History of Sex in Cinema:
The Greatest and Most Influential
Sexual Films and Scenes



The History of Sex in Cinema
Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description

Angel Heart (1987)

Writer/director Alan Parker's supernatural-mystery film noir was set in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was immediately controversial for the nudity and sex scenes of one of its stars, Lisa Bonet in her film debut, who was a child star as Denise Huxtable in the family TV show The Cosby Show.

It offered the tagline:

It will scare you to your very soul.

The thrilling film told about seedy Brooklyn private detective Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) who was hired by mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) (noted for having long fingernails) to investigate a missing persons case - to locate a big-band crooner and WWII draftee named Johnny Favourite, who had been neurologically wounded during military action. As he tracked down Favourite, many of the individuals he questioned or came into contact with ended up dead.

In the film's well-known plot twist, Favourite turned out to have sold his soul to the devil (Lu-cifer) for fame, then reneged on the contracted bargain, hid out, and took the alias of Harry Angel.

During the course of his work, Harry encountered an illegitimate, half-Creole, teenaged voodoo practitioner Epiphany Proudfoot, reportedly the daughter of Favourite and Evangeline Proudfoot. He witnessed Epiphany's participation in a voodoo ritual in which she was scantily-clad as she slit a chicken's throat and let the spurting blood drip down her face, neck and breasts. In another bloody scene, fortune teller and voodoo practitioner Margaret Krusemark (Charlotte Rampling) was found dead, with her heart cut out with a sacrificial knife.

The Notorious Sex Scene Involving Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke
Incestuous Sex - Then Rape-Murder

The film included a notorious, steamy sex scene (originally NC-17-rated, but trimmed for an R-rating) of abandoned sexuality (with the theme of blood sacrifice) between them. They made love on a bed with raindrops (and chicken blood) dripping from the ceiling through the leaky hotel roof during a rainstorm, while listening to the radio playing the sultry tune "Soul on Fire" by Laverne Baker. He was unintentionally having incestuous sex with her.

And then Harry 'woke up' and found himself strangling her. The film shockingly concluded with Epiphany bloodied and dead on the bed (with a gunshot to the groin), with Harry's military 'dog-tags' around her neck. Harry had killed his own daughter. Harry was then convicted of the murder and doomed to burn in Hell, as Cyphre had warned.

Epiphany Proudfoot
(Lisa Bonet)

Voodoo Ritual

Epiphany Dead

Death of Margaret Krusemark
(Charlotte Rampling)

Aria (1987, UK)

Compiling the short works of ten different directors, this uneven and semi-indulgent film (originally unrated for sex and nudity, but re-rated as R) combined MTV-style images in brief vignettes to various operatic arias:

Jean-Luc Godard's Armide

Two naked gym attendants (Marion Peterson and Valérie Allain as Les Jeunes Filles) attempted to get the attention of disinterested muscle-bound bodybuilders in Paris's Weider Gym by flaunting themselves and threatening to stab the dehumanized men.

Bruce Beresford's Die Tote Stadt ("Spirits of the Dead City")

A young and then-unknown Elizabeth Hurley (as Marietta) appeared nude as the ghostly deceased wife of lover Paul (Peter Birch).

Franc Roddam's Liebestod

Bridget Fonda (in her first 'credited' film debut) was featured as part of a couple who committed suicide together in a Las Vegas bathtub (by slitting their wrists with shards of broken glass) after making love in a cheap hotel room lit by flashing neon signs. They hugged as they expired together - although maybe it was only a fantasy?

Ken Russell's surrealistic Nessun Dorma ("...And None Shall Sleep")

This segment paralleled Egyptian goddess worship with a scene of a blonde car wreck victim (British pin-up Linzi Drew) with a disfigured left side of her face (and other major injuries), being operated upon and given heart-shock treatment - although she hallucinated being adorned with sparkling jewels and was segmented into the body parts of a mannequin.


