Published on April 16th, 2019
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 20 best erotic movies ranked by Rotten Tomatoes.
1. La Belle Noiseuse (1991)
In 1991, the master French director Jacques Rivette released one of his most acclaimed works- the four-hour La Belle noiseuse. It was a fascinating and unconventional examination of the creative process, about an artist named Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) who reaches the age of 60, and finds new inspiration in a young model (Emmanuelle Beart), much to the quiet indignation of his wife Liz (Jane Birkin).
2. The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
Mrs. Herbert (Janet Suzman) is desperate to find a way to please her husband and win back his errant affections, and to that end, she coerces the draughtsman Neville (Anthony Higgins) into doing some drawings of the Herbert estate while her husband is away for a few weeks. 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.
3. Body Heat (1981)
Lawrence Kasdan’s first directorial effort is a throwback to the early days of film noir. The scene is a beastly hot Florida coastal town, where naive attorney Ned (William Hurt) is entranced by the alluring Matty (Kathleen Turner in her film debut). Ned is manipulated into killing Matty’s much older husband (Richard Crenna), the plan being that Ned’s knowledge of legal matters will enable both conspirators to escape scott-free.
4. Exotica (1994)
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.
5. Belle De Jour (1968)
Catherine Deneuve stars as a wealthy but bored newlywed, eager to taste life to the fullest. She seemingly gets her wish early in the film when she is kidnapped, tied to a tree, and whipped. It turns out that this is only a daydream, but her subsequent visits to a neighboring brothel, where she offers her services, certainly seem to be real. This illusion/reality dichotomy extends to the final scenes, in which we are offered two possible endings.
6. Sex, Lies, And Videotape (1989)
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).
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.
7. Call Me By Your Name (2018)
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.
8. The Handmaiden (Ah-Ga-Ssi) (2016)
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.
9. Weekend (2011)
Russell, who, after randomly picking up artist Glen (Chris New) at a nightclub on a Friday night, unexpectedly spends most of the next 48 hours with him in bedrooms and bars, telling stories and having sex, while developing a connection that will resonate throughout their lives. This affecting and naturalistic romance is beautifully realized, earning comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise in its exploration of how two people can come together only briefly, yet impact each other in a profound way.
10. Blue Velvet (1986)
This hallucinogenic mystery-thriller probes beneath the cheerful surface of suburban America to discover sadomasochistic violence, corruption, drug abuse, crime and perversion. Walking through a field near his home, Jeffrey Beaumont discovers a severed human ear, which he immediately brings to the police.
Their disinterest sparks Jeff’s curiosity, and he is soon drawn into a dangerous drama that’s being played out by a lounge singer, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and the ether-addicted Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). The sociopathic Booth has kidnapped Dorothy’s young son and is using the child as a bargaining chip to repeatedly beat, humiliate and rape Dorothy.
11. The Duke of Burgundy (2015)
Day after day, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) act out a simple yet provocative ritual that ends with Evelyn’s punishment and pleasure. As Cynthia yearns for a more conventional relationship, Evelyn’s obsession with erotica quickly becomes an addiction that may push the relationship to a breaking point.
12. The Last Seduction (1994)
Bridget Gregory persuades her husband, a wealthy physician, to make dirty deals on prescription drugs and then runs with the profit. Bridget draws a naive local, Mike Swale, into a smoldering affair. Passion, greed and revenge forge a desperate triangle between the three as Bridget draws her unknowing victims deeper into her web of deadly deceit.
13. Stranger by the Lake (2014)
Frank (Pierre Deladonchamps) spends his summer days hopelessly searching for companionship at a popular cruising spot. One day, he meets Michel (Christophe Paou), an attractive yet darkly mysterious man and falls blindly in love. When a death occurs, Frank and Michel become the primary suspects but they choose to ignore the dangers and instead continue to engage in their passionate and potentially lethal relationship.
14. Dangerous Liaisons (1998)
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).
15. The Piano (1993)
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.
16. Y Tu MamaTambien (2001)
The funny and moving coming-of-age story centers on two immature teens who get an education in love when they take a sexy road trip with a liberated, unhappily married woman.
17. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)
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 an unsettling erotic reverie upsets the romance before it begins. Adèle imagines that the mysterious, blue-haired girl she encountered in the street slips into her bed and possesses her with an overwhelming pleasure.
18. A Bigger Splash (2016)
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.
19. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
A gang leader (Michael Gambon), accompanied by his wife (Helen Mirren) and his associates, entertains himself every night in a fancy French restaurant that he has recently bought. Having tired of her sadistic, boorish husband, the wife finds herself a lover (Alan Howard) and makes love to him in the restaurant’s coziest places with the silent permission of the cook (Richard Bohringer). 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.
20. Venus in Fur (2014)
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.