History of Sex in Cinema:
|Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description|
Altered States (1980)
Director Ken Russell's R-rated sci-fi thriller with impressive visual and sound effects was based upon a 1978 Paddy Chayefsky novel - it was also Chayefsky's final film. [Note: Chayefsky denounced the film, and replaced his name in the credits with the pseudonym Sydney Aaron.] The film's tagline described the plot:
It told about a late 1960s professor searching for ultimate truth. His sensory deprivation and hallucinatory experiments eventually led to drastic consequences. The two main characters were:
In the opening titles sequence, Jessup used a sensory deprivation tank on himself. Anthropologist academic grad student Emily was smitten with Jessup at a party - intrigued and intensely drawn to him by the experiments he was conducting. She was agreeable to his suggestion to make love in her place, even though she had a roommate. While they made love in reddish hues, both naked and sweating, she questioned him about his thoughts, possibly either inspired or insane, and learned that he was seeing visions of a crucified Christ during sex:
After his father died a terrible death from cancer, he lost his belief in God. During the course of Jessup's experiments after he and Emily were married (but then separated due to Eddie's obsessive quest), he was able to regress through the evolutionary scale - enhanced later by ingesting hallucinatory (peyote) drugs. When he took a trip in Mexico to participate in a mushroom ceremony - in the midst of pyrotechnic fireworks exploding around him, he envisioned Emily in one of his strange visions, in which she morphed into a large naked Kimono dragon-lizard and then crumbled into dust during a sandstorm.
In the final scene, Eddie had almost given up, but fought his way back from primitive regression to be with Emily (by slamming himself into a hallway wall to regain his humanity), to keep himself from devolving into an amorphous mass of primordial matter and energy. As he struggled to be free, she brought him back to reality and life, by demanding: "Defy it, Eddie! You made it real. You can make it unreal. If you love me, Eddie, if you love me. Eddie! Defy it!" They embraced and grabbed onto each other, naked and human again, after he had successfully escaped from the "real and living horror." He confessed with the final lines of the film: "I love you, Emily."
Edward (William Hurt) and
Emily (Blair Brown)
American Gigolo (1980)
Writer/director Paul Schrader's stylish and hip early 80s romantic crime drama with attitude was very loosely based on French director Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959). This ground-breaking film contained full-frontal male nudity - one of the first instances in a mainstream film for a major Hollywood actor.
It was noted for its iconic character of an American gigolo:
Julian enjoyed the luxurious fruits of his hedonistic lifestyle (Giorgio Armani silks and linens, a black Mercedes 450SL convertible) and his Westwood apartment. Kaye bedded down affluent older women, widows, rich housewives, beach girls (Playboy Playmate of May 1979 Michele Drake and Linda Horn), and foreign tourists.
One of Julian's bed partners was Michelle Stratton (supermodel Lauren Hutton), a bored, unhappy, and elegant trophy wife of a rising Californian politician. They initially met in a reddish-lit, ritzy hotel bar, where they engaged in sexy foreplay talk as she encouraged him: "My husband's in New York... I'm not waiting for anyone" and then asked: "Why did you come on to me?" She also coyly inquired about whether he knew the "international language" of sex and also asked as she held up one finger:
He declined her invitation, but later she boldly asked again: "I want to know what it would be like to f--k you. I brought money" - he responded by slowly moving his hand down her chest to her raincoat belt and untied it.
Julian was also hired by a wealthy and sadistic Palm Springs client Mr. Rheiman (Tom Stewart) to make love to his abused wife Judy (Patricia Carr). While the husband watched, he caressed her gently, saying:
In the meantime, the voyeuristic husband instructed cruelly: "Slap her. Slap that c--t." As the story progressed, Julian was framed by his black pimp Leon (Bill Duke) for Judy's murder, and Michelle was at first reluctant to provide an alibi for him due to the political ramifications.
With Beach Girls Sunbathing
(Michele Drake and Linda Horn)
With Mrs. Judy Rheiman
Bad Timing (1980, UK) (subtitled A Sensual Obsession)
Director Nicolas Roeg's non-chronological, dark psychological drama/thriller, an X-rated film, was condemned by its distributor as a 'sick' film and pulled from its short release, and not re-released for decades. The film contained some erotic but unexplicit sex, and was regarded as problematic for its unflattering and emotionally brave performances regarding obsessive love.
The story, told in flashback and with a series of overlapping non-chronological segments, was about the destructive, twisted and disturbing relationship (taglined as "a terrifying love story") in Cold-War Vienna between:
The innovative film opened with an unconscious Milena in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, with Alex at her side. She had attempted suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Her condition was serious and he was suspiciously questioned by authorities led by Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel), since Alex had found her comatose in her apartment, and had reported the emergency. Netusil was suspicious and confronted Alex: "Would you like to confess, Dr. Linden?"