The Big Easy (1987)

Director Jim McBride's romantic, neo-noir crime mystery told its tale with two unlikely and uptight romantic partners investigating a case together in New Orleans:

  • Remy McSwain (Dennis Quaid), a New Orleans Cajun police detective
  • Anne Osborne (Ellen Barkin), an antagonistic Assistant DA, highly repressed

McSwain was investigating the murder of a local mobster when he met the state's ADA Anne Osborne, with whom he experienced a love-hate relationship. He had a tough time convincing her that he was one of the "good guys."

The film was praised for their realistic, volatile love affair which included clumsy and awkward, but realistic sex scene. The detective let down Anne's blonde hair and caressed her under her clothes, as she nervously confessed: "I never did have much luck with sex anyway." After sex, the next morning, she half-draped her nakedness in a blue sheet and approached McSwain from behind, as he bent down in front of his refrigerator.

Over time, she gradually relaxed and surrendered to him, and they eventually married by the film's conclusion.

Anne (Ellen Barkin)

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Director Emile Ardolino's popular, coming-of-age, sexual awakening tale, set at a Catskills resort in the summer of 1963, revolved around sexy dance scenes in the staff quarters or the dance studio (or outdoors at a bridge or in water).

It offered an introduction to 'dirty dancing' and forbidden love between:

  • Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the macho resort hotel resident dance instructor and streetwise sexy suitor
  • Francis "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey), an impressionable 17 year-old resort guest

The film's most sexual scene took place one night after Baby had been scolded by her repressive father and she visited Johnny to express her fear:

"I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you."

She then invited the shirtless Johnny to symbolically "dance with me." Incredulous, Johnny asked: "Here?" and she replied boldly: "Here."

To the tune of Solomon Burke singing "Cry to Me" in the light of his cabin-bungalow, they danced sensuously. She was reduced to her white bra when they kissed and he held her as she dipped backwards, before she again dipped back for a kiss as they began to make love.

Baby (Jennifer Grey)
with Johnny (Patrick Swayze)

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Director Adrian Lyne's R-rated hit and popular cultural phenomenon was a wake-up warning about the consequences of careless cheating, with its mix of slasher violence and sex. However, it was also criticized as being misogynistic for treating the philandering husband as a victim and excusing his callous behavior.

The erotic thriller told about how a happily-married family man (of nine years) and Manhattan attorney Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) engaged in an illicit, casual and dangerous, trysting affair with terrorizing, stalking, obsessed, unbalanced psychopathic literary book editor Alex Forrest (Glenn Close).

The cheating couple had two libidinous sexual encounters, in a kitchen and in an elevator:

  1. While Dan's wife was away for the weekend in the country with her parents, Alex told Dan: "We were attracted to each other at the party. That was obvious. You're on your own for the night. That's also obvious. We're two adults." They retreated to her place, where she sat on the countertop of her kitchen. They both hurriedly stripped off their underwear to their ankles before he penetrated her. She used the tap water from the sink behind herself to cool down and dampen her blouse and exposed nipple while he ravaged her. Still joined to her, he carried her into the bedroom where they had passionate and sweaty sex together. Following sex, she asked: "Are you feeling energetic?" - and they went dancing.
  2. Afterwards, when they were returning to her place, she asked: "Have you ever done it in an elevator?" On the way up to her apartment in a semi-public elevator, he pulled her dress half-way off to expose her breasts and suck on them. She stopped the carriage mid-5th floor to administer fellatio to him.

Afterwards, the next day when they met together for sex, there was the first hint of her possessiveness when he was leaving after love-making and she objected:

"I don't think I like this...The way you run away after every time we make love...You're not gonna leave now...I mean it, I mean it!"

From then on, she sought vengeance against him and his family for being slighted and ignored, by claiming she was pregnant, by terrorizing him, by temporarily kidnapping his six year-old daughter, by boiling the family pet rabbit, and by turning into a half-drowned bathroom slasher (who was only subdued for good by a gunshot from Dan's wife Beth (Anne Archer)).

Kitchen Sex

Elevator Sex

Alex (Glenn Close)

The Law of Desire (1987, Sp.) (aka La Ley Del Deseo)

Writer/director Pedro Almodovar's serious melodrama was censored in the US for its explicit scenes of gay sex and its complexity of characters.

