Inventory: 14 Truly Sexy Sex Scenes

Inventory: 14 Truly Sexy Sex Scenes

1. Love on a real train, Risky Business (1983)

To celebrate the success of their suburban brothel, Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay hop on the Chicago el and wait for their car to empty. While Tangerine Dream plays on the soundtrack and the city lights flicker through the windows, they grind against each other, enjoying the feeling of power and abandon that comes with being flush with cash and in the know. Is it any wonder that the younger brother in last year's The Squid And The Whale listened to the music from this scene while he gazed at himself in the mirror, concocting his latest masturbation fantasy?

2. Friends with benefits, Y Tu Mamá; También (2001)

At the end of a long road trip, the simmering sexual tension between older woman Ana López Mercado and teenage buddies Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal spontaneously breaks down in a small room, as the boys simultaneously strip and caress Mercado. Briefly, she seems eager to accommodate them simultaneously, but then she gently guides them together and slips downward out of the frame. Their initial awkwardness with each other rapidly gives way to the same eagerness they approached her with, and both awkwardness and eagerness are sweetly charming but rivetingly intense.

3. Dare or dare, Secret Things (2002)

In Jean-Claude Brisseau's art-smut favorite Secret Things, stripper Coralie Revel teaches bartender Sabrina Seyvecou how to own her sexuality so the two of them can embark on a campaign of man-baiting vengeance. But first come the training exercises, starting with a scene in which Revel commands Seyvecou to masturbate to orgasm, with step-by-step instructions. By the time Seyvecou throws back her bedspread and emits her last breathy moan, she isn't the only one completely enthralled.

4. Love and the Mona Lisa, Betty Blue (1986)

Say what you will about Jean-Jacques Beineix's tale of doomed love—that it's shallow, that its characters change from scene to scene, that it prioritizes visual snap above all other elements, that it's the perfect example of an art film successful only because of its sexual content—there's still no denying that its first scene is a grabber. Stars Jean-Hugues Anglade and Béatrice Dalle make loud, passionate love as the camera slowly draws closer, never cutting away in spite of the 1980s' stylistic trend for sex scenes filled with gratuitous music-video-inspired cuts. It feels like the scene will never end as the pair find levels of passion rarely reached by human beings. Meanwhile, a print of the Mona Lisa looks on from above.

5. Dressing with their clothes off, Don't Look Now (1973)

In the middle of a terrifying psychic thriller, director Nicolas Roeg presents an utterly convincing portrait of how married couples interact behind closed doors, ending in a love scene that develops as naturally as the next breath. As a precursor, Roeg shows Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in a Venice hotel room, joking and casually padding around the bathroom, with Christie poking fun at Sutherland's love handles. Once in the bedroom, they reading the newspaper together, she starts caressing his back, and things… just… happen. Always one to experiment in the editing room, Roeg intercuts their vigorous lovemaking with shots of them getting dressed afterward, looking sated and ready to carry on with the evening. He finds eroticism in the ordinary.

6. Who's seducing who?, The Hunger (1983)

Catherine Deneuve is a beautiful, immortal, apparently powerful vampire. Susan Sarandon… well, isn't. But when Sarandon enters Deneuve's lair, it's suddenly unclear who's in charge. Acknowledging Deneuve's intent even before Deneuve is ready to admit to it, Sarandon responds with an "Oops, I have somehow spilled wine on my nice white shirt, I guess I'll have to take it off now" routine that would seem ridiculously contrived in a porn movie. But she executes it with languid, knowing desire, making it entirely clear that the subsequent gauzy but graphic encounter is a meeting between sexual equals, not a simple horror-movie predator-prey clinch. In the film version of
The Celluloid Closet, Sarandon takes direct credit for that reading of the scene and her character; in the original draft, she was supposed to be very drunk and drawn in against her will, but Sarandon correctly estimated the effect that a more deliberate, calculated sensuality would have on the film.

7. Triple exposure, Grand Prix (1966)

Though best remembered for the brilliantly conceived and executed racing sequences—created in a collaboration between director John Frankenheimer and designer Ron Bass—Grand Prix also contains a tasteful but surprisingly frank love scene between Yves Montand and Eva Marie Saint. As light bachelor-pad music plays, Montand shows Saint around his elegant apartment. He asks whether she's tired, she pointedly says "No," and then Frankenheimer superimposes a blurry shot of them caressing each other's naked bodies in bed. Then, over that, he superimposes a shot of them buttoning up their clothes and smoothing out the sheets. Talk about speed.

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8. Hot monk-y love, The Name Of The Rose (1986)

In this adaptation of Umberto Eco's medieval murder mystery, young monk Christian Slater gets an argument against chastity when a never-named girl (Valentina Vargas) wastes no time in rescuing him from virginity. Having sneaked into a monastery as part of a regular exchange of sexual services, she's delighted to find the teen Slater in the place of her usual older, hairier customers. She asks nothing in return and leaves him with even more questions than those presented by the mystery at hand.

