13 Sex Scenes That Melted My Face / Hurt My Brain (NSFW)

red x

Several years ago I compiled a list of films with memorable or ridiculous sex scenes for my friend, Dayna. It was posted on Facebook without any explanation of what it was for (it has, however, recently disappeared from my “Notes” section).

To the average person it appeared to be just a list of films, but above it I had posted a large picture of a red “X.”

The list was extensive. Why? Well, the truth is I’ve seen a lot of films. In watching so many of them- and with the full understanding that they are exaggerated or unreal- I’ve ended up getting an unusual and (most likely) inaccurate sexual education. Chances are, so have you.

This list is now condensed to 13 scenes I will never forget for various reasons. Some of them fall into the “What The Hell Did I Just See?” category. Others are more in the vein of “I WILL NEVER UNSEE THIS” (and there are so many more I could include here, like couplings in the Crank films, MacGruber and The Room). Only a few of the films here fall into the “Well Done” category, but even as I write this I’m not sure what that means.

I suppose I could have linked these entries to the scenes themselves, but… come on, guys. No. Go stream the movie or look it up yourselves.

If you do I take no responsibility for how you’ll react or feel, let alone if you begin bleeding from the eye sockets. Who knows, it could happen. Onscreen sex can be pretty weird sometimes.

Another forewarning: yes, spoilers ahead.

– – –

the dreamers

13) The Dreamers (2003)

Most of The Dreamers consists of dares, games and role-playing, but someone’s virginity can be a bargaining chip only once. That’s what happens here, when Théo (Louis Garrel) jumps a pop quiz on his friend, Matthew (Michael Pitt) then gives him less than five seconds to answer. The penalty for being wrong? Matthew has to have sex with his twin sister, Isabelle (Eva Green). Immediately. Like right now.

At first Matthew thinks it’s a joke, then it becomes apparent it isn’t. He panics and runs away. What follows includes full-frontal nudity, blood, someone cooking an egg and Matthew feeling so sexually humiliated that he passes out. It was the first (and only) time I saw a character react to that humiliation the same way I would, and it bonded me to the character.

Even if the rest of what happened was pretty batshit crazy.

lust, caution

12) Lust, Caution (2007)

The sex scenes in Lust, Caution could be written off as nothing more than depictions of the Kama Sutra if there wasn’t so much going on psychologically and emotionally with its characters. Wong Chia-chi (Tang Wei) is trying to distract and deceive Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) so he can be assassinated. At the same time Yee is trying to keep himself as remote as possible, refusing to give himself over.

Both desperately fail. Strangely, those failures culminate in Caution‘s sex scenes. Every detail of their sexual encounters- sometimes down to certain activities and positions- say much more than any other film I can think of. In one case Yee could be written off as being “experimental,” when he is actually trying to keep his body as far from Chia-chi as possible, all while continuing to have sex with her.

You know he’s in trouble when at the last moment he crosses his own boundary, holding onto her desperately. It looks incredibly painful for both and signifies that they’re in over their heads. In other words: fucked (no pun intended).

pola x

11) Pola X (1999)

Leos Carax’s Pola X reminds me of an intense, haunting and non-sensical dream you have one night, and in the wake of it you don’t tell anyone despite its bothering you for days. Its sex scene, which is perhaps the centerpiece of the film, is no exception.

Like many things in this film, this eerie encounter between Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu) and his half-sister, Isabelle (Yekaterina Golubeva) seemingly comes out of nowhere, although by then it’s expected. It’s all the more poignant to watch since both actors have died since filming (Depardieu died of pnuemonia in 2008; Golubeva died under unknown circumstances in 2011).

There are several elements of the scene that make it stick to the brain. For one thing, it’s so dark you hardly see anything. Then you end up seeing much more than you bargained for. The scene is unflinchingly real (there is a hardcore shot utilizing a body double) and at one point Golubeva climaxes prematurely. Somehow Depardieu manages to keep acting around it.

9 songs

10) 9 Songs (2004)

Like Pola X, Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs is notable because the onscreen sex is 100% real. That’s what gained it so much notoriety and controversy in the first place. Sexual encounters encompass the entire plot, mapping out the ill-fated relationship between a British climatologist, Matt (Kieran O’Brien) and an American exchange student, Lisa (Margo Stilley).