It told about a love triangle, which concluded with tragic consequences, between three unusual male characters (all gay and trans-gendered):

  • Pablo Quintero (Eusebio Poncela), a gay, cocaine-snorting, sexually-promiscuous Madrid film and theatre director
  • Juan Bermúdez (Miguel Molina), Pablo's long-time lover, although fearful of commitment
  • Antonio Benítez (Antonio Banderas), a novice and unstable homosexual, both possessive and obsessed, who experienced anal sex for the first time with Pablo

There was also a fourth involved character named Tina (Carmen Maura), Pablo's sister and a male-to-female trans-sexual who was incestuously involved with her father and subsequently hated men. She was strongly rumored to be a lesbian, but she eventually took a lover - Antonio.

The film included masturbation, gay sex, and anal sex - all presented realistically, and a scene in which Tina reveled in her femininity while being hosed down and soaked to the skin by a cleaning man on a hot Madrid street.

Trans-Sexual Tina (Carmen Maura) Hosed Down

Pablo with Antonio
(Antonio Banderas)

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon (1987) was the first in a long-running series of buddy films to star Mel Gibson as suicidal cop Martin Riggs.

The film opened (after the credits) with the drug-induced homicidal suicide of scantily-clad 22 year-old prostitute and drug-user Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson). She climbed up onto the railing of her LA high-rise apartment's balcony and did a somesaulting swan dive to her death.

To provide equal time in this action film for female viewers, Sgt. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) emerged from his parked camper-shell bed to strut bare-assed into his kitchen for a cold beer and greet his collie at the door, while a day-time game show played on his television.

(Jackie Swanson)

Martin Riggs
(Mel Gibson)

A Man in Love (1987) (aka Un Homme Amoureux)

French director/writer Diane Kurys (with her first English language film) told a tale of infidelity in a passionate and erotic art film (a film about film-making itself). It was about the life of the Italian poet Cesare Pavese (who committed suicide) and his last love, Gabriella. Its tagline was:

"Love Devours Only the Hungry."

The two lovers who were having an extra-marital affair while on an Italian set during film-making were:

  • Steve Elliott (Peter Coyote), a self-possessed, temperamental, egotistical married American movie star, as Cesare Pavese himself
  • Jane Steiner (Greta Scacchi), an earthy and sensual leading lady co-starlet (a British actress), as Gabriella

Their first sexual encounter was while they were dancing together to a scratchy phonograph record, and he impulsively touched her breast through her red dress. He suggested, "Let's go" and they went to his room. She unbuttoned the front of her dress and unhooked her bra to reveal her breasts to him. As he hugged her body to himself, he then let out a terrifying series of primal screams, causing her to beg: "Don't hurt me." (It was revealed to be part of a film scene - when the crews and camera were shown from another angle).

Jane (Greta Scacchi) with Steve -
Their First Sexual Encounter: In A Film Within a Film

During dinner that evening, Steve bluntly asked Jane: "Will you stay with me tonight?" but they didn't become intimate, because she was too paranoid after smoking too much marijuana. Their secretive romance was threatened by the unexpected arrival of Elliott's neglected and estranged wife Susan (Jamie Lee Curtis), Jane's own French boyfriend, and the lingering illness of Jane's dying mother Julia (Claudia Cardinale). However, they had another chance later on, when he began slowly touching her under her blouse, and they purposely hesitated to kiss each other until their erotic tension was so great that they couldn't resist each other. He dropped his pants and they began to make love against the wall, as they continued to nibble at each other with love bites - the camera tracked in for close-ups of their faces.

A Very Amorous Encounter and Kiss

They had many other opportunities to make love, and in one instance, he bought her a black piece of lingerie that she put on to model for him. However, it was fairly clear that Steve would never leave his wife for her, and they were almost discovered together when Jane was showering. The character of Jane was self-awakened and transformed by film's end, and typing a manuscript titled "A Man in Love."

The Loved Woman (Greta Scacchi)

Jane (Greta Scacchi) and
Steve (Peter Coyote)

Mannequin (1987)

Pre-dating Lars and the Real Girl (2007) by 20 years, this PG-rated fantasy romance/comedy told about another guy who fell in love with a life-sized doll.

