declines.
Review: Los Angeles Times
It is one of life’s surprising ironies that the great Spanish director Luis Buñuel, having turned out a succession of masterpieces with no particular box office movie, should now be enjoying the first big commercial success of his career with a movie which is less than a masterpiece, but sexy. And in color.
“Belle de Jour” is a study in female sexuality, and the difficulties thereof. “Belle de Jour” is, like much of Buñuel’s work, almost icily cold and impersonal but at the same time an oblique and paradoxical testament to love.
6. Sex, Lies, And Videotape (1989)
- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- Writer: Steven Soderbergh
- Stars: James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher
This film is the tangled relationships among four people and a video camera. John (Peter Gallagher) is an unscrupulous, self-centered yuppie lawyer with a beautiful wife named Ann (Andie MacDowell). Ann has almost no interest in sex. John is interested in sex and is having an affair with Ann’s sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo).
While Ann is in her therapy session, John and Cynthia are having sex. The lovers talk afterward and Cynthia tells John she harbours a “perverted” desire to make love to him in her sister’s bed.
Into this dysfunctional picture comes Graham (James Spader), a college friend of John’s whom he hasn’t seen in nine years. Graham has decided that talking about sex is more interesting than actually having sex, so he meets women and asks them discuss their desires and fantasies as he tapes them with a camcorder.
At a café, talk between Ann and Graham progresses on to the topic of sex. Ann says that women are not generally as interested in sex as men think. Graham admits to being impotent, that he can’t have an erection while in the company of anybody else. (We later learn that he masturbates while watching women he has recorded on videotape talking about their sexual lives and fantasies.)
Review: Roger Ebert
I have a friend who says golf is not only better than sex, but lasts longer. The argument in “sex, lies, and videotape” is that conversation is also better than sex – more intimate, more voluptuous – and that with our minds we can do things to each other that make sex, that swapping of sweat and sentiment, seem merely troublesome. Of course, this argument is all a mind game, and sex itself, sweat and all, is the prize for the winner. That’s what makes the conversation so erotic.
7. Call Me By Your Name (2018)
- Director: Luca Guadagnino
- Writers: James Ivory (screenplay by), André Aciman (based on the novel by)
- Stars: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg
It is a sensual and transcendent tale of first love, based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman. It’s the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17- year-old American-Italian, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him, particularly about matters of the heart.
One night in town, Elio and his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel) see Oliver dancing and kissing a local girl, Chiara. The DJ plays “Love My Way,” and Elio joins the dancing – afterward, he and Marzia go swimming in the night. The next day, he tells Oliver he almost had sex with her. Elio becomes increasingly interested in Oliver, tagging along on an excavation to spend time with him.
Review: San Diego reader
The most remarkable thing about Call Me By Your Name is the cool remove Guadagnino retains from his frank depiction of desperate teenage longing and volcanic sexual passion. It’s a story less about the characters involved than it is about the dynamics between them, a late addition to the Symposium’s accounts of the great god love.
8. The Handmaiden (Ah-Ga-Ssi) (2016)
- Director: Chan-wook Park
- Writers: Sarah Waters (inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by), Seo-kyeong Jeong (screenplay)
- Stars: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-Woong Cho
This film is a gripping and sensual tale of a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a conman’s plot to defraud her of her large inheritance.
Confined in a dreary and sun-deprived mansion, Lady Hideko is a triste bird in a gilded cage and a seemingly easy target for Count Fujiwara, a forger and an outright con man in disguise, who hires Sook-hee, a dexterous young pickpocket, to act as the new handmaiden. So, with the intention to possess her father’s inheritance, the Count needs Sook-hee to assist him in persuading the unaware noblewoman to marry him, and when the elaborate scam is finally successful, ruthlessly and without an ounce of remorse, he will send her forever to the madhouse.
Review: The Guardian
This film’s addictive and outrageous sexiness might just create an international fad for filing down your lover’s crooked tooth in the bath with the finely serrated surface of a thimble. It’s a quasi blowjob scene that sounds bizarre in print. On screen, it was so extraordinary that I almost forgot to breathe.
Park is the veteran of extreme cinema, renowned for his brutal Vengeance trilogy: Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. Now with co-writer Jeong Seo-kyeong, he has adapted the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters – a humid story of crime, love and betrayal that he has transplanted from Victorian London to Japanese-ruled colonial Korea of the 1930s. From this source material, he creates a horribly delicious suspense thriller to compare with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca or Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques.
