The Best Erotic Movies – Top 20 Erotic Films

Erotic movies - Ecstasy


Erotic movies, that is, about sex as one of the most important areas of life, have played an important role in the history of cinema. Which works are among the most famous erotic images of the 10th Muse?

Sex has been present in cinema since its inception. However, the boundary of intimacy shown in film moved quite slowly. It can be said that from the first scenes of kissing to the filming of the erotic act passed at least an era.

Eroticism, as an essential component of film, first appeared in the 1896 short work “The Kiss”, directed by William Heise. Although the work aroused widespread scorn, this did not prevent filmmakers of the time from reaching for sexual motifs. The era of fair cinema was quite liberal in this regard, as there were still no strict boundaries of moral taboos in cinema at the time.

The first to reach for sexual themes was the French Label Pathe, which produced films such as “The Bathing of a Parisian Woman” (1897), where nudity found justification in toilet-related activities. Soon, however, cinema began to aspire to the status of art, and sex in cinema was used as a lure for undiscerning audiences lost its raison d’être. Only comedy burlesque resisted this principle. Therefore, the works of Mack Sennet featured “Bathing Beauties,” i.e. young undressed girls serving as a visual attraction.

Erotic movies vs. sensual vampires

An important stage in the path of breaking the erotic taboo in film was the period of vamp actresses. The era opened with Theda Bara, the first cinematic femme fatale – beautiful, brazenly sexy and openly seducing innocent men. Films such as “Carmen”, “Salome” and “The She-Devil”, even today, can amaze with their boldness in exposing the female body.

The best erotic movies - And God Created Woman

Other female vampires followed in the wake of Theda Bara. Among the most famous were Clara Bow and Mae West. The former, a red-haired beauty, was known as the It Girl. She became a symbol of sexual liberation, which was also reflected in the star’s private life. Particularly significant in this regard were her creations in movies “It” (1927) and “Red Hair” (1928). Mae West, on the other hand, was famous for her extremely provocative roles, such as in “I’m No Angel” (1933), the last of her films that was not censored.

History of erotic film – from “Ecstasy” to Brigitte Bardot

In 1932, a major moral scandal broke out in the film world. The Czechoslovakian work “Ecstasy”, starring Hedy Lamar, was released. Gustav Machaty’s film showed scenes with a completely naked actress (while in a lake bath), as well as sexual intercourse. The picture was condemned by Pope Pius XI himself, and banned in Germany and the US.

The last milestone in the approach to sex in cinema was the film “And God Created Woman” (1956) with the unforgettable Brigitte Bardot. The very first scene here featured a naked beautiful girl, completely uninhibited by her exposed carnality. Moreover, the heroine was romancing several men at the same time, freely choosing her lovers. This film opened a new era in the history of cinema. Brigitte Bardot created a completely new model of femininity – prudish, bold and natural. She was no longer a stylized vamp woman, but an ordinary girl with flowing hair, for whom sex is an end in itself and a normal aspect of life.

Erotic Movies

1. “Last Tango in Paris” ((Ultimo tango a Parigi), 1971

20 best erotic movies - Last Tango in Paris

Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango in Paris” (1971) is undoubtedly the film that opened an era of bold storytelling about sex in cinema. The work shows a brief but very intense relationship between a mature American man (Marlon Brando) and a young French woman (Maria Schneider). An atmosphere of excess and decadence hovers over the picture, in which sadomasochistic erotic sensations become the only way to break out of the dreariness of life.

Bertolucci is an Italian director who has made a special mark in the history of film sex. “Last Tango in Paris” is a picture showing that eroticism is a psychoanalytic key to human life, but also to the whole culture and its taboos. Here the director makes a special reference to the Orphic myth – telling the story of a man who cannot cope with the death of his beloved and therefore pursues self-destruction. Sam said of his own film: “I wanted to describe a man who is captivated by death and pursues it at all costs. For this mad romantic, sex life is a method of annihilation.”

