For an entire generation, this might be the single most memorable topless scene of all time. Judge Reinhold fantasizes about "Gremlins" star Phoebe Cates. He imagines her emerging from a swimming pool, dripping wet. She's wearing a bright red bikini, and takes off her top. Right as he's about to, well, finish, someone walks in on him in the bathroom, fantasy abruptly over. The sequence is really funny but also pretty sexy, (we'd be ashamed to say it, considering how young Cates was, and how young her character is supposed to be, except for the fact we were that age or younger when we first saw it). The startling thing is, in Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe's movie, this sequence isn't even the raciest – Jennifer Jason Leigh, after all, has unprotected sex and has to get an abortion. In one of the most beloved high school comedies of all time.
Once again, what makes this sequence exceptional is its banality: in Robert Altman’s sprawling “Short Cuts,” he shoots a dialogue scene with Julianne Moore where she’s not wearing anything below the waist. It’s kind of shocking in how casual it is, and adds a singular, unplaceable importance to the sequence, a weird energy that probably couldn’t be captured any other way. Moore, for her part, is fearless. It’s one of those sequences, perhaps like the one in “Trance,” that you can’t imagine an actress ever saying yes to, but they did, and in both cases something truly exceptional is brought to both the role and the moment as a result.
While we mostly leave it to Mr. Skin and fanboy sites with disconcerting "hotties" sections to bring you all the Hotttest NOOD Babez On Tha Internetz, we have to make the occasional exception, especially on a list like this. When "Mad Men" bombshell Jessica Pare appeared last season, for many critics, she came out of nowhere, but the actress has been working in movies for over 10 years. In fact, in 2002's little-seen "Lost & Delirious" she wins some kind of perv treble by playing a lesbian schoolgirl in love with the not unluscious Piper Perabo (it's not as skeezy as it sounds -- in fact, it's a genuine love story between females told by a female director). But more will have seen her funny and surprising buff scene from "Hot Tub Time Machine" where she materializes out of nowhere as Craig Robinson's one-night stand in a bubbly and wet bathtub. She's little more than a very attractive prop, but the scene is such an odd contradiction that it gets a pass, with Robinson weeping at the thought of cheating on his future wife while being expertly ridden by this wet, very naked goddess like there's no tomorrow.
Is it “brave” to go bare? Or is it just doing what the character and script calls for? Kristen Stewart generated a lot of controversy for getting naked in Walter Salles’ “On the Road,” but given that the scenes are fairly tame and the film is based on the classic beat tale of discovery, experimentation and finding yourself, a little nooky is going to have to be part of the game. While Stewart does have a three-way and, sandwiched between them, how shall we say it, facilitates both Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley to orgasm in a car while they’re driving, the scene doesn’t actually show that much, but it’s well shot and titillates in the exact right manner (the truck driver veering off the road in response to this sight is the comedic punctuation). It's perhaps more a mark of the strange puritanical streak that comes out when people talk about Stewart (probably something to do with that damned "Twilight" again) that this made headlines at all.
Nudity is generally sensual or sexual or in some way about power balance, but also, or perhaps because of all that, comedians have learned it can be funny and disarming too. Think Will Ferrell’s Frank Ricard in Todd Phillips’ modern comedy classic, “Old School.” Planning to hit Bed, Bath & Beyond the following day, Franky is goaded by college students into doing one measly funnel of booze, and the next thing you know, the old party animal "Frank The Tank” awakens from his deep sleep like the Kraken. Inebriated beyond belief, Frank decides to go on a streaking party (of one) through the campus, running around in his birthday suit until he happens upon on his wife and her pals on a night out. Busted and shamed, Frank is thrown in the minivan like a child -- it may be the beginning of the end for their relationship, but the scene is funny as hell. More to the point, there’s actually a purpose. Frank’s marriage may eventually crumble, but letting his freak flag fly that evening gives the incarcerated-by-matrimony man a little taste of freedom, which eventually lets him discover who he really is, warts and all.