In the operating room, one scene was the intercutting juxtaposition of a bloody tracheotomy being performed on Milena's throat with one of their orgasmically-passionate sexual encounters. At the same time during a heart resuscitation scene, Alex was confronting her with the words: "To whom?!"
In the past, Alex had exhibited obsessive control and jealousy over Milena and expressed violent cruelty and suspicion, especially when he found out that she was married - although estranged - to Czech citizen Stefan Vognic (Denholm Elliott). Their relationship consisted of a series of love-making episodes and quarreling breakups, seemingly doomed by 'bad timing.'
During questioning, it appeared that Alex had falsified some of the facts about the timing of his appearance at Milena's apartment. In flashback, it was revealed, in the film's most controversial and disturbing scene, that he had possibly stripped (cut her underwear with a scalpel), fondled her, and then raped her unconscious body (as he repeated: "I love you") after she had suicidally overdosed on pills.
Dr. Linden (Art Garfunkel)
Milena (Theresa Russell)
Bare Behind Bars (1980, Brazil) (aka A Prisão)
Writer/director Oswaldo de Oliveira's X-rated (and banned in the UK), sensationalistic, mean-spirited women in prison film has been regarded as the ultimate sleazy, and often hard-core example of its sub-genre of exploitation.
It featured a rat-infested Brazilian prison with a communal toilet where female inmates had been falsely incarcerated, and were repeatedly tortured, hosed down and raped. The psychopathic, sado-masochistic lesbian blonde warden Silvia (Maria Stella Splendore) was supported by the prison's perverted, incompetent, fruit-loving and sex-obsessed blonde nurse Barbara (Marta Anderson) who pleasured herself by conducting deviant activities with nude inmates.
There were numerous tortures and whippings, catfights, naked exercises, invasive cavity searches for concealed items such as shaving razors, and forced sex. A giant carved pineapple dildo and plastic one were sported by goofy Nurse Barbara.
Prison guards (with open-buttoned white blouses as uniforms) supervised pretty naked inmates with tan lines having sex and steamy showers, and a subplot involved white slavery - the pimping of the females as sex slaves.
The film concluded with an escape attempt (including a brutal male castration scene of a dead man) that ultimately failed.
(Maria Stella Splendore)
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
In director Randal Kleiser's version of Henry DeVere Stacpoole's 1903 novel set on a South Pacific tropical island, the facts of life were awkwardly and dumbly unfolded between the two sex-starved, ship-wrecked, and marooned teens:
In this "sensuous story of natural love," they grew up together on the remote South Pacific tropical island and experienced the first awakenings of love and sexuality (including menstruation, puberty, masturbation, and intercourse) - and even teenaged pregnancy and the birth of a child.
The idyllic film contained inane dialogue:
The film was self-censored and sanitized with glued-down hair and palms carefully concealing genital areas and breasts, and the use of a body double (stunt double Kathy Troutt) for Shields when obvious nudity was shown without her accompanying face.
[Note: It was followed by the unnecessary sequel Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991) with Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause in the lead roles.]
Can't Stop the Music (1980)
TV actress Nancy Walker's debut film was this R-rated gay, pseudo-autobiographical disco musical film - a major flop.
It won the Razzie Award for the Worst Film of its year - and was also nominated as the 'Worst Musical' in the Razzies' first 25 years.
The notable film (for all the wrong reasons) contained explicit and overt homo-eroticism in the YMCA musical sequence (the famed number by the Village People), and images that included full-frontal male nudity in a locker-room shower, shirtless virile men, free-spirited, topless ex-model Samantha Simpson (Valerie Perrine) in a hot-tub with lots of guys, and a knockoff of Busby Berkeley-style pool choreography.
William Friedkin's notorious, grisly slasher-thriller film about a police investigation examined the seedy and dangerous underworld of gay S&M in NY's heavy leather bars (including The Ramrod). NY Times reporter Gerald Walker's 1970 novel of the same name was the basis for the dramatic film, about an NYPD police investigation to find a self-loathing homosexual serial killer who was targeting gays.It displayed actual leather-clad gay-bar patrons as extras in the meat-packing district rather than actors, and was considered a precursor to some segments of Irreversible (2002, Fr.).
The originally X-rated film (eventually reduced to R after massive cuts) is currently truncated. It still lacks approximately 40 minutes of footage that were censored and edited out. It opened with a disclaimer: "The film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world which is not meant to be a representative of the whole."