TV's Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall starred as the department store mannequin Ema 'Emmy' Hesire who came to life for young artist Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy).

Maurice (1987, UK)

This semi-autobiographical film was the second of E. M. Forster's novels, published in 1971 (after A Room with a View) to be adapted for the screen by Merchant Ivory.

It was about the problem of coming of age of a homosexual in a restrictive Edwardian society in pre-WWI 1910 between two Cambridge undergraduates:

  • Maurice Hall (James Wilby), blonde
  • Clive Durham (Hugh Grant), moody and young

In one of the film's sexier scenes, Clive rested his head on the white flannel-trousered knee of Maurice as they stroked each other's hair before embracing.

Later in the film, Clive gave up his 'forbidden' or illegal love (referred to as 'the unspeakable vice of the Greeks', but never consummated), leaving Maurice to "share" himself with lower-class gamekeeper Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves). The scene included both rear and frontal male nudity.

Maurice (James Wilby)
and Clive (Hugh Grant)

Maurice and
Alec (Rupert Graves)

Nekromantik (1987, W. Germ.)

Director Jorg Buttgereit's first time feature film was this low-budget, cultish and controversial German gross-out, depraved horror film. It opened with a disclaimer:

WARNING: Some of this film may be seen as "grossly" offensive and should not be shown to minors!!!

It also started with a quote from V.L. Compton: "What lives that does not live from the death of someone else?" The sex-horror movie was reviled and banned in many countries for its depiction of necrophilia, sex with corpses, rabbit cruelty (killing and skinning), cat disembowelment, graveyard sex, and decapitation by a shovel.

The two main characters exhibited extremely unusual behavior:

  • Robert "Rob" Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz) a suicidal and manic-depressive, passive worker at Joe's Cleaning Agency specializing in body removal after accidents - a necrophiliac who often had grotesque dreams/fantasies
  • Betty (Beatrice Manowski), Rob's girlfriend, also a necrophiliac

During a threesome with a rotting corpse, Betty found pleasure in making love to it with a sawed-off piece of broom handle (outfitted with a condom) stuck in its groin as a makeshift penis. The decomposing body also served as a wall decoration in their apartment.

Everything took a downturn when Rob was fired from his job and Betty fled (with the corpse). To reach new heights of degradation, Rob resorted to watching horror movies, animal torture, prostitute sex, and kinky graveyard copulation. He also partially decomposed after placing himself in a garbage bag.

Robert's Simultaneous Masturbation
and Disembowelment Suicide

In the film's final sequence, Robert simultaneously masturbated and committed disembowelment (hari-kiri) with a knife - culminating in an orgasmic semen-blood mixed expiration, a sexualized suicide. The last shot - a freeze frame - was his grave plot (marked with a wooden cross bearing his name) being dug up by an unidentified woman (wearing high heels).

Necrophiliac Betty
(Beatrice Manowski)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

In the third film in the long-running horror-film franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), a group of suicidal teens, all children of the vigilante parents in Springwood who had burned and killed child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), were experiencing a group hypnosis therapy session during their treatment at Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital.

One of the teens, mute and infatuated Joey Crusel (Rodney Eastman) followed cute candy-striper Marcie (Stacey Alden) down the hallway to an unoccupied room, where she confided how she was attracted to him. In the empty dorm room, the sexy Marcie enticed Joey by inviting him to "unzip me" - and she soon stood bare-breasted before him, asking:

"Do you like my body, Joey?"

Marcie (Stacey Alden): "Do you like my body, Joey?"

Wearing only a skimpy white thong, she urged him to lie back, crawled on top of him, and then kissed him. The probing and deep kiss gagged Joey as Marcie's tongue grew supernaturally and burrowed deep into his mouth. Two elongated tongues burst from her mouth and twisted around Joey's wrists on the headboard, and two more tongues lashed his feet to the footboard bedposts. Her face and body were transformed into the grotesque Freddy Krueger, who quipped:

"What's wrong, Joey? Feeling tongue-tied?"

