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21 Movies About Weird, Kinky Or Compulsive Sex

Features
by The Playlist Staff
March 20, 2014 3:00 PM
28 Comments
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Perhaps the most surprising thing about Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” (both parts are now on VOD: here's our review of Part 1 and Part 2) is Shia LaBeouf’s accent that it’s a film that is totally, unashamedly, unavoidably about sex. While coitus, rumpy, intercourse, balling, humping, beast-with-two-back-making does feature in some shape or form with extreme frequency in cinema, it only rarely forms the central, wait for it, thrust of the story, likely partly because distributors (especially in the U.S.) are often accused of a streak of puritanism when it comes to sex, particularly when compared to the their much more carefree attitude toward violence, and partly because even today mainstream audiences can be put off by even a whiff of the smutty-old-man-in-a-dirty-coat connotation. Which means that furthermore, films like “Nymphomaniac” that delve into the darker recesses of human sexuality—power play, taboo fantasies and fetishes, BDSM, sex addiction, etc.—are even fewer.

We dabbled in this arena not so long ago, choosing to, um “celebrate” the grotesque and unforgettable image of Cameron Diaz grinding into a car windshield in "The Counselor," by running down 15 Weird Sex Scenes, having already run down the Best and Worst Sex Scenes. But it got us to thinking about films that took the bold stance of "Nymphomaniac" further, that built their whole narrative around shocking, discomfiting or fetishistic sex. So while avoiding tamer stuff that we’ve covered before, like in our Losing Your Virginity Movies feature, and also while trying to steer largely clear of the erotic thriller subgenre that deserves a feature all to itself someday (sorry “Basic Instinct” fans) we zipped open the eyeholes on our gimp masks and handcuffed ourselves to the DVD player, to bring you 21 films that, from comedies to dramas to uncategorizable arthouse explorations, walk on the wilder, weirder, and often more worrisome side of sex.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” (1975)
Almost certainly the most “extreme” film on this list, Pasolini's “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” is easy to hate for its intricate, extensive, apparently uncomplicated depiction of relentless sexual depravity and cruelty, and no-one can be blamed for turning it off halfway through. But this—the last film Pasolini completed before his murder and one which ever since its 1975 release has been frequently condemned, cut and outright banned—has much more to it than pointless nastiness. An adaptation of a book by the man who gave his name to sadism was never going to get made into a ride at Disneyland, and the Marquis de Sade's book “The 120 Days of Sodom” is literally a meticulous list of taboo acts of sex and violence, with an extremely thin framing device that's abandoned halfway through: but Pasolini creates from it a film that's less about sex than it is about power and its exercise. It's not even really about fascism—the quartet of abusers could belong to almost any time or place and have no agenda beyond their own pleasure—and nor is it an examination of psychology: rather, “Salò” is about the way in which power becomes an end in itself, and one that we all desire: and its message is thus all the more horrifying in its universality. We still don't blame you if you want to watch something else instead, though. [B+]

Crash” (1996)
“Like a porno movie made by a computer… in a mistaken algorithm” is how Roger Ebert memorably described David Cronenberg’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel about auto crash paraphiliacs. And he meant that in a good way—”Crash” may be one of the most all-time perfect marriages of the aesthetic and thematic approach of a particular director with the philosophy and mood of his source material. Starring, for the third time on this list, that kinkster James Spader, along with Holly Hunter, Deborah Unger, Rosanna Arquette and Elias Koteas, the film is really remarkable, though for the cerebral sterility of its execution as, once again, body-horror expert Cronenberg manages to engage the brain and turn the stomach while bypassing the heart entirely. It’s a truly fascinating, brilliant film, deeply upsetting and prescient in what it suggests about our relationship with technology and how it might be in the process of breaking down our ability to connect with one another as humans. Of course, at the time it sparked outrage and a few bans (though also won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes), for its unadorned portrayal of the particular fetish of being sexually aroused by car crashes (and we have to believe in particular the scene in which Spader fucks Arquette’s leg wound), and yet it is an extraordinarily bloodless affair, cool and metallic to the touch; we can only wonder how splashily sensationalist it might have become in hands less surgical than Cronenberg’s. Thankfully, this is the version we got, and as provocative, grown-up fare, it’s close to essential. [A]

Exit to Eden” (1994)
Most of the time, writing about movies is a great honor and a privilege, but there are rare occasions on which we feel like martyrs. The bullet we took for you this time out stars Dan Aykroyd, Rosie O’Donnell, Dana Delaney and Paul Mercurio in a story that, beggaring belief, is based on an Anne Rampling (aka Anne Rice) novel. But while director Garry Marshall and the producers clearly were intrigued by the idea of a film set on an island where people go to explore their domination/submission fantasies, in their wisdom they also decided that what the fetish romance storyline of the novel needed, was a HI-LARIOUS early-90s plot involving a diamond smuggling pair of villains who are chased onto the island by a pair of wacky cops, the female one of whom is less thin than all the other women on the island! In fact, unbelievable though it may be, O’Donnell is actually the one who comes out of this horribly misjudged sad trombone of a film with the most dignity intact; Aykroyd is non-existent as her partner, Mercurio awkward and stockily beefed up from his svelte “Strictly Ballroom” days and Delaney just horribly, horribly miscast as the dominatrix “Mistress” who rides around on a horse wearing a succession of filmy togas. And spare a thought for poor, unbelievably beautiful Iman, who, on this evidence, should have restricted her acting career to the odd Tia Maria commercial. We watched this pile of crap so you don’t have to—you don’t have to thank us, just Never Forget. [F]

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28 Comments

  • Jeff | July 17, 2014 12:21 AMReply

    What about Blue Velvet?

