The Sexiest Movie You’ve Ever Seen

by | July 18, 2013 | General | 11 comments

by Donna George Storey

I happened to be leafing through a rather thick folder in my filing cabinet labeled “Ideas for Writing,” when I found an article I’d clipped from the November 28, 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly: “50 Sexiest Movies Ever” (and this predating the elevation of the number fifty to erotic heights by several years). The authors guaranteed it was a list of “the hottest films you’ll ever see.”

I’m sure I kept the article more as a study of what mainstream America considers sexy rather than a source of ideas for future stories—not that there’s anything wrong with theft if you give the story your unique imprint. As I did the first time I read the article, I skimmed the list for movies I’d seen, comparing my reaction to the official score of the squad of journalists. For each movie, they’d also chosen a “sexiest moment,” which invited another opportunity for comparison.

I can’t say there was all that much agreement on either score, although a few movies did bring a nod of approval. In the Mood for Love, a Hong Kong film set in 1962, with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as cuckolded spouses who slowly develop their own achingly unconsummated passion, did indeed show that “what doesn’t happen is just thrilling as what does.” sex, lies and videotape is another personal favorite, especially those interview scenes, and The Year of Living Dangerously and A Streetcar Named Desire both had a smoldering, but doomed quality that only sharpened the erotic edge.

I had not yet seen Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, the number one choice of the journalists, so, as a matter of professional duty, I rented it. Most of the movie was routine thriller, but to my surprise, the climactic erotic scene—the flirtatious conversation in the hotel lounge at night—was one of the sexiest bits of celluloid I’d ever seen, porn included. And it was all talk and innuendo. Words, words, words. I guess I am cut out to be an erotic writer after all.

Many of the other movies didn’t work so well for me. Little Children, a less-restrained story of adulterous love between Kate Winslett and Patrick Wilson, gave us intercourse on the washing machine (pretty ridiculous, actually), but made sure to lay on the anti-sex message by throwing in a disgusting sex-addict husband, a pedophile predator as villain and (spoiler alert) just punishment for adultery with a freak skateboarding accident. And I never really got the excitement about the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct, where Sharon Stone flashes her pantyless crotch at a line of drooling cops who somehow decided a standard room with a table wasn’t a good idea for this particular suspect. Are men really that sex-crazed that they would let a woman get away with murder because she isn’t wearing underwear?

Possibly, but I sure hope my local detectives are a little more conscientious.

Whatever the lack of agreement, I do believe our favorite erotic scenes in film are clues to our erotic imaginations, just as favorite erotic stories offer clues to what makes our libido tick. Clearly for me, the exploration of erotic desire through words and suggestive images are more powerful than the often disappointing realization of sex on camera. But was I so different from the rest of America in finding no more than few of these “sexiest movies” (let’s add my check mark for Don’t Look Now, Body Heat, Maurice, and The English Patient) at all sexy?

Then, in that lazy way summer leads to fortuitous connections, I remembered a chapter in one of my favorite, but alas out-of-print, sex guides, Are We Having Fun Yet?: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Sex by Marcia and Lisa Douglass. In their “Pop Porn” chapter, they describe a fictional couple watching a typical Hollywood sex scene. The focus is on the impossibly gorgeous woman’s body and her reactions while the male body is shrouded by shadows and clever positioning–camera as desiring male gaze. Thus “foreplay” is essentially the display of the female’s body. Intercourse itself takes less than a minute and involves the man thrusting and giving a long final groan of release, while the woman arches her neck and closes her eyes and doesn’t do anything to suggest an orgasm happens, but seems satisfied all the same. After the show, the fictional boyfriend exclaims that the sex was hot, while his date knows she’s supposed to agree, but is annoyed by the lack of consideration for what she finds sexy.

He gets his fantasies fed along with his movie snack, she has to make do with “pop porn.”

Douglass and Douglass define pop porn as “the pervasive panorama of female flesh—the high-heeled foot, breasts spilling out of a low-cut gown, the pouting red lips, the sultry stare from under a thick mane—that is the everyday stuff of popular media.” Although many of us think we can avoid porn by staying away from the X-rating, we’re still getting eroticized visual entertainment aimed chiefly at straight men everywhere we turn. Most of us are so used to the bias, we barely notice it, but on an unconscious level, we’re getting the message that is what Sex Is.

