Movies are a mixed bag when it comes to depicting sex There are those truly brilliant films that capture the complexities, complications, and sometimes even the hotness of good, bad, and mediocre sex…and then there are all the movies that don’t. The people may be pretty, sure, but cinematic love scenes are often downright sterile.
But then there are those films that are just aching for it. Movies in which every scene seems drenched in longing, in pent-up desire, roiling with straight-up horniness. Echoing real life, these movies are positively lousy with people who desperately want to fuck.
None of the horniest movies even qualify as porn — some don’t even have any sex scenes — but every one of them is DTF from the first frame to the end credits.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Though it’s an element largely absent from the source material, cinema’s reigning prince of darkness has been depicted as one horny motherfucker since at least 1931, when Bela Lugosi brought an eastern European regality and seductiveness to the role. The Hammer Horror updates of the 1960s introduced an even more overtly charming Dracula, and the vampires-equal-sexy ethos has since spread out to encompass the entire vampire genre, from Interview With the Vampire to Twilight (two exceptionally horny films we’ll discuss later).
The lurid Francis Ford Coppola take, though, is something else entirely, particularly in the film’s first half: Dracula’s sumptuous (if rotting) castle is dressed for Roman-style orgies, full of bare-chested, man-hungry brides; Keanu Reeves wanders its halls in a psychedelic haze, and with an obvious, all-but-visible movie-length boner. Things don’t let up much once the actions shifts to London, and a now more-human-looking Gary Oldman begins his pursuit of Winona Ryder’s Mina, who is significantly younger than her is. Every frame drips red with desire.
The Favourite (2018)
Sex, power, and insecurity are all knotted up together in this Oscar-winning dark comedy involving a love triangle between a mercurial Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and two women (Emma Stone and Rechel Weisz) who are perfectly happy to make use of the queen’s need for emotional and sexual validation as a ladder as they move their way up in the court of the British monarchy.
Love and Basketball (2000)
Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps play next-door neighbours who, over the course of several years, struggle with their growing attraction to each other, even while their career goals (their each pursuing careers in professional basketball) pull them apart. Though the movie didn’t do great business on its initial release, it’s become a cult classic, and that’s largely down to the chemistry between these two.
A WWII-era love story gone rather horribly wrong, the film’s central relationship (between Keira Knightley and James McAvoy) is wildly passionate for a time, but becomes one of lifelong yearning. At least there’s that mega-hot library hook-up, during which hopefully no books were harmed.
A far more effective introduction to light-BDSM than those Fifty Shades movies, there’s genuine heat here between Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader — but also a sense of humour that makes the passionate intensity of their relationship that much more titilating.
The Phantom Thread (2017)
The two are never in bed together, but the slow-burn passion between Daniel Day-Lewis’ fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (cough) and Vicky Krieps as his muse makes this Paul Thomas Anderson’s sexiest movie, even more so than his porno epic Boogie Nights. Woodcock’s fastidious and obsessive attention to detail in his interactions with Keieps’ Alma build an atmosphere of tamped-down lust that only grows as the film progresses.
Y tu mamá también (2001)
There’s some actual sex in Alfonso Cuarón’s coming-of-age masterpiece, but it’s really a movie about adolescent yearning: between two teenage boys, and between them and the slightly older (and married) woman with whom they set out on an impromptu road trip. Their more typical teenage horniness (and repressed longing) is complicated by the presence of a more mature sexuality, and a medical condition that might make this her last fling.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
The always great Angela Bassett sets out to break up her middle-aged routine with a trip to Jamaica, where she meets much younger (then-newcomer) Taye Diggs. Their (very hot) relationship cools considerably when she returns to her own life, at least until she decides that she can bring some of that new passion into her day-to-day.
Brown Sugar (2002)
Catching up with Taye Diggs just a few years later after Stella, and Sanaa Lathan after Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar sees the two as personal and professional friends, and sometimes rivals, in the music industry who gradually come to recognise their mutual attraction. It’s all a slow build to that moment when friends become lovers.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Roger Ebert astutely described The Last Picture Show as being about“…a town with no reason to exist, and people with no reason to live there.” Aside from the pool hall and the titular movie theatre, there’s nothing to do there but have sex (which also happens in the pool hall and the movie theatre). The teenagers are horny, naturally, but so are the adults — particularly Cloris Leachman’s bored and neglected housewife, Ruth Popper, who begins an affair with high school senior Sonny Crawford (Kurt Russell) that’s partly torrid, and partly rote.
Purple Noon (1960)
The first of many cinematic adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels, and one of the best. Alain Delon brings Ripley to life in all his sociopathic glory. Though the love triangle between the three main characters doesn’t play out quite as explicitly here as it does in later adaptations, the film deals with mutual obsession in the glistening Mediterranean.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Speaking of, the 1999 adaptation of the eponymous Highsmith novel comes a hair closer than Purple Noon to capturing Tom Ripley’s guiltless amorality (he’s more fun in the books than in any of the films, honestly), but goes much further in bringing the subtext of Tom’s obsession with Dickie Greenleaf to the surface, capturing the extreme and conflicted feeling of wanting to sleep with someone and wanting to be them at the same time.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Guillermo del Toro’s stylised, under-appreciated gothic romance stars Mia Wasikowska as a young woman in a highly ill-conceived marriage to Tom Hiddleston who finds herself drawn to Charlie Hunnam (sure), even as Hiddleston’s character seemed too distracted by his sister (Jessica Chastain) to notice. The upper-curst Edwardian costumes and settings all contribute to the air of repressed longing. Plus, there’s the incest.