2. “The Grand Bouffe” ((Le grande bouffe), 1973

The best erotic movies of all time - The Grand Bouffe

“The Grand Bouffe” (1973) – Marco Ferreri’s film is another film about sex that went down in cinema history. Eroticism here is linked to the act of eating – and intemperance in both areas leads the characters to death. Four men (played by Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli and Ugo Tognazzi) lock themselves in a luxurious villa precisely to die of overeating and an excess of erotic sensations.

The work of Marc Ferreri is another example, next to “Last Tango in Paris”, of the Italian cinema of contestation of the 1970s. A special role is played here by the director’s characteristic method of the grotesque, especially evident in the portrayal of characters. Sexual deviancy becomes a sign of the degeneration of culture itself, and intemperance in eating and having sex a clear symbol of modern consumerism, spiritual emptiness and excessive attachment to the world of things.

3. “Emanuelle”, 1974

the best erotic movies ever made - Emanuelle

Just Jaeckin’s 1974 “Emmanuelle” is an erotic film that lived to see several sequels. The pictures were based on the novel by Emmanuelle Arsan. The subject of each is the erotic adventures of the beautiful model Emmanuelle and her husband Jean. They decide to expand their knowledge of the world through further sexual pleasures. The title role is played by Sylvia Kristel.

Just Jaeckin’s erotic film became the most famous representative of the “softcore porn” trend in French cinema. The convention emerged as a kind of aftermath of the 1968 revolution in morals, and often reflected the use of “porn” as a metaphor for cinema itself. Emmanuelle became the most popular picture of the 1970s in France, and its sequels were filmed for a dozen years. These included Francis Giacobetti’s “Emmanuelle the Joys of a Woman” (1975), Walerian Borowczyk’s “Emmanuelle V” (1987), and Francis Leroi’s “Emmanuelle 7” (1993).

4. “In the Realm of the Senses” (“Ai no corrida”), 1976

20 graetest erotic movies - In the Realm of the Senses

Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses” is set in pre-war Tokyo. In turn, an erotic relationship is established between mature hotel owner Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji) and young cleaning lady Sada (Eiko Matsuda). The film has outstanding aesthetic qualities, and impresses with its frame composition. However, one should keep in mind the completely different understanding of eroticism in Japanese culture from the West. This is because body and spirit sensations are not separated here, and there is no erotic taboo. Sexual ecstasy, driving both characters to total obliteration, is at the same time an expression of total love.

Oshima’s erotica movie is a groundbreaking work that consciously violates moral taboos. What we have here is a clear rebellion against the patriarchy designating a woman’s subordinate place to a man in the hierarchy of importance and power. This translates into a specific way of showing the female body in pornography. She is most often a passive and dominated object of male desire. Meanwhile, in “In the Realm of the Senses” a completely opposite situation appears, it is the woman who initiates and directs the course of the erotic experiment, to the point of perdition.

5. ”Nine ½ Weeks”, 1986

The best erotica movies - 9 1/2 weeks

Adrian Lyne’s ”Nine ½ Weeks” (1986) is an unforgettable erotic film depicting the story of Elizabeth, who meets handsome stockbroker John just after her divorce. The couple goes on a wildly exciting erotic adventure in which the desire for love mixes with perverse sex. Starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in the lead roles. Great music and cinematography add real charm to the film.

”Nine ½ Weeks” also fits interestingly into cinematic postmodernism, due to the erotic game the characters undertake with each other. Indeed, the game itself is a frequent metaphor for postmodern art in the cinema of the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the forefront here, however, is uninhibited sex and the fascinating role of Rourke, who, with this performance, has almost become an iconic amante of turn-of-the-century American film.

6. “Basic Instinct”, 1992

The best erotic films - Basic Instinct

Paul Verhoeven’s “Basic Instinct” (1992) – the most famous erotic thriller of the 1990s – is an exciting combination of criminal mystery and sexual desire. Suspected of murdering rock musician Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) arouses the fascination of investigating detective Nick (Michael Douglas). The famous scene of Catherine’s interrogation has gone down in cinema history, when the woman sensually translates leg to leg, revealing all her charms.