9. Weekend (2011)
- Director: Andrew Haigh
- Writer: Andrew Haigh
- Stars: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race
After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what’s expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.
That weekend, in bars and in bedrooms, getting drunk and taking drugs, telling stories and having sex, the two men get to know each other. It is a brief encounter that will resonate throughout their lives.
Despite there being an obvious connection between the two beyond their initial attraction, they learn that they are different and on the surface incompatible in their outlooks.
Glen is outwardly more open about his sexuality in public, but does not see himself with a boyfriend. Russell, on the other hand, is more controlled about expressing his gay self in public, but does eventually want a boyfriend and to be married.
Review: The Guardian
It is a tender, humane film, with an easy, unforced cinematic language: a film that doesn’t need to try too hard.
10. Blue Velvet (1986)
- Director: David Lynch
- Writer: David Lynch (screenplay)
- Stars: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper
The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
College student Jeffrey Beaumont returns to his idyllic hometown of Lumberton to manage his father’s hardware store while his father is hospitalized. Walking though a grassy meadow near the family home, Jeffrey finds a severed human ear.
After an initial investigation, lead police Detective John Williams advises Jeffrey not to speak to anyone about the case as they investigate further. Detective Williams also tells Jeffrey that he cannot divulge any information about what the police know.
Detective Williams’ high school aged daughter, Sandy Williams, tells Jeffrey what she knows about the case from overhearing her father’s private conversations on the matter: that it has to do with a nightclub singer named Dorothy Vallens, who lives in an older apartment building near the Beaumont home.
Blue Velvet transforms the coming-of-age story into an allegory that flings back the bed sheets of the psyche and bursts taboos like balloons at a child’s party. In a time when filmmakers live by formula and cliché, Blue Velvet takes those formulas and clichés and drives them to commit suicide.
In a decade when Reagan and Cougar Mellencamp croon about small-town America, David Lynch walks us through one small town and finds in its smiling faces the darkest dreams of the republic.
David Lynch has no peer at creating disturbing visions (just think of the “baby” in Eraserhead), and can make a joy ride to the brothel seem like bad-acid Dante.
Blue Velvet is hardly a celebration of evil. As an allegory of dark and light, it offers a counterforce — the transcendent power of love — and expresses it through Sandy’s dream of robins descending and bringing light to the Earth.
11. The Duke Of Burgundy (2015)
- Director: Peter Strickland
- Writer: Peter Strickland
- Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Monica Swinn, Chiara D’Anna
The Duke Of Burgundy begins with a young woman, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), arriving by bicycle at the house where she works as a maid. Her employer, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) greets her somewhat coldly. She’s asked to clean the study, then wash some clothes; she doesn’t do a good enough job, and she’s chastised for it. But there’s more to this ritual than meets the eye, it soon becomes clear.
The couple are involved in a dominant-submissive partnership, a sexual relationship whose course is complicated by human emotions and expectations.
Review: THE STAR
The Duke of Burgundy is no mere style exercise or slavish homage. Strickland finds both humour and pathos in the situation of Cynthia and Evelyn, who are every bit as trapped as the insects they collect and catalogue.
Much of the story is told by small gestures and by the sound effects that Strickland uses so well.
12. The Last Seduction (1994)
- Director: John Dahl
- Writer: Steve Barancik
- Stars: Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, Bill Pullma
Bridget Gregory persuades her husband Clay, a wealthy physician, to make dirty deals on prescription drugs and then runs with the profit.
After she persuaded him to sell medicinal cocaine to some drug dealers, she takes off with the money, almost a million dollars, and goes undercover in a mid-American small town. Because Clay has to pay off a loan shark who’ll otherwise damage him severely, he keeps sending detectives after her, trying to retrieve the money. When Bridget meets Mike Swale, a naive local who is blinded by her beauty and directness, she devises an elaborate, almost diabolical scheme to get rid of Clay once and for all.
Review: Roger Ebert
John Dahl’s “The Last Seduction” knows how much we enjoy seeing a character work boldly outside the rules. It gives us a diabolical, evil woman, and goes the distance with her. We keep waiting for the movie to lose its nerve, and it never does: This woman is bad from beginning to end, she never reforms, she never compromises, and the movie doesn’t tack on one of those contrived conclusions where the morals squad comes in and tidies up.
