The 20 Best Movies about Repressed Sexuality

14. A Ma Soeur (2001, Dir. Catherine Breillat)

A Ma Soeur

Sisters Anais (Anais Reboux) and Elena (Roxane Mesquida) are close in age and constantly compared to eachother. Elena, the eldest, is looking to lose her virginity with the right person. Anais, the younger, overweight sister, couldn’t care less who it is with, and just wants to get it over and done with. Anais is often the punch line to cruel jokes from her family. She is used to everyone’s disgust with her figure.

Anais struggles with her identity opposite her conventionally attractive sister. She becomes a voyeur to her sister’s sexual activity while on holiday, watching between her fingers from the other side of the room as Elena loses her virginity, loudly and painfully. Elena forces her sexuality on Anais.

The impact of this can be seen when Anais swims alone in the pool, kissing the metal stairs, teasing it like a lover, then swims to the other side to kiss the wooden planks in the pool. She talks to herself as she imagines men would talk to her, pulling her dress up while watching herself in the mirror, calling herself ‘slut’. The abrupt and brutal ending to the film depicts cruel wish fulfillment for Anais’s, where she loses her virginity to a stranger.


15. Trouble Every Day (2001, Dir. Claire Denis)

Trouble Every Day (2001)

Trouble Every Day is a violent, erotic film exploring the cannibalistic urges of Shane (Vincent Gallo) and Core (Beatrice Dalle), two individuals suffering the side effects of a scientific experiment in ‘human libido.’ Core, the wife of the doctor who conducted the experiments is locked into her bedroom for safety, but she repeatedly escapes to find men for sexual encounters whom she can mutilate. Core is pure, unrepressed sexuality. To her, sex and violence are one and the same. She actively seeks strangers to eat during intercourse, but has control around her husband and never harms him.

There are implications that Shane has harmed June when they get too intimate. He watches her in the bath and has fantasies of her drenched in blood, and wrapped in bed-sheets. Shane represses his sexuality with his wife for fear of what he might do to her. Eventually, Shane brutally acts out his frustration on one of the maids at the hotel. The film explores the idea that you can want someone so much, you might devour them entirely.


16. The Piano Teacher (2001, Dir. Michael Haneke)


Piano Professor Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) lives in apartment with her suffocating mother, even though she is in her forties. Behind the cold control of her teaching and ambitious musical profession, Erika is deeply sexually repressed. She visits shops that screen pornography, mutilating herself with razorblades, acting as a voyeur, and other paraphilia. Erika begins a sexual relationship with seventeen-year-old Walter Klemmer (Benoit Magimel), but he is horrified by her taste for masochism.

When Erika details her fantasies to Walter, he makes her feel ashamed of what she wants. The power play between them is uncomfortable and jarring to watch, especially during the scene in which Walter complies with her demands, warning us that our fantasies will never live up to the reality of the event. The film is incredibly tense and raw in its portrayal of Erika’s violence towards herself, as well as the sexuality displayed in the film.


17. Swimming Pool (2003, Francois Ozon)

Swimming Pool (2003)

Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is an author of popular crime fiction – stubborn, closed and defensive to those around her, especially fans or other authors. While at her publisher’s summerhouse in Southern France to cure writers-block, Sarah begins work on her next novel. Sarah enjoys the solitude, silence, and mountains of plain yogurt. She is suddenly ambushed by her publisher’s sexually promiscuous daughter, Julie (Ludivine Sagnier).

Julie is the antithesis of Sarah – a young French siren who parades around the property nude, drinks wine and eats foie gras. Sarah’s sterile nature and obvious sexual repression manifest themselves in her argumentative, condescending nature towards Julie, and her voyeuristic interest in Julie’s sex life.

The film presents Sarah’s ambiguous fantasies. One scene depicts Julie masturbating by the pool, while the male bartender Sarah desires watches her. Sarah, influenced by Julie, becomes seductive, consumes exotic food, and cures her writer’s block. The swimming pool implies repression and liberation during the film – Sarah’s hesitation to uncover the pool, her insistence to have it cleaned before she submerges herself – whereas Julie jumps straight in, naked, and swims beneath the cover.


18. Teeth (2007, Mitchell Lichtenstein)


Teeth is a comedy-horror film about Dawn (Jess Weixler), an abstinent Christian teenager with teeth in her vagina. Dawn is lusted after by her vulgar, oversexed step-brother and other members of her Christian abstinence group. When Dawn is raped by one of these members, her body fights back on her behalf, severing the man’s genitalia and murdering him.

Throughout the film, Dawn grows to accept her sexuality and discovers that when she is engaged emotionally with a sexual partner, the teeth relax and do not cause harm. Dawn later uses her sexuality in confidence to mutilate the men that do her wrong.


19. A Dangerous Method (2011, David Cronenberg)

A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method focuses on Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his relationship with Sabina Spielrein (Kiera Knightley), another future pioneer of the psychological assessment of sexuality. Sabina is sexually repressed and masochistic, and meets Jung as his patient. While practicing Freud’s theories, Jung begins an affair with Sabina, playing on her suppressed feelings towards her father spanking her as a child and her resulting sexual feelings towards her father and father figures.

Jung is also repressed; although married, he enjoys the breaking of taboo by having sex with his patient. He enjoys the power and control he has over Sabina. These beliefs are reinforced when Jung converses with another patient – Otto Gross (Vincent Cassell) – who believes that repressing our desire to be polygamous is unnatural.


20. Paradise: Love (2012, Dir. Ulrich Seidl)

paradise love

In Paradise: Love, Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel), an overweight, middle-aged Austrian woman struggles with the need to be desired and the reality of her loneliness. Teresa travels to Kenya as a sex tourist, encountering younger men who are keen to have sex with her, but her recurring doubts of the faked intimacy and proclamations of love turn her off. Teresa and her friends are surrounded by an atmosphere of disappointment – some for their own physicality, others for their experiences with men. Teresa is repressed due to her insecurities surrounding her body and sex for the sake of sex.

The film is especially insightful for reversing the genders we usually see when encountering films on the theme of prostitution and the sex industry, because the men use emotional manipulation on Teresa. Her sexuality is psychologically stimulated, more than physically – so they ply her with what they think she needs to hear. She wants to be loved physically by the men she encounters, asking them to kiss her and look into her ‘eyes and heart’.

Her confidence with approaching the men seems to grow, but she remains frustrated and saddened when the men genuinely do not find her attractive or fail to give her the foreplay she needs. Teresa and her friends share this disappointment when they do not arouse a stripper they hire – and they bitterly send him away.

Author Bio: Lily Scott is an aspiring film-maker and screenwriter. Her biggest loves include Tilda Swinton, Jan Svankmajer and collaborating on projects with other film enthusiasts.