Screenshot: Munich

What’s that old saying about sex being like pizza? Even when it’s bad, it’s still good? There’s no such saying about bad sex scenes. It’s not uncommon for the movies to get sex wrong—to reduce it to a gauzily lit pantomime of pleasure, actors striking “passionate” poses beneath carefully positioned sheets, in some abstract approximation of knocking boots. But a truly bad sex scene is more than unconvincing. It’s anti-erotic: the onscreen equivalent of a cold shower. Below, we’ve singled out some of the lamest, laziest, skeeviest, and most unintentionally hilarious sex scenes of the last 25 years. Happy Valentine’s Day?

1. Body Of Evidence (1993)

Like the sterile S&M layouts of her Sex book come to life, 1993’s Body Of Evidence managed to turn kink, transgression, and Madonna’s naked breasts into something to flip through listlessly in lieu of actual porn. The film rode a wave of renewed titillation for erotic thrillers sparked by 1992’s Basic Instinct—and stoked by Madonna herself, in the thick of her Erotica/“Justify My Love” dominatrix phase. But Body Of Evidence’s own story of an icy blond femme fatale suffered in comparison, largely because its every arid, overlong sex scene has all the raw sensuality of a Restoration Hardware catalog. There are many ludicrously staged, libido-killing moments to choose from here (some grinding atop a car hood strewn with broken glass comes to mind), but the only one anyone remembers is the first rendezvous between Madonna, a black widow accused of killing her elderly lover with her deadly-awesome vagina, and the smitten defense attorney played by Willem Dafoe. Aboard her “luxury houseboat,” inside a billowy-curtain bedroom left over from a Boyz II Men video, the queen of pop ties Dafoe up with his own belt, then spends three interminable minutes dripping hot candle wax all over his torso and crotch, each time chasing it with some champagne she slurps up like a tranquilized alley cat. The whole thing is as woodenly sexy as a “spice up your marriage” class—though watching Dafoe briefly torpedo his acting career might still be a turn-on for those who get off on humiliation. [Sean O’Neal]

2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 (2011)

The Twilight series derives much of its energy from a traditional narrative source: Edward Cullen is a bad boy. He is dangerous. He is a literal vampire. Bella’s relationship with him always contains that seductive hint of transgression, with much of his onscreen moodiness coming from the fact that he cherishes her humanity and doesn’t want to tarnish it, or to hurt her with his supernatural strength. Thus when, in 2011’s Breaking Dawn—Part 1, they finally consummate their long-simmering romance, she tells him, as they kiss softly in a moon-lit ocean, “I trust you.” A treacly folk ballad plays as the action shifts to their bridal suite, where an appropriate amount of tangled limbs and gentle kissing ensues before Edward shatters the goddamn headboard of the bed. But Bella only whispers, unmoved, “It’s okay.” In the morning she awakes, surrounded by softly floating feathers, before a hard cut reveals that Edward did not stop with the headboard, but proceeded to trash the rest of the bed, upend several other pieces of wooden furniture, and shred countless pillows with his teeth in a bloodthirsty frenzy of vampire fucking. This is not what most people would consider a romantic experience, but the gentle music warbles on, and Bella remains unfazed, even aglow. Love is real. [Clayton Purdom]

3. The Room (2003)

Tommy Wiseau’s cult catastrophe The Room contains no recognizably human behavior, so it’s no surprise to find that its sex scenes similarly feel as though they’re extraterrestrial facsimiles, crafted in some byzantine, masturbation entrapment scheme. Armed with a sex education that apparently consists solely of Red Shoe Diaries, and a knowledge of human anatomy that begins and ends with his own ass, Wiseau fills his masterwork with several soft-focus, physically impossible grinding sessions—the most infamous happening within the first 10 minutes. Following a bit of foreplay pillow fighting with their possibly developmentally disabled neighbor, Wiseau’s Johnny and Juliette Danielle’s Lisa immediately get down to stagy business on their veil-swept four-poster bed, which is surrounded by a battalion of candles, rain-streaked windows, inexpensive R&B, and roses, so many roses. After stroking each other with roses, teasing each other with roses, dropping rose petals on each other, and stopping just short of inserting roses in their respective orifices, Johnny and Lisa’s lovemaking culminates in Wiseau thrusting his pelvis repeatedly into Danielle’s belly button—all the better for the camera to capture his bare buttocks, hypnotically squeezing and relaxing. The scene was reportedly six minutes in its original cut, with Wiseau finally being convinced to trim it down to a mere, interminable three. But the lingering self-consciousness it creates about the inherent silliness of sex lasts far longer. [Sean O’Neal]

