Basic Instinct (1992)
This was left off the earlier list, though I had originally planned on including it. Now that I’ve decided to do this follow-up, I’m positive that it fits better here. Many people undoubtedly went to see Paul Verhoeven’s erotic thriller more for the eroticism than the thrills, but that can’t be the case for every moviegoer who helped make the film a smash hit. There are plenty of erotic thrillers out there, but only one grossed more than $350 million (Fatal Attraction, which earned more than Basic Instinct domestically, came close). Could it be that the film is actually good? Plenty of respectable critics thought so, including Janet Maslin and Jonathan Rosenbaum, both of whom praised the Hitchcock influence. However, it’s easy to now remember the film primarily for the infamous Sharon Stone upskirt shot, which I deem qualifiable as a sex scene due to the way Stone’s character seems to have sort of psychological intercourse with her interrogators.
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Here we have another mostly well-reviewed film that is possibly only still in the public consciousness due to its controversial sex scenes, as you can tell be the ridiculous commercial above. That isn’t to say the critics and cinephiles don’t still appreciate it for other reasons than its buttery anal sex — it still screens theatrically in revivals and festivals. But ask any random person on the street what they remember, and most are sure to mention the sex scenes before talking of Bernardo Bertolucci’s direction or either Maria Schneider or Marlon Brando’s performance.
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