Female sexuality is one of those mysteries that will never quite be solved and that is why it will always be a hot topic in cinema.
A female character that is at the peak of her sexuality- whether she is just constantly craving more sex for the purpose of pleasure or if it’s a more serious psychological addiction, such women all tend to fall under one label- nymphomaniacs.
Sex is always a tricky subject but despite that, nymphomania has been tackled and tried to be unmasked by various directors throughout times. Portray sexually craving women is a challenge, and if in the past it was more of a question of taboo, today, in order to avoid a backlash, it is important to portray such women in a certain way and hope that the representation won’t be misinterpreted – that is in the case of directors that are actually concerned about being ‘politically correct’ and non-offensive.
Nymphomaniacs are commonly portrayed with a stereotypical set of characteristics such as being sexually fluid, being psychologically damaged in one way or another and bringing destruction to themselves and the people around them, generally forming a negative image; but occasionally you may stumble upon a representation that treats female sexuality a little less harshly.
So without further ado, if you’re feeling adventurous in your movie choice or want to explore the more extreme forms of female sexuality and judge for yourselves whether they are fair and representative, here is a list of the 10 best movies about Nymphomaniacs.
1. Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick)
Based on Nobakov’s novel, Lolita is a classic nymphomaniac movie which was first tackled by Kubrick. Far younger than most nymphomaniacs, but older than what one would expect from the original novel, Lolita (Sue Lyon) is a blooming young girl who, with her tactful innocence, attracts 30-something Humbert Humbert (James Mason) a sophisticated professor with a soft spot for young girls, who is a tenant at her and her mother’s house.
As their secret attraction grows, Humbert marries Lolita’s lonely mother Charlotte (Shelley Winters) and becomes a permanent resident of the household, all to be closer to the object of his tragic obsession.
With such secrets lurking in the house, the marriage doesn’t last very long due to Charlottes accidental death which leads the guiltily relieved Humbert to keep possession over Lolita as other men put their eyes on the young nymphet.
Full of innuendos and a subtly obvious sexual attraction from both sides, the movie explores a more daring side of a young sexually longing girl. Kubrick’s Lolita may slightly lack his directing insert, being a lot more conventional than his other work, but this technique only acts as a veil to mask the challenging topic of perversion and young female sexuality.
2. Emmanuelle (1974, Just Jaeckin)
Many people have associated Jacklin’s Emmanuelle with cheap skin-flicks, with nothing to offer apart from a fun seductive experience. Despite this, Emmanuelle became a breaking-box-office classic opening many doors to the soft-core genre around the world as well as various sequels, and the character herself became one of the most renown nymphomaniacs in cinematic history.
The story tracks Emmanuelle (Sylvia Kristel) who is a young wife of a diplomat. While on her trip to Bangkok, her meeting with Marie-Ange (Christine Boisson) during a nude swim, with the encouragement of her easy-going husband, pushes her to unravel her inner sexual desires and paint new experiences as she is encouraged to explore her sexuality in all its forms- experimenting with lovers of all genders and ages as she seeks the promised higher level of pleasure.
Despite maybe not being a cinematic masterpiece, Emmanuelle is definitely an excellent starting point when it comes to the exploration of female sexuality that is so neatly embroidered with a light and at times comedic tone.
3. Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977, Richard Brooks)
In the movie by Richard Brooks, struggling with the difference between being alone and being lonely, Theresa (Diane Keaton) is a young teacher whose only love is for her deaf students.
Her conservative catholic background, a traumatic childhood and fear of commitment due to a genetic disease – a physical and mental scar that she is forced to carry, serve as a great package to encourage her freedom and sexual liberation as she moves out of her toxic home and begins her ride through drugs, alcohol and bars in search of Mr. Goodbar- a good time for one night.
Unfortunately, her casual choice of men seems to backfire as they become a discomfort and even a danger to her life in the long run – a danger from which she is lucky enough to get away from. Despite these warning experiences, her depression and sexual drive don’t stop her from continuing with her either purposeful or obliviously self harming rampage.
4. Basic Instinct (1992, Paul Verhoeven)
One of the more mainstream movies, Basic Instinct by Paul Verhoeven revolves around a murder case in the spotlight of which is the notorious nymphomaniac Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), the lover of the murdered rock star and consequently the target murder suspect which is the perfect match to her sexually animalistic behaviour. She is flirtatious, has an immense sexual drive and a contempt for underwear just like for most other things.
Catherine is an example of a nymphomaniac who uses her strong sexuality to have everyone wrapped around her finger, and that way have it all- a more permanent girlfriend and countless temporary lovers, the list of which includes the lead detective on the case, Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) who proves to be just as gullible to her charm as everyone else, as she lures him into her smartly weaved web of lies and manipulations that make finding the real murderer even more challenging.
5. The Piano Teacher (2001, Michael Haneke)
Despite its controversial theme, The Piano Teacher by Michael Haneke is a much acclaimed movie with several Cannes awards. In it Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a 40 year old piano teacher who makes up for her tyrannical attitude towards her students with her brilliant musical skills.
At home however her role is a reflection in an upside down mirror as she is forced to succumb to her controlling and terrorising mother (Annie Girardot) who treats her like an irresponsible child. This ignites her self destruction and nymphomania that comes out in several ways- porn addiction, sadomasochistic fetishes all fuelled by a boiling violence within her.
After meeting the young student Walter (Benoit Magimel), Erika embarks to fulfill her dark secret desires to satisfy her disturbed and maleficent mind.