However, major protests by gay groups - the first of their kind - accused the semi-exploitational film of being anti-gay and homophobic prior to the AIDS crisis for its depiction of the gritty, kinky, dangerous, sex-obsessed and depraved lifestyle of homosexuals. The protest centered around the film's ultra-provocative plot -- murders in gay nightclubs, and the film's negative, one-sided and stereotypical view of gays portrayed as crude psychopaths, sexual deviants, and sexual predators engaged in violent fetishistic activity and various hardcore sexual acts (i.e., a scene of fisting with a nearly naked man shackled and hanging from the ceiling).
The controversial film about an alternative or extreme lifestyle starred Al Pacino as a supposedly-straight undercover cop (posing and transforming himself into a gay man in order to fit the serial killer's victim profile) named Steve Burns. He was investigating violent serial killer murders in the Big Apple's homosexual underworld, evidenced by body parts found in the Hudson River, and thereby connecting violence with the homosexual lifestyle. He was dispatched to locate and identify possible suspects and possibly to serve as 'bait' for the killer.
One questionably campy scene, a police interrogation, involved a large black man in thong underwear and a cowboy hat inexplicably conducting the brutal questioning. In one startling scene, Burns was tied up butt-naked on a bed and threatened with a knife. The film also included an extended sequence of the climactic and ferocious stabbing scene ("You made me do that" was offered as justification).
By film's end, the theme of the ambiguity of the killer's identity was still maintained. Burns continued to visit gay bars even after the case appeared to be solved and the serial killer was apprehended -- and a last-minute scene opened up the suggestion that the sexually-confused Burns was the killer.
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Brian De Palma's Hitchcockian-like thriller (with shades of both Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958)) investigated themes of aberrant sexuality (adultery and prostitution), voyeurism, and graphic violence. Various feminist groups protested the misogynistic portrayal of women as sex objects or punished victims following sexually-promiscuous behavior. It also was criticized for portraying a trans-gendered individual as a crazed killer.
It told about sexually-unsatisfied patient Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson, portrayed by a former Penthouse Pet of the Year body double - Victoria Lynn Johnson - with an air-brushed pubic area to acquire an R-rating in the opening shower fantasy-rape sequence) suffering from vivid erotic fantasies. The scene was actually her fantasy of being taken, while enduring unsatisfactory sex (a "wham-bang special") with her husband in their bedroom.
Its most erotic scene, however, was the brilliant 10-minute sequence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Kate's cat-and-mouse flirting with a nameless stranger and her taxi-cab seduction en route to his apartment. The film was remarkable for the post-seduction scene in which Kate found a Department of Health letter in the stranger's drawer stating that he had a venereal disease. After her tryst when she left in an elevator, she suffered a vicious razor-slashing - her punishment or fate for 'free love'? - from a presumed blonde female with dark glasses that was witnessed by high-class prostitute Liz Blake (Nancy Allen).
Liz was determined to find who was stalking her, and found herself questioning Kate's psychologist/counselor Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine). During a session with him, Kate told him: "I like to turn men on. I must do a pretty good job, because they pay me alot." She began seducing him, telling him that she often made sex to men that aroused her, without accepting money: "A mature, doctorly type, like you." She boldly proposed: "How about some sexual assistance? Do you wanna f--k me?" She admitted f--king a lot of married doctors in her time, countering his resistance. She removed her coat "and the rest too," showing off black lingerie, asserting why she did it: "Because of the size of that cock in your pants" - and she found herself in a dangerous situation after arousing him - because of his split-personality.
Elliott was revealed to be a pre-operative transsexual whose other transgendered persona (representing his female side) was an unhinged patient named "Bobbi." He was literally 'dressed to kill' as his murderously-jealous alter-ego "Bobbi" - wearing a blonde wig and dark glasses for his brutal slayings.
Friday the 13th (1980) - and Other Slasher Films
The correlation between sex and subsequent death, in the burgeoning AIDS era of the 80s, was reinforced by various low-budget slasher and splatter films (with many sequels, parodies and rip-offs) as they came to be called, most prominently first in the landmark Halloween (1978) and then perfected in Friday the 13th (1980).
The moral of these 'dead teenager' films was that if you were promiscuous as an oversexed teen (usually portrayed by anonymous cast members), it foreshadowed stalking (usually for females) and sure death in some gory and painful fashion in a remote location (often woodsy).
In Friday the 13th (1980), after Camp Crystal Lake counselors Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) had made love on a bunk bed, Jack was grabbed and stabbed by a sharp pointed arrow in the throat from UNDER the mattress. In the camp's restroom where Marcie had ventured to 'go pee,' she was stalked and given a false scare in the shower room ("Must be my imagination") but then the shadow of an axe rose behind her, and sliced into her face from an unknown killer.
