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The Playlist Bares All: 20 Unforgettable Nude Scenes

by The Playlist Staff
April 12, 2013 10:51 AM
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20 Unforgettable Nude Scenes

Not to dick around, but we've got nudity on the boob right now. Mind. On the mind. Thing is, with an intriguing article over at EW exploring the death of the movie sex scene and the rise of the New Prudishness, with waves made over Kristen Stewart's nudity and handjobs in "On the Road," and now with this week's "Trance" under fire from some quarters for Rosario Dawson's (some say plot-driven, others say gratuitous) birthday suit scene, we've been thinking about nakedness in film almost as much as Seth McFarlane was when he wrote his already-infamous Oscars opening song, though largely without, we hope, the sniggering misogyny.

What makes nudity gratuitous? We all know the simple answer: when it doesn't serve the plot or illuminate the characterization. But getting a consensus on whose ass crack does actually inform the story, and whose nipples are completely surplus to narrative requirements, is a much, um, slipperier issue.

So we're pretty sure you're going to level the g-word at some of our picks for the nude scenes that, like or loathe, we just can't forget. But if, as the EW article persuasively argues, the sex scene is basically migrating to the small screen (see “Game Of Thrones,” “Girls,” “Mad Men,” etc.), this list is also something of an exercise in nostalgia, as we fondly remember our own first bolt-upright-eyes-wide-was-that-just-a-shadow-or-something-else? big-screen moments.

And of course, not all nude scenes are about sex (we have a best/worst sex scene list here for that) -- in fact, many of the best and least potentially gratuitous of them are about vulnerability or powerlessness, sometimes subverted into statements about strength and empowerment. In the right context, nudity can and should be part of a storyteller's arsenal.

So here they are, the 20 instances of skin-baring, sometimes partial, sometimes total, that made a lasting impression on us. Read, comment, but remember, underneath just a thin layer of clothing, every single blessed one of us is butt naked. And, and obviously, this is NSFW.

Sharon Stone In "Basic Instinct"
“Basic Instinct”
Sharon Stone spends lots of time in the altogether in Paul Verhoeven's "Basic Instinct," but there's a single sequence for which she'll be forever remembered, and she's almost fully clothed. In the scene, a squadron of police officers (including Michael Douglas) is interrogating Stone about a murder, and as she uncrosses her legs, the camera lingers on her while she stares the gibbering policemen down, legs parted, "precious flower" on display. Many's the undergraduate thesis that's been written on the subversion of the male gaze that has had this image emblazoned across its front cover, but while of course that's true, and of course it's about Stone's Catherine Trammell asserting her mastery over the very people who would dominate her, we're pretty sure those are politics most hot-breathed teens didn't really pick up on. Then again, freeze framing a VHS was an inexact science that required a lot of concentration.

Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”
“Eastern Promises”
If nude scenes are supposed to (ideally) function like musical numbers – meant to forward the plot, add character development, or embellish the story thematically – then the sauna showdown from "Eastern Promises" is the "I Dreamed A Dream" of nude scenes. Viggo Mortensen's Russian thug is confronted at a bathhouse by a couple of assassins, and Viggo has nothing – literally nothing – to defend himself with. It's a phenomenal scene, simply one of the fleshiest ever committed to film, played wordlessly, with the only sounds being the slap of slick skin on hard marble, the thunk of sinew meeting sinew, and the grunts and moans of messy, effortful death. Mortensen’s fearless full-frontal lends the scene an amazingly visceral power that means it ranks among the very best of David Cronenberg’s body-fixated moments.

Kate Winslet in “Titanic”
There's a reason why "Draw me like one of your French girls" has become an Internet meme – the moment in "Titanic" when Rose (Kate Winslet) disrobes so that her ragamuffin lover Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) can sketch her is one of the most memorable in the entire movie. It combines director James Cameron's rather juvenile view of sexuality with a kind of daft teen-girl romanticism, creating a sequence that, despite boobies, fits seamlessly into a PG-13 rated movie (with the MPAA, sweetness, no matter how saccharine, slides). Of course there is a purpose to this and their subsequent steamy-windowed consummation: it is basically the very definition of the calm before the storm. And Winslet herself received the ultimate accolade for our weird times: in the meme, she’s replaced by a variety of animals lying down in a similar fashion. At one point a hamster. Oh, the Internet.

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  • James | April 15, 2014 12:01 PMReply

    Phoebe Cates nude is the only reason to see that movie. So don't waste the effort wondering about anything else and just fast forward to that scene and don't bother watching the rest!

  • David B | January 14, 2014 1:12 AMReply

    I have to second the comment on how could you have not even mentioned "The Shining", although it was Room 237. That scene owned it own generation of film-goers.

    And the shy Anne Hathaway in "Love and Other Drugs" is another inexplicable omission on your part.

  • | July 1, 2013 12:23 AMReply

    9 Songs (if you do a NC-17 list)

  • Alex | June 30, 2013 6:13 PMReply

    How has no one mentioned the naked dancing scene in The Master?

