By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist February 14, 2013 at 1:12PM
Regardless of the orientation and gender of its protagonists (and, indeed the viewer), "Brokeback Mountain" stands as one of the most searing and effective films about forbidden and semi-requited love out there, 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, 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 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.
Fittingly for a film that focuses on two adolescent boys who think with their dicks much more than they do with their brains, Alfonso Cuarón's coming-of-age road movie "Y Tu Mamá Tambien" is pretty much obsessed with sex from the get-go, with the earliest scenes finding Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) both having sex with their girlfriends, and masturbating together by the pool. But their sexual competition becomes more pronounced when they head off on a road trip with Luisa (Maribel Verdú), the wife of Tenoch's cousin, who, unbeknownst to Julio or Tenoch, has a terminal illness. She beds first Tenoch, then Julio, each proving awkward and less than skilled in the sack. But the film's most memorable sex scene comes near the end, when the trio all go to bed together, drunkenly, Luisa going down on the boys while they kiss, passionately. It's less panicked and awkward than previous encounters, Luisa's demonstration of the boy's latent attraction to each seemingly proving a release for the pair, even as they worship her (and to an extent, she them). It's a touching and deeply sexy scene, even if it's one of the unlikelier precursors to a 'Harry Potter' movie you can imagine (Cuarón's next film was the third Potter film, "The Prisoner of Azkaban.")
Long after the then-shocking subject matter has been absorbed into the mainstream (hence the enormous success of "Fifty Shades Of Grey"), Steven Shainberg's "Secretary" has settled into its place in film history as a smart, rich and beautifully acted romantic comedy, albeit one with lashings of BDSM. Shainberg was setting out to help to normalize such non-vanilla relationships in the eyes of audiences, inspired by films like "My Beautiful Launderette," and certainly succeeded, with his tale of the relationship between self-harming secretary Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and her employer, attorney E. Edward Grey (everyone's favorite cinematic perv, James Spader). He's initially infuriated by her incompetence at work, but the two gradually work out that her submissiveness, and his dominance, go hand in hand, and they tentatively fall in love. Bar the spanking et al, it's a reasonably traditional love triangle -- Edward the emotionally unavailable Mr. Darcy type, her boyfriend (Jeremy Davies) the harmless, hapless Bill Pullman figure. But even without all that much actual intercourse going on, at least in the more memorable moments, the sex scenes are almost revelatory, Shainberg letting them unfold slowly, placing Lee's gradual awakening, and Edward's emotional thawing, front and center. The director's now prepping a film about a foot fetishist, so let's see if lightning can strike twice...
Well, they can't all be sexy, can they? Having featured a sex scene between Saddam Hussein and Satan in their previous movie, "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," Trey Parker and Matt Stone had a job on their hands topping it, but managed it in "Team America: World Police" by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. After a disastrous mission in Cairo, Broadway actor turned anti-terrorist agent Gary (Parker), and psychologist team-mate Lisa (Kristen Miller) share their feelings, and sleep together. Although, really, there's very little sleeping involved; at least in the extended, uncensored version (it was cut in half to avoid an NC-17). The two puppets go through almost every imaginable sexual position and act you can manage to do with two people, from good 'ol missionary to pissing and shitting on each other, and everything in between. It's not exactly a turn-on, but it's pretty damn hilarious. And perhaps more importantly, the scene gets to the heart of a more profound point; sex is pretty ridiculous, from the outside at least, and if you can't laugh during it, you're probably doing it wrong.
Whether Bob Rafelson's 1981 remake (or, if you prefer, second adaptation of James M. Cain's novel) is preferable to the 1946 original is up for debate, but one thing's for certain; the more recent film is a lot more explicit. As with previous takes, the film sees Frank Chambers (Jack Nicholson) come into rural California, where he begins an affair with Cora (Jessica Lange), the wife of a Greek immigrant (John Colicos). Together, they plot to kill the husband, and the usual noirish complications ensue. But one of the major differences from the Lana Turner-starring original (besides a sharp script from David Mamet, his first screen credit) is the initial sex scene between the pair. Frank and Cora go at it hammer-and-tongs in the kitchen, tearing their clothes off, and there's a desperate, lustful intensity to their coupling that has been rarely matched on screen. Indeed, as with "Don't Look Now," rumors have persisted that the two actors did it for real, and you can judge for yourself below.