No Way Out (1987)

Roger Donaldson's twisting political action-thriller included the side story of a hot love affair between:

  • Lt. Cmdr. Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner), a uniformed Naval officer
  • Susan Atwell (Sean Young), the sexy mistress of the Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman)

Farrell met her wearing a low-cut evening gown at a Presidential Inaugural Ball in Washington DC, and after some small talk, suggested: "Let's get outta here." She replied: "My date's not gonna like that very much" to which he replied: "But, what the hell? His wife'll be delighted." Farrell seduced her into having sexual intercourse with him in the back seat of a moving stretch limousine (chauffeured by an inquisitive driver named Bill) on the way to a Georgetown apartment. He kissed her, unzipped her dress to reveal a black bra, touched her breast's nipple with two fingers, and then pulled off her dress. She offered him her panties. From the car, a phallic-related view of the erect and tall Washington Monument passed by.

Sex in the Back of a Chauffeured Limousine
with Susan Atwell (Sean Young)

He then unfastened her lacy garter straps as she reached to help undress him before having sex. Post-coitus, he introduced himself: "My name's Tom," and she replied: "I'm Susan." At her party girl friend Nina Beka's (Iman) apartment door, she stood naked after removing her fur coat as she waved goodbye, laughed, and borrowed Nina's apartment's bed for the evening: "We need your bed."

When an enraged Brice suspected Atwell of having a love affair with another man: "Who were you with this weekend?" and she replied: "Why worry? There's plenty left," he slapped her. When she accused him of being a "pig," he accidentally killed her by striking her - causing her to crash backwards off her second-story balcony and break her neck from the fall on a glass dining room table. To cover up, Brice then assigned Farrell to investigate and discover Atwell's lover and supposed murderer (a fictional and rumored KGB spy named 'Yuri' who was seen leaving Atwell's house) -- himself!

Susan Atwell's Accidental Murder

Siesta (1987)

This plot-twisting and odd film with the title Siesta ("the time of day when mystery and eroticism become one") - was the first time directorial effort of Mary Lambert. It was nominated for two Razzie Awards in the Worst Supporting Actress category: (Grace Jones and Isabella Rossellini).

The mystery-drama opened with the intriguing scene of an unidentified female (Ellen Barkin) awakening at the edge of an airport runway near Madrid - on the Fourth of July.

She was clothed in a bright red dress (without underwear) and she noticed that her body was covered in someone else's blood. She screamed, ran down a roadway (avoiding an oncoming truck) to a nearby stream. She mumbled to herself that she might be involved in a murder: "It's not my blood, must be somebody else's. I must have really hurt him. I must have hurt him pretty bad."

There, she stripped off the dress, rinsed out the blood, and then dried herself by the sun's rays on the muddy bank of the water before reclothing herself. Afterwards, she hailed a taxi, and in voice-over exclaimed: "I'm in Spain! Aw, jeez. What the f--k am I doing here?" Her passport, money and everything else were in her bag - which she didn't have: "My god, what's happening to me?...I remember coming here, and I don't remember anything else." The remainder of the film reminded the viewer of the film Memento (2000). In Spain, she was pursued by local police who believed that she had murdered someone.

Suffering from amnesia and not knowing her past, the film then flashbacked to five days earlier. She was a professional daredevil stuntwoman at Death Valley, CA named Claire. She learned, revealed in mixed-up flashbacks, that she was planning a free-fall stunt (without a parachute) into a giant safety net stretched over an artificial, man-made volcano. Before the event, she had traveled to Spain to see her old boyfriend - Spanish acrobat Augustine (Gabriel Byrne, whom Barkin married in 1988 and then divorced in 1993), and reignited a love affair with him despite the fact that he was married to Marie (Isabella Rossellini). There were deadly consequences.

The film's gimmicky plot twist at the end was that Claire had been murdered and her experiences were only the jumbled, fantasy thoughts of her final moments.

(Ellen Barkin)

End of Film

Sex in Cinematic History
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 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Index to All Decades, Years and Features

Previous Page Next Page