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These Are the Most Sexually Provocative Movies of All Time

Fifty Shades of Grey looks positively tame compared to these movies

  • Last Tango in Paris (1972)

    Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

    The Franco-Italian romance starring Marlon Brando centered on a couple that conducts an anonymous sexual relationship in an unfurnished apartment in Paris. The film’s portrayal of sexual violence (and the use of butter as a lubricant) sparked controversy, even earning a TIME cover story.

  • Risky Business (1983)

    Warner Bros.

    Tom Cruise burst onto the movie scene by having sex on an abandoned Chicago “L” train with a call girl as a high schooler in this movie.

  • 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)


    This Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger film featured BDSM long before Fifty Shades ever did. Some of the scenes border on assault, and at one point the couple even has sex after stabbing another man in the buttocks.

  • Henry & June (1990)


    Henry & June was the first film to receive an NC-17 rating from the MPAA (which had recently replaced an X rating). The movie was based on the real-life sexual relationships among Anais Nin, famed author Henry Miller, and his wife June Miller.

  • Basic Instinct (1992)

    TriStar Pictures

    Sharon Stone’s infamous leg-crossing scene has gone down in cinema history as one of the most provocative shots ever filmed.

  • Boogie Nights (1997)

    New Line Cinema

    Back when he was still widely known as underwear model Marky Mark, Mark Wahlberg took on the role of a porn star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s matter-of-fact look at the mechanics of porn.

  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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    Archive Photos/Getty Images

    Stanley Kubrick’s last film, starring real couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, included several sex scenes (real and fantasy) as well as an orgy scene that had to be altered to earn an R rating for the American release.

  • Y Tu Mama También (2001)

    IFC Films

    Two friends spontaneously decide to engage in a sexual relationship with an older woman while on a road trip.

  • Secretary (2002)


    Secretary also explores the lines between pleasure and pain. After Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character makes a typing mistake, she’s spanked by her boss played by James Spader (coincidentally also named Mr. Grey). The incident leads to a sadomasochistic relationship between the two.

  • Brokeback Mountain (2005)

    Focus Features

    In 2005, Brokeback Mountain was one of the first mainstream motion pictures to feature a love story and sex scenes between two gay characters played by two famous actors, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

  • Black Swan (2010)

    Fox Searchlight

    Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her Black Swan role, but what created the most buzz was a hallucinatory sex scene between her and Mila Kunis and a botched-masturbation sequence.

  • Nymphomaniac (2013)

    Zentropa Entertainments

    The two-part Lars von Trier movie about a self-described nymphomaniac was released in two formats: the original hardcore version, and an edited softcore one. While some dismissed it as porn, most critics embraced the film as an engaging exploration of a woman’s sexuality.

  • Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

    Wild Bunch

    This French romance film made a splash first at the Cannes Film Festival and then in theaters for its explicit lesbian sex scenes between two teenage girls.

  • Gone Girl (2014)

    20th Century Fox

    Just a few months before Fifty Shades of Grey’s release, Gone Girl shocked audiences with a brutal and bloody sex scene.

  • Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

    Universal Pictures

    Audiences are curious how the popular book filled with BDSM will translate to the big screen. Fandango reports that it has sold more pre-sale tickets for Fifty Shades of Grey than any other R-rated film.

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