4. The Last Face (2017) 

Okay, so the SoCal funk-rock of the Red Hot Chili Peppers doesn’t exactly conjure up images of satin sheets and rose petals. Fair enough. But what if we told you it was an orchestral arrangement of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song? If you answered, “nope, still silly,” then congratulations: You just made a better directorial decision than Sean Penn did when he was making last year’s worst movie, The Last Face. The use of the Peps’ “Otherside” as a romantic through-line is just one of many bad choices in this exasperatingly self-indulgent collection of white savior tropes, but it is the only one that gives an ostensibly moving bout of reunion sex between Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, two of the best-looking people on the planet, the emotional heft of an awkward make-out session in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla. [Katie Rife]

5. Atlas Shrugged, Part III: Who Is John Galt? (2014)

Screenshot: Atlas Shrugged

Outside of their cult following of Objectivists and junior Paul Ryans, the novels of Ayn Rand are largely known for their long-winded prose and their erotic fixation on antique symbols of capitalist brute strength: railroads, skyscrapers, powerful men of industry. Her two most famous books, The Fountainhead and the 1,168-page doorstopper Atlas Shrugged, are basically romance novels: stories of women who want to fuck dangerous and aggressively individualist men, their kinks couched in reams of pseudo-philosophical explanation and bizarre plotlines about pirates and villainous architecture critics. Not that you can really tell from producer John Aglialoro’s cut-rate three-part adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, which takes after the most tedious aspects of Rand’s soap-operatic crackpot smut. This is doubly true of the “sex scene” that graces the awesomely craptastic Atlas Shrugged, Part III: Who Is John Galt?. Rand’s idealized heroes Dagny Taggart (Laura Regan) and John Galt (a puffy-looking Kristoffer Polaha) escape for a diamond-commercial slow-mo tryst in what appears to be a very large utility closet. But halfway through, the scene makes an absurd, Guy Maddin-esque cut to a codger driving a train. (The train is clearly not moving.) The symbolism of the train going into the tunnel is hilariously obvious, but under the direction of James Manera, it just comes across as baffling, doddering, and anti-erotic. For Rand done right, check out King Vidor’s The Fountainhead, which pushes its phallic imagery to the extreme, producing a movie that’s loads more fun than its source material. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

6. Sliver (1993)
7. Fair Game (1995)

The ’90s were apparently so starved for leading men that Billy Baldwin managed to make this list twice—in sex scenes with two of the beauties of the decade, Cindy Crawford and Sharon Stone. Fair Game was Crawford’s first and last leading role, a generic thriller in which she’s a lawyer on the run and Baldwin is a cop protecting her from some murderous, money-laundering Russians. Their inevitable sex scene is almost a relief, as it’s one of the few sequences that doesn’t involve any gratuitous bloody gunshots (well, not at first), explosions, or car crashes. It does, however, take place in a filthy, grimy freight car, where day turns suddenly into night and the light through the slats makes the tryst resemble a Berlin video. Even if you can get past the fact that these two are having sex in a place where you wouldn’t give your dog a bath, there’s the fact that the scene ends with the two getting interrupted by one of the Russians, who Crawford then shoots with Baldwin’s gun mid-coitus. Worse still, somehow, is Sliver, in which Baldwin plays a creepy rich voyeur (and Christian Grey precursor) surveying Stone in her apartment in the ugliest high-rise in New York City. Of the movie’s many sex scenes (elevators, bathtubs, up against a pillar), the first one is the worst, with Stone coming across like Bambi on the ice. She never looks anything but startled and highly uncomfortable (likely because the two leads reportedly hated each other) so the film only showcases screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ worst voyeuristic tendencies. From gritty cop to slimy mogul, ’90s Billy Baldwin was always game to drop his trousers at a moment’s notice, but the resulting seductions were only laughable. [Gwen Ihnat]