Similar copycat films included: New Year's Evil (1980), Humanoids From the Deep (1980), My Bloody Valentine (1981), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and April Fool's Day (1986).
Jack and Marcie
The Happy Hooker Goes (to) Hollywood (1980)
See The Happy Hooker (1975) for the entire series trilogy.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
This notorious, big-budget epic film was a major financial disaster for its studio (United Artists, the studio of Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks) - it also was a disaster for the western film genre for the remainder of the 80s, and it ended the reign of the New Wave of 1970's 'auteurs' or independent film-makers. Michael Cimino's expensive 'boondoggle' film and revisionistic Western told about the Johnson County Wars between starving Eastern European immigrant farmers and mercenaries hired by the cattlemen.
In the midst of western action, Harvard-educated Sheriff Jim Averill (Kris Kristofferson) found romance on the Western frontier of Wyoming with young bordello madam Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert).
When he first arrived, she served him pie for breakfast while stripping down at the table, and tempting him to hungrily follow her as she ran naked to the bedroom. He gave her a birthday present of a horse and rig.
Shortly after she received the gift, they rode to a beautiful mountain stream where she went skinny-dipping in the refreshing water before they picnicked together and she talked about their future.
The Hollywood Knights (1980)
The popular R-rated sex comedy by writer/director Floyd Mutrux attracted a large cult following its repeated showings on the HBO and Cinemax cable stations during the 1980s, and for its rip-off and reworked similarities to George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973) - combined with the coarse sexual content of the future film Porky's (1982). The low-budget teenage comedy with a great musical soundtrack contained some smutty jokes, early instances of the practice of "mooning," drag races, many shenanigans, and various romantic subplots.
Its nostalgic legacy was assured by the appearance of many young actors at the start of their careers, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Fran Drescher, Robert Wuhl and Tony Danza. However, many of their character roles were high-school teens, although the actors were much older. Aspiring actress and Tubby's car-hop Suzie Q (Pfeiffer) (with an imminent screen-test the following morning) and mechanic Duke (Danza) were romantically involved, as was recent high school graduate Jimmy Shine (Gary Graham) about to depart for Vietnam.
The film's action was set in Hollywood, on Halloween night in 1965. A number of vengeful teens in a car club, known as the Hollywood Knights and led by prankster Newbomb Turk (Robert Wuhl), aimed to get back at their snooty parents, represented by the Beverly Hills Residents' Association, for shutting down their favorite restaurant where they hung out - a diner named "Tubby's Drive-In" ("Home of the Big One").
Well-known sequences mostly included gross-out gags:
Suzie Q (Michelle Pfeiffer)
and Duke (Tony Danza)
Humanoids From the Deep (1980)
The low-budget Roger Corman-produced cult monster film (with requisite amounts of blood, gore, and nudity) was about mutated, sex-hungry humanoids (similar to the alien beings in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)) emerging from the water near a Pacific Northwest town to kill human males and breed/rape females. The exploitational sci-fi film even featured a chestburster Alien-type climactic ending, to compete with the most shocking scene from the previous year's film. It was reported that after director Barbara Peeters' film was completed, a second unit crew was brought in to supplement the boring plot with additional gratuitous sex, nudity, and gore.
In one of the more memorable scenes (one of the film's notorious monster-rape scenes), a ventriloquist named Billy (David Strassman) with his wooden Dummy Chuck Wood and his girlfriend Becky (Lisa Glaser) were camping at the beach in a tent.
When Becky stripped off her clothes for sex, she had a conversation with the Dummy:
He put aside the Dummy, telling the piece of wood, "Two's company, three's a crowd, Chuck."
Shortly afterwards, a humanoid monster ripped its way into their tent and murdered Billy by clawing his back. When the nude Becky fled up the beach, she ran into a second creature which attacked her in the sand and raped her.
Death of Becky
Little Darlings (1980)
Close on the heels of films about teenage sexuality and its initiation, such as in The Blue Lagoon (1980), was this coming-of-age comedy film from director Ronald Maxwell. The R-rated sex comedy starred two 15 year-old teenaged girls:
It was a semi-sensitive teen comedy about "Little Darlings" ("Don't let the Title Fool You") in a summer camp competition to lose their virginity, advertised in the film's tagline:
It showed the teens smoking cigarettes, speaking frank dialogue, and engaging in a team race-competition to be deflowered - a common theme for both sexes in youth films of the time. Angel went after Randy Adams (young Matt Dillon), while Ferris' target was camp counselor Gary Callahan (Armande Assante).