The film isn’t particularly memorable, but the couple’s last encounter before breaking up has stayed with me for a long time. By then it’s established that Lisa is in control of things. She proceeds to completely manipulate and dominate Matt, using him as a means for pleasure and little else. This encapsulates their time together and what Matt will have to recover from.

I don’t want to get into the details, but like most of 9 Songs the scene is undeniably real and tense. You feel compelled to look away. Years after seeing it I discovered I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. During preparations for Love & Other Drugs (2010) Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway were instructed to watch films with graphic sex to prepare for their roles. Gyllenhaal noted that 9 Songs was the hardest to watch and kind of scared the shit out of him.

the brown bunny

9) The Brown Bunny (2003)

The unsimulated fellatio at the end of The Brown Bunny is jarring, not only because of how graphic it is, but because of what it reveals about its protagonist. Until that point Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) has come across as a rather troubled, passive and vulnerable man. However, during this scene he shows a side of himself that’s incredibly ugly.

Gallo (who also directed the film) has gone on record to say this was intentional, that he was confronting an aspect of maleness- namely just how repressed, illogical and vengeful a man can be after the end of a relationship. Clay berates and degrades his ex, Daisy (Chloë Sevigny) during the act. It isn’t erotic. Instead it’s absolutely hateful, not to mention self-loathing.

The other aspect of the scene that struck me was just how large Gallo proved to be. After watching the film I met up with friends and said, “I just saw The Brown Bunny.” When they asked me about the scene I slammed down my Coke can and said, “Can you put all of this in your mouth?”

quills

8) Quills (2000)

In 9th grade English my teacher had us read Poe’s Annabel Lee and taught us what necrophilia was. He even wrote the term on the board, like it was the “vocab of the day.” (Wherever you are, thank you Mr. Cohrs. My mother never had the time to sit me down and have the “sex with dead people talk.”)

Anyway, a few years later I saw this concept in action. The film was Philip Kaufman’s Quills, in which the religious Abbé du Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix) is so grieved after the death of his friend, Madeleine LeClerc (Kate Winslet) that he begins to lose his mind.

What follows is a necrophiliac equivalent to Inception. Abbé visits Madeleine’s corpse in her tomb, kissing her one last time. This wakes her and things progress from there until they’ve both lost their virginities. Then it becomes apparent that Abbé is just TRIPPING BALLS. And Madeleine is still dead. And yeah, he’s been having sex with a corpse. And it’s all a dream. And he’s a priest who will never get laid. And now he’s crazy.

Anyway, this whole business made me feel really confused and sad.

fur

7) Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus (2006)

The whole of Steven Shainberg’s Fur is overwhelmingly dark and odd. At its core is the relationship between renowned, real-life photographer Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) and the mysterious man who lives above her apartment, Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey Jr.), as well as her crumbling marriage and identity crisis.

The fact that Lionel suffers from hypertrichosis (meaning he’s covered with body hair) pushes the film into even more unfamiliar territory. As he and Diane develop feelings for each other you’re wondering, “How is this going to work?”

Well, after a while the film makes it clear: “We’re actually going to answer that question.” Before you know it there’s an extended sequence where Diane shaves Lionel’s entire body and they exchange sexual barbs before doing the deed. Afterwards Lionel’s like, “Welp, that was good” and asks Diane to accompany him to his impending suicide.

Before he dies he gives her a fur coat made out of his body hair. Diane grieves for him, inhaling his breath from an inflatable mattress.

My reaction: “????????????”

damage

6) Damage (1992)

The sex in this movie is just… I don’t know what’s going on or where these two are getting their ideas. It sums up the term, “I can’t even.”

To begin with, the relationship between Stephen Fleming (Jeremy Irons) and Anna Barton (Juliette Binoche) is doomed. Why? Because Anna is engaged to Stephen’s son. The doom factor becomes even more apparent when someone walks in on their mind-bending sex, has a blue screen of death moment and immediately dies.

There’s a tryst in a doorway where Anna repeatedly hits her head on the floor. Then there’s the scene (above) where the two of them are wrestling and on the verge of poking each other’s eyes out. Everything is desperate and taken to the nth degree. In fact, the physicality of these scenes were too much for Juliette Binoche, who reportedly walked off set when Irons became “too physical.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I think people should be able to do what they want as long as it’s consensual. But in this case a padded room or a bouncy castle might be needed.

ma mere

5) Ma Mère (2004)

Personally I didn’t like Ma Mère because it’s absurd. There’s hardly any plot and for the most part it’s a cheap exploration of the Oedipus Complex. Both Pierre (Louis Garrel, previously mentioned in The Dreamers) and his mother, Hélène (Isabelle Huppert) prove to be emotionless non-characters. And the plot doesn’t make any logical sense, like when there’s a loss of virginity scene in the middle of a shopping mall (with shoppers indifferently walking by).

