Your Top Three is a series where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.
Now that we know who is playing the leads in Fifty Shades of Grey (Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson), we can all imagine scenes from the novel and wonder if this just won't be the sexiest movie of all time. It's an adaptation that is expected to be explicit enough to merit an NC-17 rating, just based on the erotic nature of the source material and how screenwriter Kelly Marcel has promised a raunchy, 100-percent faithful translation.
We'll see if Universal/Focus Features is on board with that, of course, as the rating does curb some distribution and this is a highly anticipated title. Focus stood by Ang Lee's NC-17 rated Lust, Caution, but that had a more limited appeal anyway. Still, the parent studio has a good history with the rating, having released the very first movie to receive that stamp back in 1990 with Henry & June. It also put out the documentary Inside Deep Throat.
So, what kind of competition will Fifty Shades have when it's released and put on the scale of sexiness? That all depends on what you find sexy, and as we all know human beings are capable of very individual tastes when it comes to this sort of thing. Still, there is the mainstream take on what applies and what constitutes as erotica. For the past 40 years that's mostly been anything with explicit sex scenes just short of actual pornography. Some has been as exploitatively gratuitous as Basic Instinct and Showgirls, and some has been more tasteful and romantic, a la I Am Love or The Notebook.
A lot of what we may think of, though, is the rougher, sweatier, steamier, dangerously adulterous stuff. Last Tango in Paris, 9 1/2 Weeks, Body Heat, the Postman Always Rings Twice remake, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Young Adam, Secretary, A History of Violence and even Titanic come to mind. We may also go back before the cinema became so adult and consider implicitly sexy films like much of Hitchcock, Lubitsch, Wilder and pretty much anything starring Lombard, Turner or Hayworth. And let's not go for the heteronormative films. There's always Brokeback Mountain, Bad Education, Bound and High Art.
Here are my top three sexiest movies:
1. In the Mood for Love - There's something very sexy about the lack of sex in Wong Kar-Wai's film about a platonic relationship between a man and woman whose spouses are cheating. It's a different sort of absence than was found in the old Hays-era innuendo-filled comedies, thick with sexual tension. We don't see it a lot in modern films, at least not after the first act of a movie that gives in.
2. It Happened One Night - Another movie with a lack of even implicit sex for the most part (though there is a directly inferred consummation at the end), but it does have one of the most iconic self-exploitations of one's sexuality in Claudette Colbert's leg taunt while she and Clark Gable are trying to hitch a ride. Also, "The Walls of Jericho" is the sexiest boundary between two obviously attracted people since the wall separating Pyramus and Thisbe.
3. Crazy Horse - I can't not include a documentary, and anyway Frederick Wiseman's peek inside the titular Paris cabaret is indeed plenty tantalizing. The filmmaker has said that he doesn't find the actual burlesque shows there "sexy," and with Wiseman you pretty much experience things precisely as he feels about the material, but I think he's being modest. There's a lot that's sexy about much of what's on-screen here, on and offstage.
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