55 Sexiest Movies of All Time from Eyes Wide Shut to Blue Is the Warmest Color
In this brave new decade, our definition of what is and isn’t a sex movie has never been broader. Gone are the days of overtly pornographic films masquerading as “dramas.” I mean, sure, those are also on this list, but we can be elevated too. Sex is a complicated action to depict on film because at its most passionate, it embodies so many more emotions than just being “hornt up.”
What lies below is a mix of both the overt and the subtle: sometimes a good film about sex never features a sex scene. It’s all in the build up. The allure. The power of the secret. And then, you know, sometimes it’s just a good ol’ raunchy flick. Take the nuanced with the sexual romp-fest. Take a peek at this list, with sexiness depicted in all types of ways—kink, romance, escape, and thrill. The best is when it’s a few of those things at once.
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For anyone who has ever had a one night stand that lingers in the back of your mind, Weekend is the film for you. When two men have a connection after a night of partying, they find themselves spending the next day (and night) with each other and turning a quick fling into a passion-filled weekend that explores both sexuality and romance.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
I mean, it’s Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie waffling back and forth between shooting people, blowing stuff up, and having sex. Add in the bonus that the wardrobe ranges from underwear to formal wear, and what this action movie becomes is one of the sexiest features of our whole damn generation.
Find something sexier than doing what you know damn well that you shouldn’t. We’ll wait. Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, and Alessandro Nivola star in this complex drama about two women who share a forbidden love. When Ronnit returns home for her Orthodox Jewish father’s funeral, she quickly discovers that the same-sex attraction that once got her shunned is as alive as ever.
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Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Is there any language as sexy as French? This stirring historical romance puts that thesis to the test in a lustful story about two women, one a painter and the other her reluctant subject. On a windswept coast, they struggle to ignore the pull of forbidden love, resulting in an unforgettable Gothic romance for the ages.
In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love might just be the sexiest movie ever made where no one has sex. Set in Hong Kong in 1962, a journalist and a secretary living next door to one another develop an attraction while their respective spouses work long hours. When they begin to suspect that their spouses are having an affair together, their relationship grows, making for a poignant, provocative story about fidelity, beauty, and youth.
Horror-movie horniness is all over the place. There’s sexy vampire, crazy cannibal, and horror-comedy camp, which doesn’t necessarily always work. The Babysitter (have to have the hot-babysitter cliche in here somewhere, right?) will go down in the cult canon years from now, if it hasn’t already.
Directed by the inimitable Ang Lee, Lust, Caution is set in World War II-era Shanghai, where a drama student becomes a secret agent tasked with assassinating a high-ranking government official. When she falls for her target, the situation becomes more complicated than she anticipated. The sensual, explicit sex scenes are memorable, as is the film’s depiction of betrayal and revenge in wartime Shanghai.
Talented Mr. Ripley
While Titanic might be the first film that comes to mind when you think “sexual tension on a boat,” it has nothing on 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. The film about a sociopathic tear in idyllic Italy is full of scandal, but it’s also rife with sexual chemistry between its three main stars: Jude Law, Matt Damon, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Elisa and Marcela
In this biographical true story, Spanish director Isabel Coixet depicts the first same-sex marriage recorded in Spain. After sixteen years of hiding their love for one another, Elisa adopted a male identity in order to marry the woman she loved. Bleak and elegant, this gripping tale of forbidden love is an unforgettable romance.
A Englishman named Matt and an American woman named Lisa form a relationship based on two common interests: seeing rock shows and fucking. Michael Winterbottom’s film is part-concert montage, part boundary-pushing sex film.
Call Me By Your Name
Combine a little bit of heist-adjacent scam with a tinge of homoeroticism, and you have The Handmaiden. The film, directed by Park Chan-wook, starts as a ruse to fool a Japanese woman out of her inheritance, but when a hired handmaiden gets a bit closer to her than she imagined, an unexpected relationship forms.