13. Stranger by the Lake (2014)
- Director: Alain Guiraudie
- Writer: Alain Guiraudie
- Stars: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumçao
Franck, a fit gay man, seeks love at a lakeside gay cruising beach. Among the mostly pudgy nude sunbathers, he befriends Henri, a depressed middle-aged bi-sexual who enjoys the quiet but accepts Franck’s company. When Michel appears, Franck finally spots a man he’d like to know sexually. Unfortunately, he also spots him drowning his gay lover but opts not to tell anyone in order to consider having a relationship with this handsome yet remorseless killer.
Review: The Washington Post
Remember when “Basic Instinct” was such a shock to the senses, with its explicit sex and indifferent violence? How quaint. The French film “Stranger by the Lake” is an erotic thriller (heavy emphasis on the erotic) that makes that 1992 mystery look like “Nancy Drew.” What sets the engrossing “Stranger by the Lake” apart is that its excesses seem to point to a moral purpose beyond shock or entertainment value.
14. Dangerous Liaisons (1998)
- Director: Stephen Frears
- Writers: Christopher Hampton (play), Choderlos de Laclos (novel)
- Stars: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer
Adapted for stage and screen several times over the past century, French author Francois Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel Les Liasons Dangeureuses was the basis for this Academy Award-winning Stephen Frears film. The plot is motivated by a cruel wager between the beautiful but debauched Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and her misogynistic former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovitch).
The Marquise challenges Valmont to seduce the virginal Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman) before the girl can be wed. Valmont offers a more difficult counter-challenge: He bets the Marquise that he will be able to bed the very moral and very married Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer).
The Marquise doesn’t think that Valmont can seduce Mme de Tourvel. She tells him that if he can provide written proof of a sexual encounter with Mme de Tourvel, she will offer him a reward: one last night with her. Valmont, however, will find himself falling in love with Mme de Tourvel, and facing the deadly jealousy of the Marquise de Merteuil.
Review: THE BUFFALO NEWS
It’s an elegant, erotic and gorgeously photographed tour through a wickedly artificial 18th century aristocratic world in which people can articulate anything and everything but the emotions that finally destroy them.
Stephen Frears has always been an extremely fine film director (especially in “Sammy and Rosie Get Laid”) but it almost seems as if his work, thus far, has been a warm-up for “Dangerous Liaisons.” This is as beautiful an adaptation of a play as I’ve ever seen. Philipe Rousselot’s photography is magnificent, the music by George Fenton is close to perfect in its aptness and Mick Audsley edited the film with uncommon grace.
15. The Piano (1993)
- Director: Jane Campion
- Writer: Jane Campion
- Stars: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill
This film unearthes emotional undercurrents and churning intensity in the story of a mute woman’s rebellion in the recently colonized New Zealand wilderness of Victorian times.
Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter), a mute who has willed herself not to speak, and her strong-willed young daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) find themselves in the New Zealand wilderness, with Ada the imported bride of dullard land-grabber Stewart (Sam Neill). Ada immediately takes a dislike to Stewart when he refuses to carry her beloved piano home with them. But Stewart makes a deal with his overseer George Baines (Harvey Keitel) to take the piano off his hands. Attracted to Ada, Baines agrees to return the piano in exchange for a series of piano lessons that become a series of increasingly charged sexual encounters.
Review: THE NEW YORKER
Some of the finest movies brush close to absurdity, after all, unrolling emotions that are only inches away from caricature. If you were to see it on video in a few years’ time, “The Piano” would probably look obvious and overwrought, but up on the big screen it barely gives you time to think, let alone have doubts.
“The Piano” is like a highly advanced brand of cinema-by-numbers: everything matches up; every detail—from the tearing of a lace gown to the piano itself—is awarded its correct metaphorical weight. The movie flatters viewers by inviting them to read it—to pick up all the signs and symbols and arrange them into an elaborate pattern.
16. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Writers: Carlos Cuarón, Alfonso Cuarón
- Stars: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Daniel Giménez Cacho
In Mexico, two teenage boys and an attractive older woman embark on a road trip and learn a thing or two about life, friendship, sex, and each other.
Late teen friends Tenoch Iturbide and Julio Zapata are feeling restless as their respective girlfriends are traveling together through Europe before they all begin the next phase of their lives at college. At a lavish family wedding, Tenoch and Julio meet Luisa Cortés, the twenty-something wife of Tenoch’s cousin Jano, the two who have just moved to Mexico from Spain. Tenoch and Julio try to impress the beautiful Luisa by telling her that they will be taking a trip to the most beautiful secluded beach in Mexico called la Boca del Cielo (translated to Heaven’s Mouth), the trip and the beach which in reality don’t exist. When Luisa learns of Jano’s latest marital indiscretion straight from the horse’s mouth, she takes Tenoch and Julio’s offer to go along on this road trip.
