Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, and for those of you happily coupled up (or crazy/optimistic enough to plan a first date for February 14th), it means candlelit dinners, staring into each other’s eyes, and, all being well, some uglies-bumping.
Which is to say that this day of all days of the year is a time for romance and love, but it’s also a time for sex. This goes for movies, too: not just in theaters (where you can see both “How To Be Single,” and some rather more transgressive antics in “Deadpool,” which introduces the concept of pegging to the X-Men Cinematic Universe), but at home.
To mark the occasion, we’ve put together a grab-bag of twenty of our favorite movie sex scenes ever. Some are sexy, some are romantic, and some are funny. Each are highlights of the constituent movies, even if the movies themselves weren’t entirely up to scratch. Take a look below and let us know your own personal favorites. And happy Valentine’s Day, one and all!
Oh, and if the title didn't give it away, almost all of the below is NSFW...
“45 Years” (2015)
2015 was a pretty good year for sex scenes, with a number of memorable ones across awards contenders and blockbusters, but the best comes in one of the best movies of the past year. Andrew Haigh has already demonstrated an unusual affinity for pulling off onscreen lovemaking, with both his breakthrough “Weekend” and his terrific HBO show “Looking” having a number of memorable unclothed moments. But the carnal scene in his wonderful latest picture stands above either, in part because of how unusual it is in showing a coupling between two people well into their 70s. The marriage of Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) is put to the test almost as soon as we meet them, but midway through the movie, the pair have a tender moment dancing together, which leads them to the bedroom. It’s clearly something that happens less regularly than it used to, and the mix of nervousness and excitement almost reminds you of teenage assignations (it was, surprisingly, Courtenay’s first ever sex scene, which may have helped), though the two also put across an easy familiarity with each other after decades together. It’s a powerful, moving scene, but one not without its complications: it’s hard to shake the feeling that Geoff’s libido has kicked in from his memories of his deceased ex-girlfriend, whose ghost haunts the film.
“My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985)
It’s not the relatively groundbreaking nature of “My Beautiful Laundrette” that keeps us talking about it thirty years on —although it was one of the first gay romances to crack mainstream cinema. It’s the fact that it still holds up as swooningly romantic and more than a little sexy. Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureshi’s film follows the unlikely affair between British Pakistani Omar (Gordon Wanecke) and his childhood friend Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), a fascist punk, and it has its most memorable moment when the pair make out in the backroom of the titular laundrette that they’ve been doing up, as Omar’s uncle Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey) and his mistress Rachel (Shirley Anne Field) dance in the background, unable to see the younger couple. It’s a gorgeous, almost impossibly tender moment, and deeply sexual one too —Day-Lewis pouring champagne from his own mouth into Wanecke’s sounds odd and strangely baby-bird like, but it's utterly hot in execution. Frears’ framing also smartly doesn’t let you forget the thin ice on which the pair are walking: painting another secret romance in the background and emphasizing how close the pair might be to being discovered.
“Blue Is The Warmest Color” (2013)
Even before its Cannes premiere, the sex scenes in “Blue Is The Warmest Color” threatened to overshadow the movie as a whole, principally because of their predominance (even given the movie’s three-hour runtime, they take up a fair percentage of it), and then because of the actresses involved raising some issues with how they were treated during production of the film. However filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche treated leads Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopolous, the results are striking. The film is remarkably matter of fact about its depiction of sexuality in the burgeoning love affair between inexperienced teenager Adele (Exarchopolous) and older painter Emma (Seydoux), most notably in the film’s centerpiece ten-minute sex scene. There was a certain amount of discussion over whether the male gaze is appealed to in the graphic, extended scene. It does to an extent, but Kechiche isn’t shooting to titillate or to arouse: he lingers so long on the moment to show the passion the central couple have for each other, and to show sex as people truly have it, but as cinema so often shies away from demonstrating. Unusually, he asked the two to improvise the scene rather than choreographing it, the scene feels more raw and hungry as a result, and the physicality lingers over the second, more melancholy half of the movie.
"Brokeback Mountain" (2005)
Regardless of the orientation and gender of its protagonists (as well as the viewer), "Brokeback Mountain" stands as one of the most searing and effective films about forbidden and semi-requited love ever made, and it all starts with one night in a tent. Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) have been hired to tend sheep over a Wyoming summer, and one cold night, after they've both been drinking, Jack invites Ennis into his tent. There's a sense of inevitability in the moments beforehand, and even as they realize what's happening, the pair are almost trying to fight each other, each instigating and then pushing back violently. But finally, it happens; without even a kiss, Jack takes his jeans down and the pair have sex. There are more romantic scenes on this list and ones that are more arousing, certainly, but thanks to director Ang Lee (who also contributed some equally memorable if more explicit scenes in "Lust, Caution"), there's a sensuality to go with the almost businesslike manner of the duo.
“Body Heat” (1981)
As you might imagine from the title, “Body Heat,” the sultry neo-noir that marked the directorial debut of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Force Awakens” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, is drenched with sex, but the film uses it better than most as a canny storytelling device. A riff on the “Double Indemnity” set-up, it sees faintly dimwitted lawyer William Hurt have a sweaty, illicit affair with the alluring Matty (Kathleen Turner) during a Florida heatwave, leading to her suggesting that the two kill her wealthy husband for his inheritance. It’s a near-perfect screenplay terrifically executed by the first-time director, which is exemplified the first time the pair make love, a moment that made Turner an instant icon. It’s not especially explicit, but the implicit power dynamics in particular are fascinating. From a distance, it might seem that Hurt’s Ned is the one in charge, but in fact it’s Matty who's in control. She adopts a veneer of submissiveness to let him feel like a ‘man,’ but she's already wrapping him around her little finger. In a movie where sex virtually seeps off the screen, this is the definite highlight.