Posted by: philosopherouge | August 6, 2007

The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema


Now THIS is my type of list. As a sucker for well put together and argued lists, things don’t get much better than this one. Far from populist, it explores all the historically significant sex scenes (from Edison, to Ekstase), the sexual liberation of the 60s & 70s, before winding it down with a few modern scenes that leave the audience hot and bothered (Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Dreamers). I’ve always been fascinated by the importance (or lack thereof) of some sexual encounters in film. Maybe that’s why Russ Meyer’s oeuvre fascinates me so much. There is a general understanding that most sex scenes are superfluous to the film, and would not be missed if omitted. In this list however a strong arguement is made that our preconceptions are wrong.

The strength of the list is also in their write-ups that perfectly capture the significance of their chosen scene. It’s informative, and playful, which makes for pleasent reading. I’m no expert on the subject matter, so many of the films I still need to see, and I don’t really disagree with any of the entries I’ve seen. Even the order seems about right (when I saw the list, I thought that Don’t Look Now should top it… and it did).

However, while I can agree that Mulholland’s Dr. first sex scene is great, I never liked the scenes in context of the film. While this applies more to Watt’s masterbation scene, and their second sex scene always came accross as exploitive and borderline misoginistic to me. The low angles, and general camera placement makes the scene TOO uncomfortable to the point where I’m personally removed from the film, feeling pity for the actors rather than the character.

One of my favourite choices, which I think is quite daring is the inclusion of the Night Porter. A film about an ex-Nazi doctor who meets up with his ex-sex slave, and they rekindle their sado-masochistic relationship. I’ve always had a soft spot for this film, for several reasons. First perhaps because it has an air of being forbidden, which is mixed with being called pure “trash” by prominent critics. I still don’t know if they are right. Second is that I think it’s actually a good and thoughtful film that reveals so much about the human’s psyche. What makes us tick? What bounds us together? How will trauma effect you? What would you do to stay alive… the film is susprisingly sexy, although once again the most famous scene (Rampling dancing topless for the SS officers) leaves me cold. Mostly because she looks so sickly, which she evidently was. The film itself takes a dive towards the end, but it’s nonetheless worth seeking out.

As for most recent films, I’m happy to see the inclusion of the Dreamers, which dared to (rather graphically) show a de-flowering scene with more than a little blood play. It doesn’t hurt that this is one of my favourite films from recent years, but it’s another instance of Bertolucci de-mystifying cinema. Sex isn’t clean, especially not the blissful first time. It’s not always romantic, and often times it’s very uncomfortable. Yet, there is something magical about it all. Perhaps it’s because of their youthfulness, and the bonds of their friendship but they are not turned off from sex, but rather bonded by it. A reminder that the inhibitions of youth allow for us to experience these things for the first time.

Perhaps most importantly, this list has inspired me to see quite a few new films, namely Get Carter, Betty Blue, Femme Trouble, Brokeback Mountain and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.


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