Future Oscar winner Mark Rylance plays a failed musician who has a weekly anonymous tryst with a woman he barely knows. When his curiosity gets the best of him, he seeks out to learn more about the woman—which leads to the destruction of their relationship.
Director Catherine Breillat has been labeled a “porno auteuriste;” the term is most applicable with her 1999 drama in which a French teacher, frustrated with her boyfriend’s disregard for intimacy and affection, searches elsewhere to fulfill her insatiable desires.
A journalist (Juliette Binoche) interviews two sex workers as she works on a story about prostitution. Instead of hearing horror stories, she discovers them to be proud and empowered—and it forces her to re-examine her own view of sexuality.
Gaspar Noé is no stranger to provocation, but his arthouse sexual drama took full advantage of the technological marvels of 3-D. While, uh, objects won’t be flying out of your normal TV or laptop screen when you stream this one online, the titillation remains intact.
The Pillow Book
Henry & June
Henry & June explores the relationship between Henry Miller and his wife as he wrote his infamous novel Tropic of Cancer—as well as his affair with the French writer Anaïs Nin. Practically tame by today’s standards, this is the movie responsible for the creation of the NC-17 rating.
Brad Davis plays the titular character in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final film. The sailor Querelle, while on leave in Brest, discovers a brothel where the owner, Nono, has a fondness for gambling. A roll of the dice earns Querelle either a night with Nono’s wife, Lysiane—or Nono himself.
Love & Basketball
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Love & Basketball remains a turn-of-the-century romance masterpiece. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps star as best friends and lovers who try to balance their own relationship with their basketball careers from childhood through adulthood.
Sex and Lucia
Blue Is the Warmest Color
To describe Girls Trip, you first have to start with a grapefruit. What you do is you take a grapefruit and cut a chunk off both ends. Then you hollow out a whole in the middle. What you’re going to do then is slide it over an erect penis. Mind you, this grapefruit technique only takes up about five minutes of the film, so that should give you an idea of the kind of content you’re signing up for in this female-ensemble led comedy that helped launch Tiffany Haddish’s career.
Y Tu Mamá También
Tenoch and Julio are a couple of horned-up Mexico City teenagers who take a spur-of-the-moment road trip with Luisa, the wife of Tenoch’s cousin. On the way, the young men must face the facts about their friendship as they embark upon adulthood.
No, not the dubious Best Picture winner—this is the infamous Crash in which James Spader, Holly Hunter, and co. get their sexual kicks from car crashes in David Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel.
Thirst was released in 2009—long before thirst became a 101-level vocabulary sexy word on the Internet—so rest assured it’s not a 50 Shades spinoff or anything. This thirst is of the vampiric variety. The South Korean horror film follows priest-turned bloodsucker Sang-hyun, who has quite the adventure following his first brush with the taste of human blood.
9 1/2 Weeks
Eyes Wide Shut
She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee’s 1986 comedy is a classic and a damn good movie to boot, but that’s what this list is about. You can be sexy and elevated at the same time. When Nola Darling finds herself dating three different men, things get as steamy as they do complicated. And make no mistake, Nola is not the type of character to pass on sexual liberation for fear of hurting a man’s feelings.
Belle de Jour
Stranger by the Lake
Franck visits a gay cruising beach and takes notice of the handsome Michel—and also that Michel has murdered his companion. In this provocative thriller, Franck must reconcile his lust for passion with his potentially deadly object of desire.
In the Realm of Senses
This film tells the infamous tale of Sada Abe, a geisha who murdered her lover by erotic asphyxiation. One of the most notorious films ever made—one that features unsimulated sex between its actors—the film was widely banned in countries across the world.
Matthew is an American studying in Paris during the tumultuous spring of 1968. There he meets a French brother and sister duo who share a love of cinema and debauchery. The three begin a complex friendship that borders on taboo when the three push the boundaries of desire.
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