Anyway, the film culminates with this clinical, supposedly shocking scene where Hélène commits suicide during the consummation of their relationship. But that isn’t why I’m including Ma Mère on the list. It’s the last 15 seconds of the film, because I almost went blind with laughter.

Pierre visits his mother’s corpse before cremation, staring at her in this glass box then ends up violently masturbating. It isn’t long before he gets caught and carted off by two funeral workers. He responds by struggling, then yelling, “MOTHER, I DON’T WANT TO DIE!”

Cut to: black. And of all the songs in the world, director Christophe Honoré chooses to blast The Turtles’ “Happy Together” over the end credits- one of the cheeriest, most life-affirming love songs to emerge out of the ’60s. I was like, “Are you shitting me? Is this a joke?”

I’m not the only one who thought that this was unintentional comedy. There’s an IMDB thread titled, “Did anyone else find the end hilarious?”

trouble every day

4) Trouble Every Day (2001)

It’s a shame that Vincent Gallo is ending up on this list twice, but I digress. I can’t complete this list without including the climactic scene in Trouble Every Day in which Shane (Gallo) finally gives in to his sexual/vampiric urges and corners a maid, Christelle (Florence Loiret-Caille), in the basement of his hotel.

In some ways the scene is typical. The silent sexual tension has been growing between these two from the beginning of the film. The problem is the audience knows the real reason he’s there: he doesn’t want to rape and murder his wife, June (Tricia Vessey). He has decided to do it to a stranger instead.

From there the scene quickly derails and becomes a woman’s worst nightmare. Shane pins Christelle to the ground and goes down on her, but it isn’t long before he is tearing her vagina apart with his teeth. At one point he pulls away, blood all over his face, watching as she screams in pain. Then it doesn’t stop. He continues while she cries out and thrashes on the floor, then drags her into a nearby shower room to finish her off.

perfume

3) Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (2006)

The scent-induced public orgy near the end of Perfume is one of the most startling things I’ll never be able to unsee. I didn’t expect it, and apparently the film’s protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), didn’t either.

Shortly after he decides he has seen and experienced enough and commits suicide by cannibalism. I’m guessing that the orgy was a major factor in that decision.

There is nothing else I can think of regarding this scene. It is what it is, and might possibly be the biggest (as in most populated) sex scene ever filmed.

shame

2) Shame (2012)

Nearly every moment of Steve McQueen’s Shame filled me with dread. Part of it might have been Michael Fassbender. When he takes his clothes off most people get turned on. In my case he looks so fragile I want to toss a blanket over him and start making him soup. He just seems incredibly vulnerable and somewhat feminine to me.

Then there’s Shame. You can imagine my despair. Every time Fassbender’s Brandon was about to get laid or in the process of doing so, I would want it to stop. Sometimes I would futilely beg the screen, but he would go ahead and do something terrible. Unfortunately fictional characters can’t hear you.

My brain finally shut down during the end of one of Brandon’s uncontrollable sex binges, culminating in a three-way with two prostitutes. The scene wasn’t only nauseating and incredibly nihilistic, but I ended up having to watch it three times. The copy I was watching of the film kept breaking at that point (gee, I wonder why) and I had to restart it from that point to find out what happened afterwards.

In other words: I am still really sad about this, and the film haunted me for days.

the acid house

1) The Acid House (1998)

I didn’t know what pegging was, but thanks to this film I was given a straight-up crash course that lasts over three minutes long… and between an elderly couple. While their son watches helplessly.

To understand the context, The Acid House is an Irvine Welsh adaptation that revels in its own filth. No one is likable and it overflows with squalor and perversion. But then again, what more could you expect from the writer of Trainspotting? It’s part of the territory.

Just assume that I’m someone who cares about you very much when I say, “Just watch Trainspotting again. You don’t need to see this film.” Fortunately there aren’t pictures of this scene and it’s difficult to find online. Just avoid it. It’s unpleasant.

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