Tilda Swinton fucks across centuries in this gorgeous, crackling adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel, so horny she even swaps genders halfway through.
The Shape of Water (2017)
Guillermo del Toro’s film was only the second fantasy to take home the top prize at the Oscars, but certainly the first (for now!) to involve a surprisingly hot, and impressively romantic, interspecies romance.
Well, OK, Return of the King technically also had an interspecies romance…but that one was significantly less horny, elves and humans have all the same basic parts, and that one didn’t require a visual description of a fish-person’s cloaca.
The Lighthouse (2019)
There’s an unnerving sexual chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe on display in this nightmarish throwback to silent-era filmmaking, but, in fairness, they’re cold and very lonely. It only becomes a problem when the hot mermaid swims by.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
In opulent 18th-century France, Marianne is assigned to paint a portrait of aristocrat Héloïse. The resulting image will be used to advertise Héloïse to a potential suitor in far-off Milan. The forbidden (for several reasons) romance that develops between them is as steamy as it is necessarily short-lived.
It’s as unlikely as cinematic chemistry gets (I would never have signed off on the casting of Nicholas Cage and Cher as romantic leads), but what’s here is very real — Loretta Castorini is a middle-aged widow who’d given up on passion, while Ronny Cammareri is the sweaty, manic baker who reminds her that she’s not really ready to give up on good sex.
Booty Call (1997)
A better-than-decent sex farce and buddy comedy, Booty Call sees Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson on a particularly promising double-date with Vivica A. Fox, and Tamala Jones…only to discover that they can’t find condoms anywhere. The two men go on a hunt for those essentials before their dates get bored and give up.
Beau Travail (1999)
Claire Denis’ sweaty story of the French Foreign Legion in Djibouti, Beau Travail is full of sumptuous imagery and camerawork. On one level, it’s a deconstruction of cinematic masculinity; on another, it’s a story of closeted sexual obsession.
Jealousy and passion are all over Jean Vigo’s story of newlyweds on a boat. Husband Jean quickly becomes jealous of his new wife Juliette, who understandably has interests that go beyond hanging out on a canal barge all the time. Everything she does triggers his jealousy, pushing her away until he becomes so desperate that he, rather memorably, dives into the canal hoping for just a look at her face.
The Addams Family (1991)
If there’s a hotter, healthier take on adult married sexuality in cinema, I’ve yet to see it. Even with two kids and a houseful of relatives, Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Angelica Huston) remain unreasonably hot for one another.
Batman Returns (1992)
The chemistry here between Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer is intense (particularly in the ballroom scene), and all the more so for being the last gasp in superhero-movie sexuality (good luck finding anything even remotely horny about the MCU). But Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here, so much so that the character represented a sexual awakening for both straight and queer kids of the ‘90s.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
The only movie in the series with a male lead, the Nightmare sequel plays out as Freddy’s seduction of Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), all while Jesse is dodging his girlfriend in favour of his best friend, Ron. It’s a teenage slasher movie, so of course everyone’s horny, but most films in the genre don’t make quite so many pitstops at leather bars and gym showers.
Stud Life (2012)
JJ (T’Nia Miller), a butch lesbian and her twink best friend, Seb (Kyle Treslove) are each both on the hunt for sex and romance, but their comfort with each other has become a crutch. They each enter into passionate relationships that force them to choose between friendship and love.
The Twilight franchise (2008–2012)
Basically four movies worth of weirdly moralistic teenage foreplay.
Rear Window (1954)
All Hitchcock movies are horny, it’s really just a matter of degrees. What sets Rear Window apart is an especially glamorous Grace Kelly, playing Lisa Fremont, who commands every scene that she’s in, while also radiating a sexuality that her dumbass boyfriend (James Stewart) has no idea what to do with.
Ghost may not be particularly horny for most of its runtime, but earns extra points for its pottery-wheel love scene, which set many a middle-American heart aflutter. It’s more memorably constructed and titillating than the vast majority of actual sex scenes in movies, selling the core relationship in a way that makes the entire film work.
Un Chant D’Amour (1950)
Long banned for its homosexual content, the two men at the heart of Jean Genet’s A Song of Love never share a room, except in a brief, chaste, fantasy sequence. Two prisoners in adjacent cells share a palpable passion for each other, violently discouraged by a guard. The short film’s key moment involves a bit of cigarette smoke shared through a straw, one of cinema’s most surprisingly erotic sequences.
Before Sunset (2004)
It was the slowest of slow burns for Jesse and Céline (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), but here the tension is off-the-charts: they haven’t seen each other in years, and neither was expecting their fierce attraction to reignite so quickly. He’s married and she’s in a relationship, but, by the end, none of it matters.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
The new TV series adaptation makes what was necessarily subtext in 1994 into text, but viewers didn’t have to go too far in seeing the mutual attraction between Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in steamy New Orleans.
Mississippi Masala (1991)
Denzel Washington has played surprisingly few romantic lead roles in his long career, but brings some heat to this charming and sultry story of a romance between the his character and the child of Ugandan Indian immigrants (Sarita Choudhury) in the American deep south. The movie deals the issues that each of their communities has with the relationship, but what stands out is the near-forbidden passion between the lead characters.