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The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema

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20. Bound (1996)
In this early effort by the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix, V for Vendetta), two women fall in love and connive to steal $2 million from the mafia. Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, a femme fatale in pencil skirts and red lips — a Vargas painting come to life. Gina Gershon's ex-con, Corky, is more masculine: smooth, defined triceps and delts, lips thick with snarl. The two meet when Violet accompanies her mobster boyfriend to an apartment building where Corky is working as contractor. Early in the film Violet places Corky's hand on her breast and then between her legs, saying, "I'm trying to seduce you," but Violet's boyfriend comes home before she can complete her conquest. The film's best-known scene was shot in a single take: the women lie on a mattress in Corky's unfinished apartment, the camera lingering on their lips and breasts, hovering behind and above the couple as Violet uses her hand to bring Corky to orgasm. Portrayals of lesbian lovemaking often fail to emphasize hands, an oversight corrected by the film's "sex consultant," Susie Bright. — Sarah Harrison  Watch the scene.

19. Sex and Lucia (2002)
A babbling, whimsical love story about a Madrid waitress and her ill-destined novelist lover, a magical, ethereal quality permeates the film — the fate of its characters is ineffably linked to the moon and the tides — and features heavily in its sex scenes. The film cuts to the chase: it opens with Lucia (Paz Vega) and Lorenzo naked in the moonlit ocean, intertwined. Even if the rest of Sex and Lucia doesn't make much sense, you won't care — you'll be too busy watching Lorenzo and the intensely erotic Lucia, or Lorenzo and other-woman Elena (Najwa Nimri). — Jessica Gold Haralson

18. Unfaithful (2002)
Spelling out the overt sex appeal of an Olivier Martinez/Diane Lane cinematic tryst isn't difficult, particularly when notoriously erotic director Adrian Lyne is behind said coupling. Yet Unfaithful's sex appeal doesn't lie in Olivier's chiseled abs or Diane's cougar street cred. The film continuously raises the stakes between Diane Lane's philandering character and her devil-may-care foreign paramour; the sex gets hotter as it gets more likely that Lane will be caught en flagrante delicto by her suburban colleagues. This is most evident in the scene where Lane is lunching with married girlfriends, and Martinez slips in to screw Lane silly in an open bathroom stall. "I have friends out there," Lane whispers, to Martinez' chagrin — he's having none of her qualms, pushing her upright against the creaky wooden door. When Lane re-emerges flushed and giddy after their bathroom quickie, her girlfriend tells her, "You have a button undone." It's a sly wink to the audience. If Unfaithful is wrong, you won't want to be right. — Jessica Gold Haralson   Watch the scene.

17. Body Heat (1982)
Ned (William Hurt) is getting restless in his small Florida town — until he becomes infatuated with gorgeous, unavailable Matty (Kathleen Turner). Their flirtations are witty and charged, yet Matty rejects his every advance, finally throwing him out of her house and locking the door. As she stands in the doorway, challenging him, Ned tries every locked doorknob, then grabs a chair from the porch and smashes it through a bay window. This time, Matty is too excited to reject him; as she whispers encouragement, he pulls up her bright red skirt, removes her panties and makes love to her on the carpet, right in front of the broken window. Soon, their obsession will twist into something much darker — but at this moment, it's steamier than a Florida heat wave. — Gwynne Watkins  Watch the scene.

16. Coming Home (1978)
The story of a conservative military wife (Jane Fonda) attracted to a paraplegic Vietnam veteran (Jon Voight), Coming Home broke ground for political — and sexual — frankness in cinema. Voight's character, though paralyzed, gives Fonda's character her first orgasm through oral sex, a moment ecstastically enacted in close-up by Fonda. "I thought, maybe this is a way to redefine sexuality, sensuality; and make it less about genitalia and thrusting and be about what women know really matter, which is when the man is really sensitive to what we need," said Fonda in 2005. "For the day, it was a hot scene, wasn't it?" Fonda and Voight both won Oscars; their fearlessness during this now-iconic scene illustrates why. — Michael Martin  Watch the scene.