8. Munich (2005)

Dramatizing the retaliatory, black-ops aftermath of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics, Munich is a high-water mark of Steven Spielberg’s post-millennial output: a tense political thriller tucked into a moral study on cycles of violence and the spiritual toll of revenge. It also features a very silly, very overwrought sex scene. Late in the film, Mossad agent Avner (Eric Bana), roiling with guilt and disillusionment, makes sad, tortured love to his wife (Ayelet Zurer). Crosscutting between his methodical gyrations and previously withheld images of the Israeli athletes being executed on a German tarmac—the horrors that haunt this soldier’s mind, even when he’s trying to get his rocks off—Spielberg outrageously cranks up the melodrama; as mournful music swells on the soundtrack, Bana makes anguished orgasm faces and throws his head back in slow motion, splashing what looks like gallons of sweat all over the room. It’s a bad climax in every sense of the word—and especially unflattering in comparison to an earlier sex scene it’s deliberately contrasting: a tryst between Avner and his wife that counts as one of the most genuinely carnal, even sexy moments of Spielberg’s career. [A.A. Dowd]

9. Watchmen (2009)

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has been rendered cliché through rampant overuse, a beautiful song whose impact has been unfairly dulled through countless American Idol contestants, Michael Bolton covers, and Shrek. That makes Zack Snyder’s choice to use it in Watchmen anyway, though certainly on-brand, all the more baffling. Cohen’s ode to the intermingling of godly love and secular pleasures creepily soundtracks the film’s central sex scene between Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman), with Cohen’s gravelly voice, lifted by a gospel choir, giving their latex-covered grinding aboard a floating, owl-shaped dirigible a ring of churchly solemnity that’s possibly sincere, possibly ironic, and altogether distracting. It’s a toss-up as to whether the scene—which climaxes, literally, with Akerman pressing a button to shoot an orgasmic ejaculation of fire out of their space-owl—might have been sexier with a different song, one without an emotional weight that two superheroes humping couldn’t possibly carry. As it stands, their rutting is overshadowed by the sweaty, awkward clusterfuck of competing tones. [Sean O’Neal]

10. The Snowman (2017) 

“They just laid there,” is a pretty common refrain when describing an unsatisfying, awkward, or otherwise forgettable sexual experience. Given that the overall apathy level of Michael Fassbender’s performance in The Snowman falls somewhere between “teenager forced to attend family party” and “sloth suffering from clinical depression,” perhaps it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he fails to show much enthusiasm when he and Charlotte Gainsbourg, playing recently reunited exes, hook up toward the end of the film. Fassbender lies on his back, palms flat on the floor, throughout the scene, leaving Gainsbourg to do all the work. Can you blame her, then, for her similarly soporific response, slowly straddling him and just sort of perching there for a little while? [Katie Rife]

11+. The collected works of Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal, reputed creep and Grand Poo-bah of direct-to-video shit, has turned lazy D-list diva behavior into a surreal art form. Year after year, he cranks out indistinguishable cheapies that rarely require him to do much more than sit behind a table and wheezily mumble semi-improvised dialogue like a knock-off Marlon Brando, with hilariously unconvincing green screen effects and body doubles employed for damn near everything else. Far removed from his 1990s heyday, he no longer fights or runs on camera, yet continues to make action movies. But he still does his own deeply unerotic sex scenes. The lap-dance-based script of Seagal’s lovemaking has remained more or less unchanged since Into The Sun, made back when the star still did most of his own standing. A decades-younger, lingerie-model-looking romantic interest takes her top off in front of a seated and fully clothed Seagal (in more recent films like End Of A Gun and Contract To Kill, he also keeps his sunglasses on); his hands hover on her back and shoulders; sex is implied via awkward hugs and slow, froggish kissing; everyone (camera included) appears deeply uncomfortable. Seagal’s is the baldest of all power-trip oeuvres, pushing vanity to the edge of representation. His heroes are invariably introduced as martial-expert-slash-ex-federal-agent Casanovas, but what we see is a man in his mid-60s with badly dyed hair, covered in a loose black bag of clothing. Bad guys meet gruesome fates from his stiff kicks and chops and beautiful women can’t resist his clumsy, nonsexual touching. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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