  • ELT | July 16, 2014 7:56 PMReply

    Deadgirl would've fit well here.

  • tahir | June 18, 2014 3:36 PMReply

    good

  • Alex Tsitsos | May 2, 2014 10:03 AMReply

    I would charactirize these films as Stertsisist I have made an imdb list much relevant.

  • Kitty | April 5, 2014 5:17 PMReply

    Anyone seen Blind Beast?

  • just me | April 5, 2014 12:24 AMReply

    imho, The Night Porter has to be in this list right after Crash

  • Francis Berisie | April 4, 2014 9:09 AMReply

    good movies

  • Barnacle | April 3, 2014 4:27 PMReply

    How can anyone take this list seriously if you failed to include "In the Realm of the Senses"?

  • Little Rico | April 3, 2014 5:02 PM

    It IS included.

  • I.P Freely | March 31, 2014 2:02 AMReply

    As you have alluded to, I think that your selection of "Salo" is out of context in terms of "kink" when the sex itself (actually mild under an explicit hardcore definition) is merely a footnote to Pasolini's larger sociopolitical concerns of anonymous human flesh as industrial waste product and disposable commodity under the matrix of the whole entirety of Judeo-Christian history, and it's airless and glacial statement about humanity's ultimate aphrodisiac, it's own ravenous ego about it's supposedly noble and superior nature, and therefore it's endlessly apocalyptic and self-destructive will to power.

    Where's Just Jaeckin's 1975 adaptation of the infamous 1954 Pauline Reage novel "The Story of O"? Doesn't that fit into your category a little more neatly?

  • jt_hos | March 29, 2014 11:22 PMReply

    What about Polanski's Bitter Moon?

  • jski | March 27, 2014 12:15 PMReply

    shortbus should be on this list

  • Lars Ole | March 26, 2014 8:03 AMReply

    Eyes Wide Shut: B
    Fat Girl: B-
    The Piano Teacher: B-
    Salo: B+
    The Last Tango in Paris: B+

    You handle out A and A minus grades to new films all the time, but not to daring controversial and hotly debated, still daring classics from Kubrick, Haneke and Pasolini? This is very confusing for me.

  • Major Kalas | March 22, 2014 5:39 PMReply

    ..."The Wayward Cloud" (by Ming-liang Tsai) is missing - and I agree with Kate about "A Dangerous Method"...

  • Kate | March 21, 2014 5:45 PMReply

    I'm kind of surprised A Dangerous Method isn't on here. While it's not very explicit, it's undoubtedly "about" non-normative sexuality, how it influences psychology, how psychology influences sexuality, how social mores influence both.

    I really like that some people call that film the Rosetta stone of Cronenberg's oeuvre.

  • nweastcoaster | March 21, 2014 3:41 PMReply

    Re Catherine Breillat, Romance and Anatomy of Hell would have been far worthier entries than Fat Girl if we're talking weird kinky and compulsive, not to mention entertaining.

  • BEF | March 21, 2014 10:08 AMReply

    Missing the 4th Man (Verhoeven)...
    it arouses then castrates!

  • baum | March 21, 2014 6:06 AMReply

    lacks Enter The Void

  • Andrew Peirce | March 21, 2014 12:52 AMReply

    Kissed should be on this list as well.

  • newyorker | March 20, 2014 7:47 PMReply

    my 10 favorite movies with weird, kinky or compulsive sex are
    1-Showgirls
    2-Bound
    3-Wild Things
    4-Spring Breakers
    5-Havoc
    6-Teeth
    7-Kids
    8-The Dreamers
    9-Blue Summer
    10-Blue Is The Warmest Color

  • LP | March 22, 2014 12:29 PM

    So you would say that regular lesbian sex (Blue is the Warmest Color) is "weird"?

  • mrs.issley | March 20, 2014 4:30 PMReply

    Brandon is straight - instead of calling Shame 'homophobic' you should start wondering what can be the peek of sex addiction for a straight person. Another good article ruined by ridiculous claims.

  • matt | April 7, 2014 4:17 PM

    I agree with you to some degree but it was pretty retro-grade to have the place sem to be underground, lit like hell and totally menacing. There are MANY ways he could have had Brandon make the desperate turn to gay sex for his dopomine fix without making it seem he had to go to hell and be fellated by a demon.
    I think it would have been more effecting if he picked up a guy at a bar and have it be just like a straight hook-up. But then have Brandon be the homophob afterward - attacking the guy or himself. The film is about Shame - self-hatred.

  • Jessica | April 1, 2014 5:56 PM

    peak

  • B | March 25, 2014 2:38 PM

    Thanks for mentioning this. I am a bit tired of the homophobic critique of the film that is not homophobic.

  • Peter | March 20, 2014 3:55 PMReply

    Lady Chatterley anybody?

  • Todd | March 20, 2014 3:44 PMReply

    I'll throw a vote in for "Taxidermia". It's pretty far out there in presenting the entirety of post-WWII Hungarian history through the prism of various sexual problems.

  • El Hanso | March 20, 2014 3:30 PMReply

    Interesting selection of some very interesting films. And while the general theme combining these films for this list seems a bit ... wibbly-wobbly to me, it's always nice to give shout-outs to "The Devils," "Crash," or "Fat Girl" (which is a straight A for me)

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