The good news is that erotica today does offer more for female readers. Fifty Shades of Grey, whatever one’s opinion of the writing, clearly satisfied female desire on a wildly popular scale. It remains to be seen what the Hollywood version will do with this female fantasy cinematically. I’m not expecting a revolution of camera work, but will certainly read the reviews to see whom they satisfy, if nothing else. I’d be even happier if some of the work by ERWA writers was translated to the big screen. Perhaps that day will come and Entertainment Weekly will have some real gems to review?

In the meantime, I’m curious if you, dear reader, have any movies you’d recommend for subtle, simmering or even believably desperate and passionate sex scenes? Many long, hot days and nights of summer still lie before us. I myself would add The Lover, Raise the Red Lantern, and the “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?” scene in To Have and Have Not.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at

Donna George Storey

I want to change the world one dirty story at a time. When I posted this mission statement on my website, I hoped my cheeky ambition would make my readers smile. I smile every time I read it myself. And yet I’m totally serious. I truly believe that writers who are brave enough to speak their truth about the erotic experience in all its complexity—the yearning, the pleasure, the conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction—do change the world for the better. So if you’re here at ERWA because you’re already writing erotica, a big thank you and keep on doing what you’re doing. If you’re more a reader than a writer, I encourage you to start dreaming and writing and expressing the truth and magic of this fundamental part of the human experience in your own unique voice. Can there be a more pleasurable way to change the world? I'm the author of Amorous Woman, a semi-autobiographical erotic novel set in Japan, The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey  and nearly 200 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies. Check out my Facebook author page at:  


  1. Kathleen Bradean

    For me, it's never the sex. It's that moment where passion overrules reason.

    It's Harvey Keitel sticking his pinky into that tiny hole in Holly Hunter's thick stocking in The Piano. It's Daniel Day-Lewis rolling up the wrist of Michelle Pfiffer's glove in Age of Innocence.

    It's The Secretary and Bound and stories that are more about seduction than sex.

  2. penelope lake

    "It's that moment where passion overrules reason." Yes.

    As for my two cents: off the top of my head ( and mostly because I just saw it recently) I liked The Lover. Most people didn't think it was Shakespeare, and panned the sex for being boring, but I thought those scenes were great. There wasn't a lot of acrobatics, but somehow they implied a lot anyway. The first time they meet they're not even having sex- just a fantastic hand holding scene in the car.

  3. Lisabet Sarai

    One of the sexiest scenes I've ever watched is in the G-rated "Girl with a Pearl Earring", based on the novel of the same name by Tracey Chevalier. Struggling painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), married with multiple children, has persuaded his shy housemaid Griet (Scarlett Johansson), to sit for him as a model. The sexual tension between them makes you hold your breath. Looking for just the right detail, the painter secretly borrows his wife's earrings. As he attaches the earring to Griet's earlobe, you have the feeling that anything could happen, that they could throw convention and rationality out the window and descend into a liaison that would shatter both their lives. In fact nothing happens – and in its own way that is as delicious as if he'd pulled her into a passionate kiss.

    "Secretary" and "Bound" are both near the top of my list for sexy movies, but perhaps the most arousing film I've ever seen was "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus". Why? Read my review here:

  4. Donna

    Excellent point, Kathleen, that's exactly it, that tipping over the edge from reason to passion. Because of the Freud thing, we assume all sorts of other things mean sex, but sex can symbolize other interesting and important experiences as well.

    The Lover is one of my top favorites, too, Penelope. It's not exactly any particular scene, it's the general mood of that bachelor apartment, all shadowy and secluded, but with the city bustling by right outside the windows. Having lived in Asia, I thought the movie actually was closer to Shakespeare in capturing truths of the human experience than most movies!

    Yum, Lisabet, I have two new movies on my to-watch list!

  5. Kathleen Bradean

    I often catch myself wishing I could fix shows on HBO. True Blood has had some scenes with great erotic potential that was shoved aside to get to the sex, which ruined it. Although in House of Cards (a Netflix series), there's a scene where Kevin Spacy presses his mouth to his lover's mons. She's still wearing her underwear, so it's not sex, yet, but the look in his eyes was so pitch perfect that I wanted to hand him an Emmy and shake the hand of the director for capturing a moment of such raw intensity.

