There is a strong tradition of erotic films in modern cinema, and while most film fans are aware of popular titles such as Eyes Wide Shut and Last Tango in Paris, below are ten great erotic films that may have escaped your notice.
The first film directed by the Wachowski’s, the movie tells the story of a female ex con and her relationship with the girlfriend of a mobster. As the story progresses, the two develop a very intense romantic relationship while simultaneously concocting a plan to steal money from the mob and blame it on the boyfriend.
Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly star as the two female leads, while Joe Pantoliano plays the boyfriend. The scenes between Tilly and Gershon drip with erotic intensity and the chemistry between the two is genuinely provocative. Bound separates itself from much of the pack by being both a caper film and an erotic thriller that is powered by two female leads.
The Wachowskis later went on to direct the Matrix trilogy and Cloud Atlas, among others, but this early film clearly displays the talent and potential that would later draw a much larger audience. A great film with two sizzling performances. Not to be missed by fans of the genre.
2. Swimming Pool
Starring the great Charlotte Rampling and Charles Dance, Swimming Pool accomplishes the difficult task of being both psychologically suspenseful and deeply sensuous.
Rampling plays a mystery writer who, having grown tired of London, decides to visit the house of her publisher in the south of France. Once her publisher’s daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) unexpectedly arrives, the balance of life is radically shifted, as the steady reserve of the character played by Rampling is severely tested by the wild and reckless sexuality of Julie.
Complicating matters is the possibility that a murder has inserted itself into the relationship. The scenes between Rampling and Sagnier are perfectly handled, as confusion, curiosity, and desire all mingle between the characters.
Directed by Francois Ozon, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or Cannes and does a masterful job of creating and maintaining a tension that is both mentally and sexually charged.
3. The Duke of Burgundy
Named after a type of butterfly, this Peter Strickland directed film tells the story of Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudson) and her lesbian lover Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna). The relationship between the two is not typical or standard, however. Rather, it involves an increasingly complex series of role playing activities that Evelyn seems to require for her satisfaction and pleasure.
As the games between them become ever more demanding, Cynthia longs for a more traditional relationship, while Evelyn continues to be drawn deeper and deeper into the world of erotica. This divergence of desire challenges them both and pushes their relationship to the breaking point.
The film is beautifully shot and bravely acted by the two female leads. In addition, without passing judgment, the film closely examines the roles that fantasy and addiction plays in our erotic lives. This is a highly intelligent and deeply erotic film that delves into the workings of a very complex relationship.
This 1992 film was directed by Louis Malle and boasts an extraordinary cast of Jeremy Irons, Juliette Binoche, and Miranda Richardson. The film tells the story of Stephen Fleming (Irons), a British member of Parliament who has a beautiful wife (Richardson) and two children. His son Martyn (Rupert Graves) is a successful journalist who has just met a beautiful new girlfriend named Anna (Binoche).
When Stephen meets Anna, his previously self-controlled existence is destroyed and he is unable to resist his sexual pursuit of Anna, who seems deeply touched by sadness. Their meetings are intense and Stephen is increasingly drawn to the passion that Anna inspires in him.
While aware of his betrayal, he attempts to justify it in order to continue the relationship. When Martyn and Anna announce their engagement, Stephen is stunned and does what he can to break it off so that his affair can continue. This is a highly sexual film that examines just how destructive uncontrolled passion can be.
5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Based on a novel by Milan Kundera, This Philip Kaufman directed film details how the lives of three central characters are altered by the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Tomas, a sexually charged and promiscuous surgeon, who despite being married to the beautiful Tereza (Juliette Binoche), can’t resist his womanizing, particularly with the sultry and equally charged Sabina (Lena Olin). Olin is very strong in the role, giving Sabina a sensuality that would indeed be difficult to resist.
Mixed in with the erotic overtones of the film is the political reality of the times, which provides a balance to the sexual side of the story. While this is a long film, the nature of the relationships and the well told story keep the film engaging. The picture received two Academy Award nominations, including Cinematography for the tremendous Sven Nykvist.