Along the way, seduction, argument and the contrast of the trio against the harsh realities of the surrounding poverty ensue.
The eroticism in Cuaron’s road movie (which broke all box-office records in Mexico) is the real deal: tactile, sexy, psychologically charged. It’s not there to shock or provoke giggles–this is no Hollywood teen comedy–but to illuminate these complex, poignant and lost characters.
“Y Tu Mama Tambien” (“So’s Your Mother”) is light on its feet (the political subtext is almost subliminal), shot in a lyrical, freewheeling style by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. But the easygoing surface is deceptive.
17. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)
- Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
- Writers: Abdellatif Kechiche (scenario, adaptation and dialogue), Ghalia Lacroix (scenario, adaptation and dialogue)
- Stars: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche
It centers on a 15-year-old girl named Adèle (Exarchopoulos) who is climbing to adulthood and dreams of experiencing her first love. A handsome male classmate falls for her hard.
But Adèle’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adèle grows, seeks herself, loses herself, and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.
Together, Adèle and Emma explore social acceptance, sexuality, and the emotional spectrum of their maturing relationship.
Review: THE GLOBE AND MAIL
The euphoria of first love and the pain of heartbreak, the discoveries of new ideas, food, art and sex are all part of Blue is the Warmest Colour, a film from Tunisian-French director, Abdellatif Kechiche.
The winner of Cannes’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, and the international critics prize at the same festival, the film was hailed as a breakthrough, a graphic and emotional love story, the first same-sex feature ever to win the Palme, in the week after France legalized same-sex marriage.
The movie is not just about sex? Another subject is class differences. There is also student politics, music, philosophy – including a comparison of Jean-Paul Sartre and Bob Marley.
18. A Bigger Splash (2016)
- Director: Luca Guadagnino
- Writers: David Kajganich (screenplay by), Jacques Deray (based on the film “La piscine” directed by)
- Stars: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes
Rock legend Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is recuperating on the volcanic island of Pantelleria with her partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) when iconoclast record producer and old flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) unexpectedly arrives with his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) and interrupts their holiday, bringing with him an A-bomb blast of nostalgia from which there can be no rescue. A Bigger Splash is a sensuous portrait of laughter, desire, and rock and roll detonating into violence under the Mediterranean sun.
Review: The Detroit News
A rock star and her boyfriend are vacationing on a remote Italian island when her ex and his nubile young daughter show up out of the blue to stay with them for a few days. What could possibly go wrong?
Such is the set-up for “A Bigger Splash,” a sensuous and thought-provoking adult drama dealing with temptation, sexuality and carnal desires. Its manner is button-pushing and slightly uneasy.
19. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
- Director: Peter Greenaway
- Writer: Peter Greenaway
- Stars: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren
The cruel and sadistic crime boss Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) has dinner every night in his restaurant with his wife Georgina Spica (Helen Mirren) and his gang. Albert abuses his wife, his gangsters, the chef Richard Borst and the restaurant employees.
Having tired of her sadistic, boorish husband, the wife finds herself a lover Michael (Alan Howard) and makes love to him in the restaurant’s coziest places with the silent permission of the chef Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer).
However the prostitute Pat discloses to Albert that he has been betrayed by Georgina and Albert kills Michael. However, Georgina plots revenge against Albert with the support of Richard and the victims of Albert.
The picture offers ironic and paradoxical comments on the relations between eating and sex, love and death. The film is at once funny and horrific.
Review: COLE SMITHEY
“The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover” is a masterpiece of British cinema built on several hundred years of literary tradition. The film must be viewed more than once to begin to digest its pungent and subtle layers of rope-thick satire.
Methodically constructed in the Jacobean form of Elizabethan revenge tragedies, the movie is an unrestrained attack on Margaret Thatcher’s version of Ronald Reagan-style capitalism that infected the globe.