  6. Donna

    Wow, K, do they have that scene on YouTube somewhere? Would love to do a gallery of "real passion"! Perhaps it is that desire to cater to some generic male desire, or perhaps fear of ramping the passion up too high, but they do rush things. The show I've watched most recently, Game of Thrones, does interesting things with power, but not such a good job on the sex. Pussy-shaved prostitutes, sex as decoy, rape, snuff, and the few mutually passionate relationship portrayed quickly end in a bath of blood. Much of this is added in to the show, a decision when translating the book to visual media. But I guess they all figure the violence will excite people enough?

  7. Garceus

    " . . . Whatever the lack of agreement, I do believe our favorite erotic scenes in film are clues to our erotic imaginations, just as favorite erotic stories offer clues to what makes our libido tick. Clearly for me, the exploration of erotic desire through words and suggestive images are more powerful than the often disappointing realization of sex on camera. . . "

    These days I think this is what I get from reading or watching erotic scenes or material. It's really more of an exploration of what seems erotic to me. I think that's a worthy exploration. I think stories and film can do that for us. It was also interesting what you were saying about "pop porn". Because men tend to be so visual a lot of that is published for men. Candida Royalle, a former porn star, has gone into writing and directing her own very successful line of porn movies designed for women. These are movies for couples or for women. The emphasis is very different in the love making. The bodies are natural (moderate breasts) and there is a lot of oral sex performed on the women by the men which makes perfect sense to me. The men almost without fail go down on the women, bring them to orgasm once or twice and then go in for the big finish. Personally I found that very powerful. It changed also the way I began to write erotic scenes, which much more emphasis on love making and satisfying the woman.


  8. pompka na penisa

    Where can I find this movie? You write about really interesting! My english isn't well, so I need a polish subtitles :/ That's big problem for me, but movie is worth seeing 😉

  9. Donna

    Garce, I also find myself almost immediately flipping into analysis mode with erotic materials, and I would call it the downside of being a professional in the biz, but actually, I get a sort of intellectual erotic buzz from figuring things out, so I won't say that!

    I've watched a few Candida Royalle films, although I'm not researching that area as much as I did about 20 years ago. But back then, she was starting a series about "real-life" couples which combined interviews with love-making scenes. Again for me, the people talking about their turn-on's and feelings was riveting and made the love scenes WAY more interesting. That market is still to be tapped, I think.

  10. Garceus

    I've always found people's real life confessions or experiences as exciting or more so than the fiction. I guess that's the voyeur in me.


  11. Anonymous

    Certainly The Piano with Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter -his frank lust was palpable. In a sad urgent reckless way I loved Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Irons in Damage by Louis Malle. Her: submissive: leather clad wet knickers and garter belted: hoisted on the marital kitchen counter; him blinded by lust the career statesman lapping his son's orphaned petite amie. In one scene she stiffens her arms and body rocks against him…'damaged people are dangerous people.'

    I think I died a million lives and spilled a thousand tears over that line.

    James Spader in Secretary and 'sex lies and videotape' watching instead of wounding. Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin working Daniel Day Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. By far the most recent electric charge was Revolution Road ; Kate Winslet in silk the local actress lost in suburbia. Her dance with the neighbor the seduction before her ritual to death is charged. Leonardo di Caprios dowdy silly secretary echoes his meaningless life. They were hot when he painted her portrait in Titanic. Quills was great too.

    There's tons of heat given off in 'Infamous' with Daniel Craig and Toby Jones as Truman Capote. Looks and darker desires get me. Craig was in another homoerotic movie Layer Cake.

    Sexiest movie ever widely released Thomas Crown Affair first with Faye Runaway and STEVE MCQUEEN. OMG HOT. And the redux was great too. Renee Russo is smoking hot and that dress was to die for. Reading turns me on.. movies can be so straightforward there's no tension or subtlety. Kim Basinger was ravishing in 9 1/2 weeks but too spineless. American Psycho with young nude Christian Bale on a sex and Dexter bender was pretty hot. I thought American Beauty and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil showed an erotically tortured man in Kevin Spacey

    Unrequited love – Kimura in an Amorous Woman how could that translate in film? The repartee the elegance the kink with compassion – how can you ever recover from that level of lust filled doomed love?

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