9. Rah rah rah, A History Of Violence (2005)

David Cronenberg devised two sharply contrasting sex scenes for A History Of Violence, one in which Viggo Mortensen has no past and another in which his past casts an awfully dark shadow. The first finds Mortensen and his wife Maria Bello filling in that gap in their history, and it's only ironic after the fact. "We never got to be teenagers together," Bello says with a sly smile. "I'm gonna fix that." Cut to the bedroom, where Mortensen shoves a pile of stuffed animals and other domestic clutter off the bed, looking like an overeager adolescent as he waits for Bello to emerge from the bathroom. When she does, she's wearing a cheerleading uniform, and she even gives a spirited cheer ("Ready? Okay! Goooooo, Wildcats!") before leaping into the sack. The fantasy continues, but what gives the scene an extra charge is how smoothly and vigorously they attack each other's bodies. When's the last time you've seen a married couple 69-ing in a movie?

10. "Gary" and "Celeste," Out Of Sight (1998)

First, the ambience: a luxury hotel bar in Detroit, snow flurries drifting down outside an expansive window, light caressing every interior surface, and David Holmes' synthesized score pulsing insistently on the soundtrack. The last time the two principals met, they were covered in grime and smooshed into a car trunk; needless to say, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, two of Hollywood's most glamorous stars, clean up nice. Since he's a thief and she's a federal marshal, they meet on the sly like strangers, as "Gary" and "Celeste," and their role-playing develops into a foreplay that leads seamlessly to the bedroom. Paying homage to Don't Look Now, director Steven Soderbergh layers two different time frames, only here, the couple undresses—facing each other across the bed, removing one article at a time as if upping the ante—instead of putting their clothes back on. And the beautiful freeze-frames suggest a chemistry that not even stars of this magnitude could develop on their own.

11. Shattered glass, Body Heat (1981)

How do you update the noir classic Double Indemnity for the modern age? For director Lawrence Kasdan, the solution was to make explicit the murderous lust that the original film could only imply by having Barbara Stanwyck descend a flight of stairs. It helps that Kathleen Turner, then a complete unknown, turned out to be a worthy successor to Stanwyck, a sultry, dangerously opaque screen presence with that now-famous husky voice. Her extramarital coupling with small-town lawyer William Hurt, whom she later ensnares in a plot to kill her rich husband, is a scene of sheer carnality, set in the middle of a Florida heat wave. In the signature moment, Turner looks like a caged animal locked up inside her husband's palatial home, and Hurt, overcome with desire, prowls around the outside, smashes through the windows with a patio chair, and seizes her. There's no question from that point on that he'll do her bidding.

12. "Have you done this before?", Mulholland Dr. (2001)

After a particularly nasty shock, actress-wannabe Naomi Watts and amnesiac Laura Elena Harring seek comfort in each other's company, as they've been doing throughout the film. But this time, comfort leads them to wind up in bed and naked together. Their steamy make-out session features just a little comedy, as Watts asks whether Harring has had previous lesbian experiences, and Harring realizes that she has no idea. Director David Lynch, generally more inclined toward the unpleasant aspects of sexuality, mostly sticks to very intimate close-ups throughout the scene, practically letting viewers share the air passing between the lovers' gasping, exploratory mouths.

13. Candles, guitars, and a single spur, Desperado (1995)

When Antonio Banderas enters Salma Hayek's one-horse town at the beginning of Desperado, they share a look that seems to say "Hey, someone who's actually as attractive as me! About time!" But it's another hour before a medical intervention becomes a guitar lesson that then becomes a glossy erotic gymnastic session. Director Robert Rodriguez films the whole thing a bit like a music video, with lots of skin, enough fast cuts that it's sometimes hard to tell who's touching (or licking, or mouthing, or running a spur along the surface of) what, a poster-pretty room full of candles, and music that threatens to make the whole thing entirely silly, but he keeps the proceedings graphic enough to titillate while leaving enough to the imagination to let viewers fill in their own blanks.

14. Any given 10 minutes, Street Of A Thousand Pleasures (1970)

For every teenage boy who's ever been desperately certain that there were naked women behind every closed door, the trashy sexploitation picture Street Of A Thousand Pleasures is a fantasy fulfilled. The plot is simple—an American businessman saves an Arab sheik from assassination, and in return gets full run of the sex-slave market—but the execution is sublime, as director William Rotsler uses the innovation of "girl-a-vision" to put viewers behind the businessman's eyes, wandering from stall to stall in a sexy bazaar where buxom, completely nude women dance and roll around with strangers in a softcore way. Every now and then, a hand emerges from the edge of the frame and does a little groping, or a bare breast descends into the camera lens while the businessman narrator makes slurping noises on the soundtrack. This goes on for more than an hour, but really, how much pleasure can one man take?

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