  • alan | June 30, 2013 4:18 PMReply

    Start working at home with Google! This is certainly the nicest-work I have ever done . Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link,

  • Butch | June 10, 2013 7:59 PMReply

    As long as there is no tobacco drug use in the film.

  • Erik | May 18, 2013 8:56 AMReply

    Corinne Bohrer in the obscure "Dead Solid Perfect" deserves a mention; beautiful woman, funny, sexy scene.

  • buddysouth | April 14, 2013 1:13 PMReply

    On what planet does The Dreamers, as depressing an example as any of Bertolucci's declined skills, deserve a cult following other than among people who like to look at people naked? It's a coming-of-age story fantasized by people who are depressed that they never had a coming-of-age story like that *because no one has ever had a coming-of-age story like that.* The Hangover is more realistic than The Dreamers, and better made.

    Oh, and if you meant Salo was awful in the sense that awful things happen in it and it is difficult to watch, I agree. If you meant awful in terms of quality, I can only assume you are the sort of person who thinks The Dreamers is a meaningful coming-of-age story.

  • Mr. Wu | April 14, 2013 8:16 PM

    I got in so much trouble here at our local art museum's recent classic Italian cinema film series when I had the nerve to describe to the head programmer and other assorted hangers-on that Bernardo Burtolucci is "a dirty old man."

  • Meredith | April 13, 2013 11:24 AMReply

    You mention Harvey Keitel but you don't mention The Piano?! Shame on you!

  • MDL | April 16, 2013 4:35 PM

    Speaking of Keitel he did three movies in the early 90's where he showed up naked and crying. The Piano and Bad Lieutenant and Ulysses' Gaze. It got to be both distracting and funny.

  • Jo | April 13, 2013 5:54 AMReply

    Love your 'people's puritanical streak towards Kristen Stewart' comment. So true. People make such a drama out of EVERYTHING she does. It's not just nude scenes. If she walks down the street you have comment sections evaluating it every aspect of it, a furore breaks out over how she walks, is she smiling, does her hair look pretty, why isn't she dressed like a movie star instead of jeans/tshirt. Yes, walking down the street creates a great debate these days!

  • jimbo | April 12, 2013 7:39 PMReply

    Needless spoiler about The Crying Game. Shame on you.

  • potion lords | April 12, 2013 5:31 PMReply

    Battle In Heaven

  • Breezy | April 12, 2013 3:35 PMReply

    How is Ewan McGregor, King of the Nude Scene, not on this list? "Trainspotting" should at least get an honorable mention.

  • sharon | April 12, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut.

  • FUCK YOU FINNIGAN | April 12, 2013 2:08 PMReply

    Wow. Playlist editing nearly every comment now, eh?

    So what's the point of even having the fucking things?

    Why not just get rid of them altogether?

    Not like any actual conversation takes place in this dank shit-box anyhow.

  • dubier | April 12, 2013 1:53 PMReply

    Graham Chapman opening up the window to the huge crowd of worshipers in Life of Brian.

  • Toomb | April 12, 2013 12:33 PMReply

    Oops, sorry, no intention of triple posting... Please trim a few of those off! Dang iphone...

  • Toomb | April 12, 2013 12:30 PMReply

    The Shining. When Jack goes into room 213 and the naked woman is in there. I was a kid when I saw it, and it titilated at first, until I realized why the woman was naked... And then she changed to her present "state"... That scene has disturbed me for decades.

    As far as "hot" scenes go, you've GOT to mention Natalie Portman in Closer or the opening scene of Darjeeling Limkted... Since you already covered Eva Green, who is hands down the most beautiful woman on film right now.

    There, done objectifying

  • d | April 12, 2013 12:24 PMReply

    In which The Playlist becomes WhatCulture.

  • Liam | April 12, 2013 12:04 PMReply

    No French movies, WTF? They are the best at this, just watch Rust & Bone for a recent example.
    Also what about Tony Scott's The Hunger, Catherine Deneuve + Suzanne Sarandon wow!

  • caro | April 12, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    is it not a E.W article before?

  • Ptrshr | April 12, 2013 11:26 AMReply


  • Meredith | April 13, 2013 11:23 AM

    I was thinking this one!!

  • John K. | April 12, 2013 11:24 AMReply

    Hello. Just One of the Guys!

  • BEF | April 12, 2013 11:45 AM

    Here, here!

  • Pussy | April 12, 2013 11:14 AMReply

    The Playlist have officially turned into Deadline. They actually changed my comment saying how terrible this article is. You guys are desperate.

  • gert | April 12, 2013 11:09 AMReply

    I would have put Bronson on the list. Nude Tom Hardy.

  • frank | April 12, 2013 11:01 AMReply

    I rolled my eyes, but then started reading. Funny.

  • Vagina | April 12, 2013 10:58 AMReply

    What an incredibly article.

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