20. Venus in Fur (2014)
- Director: Roman Polanski
- Writers: David Ives (play), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
- Stars: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
Alone in a Paris theater after a long day of auditioning actresses for his new play, writer-director Thomas (Amalric) complains that no actress he’s seen has what it takes to play the lead female character: a woman who enters into an agreement with her male counterpart to dominate him as her slave. Thomas is about to leave the theater when actress Vanda (Seigner) bursts in, a whirlwind of erratic – and, it turns out, erotic – energy.
Review: The Sydney Morning Herald
Despite the mock-sinister mood, this is a buoyant, playful film. Venus In Fur is essentially a weightless skit, a parody of those hoary old archetypes of Man and Woman, and perhaps of Polanski’s own body of work as well.
But it’s also a tribute to Seigner, who seizes the gift of a role that allows her to be sexy, funny and imposing, by turns or all at once; beneath the silliness runs a current of something like love.
21. Bound (1996)
Directors: Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers), Lilly Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Writers: Lilly Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers), Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Stars: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano
Corky (Gina Gershon), a lesbian ex con hired to work in an apartment as a plumber, meets neighbors Caesar, who launders money for the Mafia, and his girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly). Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly nearly set the screen on fire in this clever, female-powered twist on the standard Mob caper film.
The two women have a love affair and decide to steal $2,000,000 that Caesar has in custody before he gives them back to Mafia boss Gino Marzone. Caesar is set up by the two scheming women as a scapegoat but things start to go wrong when he reacts in an unexpected way.
Bound went a long way in establishing the Wachowski’s as phenomenal visual stylists. A big part of that is their collaboration with cinematographer Bill Pope, a partnership that would continue into The Matrix and its sequels. For a film with no special effects, the Wachowskis and Pope employ an array of tricks with the camera.
One of the most impressive sequences in the film is the first sex scene between Violet and Corky, and some of the special features in this new edition gives the viewer further insight into how they crafted the tastefully erotic scene in a single take.
More importantly, having the scene unfold in a single take prevented the producers from inserting fully nude body doubles to make the scene more titillating at the expense of the film’s actresses.
22. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (1998)
- Director: Philip Kaufman
- Writers: Milan Kundera (novel), Jean-Claude Carrière (screenplay)
- Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin
In Philip Kaufman’s surprisingly successful film adaptation of Czech author Milan Kundera’s demanding 1984 best-seller, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Tomas, an overly amorous Prague surgeon, while Juliette Binoche plays Tereza, the waiflike beauty whom he marries. Even though he’s supposedly committed, Tomas continues his wanton womanizing, notably with his silken mistress Sabina (Lena Olin). Escaping the 1968 Russian invasion of Prague by heading for Geneva, Sabina takes up with another man and unexpectedly develops a friendship with Tereza.
Review: ROGER EBERT
“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” carries the feeling of deep nostalgia, of a time no longer present, when these people did these things and hoped for happiness, and were caught up in events beyond their control.
Kaufman achieves this effect almost without seeming to try. At first, his film seems to be almost exclusively about sex, but then we notice in countless individual shots and camera decisions that he does not allow his camera to become a voyeur.
23. Blue Valentine (2010)
- Director: Derek Cianfrance
- Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis
- Stars: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, John Doman
Dean Pereira and Cindy Heller Pereira are a young, working class married couple – Dean currently working as a painter, and Cindy working as a nurse in a medical clinic – with a young daughter named Frankie. Despite their relatively tender ages, they are both ravaged by the life they’ve eked out together and by the experiences they’ve had leading into their marriage.
Dean, a high school drop out, comes from a broken home, where he never really had a mother figure. He never saw himself getting married or having a family despite falling in love at first sight with Cindy. He doesn’t have any professional ambition beyond his current work – which he enjoys since he feels he can knock off a beer at 8 o’clock in the morning without it affecting his work – although Cindy believes he has so much more potential in life.
Cindy also comes from a dysfunctional family, with her own mother and father not setting an example of a harmonious married or family life.
Review: The Guardian
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, which he co-scripted with Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne, is an account of the passionate, protracted Phffft! that concludes the marriage between Dean (Ryan Gosling), a blue-collar worker from Brooklyn, and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a medical student from a lower-middle-class family in Pennsylvania. It is a romance that begins in the first years of the Bush administration and ends with the coming of Obama, but the political events and social currents of the time do not significantly impinge on the characters’ lives.