“Basic Instinct” is a film that created the legend of Sharon Stone as a sex icon of the 1990s.Here we have a neo-noir convention, which is a clear reference to the aesthetics of black crime fiction. At the center of the film world is a beautiful yet deadly woman – a femme fatale – who leads more men astray. Meanwhile, a detective working on a case of mysterious murders as he unravels the mystery falls more and more into the snare of the alluring temptress. At the same time, there is a distinct novelty within the plot: for the heroine is not punished for her crimes.

7. “Belle de Jour”, 1967

20 best erotic films - Belle de Jour

Luis Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour” (1967) tells the story of the young and beautiful Severine (played by Catherine Deneuve), the wife of a staid doctor who is unable to establish an erotic relationship with her husband. At the same time, however, she secretly pursues her perverse sexual fantasies as a prostitute. Sexuality serves as an area for the director to explore the human psyche and its complexities.

Bunuel made his famous film with Deneuve treating sexual obsessions based on Joseph Kessel’s 1928 novel. The work was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Here the director performs an ironic, at times hilarious, vivisection of a bourgeois culture shackled by conventions, in fact lined with real perversion. Significant here is the portrait of the main character, who paradoxically finds a cure for her nightmares in practicing fornication. At the same time, the boundary between reality and dream is blurred, a clear signal of Bunuel’s surrealism.

8. “Bitter Moon”, 1992

X art erotica films - Bitter Moon

Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” (1992) is one of the scandalous works in the history of film. The picture depicts the meeting of two couples – an American-French couple with a couple of Englishmen. A perverse erotic relationship is established between the characters. Starring Peter Coyote, Emmanuelle Seigner, Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas. The film is a loose screen adaptation of Pascal Bruckner’s novel.

Like “Basic Instinct”, “Bitter Moon” is part of the postmodern trend, here in an erotic edition. Both films also show a clear transformation of modern morality, which is becoming increasingly liberated. And both also warn of the pitfalls of passion lurking in humanity.

9. “Eyes Wide Shut”, 1999

Erotica films - Eyes Wide Shut

“Eyes Wide Shut” (1999) by Stanley Kubrick is a film that became famous for showing on screen the sex scenes of a real-life actor couple – Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. The work is an analysis of the sexual background of the male-female relationship. Love, betrayal and erotic obsessions intertwine and create an explosive mixture.

Stanley Kubrick’s movie is one of the last erotic thrillers, as the genre died out at the turn of the century. What’s more, the director here visibly deconstructs the convention, as he reveals to the viewer all the rules of its operation, as well as the message hidden under the surface of the sex-soaked plot. Erotic adventures, namely, turn out to be a dangerous deviation from the norm, and crossing boundaries always carries serious consequences.

10. “Crash”, 1996

Greatest erotic films - Crash

Among high-profile films about sex, “Crash” (1996) must also be mentioned. This is a work by David Cronenberg, who, as usual, tracks the darkest corners of the human psyche. The main characters experience sexual excitement only in the face of dangerous car crashes. Clearly fascinated by Freud, Cronenberg shows the strong connections between two contradictory instincts – Eros (the instinct for life) and Thanatos (the instinct for death).

“Crash” is an adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s novel titled “Crash”. The possibility of experiencing sexual fulfillment only in a risky situation is not only an expression of perversion, but is also closely connected here with the motif of cars. This is because they become an erotic fetish, which directs attention to significant changes in the intimate sensitivity of man. Indeed, mechanical inventions are beginning to play an increasingly important role here.

11. “The Reader”, 2008

List of erotic movies - The Reader

“The Reader” is a moving film in which sex plays a key role. In pre-war Berlin, a mature woman (played by Kate Winslet) enters into an erotic relationship with a teenager (David Kross). The couple’s intimate experiences go hand in hand with their shared reading of challenging works of literature. The war separates the lovers, but when they meet again they will be completely different people.

