Even though representing the act of having sex might have been seen as sacrilege for the early cineastes, the 60’s cultural revolution that swept the entire planet drastically changed the views and attitudes toward sexuality. What was done in the bedroom or in dark corners could be shown, studied, explored and used as means to allure, provoke, break the rules and write parabolas.
Though some cineastes just saw the joyful – and sometimes funny – aspect of sex, most of them perceived sexuality in relation to power games and violence. Whether confined to the strict framework of a marriage or a family or diffused in society, sexual intercourse is defined by the society we live in.
The directors chosen for this list have treated sex in different ways; some make fun, others are colorful and some rather dark. Some of them created movies so provocative that critics and moviegoers still talk about them. Others released cult masterpieces. Some played with psychoanalysis, others with criminal aspects of sexuality such as incest and rape. Some are quite unknown; others are iconic figures of world cinema. Nevertheless, all of them released interesting movies that shed light onto that unsolved mystery that is human desire and sexuality.
15. Sion Sono
Two youngsters kiss passionately in the foreground, while in the background two gangs are fighting each other. A group of teenagers dressed in white eat at a small round table while a young boy in black kills three bodyguards with his sword until the others disarm him. Neighborhood violence, adolescence eroticism, and religious repression. A child sees a woman touching her breast and the breast starts bleeding. A man in costume makes love to a woman in a wheelchair.
In “Strange Circus,” a movie where the boundaries between truth and fiction remain vague, a girl gripped in a wheelchair starts writing a novel about a degenerate school principal who rapes both his wife and daughter, locking the other one in a box to watch. A young friend of hers tries to uncover the reality behind the writer’s fiction.
Sion Sono has been called a poet, an idiosyncratic artist and a provocateur. In his films he mixes sex and brutality, love and hate, and the dismantling of modern family’s ties.
14. Bigas Luna
After having spent several years running an organic farm In Tarragona and raising his three daughters, Bigas Luna came back to the film industry releasing a super erotic film, “The Ages of Lulu.” If it was only for that film, he would deserve a place on this list. The film follows the sexual life of Lulu, who was seduced at the age of 13 by her brother’s best friend, whom she later married only to end up playing sexual games with transgender people and having a threesome with her own brother. Leaving her husband after that, she desperately seeks pleasure in the most unlikely places.
The scenes of this movie have such an erotic variety that could be envied by any porn producer. Gay people, bisexual people, trans people, and Spanish machos parade in Lulu’s hedonistic world of tangled bodies seeking for pleasure and, at the end, sheering to ultra – violent sadomasochistic games.
It was Javier Bardem’s first role in a feature film. In his next works, Luna made films that “explored the darkest depths of eroticism and stereotypical Spanish machismo.” He had international success with his violent sexual drama “Jamon Jamon,” which launched the careers of both Bardem and a 16-year-old Penelope Cruz.
13. David Lynch
Sex scenes in David Lynch’s work are not abundant, but they are dominant. Where sex is not seen, it is implied.
Both men and women play a catalyst role in Lynch’s sex biosphere. Dorothy Valens and Frank Booth are inscribed in cinema history as one of the most iconic erotic couples, plunged into their sadomasochist relationship filmed masterly by Lynch.
Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune in “Wild at Heart” go far beyond, proving that cinema can show how true love goes hand in hand with great, inspiring sex. Even though the most memorable sex scene of the movie didn’t have any acting sex at all, it was the “say fuck me” scene between Lula and Bobby Peru in one of the endless motel’s rooms, a morning that her beloved Sailor was away.
12. Ken Russell
A very controversial artist, Ken Russell, after having released more than 15 feature movies and many shorts and TV films – many of them with extremely low budgets – ended his days working in universities as a visiting professor teaching cinema. Only just before his death was he recognized as a great and innovative British director, awarded during a six-week journey in the U.S. in 2010.
Russell filmed movies that shocked for their content, that most of the time were related to sexual … divergences. He made biopics (about Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Liszt, Valentino) focusing on the sexual distinctiveness of the heroes. He explored the world of prostitution in “Whore” and “Crimes of Passion.”
In his most notorious films, “The Devils,” he cast an eye on sexual perversion in the Catholic Church. His scenes of masturbating, lunatic nuns infuriated critics, local authorities and the Catholic Church. The film earned an X certificate and it was banned in many communities in the UK. Russell was forced to cut many of the erotic scenes so that the movie would go to the theaters.
Sexuality in Russell takes very different forms, from tenderness and commitment to blasphemy and misogyny. He was not interested in enchanting but in exploring and provoking. Sex reveals the inner self of his heroes and heroines. However, he does not inculpate them. He loves them in their weakness.
11. Pedro Almodovar
Whether influenced by American cinema or his homeland’s filmmakers, Pedro Almodovar managed very early in his career to create his own universe of unique characters that roam around fancy sceneries in a ceaseless search of an identity, either of their own or the people around them.
His protagonists are vivid with their agonies, questions, guilt, fears, and every other feeling humans share; they fall in love with each other and, as a consequence, they have sex. More than in any other director’s movies in this list, Almodovar’s protagonists have sex because they are attracted to or in love with each other. And that applies even to cases where it doesn’t seem like that.
Sex scenes in Almodovar’s films are not so descriptive, but they are meaningful and, much more, full of joy, full of light and colors, like the whole of his cinematography.
10. Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven’s first dutch and early Hollywood period is attached to Rutger Hauer, his masculine muse who held roles of the stud, the tireless lover. His “Turkish Delight” is a passionate love story between two young and beautiful people, where naked bodies are omnipresent in the scenery. Almost as if they were a part of it.
While in his first movies sex was mostly about having fun, and filmed in a naturalistic way, he gradually turned to an exploration of sex as a way of exerting power. This culminated in his famous Hollywood hit “Basic Instinct.” Catherine Tramell is a seductive and manipulative woman who uses sex as a weapon to gain what she wants. From that film, one could enlist one of the top 10 erotic cinema scenes, the notorious one where Catherine, during a police interrogation, uncrosses her legs, briefly revealing her vulva, as she does not wear underwear.
After a blatant flop with “Showgirls,” he turned to another sort of topic, until lately when he directed in French a film focused on the complexity of women’s sexuality. “Elle,” starring Isabelle Huppert, explores the dark and rambling ways of woman’s satisfaction, her use of sex as an instrument of power, and the distorted pleasure men take from raping.
9. Chan-wook Park
Sex is omnipresent in Chan-wook Park’s filmography, but it is not what his movies are about. Sex is surrounded by a sick frame of hate, vengeance and intrigues. The lovers who embrace each other in his dark universe do it for revenge, punishment, or they try to find love in a very wrong place. Sex is seen as a means to release tension caused by mistreats.
In “Oldboy,” Dae-Su, after being locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing why, and then released without knowing why, has an incestuous relationship with his own daughter without knowing, in an inversion of the Oedipus Rex tragedy.
Geum-ja is sexually abused by the serial child killer Mr. Baek in “Lady Vengeance.” Il-soon uses his relationship with Young–goon to turn her into a weapon against the society he hates in “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK.” Sang-hyun has become a vampire who is seduced by a young woman who wants to get rid of her husband and her mother-in-law, paying any price in “Thirst.” “The Handmaiden” is described as an erotic thriller in which Park plays with social and sexual roles.
Though engaged in showing the most perverse parts of human nature, Park manages to film sensual and erotic scenes of intercourse between his tormented heroes.