The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema

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10. Young Frankenstein (1974)
Madeline Kahn is saving herself for her wedding day — much to the chagrin of her hard-up fiancé — when Frankenstein abducts her, spirits her away to the forest and tries to force himself upon her, only to find that she's all too willing. "No!" she cries. "I'm not that kind of girl!" Until he exposes himself and she let's slip the "woof" that says everything. Mel Brooks makes up for the fact that you don't get to see any of the action with more one-liners crammed between foreplay and post-coital cigarette than one would think possible. Kahn, as always, knocks weird and sexual off each other like a squash pro. "Seven always has been my lucky number," she says as Frankenstein moves in for another round. "You're incorrigible, aren't you? My little zipperneck." And when she breaks into song — "Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!" — in her warbling soprano just as the monster enters her, you can see why people like our parents say the old black-and-whites were sexier. — Will Doig

9. The Big Easy (1987)
True chemistry is underrated, or at least difficult to find, in cinematic pairings. In this story of an uptight district attorney investigating — and falling for — a morally ambiguous cop, Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid have no shortage. Their sex scene is one of the most natural and steamy ever filmed, with its awkward stop-and-start pacing and penchant for dialogue over heavy breathing, illuminates and elevates the idea of the chase. Barkin and Quaid are either even better actors than they're given credit for, or they had a lot of fun off set.

8. Secretary (2002)
The elicit sexual relationship between obsessive-compulsive attorney Edward (James Spader) and his shy young secretary, Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is a feast of mind games, humiliation, bondage and beatings. But both of them seem afraid to actually touch one another — until Secretary's revealing climax, where all the tension they've built up is finally released. Lee has just abandoned her wedding to another man and undergone a strenuous test to prove her devotion to Edward. Edward, satisfied that she loves him, carries her exhausted body to a hidden room in his law office, where he removes her wedding dress, bathes her in a cast-iron tub, and makes love to her on a grass-covered (yes, grass-covered) bed. It's the first time we see the tenderness beneath Edward's controlling manners, the first time Lee is comfortable exposing her scarred, naked body, and the first time we realize that these two crazy kids are actually gonna make it. — Gwynne Watkins

7. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
"Love in a Laundromat" should have been an Aerosmith song, if only because of this scene. At a time when gay rights was a bizarre fringe issue, Daniel Day-Lewis played a mod British punk with a Vanilla Ice hairdo who screws his Pakistani business partner in the office of their new wash-and-fold. Except that to say that they simply "screw" doesn't do it justice — it's nearly impossible to make filmic lovemaking genuinely romantic and holy-mother-of-God hot, but there it is. I don't know what's sexier: the shirt-removal-with-necktie-in-place disrobing, or the drinking of Champagne from one another's mouths (and if you think this sounds a little gross, I'm begging you: Try. This. At. Home.) After more than two decades this scene still holds up better than most gay sex scenes that are made today, which tend toward lewdly squirm-worthy or boringly safe for mass consumption. God, I love the '80s. — Will Doig

6. Betty Blue (1985)
One of the nakedest, craziest movies in a category that has never lacked for nude infirmity, the French romantic drama Betty Blue presents one of cinema's most combustible couples: the novelist Zorg and his doomed paramour Betty. Beatrice Dalle and Jean-Hugues Anglade spend most of this movie nude (in Dalle's case, nude and/or going berserk), and the opening scene, depicting a good minute of Dalle's shrieking, shoulder-gnawing orgasm beneath Zorg, is a fitting intro. Dalle struts, pouts, giggles and freaks as if the idea of the volatile siren were invented for her; despite the emotional pyrotechnics and downer ending, the film's unabashed sensuality and passionate advocacy of passion make it a turn-on for the ages. — Michael Martin