24. The Untamed (La Region SalVaje) (2017)
- Director: Amat Escalante
- Writers: Amat Escalante, Gibrán Portela
- Stars: Ruth Ramos, Simone Bucio, Jesús Meza
Alejandra is a young mother and housewife who raises her children with her husband Angel in a small town. His brother Fabian is a nurse at a local hospital. Their provincial lives are altered with the arrival of the mysterious Veronica. Sex and love are fragile in certain regions where family values exist and hypocrisy, homophobia, and sexism are strong. Veronica convinces them that in the nearby forest, in a secluded cabin, there is something that is not of this world but that is the answer to all your problemas.
Review: The Guardian
Mexican film-maker Amat Escalante’s work has included the challengingly violent crime drama Heli (2013). Now he has created a bizarre realist-fantasy parable in which queasy eroticism and body horror are absorbed into life’s many pains and injustices.
25. In The Realm Of The Senses (1976)
- Director: Nagisa Ôshima
- Writer: Nagisa Ôshima
- Stars: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima
Still censored in its own country, In the Realm of the Senses remains one of the most controversial films of all time. A man and a woman are consumed by a transcendent, destructive love while living in an era of ever escalating imperialism and governmental control.
Based upon a true incident in 1930s Japan, Nagisa Oshima’s controversial film effectively skirts the borderline between pornography and art-making. Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris of four years earlier look like children’s programming in comparison.
In fact, if you see an uncut version of this film, you are in essence watching pornography. That is, you are watching incredibly graphic sexual content that simply would not be allowed in an American film.
The story concerns servant and former prostitute Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) who becomes sexually obsessed with her employer Kizicho (Tatsuya Fuji), a businessman, after seeing him making love to his wife.
The teeming prurience of Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses resulted in perhaps the director’s most high-profile U.S. release of his career, but Senses is hardly a cheap art-house hustle. Its sexuality is as carefully considered and methodical as Oshima’s rigid, symmetrical shots and blooming, balanced colors.
The film invites scorn not only because it depicts almost every sex act you could ever want to imagine taking place—God help us—between a man and a woman, but also because it dares to couch the entire hedonistic-masochistic exercise as a cinematic cipher, an oozier version of what, deep down, happens in every relationship. Or as the Landmark slogan goes, the cunnilingus of this cinema is universal.
26. Dressed To Kill (1980)
- Director: Brian De Palma
- Writer: Brian De Palma
- Stars: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen
While taking a shower, Kate Miller, a middle-aged, sexually frustrated New York City housewife, has a rape fantasy while her husband stands at the sink shaving. Later that day, after complaining to her psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott about her husband’s pathetic performance in bed, she meets a strange man at a museum and returns to his apartment where they continue an adulterous encounter that began in the taxicab. Before she leaves his apartment, she finds papers which certify that the man has a venereal disease.
Panicked, Kate rushes into the elevator, but has to return to his apartment when she realizes she’s forgotten her wedding ring. When the elevator doors open, she’s brutally slashed to death by a tall blonde woman wearing dark sunglasses. Liz Blake, a high-class call girl, is the only witness to the murder and she becomes the prime suspect and the murderer’s next target.
The scene where Kate meets her lover in the museum is reminiscent of Vertigo. The murder of Kate in the elevator frightening, bloody and chillingly effective, is similar in tone to the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Review: The Guardian
This ingenious erotic thriller full of unexpected shocks is best seen with no foreknowledge and even better at a second viewing. Angie Dickinson gives her finest performance as a frustrated middle-class wife and mother, Michael Caine plays her sympathetic shrink, Nancy Allen is a call girl who witnesses an appalling murder, and Dennis Franz is a cynical homicide cop.
There’s a brilliantly sustained eight-minute sequence of a pick-up at New York’s Metropolitan Museum with no dialogue but with a Bernard Herrmann-type score by Pino Donaggio, who began his movie career composing the music for Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now in 1973.
27. Mulholland Drive (2001)
- Director: David Lynch
- Writer: David Lynch
- Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux
Two beautiful women are caught up in a lethally twisted mystery – and ensnared in an equally dangerous web of erotic passion. In the unreal universe of Los Angeles, the city bares its schizophrenic nature, an uneasy blend of innocence and corruption, love and loneliness, beauty and depravity. A woman is left with amnesia following a car accident. An aspiring young actress finds her staying in her aunt’s home. The puzzle begins to unfold, propelling us through a mysterious labyrith of sensual experiences until we arrive at the intersection of dreams and nightmares.
For his work on Mulholland Drive David Lynch was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director even though the film was not nominated for Best Picture.
