Is the Movie Sex Scene Dead?

Is the Movie Sex Scene Dead?

Mar 29, 2013

Remember when movies had lengthy love scenes? Some were more tantalizing than others, focusing on real-time sexual activity and bordering on the pornographic. Maybe an ice cube here or a stick of butter there. And some were hot and sweaty but not very revealing, basically shadowy music video montages abridging a wild passionate night in bed set to Berlin or Righteous Brothers. The best -- or I should say most memorable -- were directed by Adrian Lyne and Tony Scott. If we include memorable but not good, we could name Paul Verhoeven as signiicant, too. 

Actually, looking back, the majority of them were pretty bad. Really cheesy. From the soft focus soft-core days of the 1970s to the flashy, splashy NC-17-bordering (or embracing) 1990s, erotic interruptions of plot were very common, often unnecessary and rarely great. But they catered to a certain audience that may either not be going to the movies anymore or who get their sensual and sexual content elsewhere. According to Celia Walden at The Telegraph, the Internet could be partly to blame for the lack of steamy sex scenes these days. She also claims visual effects might be cheaper -- and certainly appeal to a larger, family-friendly audience -- plus women in the audience like "metrosexual man-boys" now and women on-screen have trouble acting out lovemaking with the majority of male actors being gay.

Some of her statements aren't the best, obviously, but does she have a point about the sex scene being dead in Hollywood? And is that contributing to the difficulty getting a 50 Shades of Grey movie off the ground?

Well, sadly Tony Scott has died and can never give us another love scene like those fondly recalled from Top Gun, Days of Thunder, True Romance and of course The Hunger. And it's been more than a decade since the last Lyne film, the sex scene-filled Unfaithful. And that decade since hasn't been offered a whole ton of other erotic and romantic pictures for the mainstream. And standouts from indie and foreign films around the turn of the century and since have often been rougher and more uncomfortable scenes like those in Irreversible, Storytelling, Secretary and A History of Violence, the last of which is the only one released within the past 10 years.

There are modern favorites in Brokeback Mountain, Black SwanWeekend and Mulholland Dr., however, which makes it sound like today's great love scenes belong to same-sex partners, both from Hollywood and out of the mainstream too. Other, hetero-focused titles do have sex scenes, but as Walden points out, people aren't interested in those kinds of movies anymore, and we can see this in failures like The Paperboy. But it has to come back around, right? How can the Dirty Dancing remake happen otherwise? 

Then again, perhaps we're just not looking in the right places. One of my favorite films of last year, Take This Waltz, had one of the greatest sex scenes in a very long time. Meanwhile, there's a lot of sex happening on TV in recent years, with hot scenes to be found on Homeland, Game of Thrones, Weeds, Mad Men, True Blood, The Good Wife and Girls.



Is the sex scene dead? If not, what are some great recent examples?

Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:













Join the next discussion on Twitter by following Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) and (@Moviesdotcom).


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