Kate Winslet won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her excellent performance in “The Reader”. She perfectly played the role of a woman aware of the passing of her youth, who, as it were, experiences a thrilling romance for the last time. The movie was built on a juxtaposition of contrasts. These are, on the one hand, sexual inexperience versus proficiency in ars amandi, but on the other hand, body and text. And it is this second antinomy that seems most interesting, as two different languages clash here. Logos is the masculine sphere, and the feminine is carnality. In turn, “reading” itself grows in Stephen Daldry’s film into a chief metaphor.

12. “Sliver” (1993)

Greatest erotic thrillers - Sliver

“Sliver” is an interesting case of an erotic thriller. For its protagonist is not a femme fatale, bringing her successive victims to ruin, but a fatal man – preying on women unaware of the danger. The main character (played by Sharone Stone) moves into an apartment in Manhattan. Soon she meets the attractive owner and starts a passionate affair with him.

Philip Noyce’s movie, in addition to scenes of passionate sex, has other notable features of the genre. The plot is set in a big city, among an elite with obscure ties to the criminal world. The very reversal of male-female roles and the introduction of the “homme fatale” motif can be interpreted as an expression of social change. A kind of calculus for women’s empowerment, in this case, would be the assumption, as it were, of men’s fears of the demonic opposite sex lurking for their freedom and property.

13. “Unfaithful”, 2002

Greatest erotic films of all time - Unfaithful

“Unfaithful” is another American erotic thriller. The main character of the film is a woman bored with the routine of a long-standing marriage (played by Diane Lane). One day she meets an attractive Frenchman (Olivier Martinez) and starts an affair with him. Their relationship becomes increasingly dangerous. Meanwhile, her husband (Richard Gere) begins to suspect something….

“Unfaithful” is an example of a very good erotic thriller made in the neo-noir convention, as already indicated by the film’s significant low lighting. It represents a metaphorical plunge of the characters into the darkness of their own passions, but also fears and obsessions. The city, a labyrinth of streets, corridors and tenements, suspicious pubs, an atmosphere of growing entrapment and danger. And in all this an increasingly frantic and at the same time destructive desire, demanding satisfaction almost everywhere, including in public places. What can this lead to?

14. “I Am Curious (Yellow)” (Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult)

The list of erotic movies - I am curious yellow

A significant moment in the history of erotic films was the appearance of Vilgot Sjöman’s picture “I Am Curious (Yellow)” (1967) and “I Am Curious (Blue)” (1968). The works, a reference to the colors of the Swedish flag, became a major moral scandal and were censored in many countries. After all, it was the first time that bold love scenes were shown, and the main character in the quasi-documentary narrative was a girl openly confessing to dozens of lovers.

Interestingly, the main message of the films had little to do with eroticism. It was primarily about politics, or more precisely, a critical assessment of social-democratic Sweden from a leftist perspective. A female protagonist named Lena (Lena Nyman) interviewed random people on screen, asking them questions about their attitudes to social issues, the Church or their material situation.

15. “Satyricon”, 1969

The best erotic movies of the century - Satyricon

The masters in boldly breaking erotic taboos were undoubtedly the Italians. Federico Fellini, in his famous film “Satyricon” (1969), presented a vision of the sexual debauchery of ancient Rome at the decline of the empire’s glory. The director made the main character Enkolpius (Martin Potter), who, afflicted by the misfortune of impotence due to an injury to the idol Priapus, wishes to find a remedy for his ailment.

Fellini’s bold film shows an ancient culture in a phase of excess, in which what brought pleasure and fulfillment becomes its own caricature. There is obscenity, but also disgusting ugliness. Satyricon was loosely based on Petronius’ text, and the screenwriters made significant transformations of the original text, drawing on other sources such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the end, the result was an entirely original work, hence its significant title, emphasizing the demiurgic role of the filmmaker: “Fellini Satyricon”.