The Shining (1980)
Director Stanley Kubrick's 'haunted house' horror film The Shining (1980) was set during the off-season at a remote Colorado resort hotel, the Overlook Hotel. Aspiring writer and half-crazed Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) had been hired as the caretaker with his family.
When investigating Room 237, Jack pushed open the half-closed bathroom door of the mysterious, green and orange room, where he saw a young, totally-nude female figure (Lia Beldam) bathing. She rose, and slowly stepped from the tub and approached. Jack lustfully leered back at her and was sexually seduced by the apparition. When she stopped in the middle of the room, he started toward her - she seductively moved her hands up over his chest and around his neck.
Jack embraced and kissed the illusory, beautiful bather. But when he looked at their embrace over her shoulder at the reflection in the mirror behind her, he saw that her age had accelerated and her body was covered with lesions.
She was transformed into a demonic, necrophiliac lover - a pulsating, partially-decomposed corpse - a wrinkled, thick-skinned old hag (Billie Gibson) that was pursuing him!
Young Woman in Bath
Spetters (1980, Dutch)
One of director Paul Verhoeven's earlier sexually-explicit works before he came to Hollywood (long before Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995)) was this controversial film about sexual obsession. Its sexual frankness foreshadowed the trend to show realistic sex scenes (with equal nudity of both sexes) in mainstream movies, exemplified in the extreme by the sequence of a penis-measuring contest with a mechanic's tool.
It was an action-oriented, sports-centered coming of age film (often compared to the plot of Saturday Night Fever (1977)). The R-rated version ran about 8 minutes shorter than the unrated (and uncut) version The double-entendre title of the film referred to:
The main plot was about the coming of age of three troubled, working-class twenty-something hotshots in Rotterdam, the Netherlands who were involved in amateur dirt-bike motocross. All of them idolized Dutch motocross racing champion Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer).
All of them were also interested in a pretty blonde - a manipulative, seductive, opportunistic golddigger named Fientje (Renee Soutendijk) who worked in a race snack bar/mobile trailer serving fast food (french fries/chips and hot dogs). She was also fixated upon singer Olivia Newton-John. The virile Rien (Hans Van Tongeren) was first attached to Fientje after protecting her from a Hell's Angels biker gang, but when a freak accident paralyzed him from the waist down and put him in a motorized wheelchair, Fientje's affections were transferred to his friends: mechanic Eef (Toon Agterberg) and Hans (Maarten Spanjer).
The film was highly criticized for its caricaturing of homosexuals (homophobism), the police, the press, and organized religion. It also contained a graphic, brutal and violent gang-rape scene upon Eef by four leather-clad homosexuals. He responded to the rape by 'coming out' and taking Fientje's gay brother as a lover.
Urban Cowboy (1980)
Director James Bridges' western-styled romantic drama told of the troubled love-hate relationship between two Texans - in this semi-western version of Saturday Night Fever (1977), with its two stars:
After the two were married, they often fought and to spite each other sought out other partners, Sissy with Bud's arch-rival Wes (Scott Glenn), an ex-convict and bull-riding competitor, and Bud with Pam (Madolyn Smith). The film's western soundtrack with the song: "Lookin' For Love (In All the Wrong Places)" by Johnny Lee exemplified their relationship.
To incite jealousy in Bud's mind in a scene set in Houston's honky-tonk bar/dance hall Gilley's (a real-life western bar in Pasadena, TX), Sissy sexily mounted a mechanical bull, wearing an orange skin-tight tank top T-shirt. Before her ride, she bent over backwards to kiss Wes. As she adjusted herself before starting the ride, someone in the crowd yelled: "Look at that. Her nipples are hard."
During the seductive ride as the bull mildly gyrated, she undulated over the bull's entire surface, and eventually stood up, defiantly looking Bud's way, until he uncomfortably left the hall with his new girlfriend.
Bud (John Travolta) with
Pam (Madolyn Smith)
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965-66 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012
Index to All Decades, Years and Features
- History of Sex in CinemaA year-by-year look at the films, scandals and changing laws
- History of Erotic FilmsEverything you ever wanted to know from the first sex symbol to the birth of porn
- Movies That Challenged RatingsA ranked movie list of 10 milestone sexy films that challenged the ratings
- Bombshells on the Big ScreenA look back at Hollywood's sirens including Monroe, Mansfield, and Mamie
- Top Ten NC-17 MoviesWhat's the best movie to get this controversial rating? Vote now!
- Top 10 Steamiest Sex ScenesWhat's the hottest movie scene ever? Vote now!