Lynch’s themes are wild and unconventional: dreams materialised; crazy thought bubbles brought to life. Whereas Orson Welles’ great film begins with a brief moment of surrealism – involving a snow globe and the cryptic word “Rosebud” – but then proceeds in a more straight-forward manner, Lynch maintains the surreal atmosphere throughout. In this sense Mulholland Drive picks up where Citizen Kane left off.
28. Last Tango In Paris (1972)
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci (story), Bernardo Bertolucci
Stars: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Maria Michi
Marlon Brando delivers a fascinating performance as a man torn apart by his wife’s suicide who attempts to bury his grief in a sudden, purely carnal relationship with an alluring stranger (Maria Schneider).
Chancing to meet young Frenchwoman Jeanne (Maria Schneider), Paul enters into a sadomasochistic, carnal relationship with her, indirectly attacking the hypocrisy all around him through his raw, outrageous sexual behavior. Paul also hopes to purge himself of his own feelings of guilt, brilliantly (and profanely) articulated in a largely ad-libbed monologue at his wife’s coffin.
At the beginning, it is Brando who is confused, lost, driven mad by the toll that a past love has taken on him. Yet, at the end of the film, it is Schneider’s Jeanne who cares not about names, identity, and personal histories. Her life is committed to distance and emotional isolation. Her mind has confined itself to that little apartment where intimacy knew no bounds, except the publicity of a painful outside world.
If the sexual content in Last Tango is uncomfortably explicit (once seen, the infamous “butter scene” is never forgotten), the combination of Brando’s acting, Bertolucci’s direction, Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography, and Gato Barbieri’s music is unbeatable.
Review: The Guardian
What a bizarre film it is, capable of delivering some shocks, certainly, but possessing not power exactly, but a fascinating, unevolved clumsiness. Brando confronts the audience like a bull behind the china shop counter, and his extraordinary, old-fashioned charisma is what keeps you watching.
The sex is mostly fully clothed, although Maria gets entirely naked for a bathing scene, displaying some old-school luxuriant pubic hair; and Brando gets his great, flabby 40-something bum out for the final scene in the tango bar when he “moons” an outraged proprietress who is attempting to throw him out.
29. Swimming Pool (2003)
Director: François Ozon
Writers: François Ozon (screenplay), Emmanuèle Bernheim
Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance, Ludivine Sagnier
This film has two female leads, but it is not a lesbian movie. If you like character-driven, moody, suspenseful stories featuring a female over the age of 50 enjoying sensual pleasures, you will enjoy it.
Sarah Morton is a famous British mystery author. Tired of London and seeking inspiration for her new novel, she accepts an offer from her publisher John Bosload to stay at his home in Luberon, in the South of France.
It is the off-season, and Sarah finds that the beautiful country locale and unhurried pace is just the tonic for her–until late one night, when John’s indolent and insouciant French daughter Julie unexpectedly arrives.
Once again the match proves fruitful, resulting in a Hitchcockian thriller that probes issues of feminity and creativity through the conflict between a repressed English novelist and a free-spirited French teenager.
30. I Am Love (2010)
- Director: Luca Guadagnino
- Writers: Barbara Alberti (screenplay), Ivan Cotroneo (screenplay)
- Stars: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Edoardo Gabbriellini
Over two decades ago, Emma left Russia to follow Tancredi Recchi, the man who had proposed to her. Now a member of a powerful industrial Milanese family, she is the respected mother of three. But Emma, although not unhappy, feels confusedly unfulfilled. One day Antonio, a talented chef and her son’s friend and partner, makes her senses kindle. It does not take long before she embarks on a passionate affair with the sensuous young man.
Review: The Guardian
Guadagnino’s film, influenced perhaps by Antonioni, is about the ennui and withdrawal of Italy’s wealthy and patrician classes, and perhaps about their psychological stagnancy – the way they have displaced their emotional lives into maintaining the institutions of family and property. Emma is an outsider. She can pastiche the mannerisms of the Italian overclass, but her bursts of Russian, which she subversively directs at her Italian son – for whom it is a kind of secret language for private communications – shows that she is in this world but not of it.
Maybe. There is an intense eroticism in her relationship with Antonio, but something elusive in narrative terms, because Emma does not seem to be any more personally open after this great awakening, than before it. For all the sensual abandon, Swinton’s Emma is still superbly self-possessed and self-enclosed: not actressy in the way she can sometimes be, but nevertheless with a certain opacity in her performance.