16. “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom”, 1975

Top 20 erotic movies - Salo or the 120 days of sodom

Pasolini’s film is a screen adaptation of the novel by the Marquis de Sade, but transferred to a more contemporary reality. For the action takes place during World War II in Italy. Representatives of the social elite: a duke, a banker, a bishop and a judge decide to hold a great orgy in the local community. They kidnap innocent young people to satiate their most licentious lusts.

It should be emphasized that “Salo” as a movie about sex is a peculiar picture – for it is sex that is completely passionless, deliberately repulsive and horrifying. The eruption of sadism here is an expression of the explosion of the evil of a totalitarian world completely enslaving man. On the one hand, we have here a wartime context (i.e., Nazi ideology), but on the other hand also a thoroughly contemporary one. Namely, it is about modern consumerism that completely dehumanizes man and makes him a slaveless object used to achieve various goals. “Salo” is a deeply pessimistic film, and its tragic significance is reinforced by the fact that Pasolini was murdered on a Roman beach just before its premiere.

17. “The Last Woman” (“La dernière femme”), 1976

Top erotic films - The Last Woman

“The Last Woman” is a peculiar erotic film by Marco Ferreri. It tells the story of a single man who cannot find fulfillment in successive relationships with women. This is because each partner thinks only of satisfying his own needs. This leads the protagonist to a desperate decision… Starring Gerard Depardieu and Ornella Muti.

18. “The Night Porter” (“Il portiere di notte”), 1974

20 Classic erotic movies - The Night Porter

Also worth mentioning in the plethora of Italian filmmakers with perverse erotic scenes is Liliana Cavani, as director of “The Night Porter” (1974). It is the story of a sadomasochistic relationship between an SS officer and a concentration camp inmate, who meet by chance after the war. Their former relationship unexpectedly comes to life with redoubled force, while still involving mortal danger for both lovers.

Cavani’s movie is a highly scandalous tale that has received a great deal of criticism for combining the subject of the Holocaust with the realization of perverse sexual predilections. The director showed a very complicated relationship between the executioner and the victim, which leaves such a mark on their psyche that even years later, under completely different circumstances, as if in a nightmarish dream or trance, they reproduce old patterns of behavior, leading to total insanity.

19. “Nymphomaniac”, 2013

Erotic movies ranked best - Nymphomaniac

The list of movies about sex can also not miss “Nymphomaniac”, the famous film by Lars von Trier. One evening Seligman finds an unconscious and battered woman whom he tries to help. When the girl recovers, she tells him the story of her lush sex life – from her first experiences to her licentious orgies. French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the lead role.

Lars von Trier is a director who is particularly fond of female characters. They are the ones he looks at in a variety of circumstances, especially in crisis situations, such as the illness of a husband, child or other condition that requires a woman to make great sacrifices for others. Often this sacrifice is tied to sex, such as in the acclaimed film “Breaking the Waves”. In “Nymphomaniac”, the woman is once again at the center, and her experience of sex is underpinned by complex motivations and satisfies other – nonsexual – needs. Of particular importance here is the erotic initiation, which becomes a kind of key to all subsequent experiences of the girl.

20. “Fifty Shades of Grey”, 2015

Films about sex - Fifty Shades of Grey

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is a screen adaptation of the famous erotic novel by E. L. James. A handsome and fabulously wealthy businessman meets an innocent student. They soon embark on an affair in which he plays the role of the dominant teacher and she the prudish student. Their sadomasochistic relationship, however, leads both of them to become emotionally unhinged. Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in the lead roles.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is already a cultural phenomenon, both in terms of literature and cinema. It seems to have as many opponents as ardent followers. Among the latter, women predominate, which could certainly be the subject of sociological research, since it turns out that the more the social process of women’s emancipation progresses, the stronger the sexual conditioning of patriarchy, in which we have a clear division of roles in the bedroom, comes to the fore. According to it, a woman is a passive object of domination and male desire. And this is exactly what we find in “Grey”.

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