Sex scenes are always tricky to shoot. More often than not they look perfect on-screen. And everyone knows that sex, especially between relative strangers, are never perfect in real life. I have always been fascinated by filmmakers who capture lovemaking scenes at its emotional core, in a way that justifies the dynamics of the relationship between the characters. So with all that said now, here is a list of the top movie sex scenes of this century.
13. Monster’s Ball (2001) – Hank and Leticia
This might not work well if you aren’t aware of the context of the film which leads to the scene. Featuring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, this is quite simply one of the most moving and believable sex scenes ever filmed. Hank and Leticia share open themselves up and share each other’s sorrows and grief in a deeply personal moment as they break into each other’s souls, stripping themselves off on an emotional level. It works as consolation, as solace for broken souls and to mend each other’s pain, showing us the real beauty and power of human intimacy. Easily, one of the best movie sex scenes of all time.
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12. The Notebook (2004) – Allie and Noah
Noah and Allie are reunited. They kiss in the rain as he takes her to the house and they make mad love in a beautifully chaotic mess of a scene that lets the characters vent their emotions. It’s a fantastic build up as Noah and Allie, being childhood lovers, have fallen apart from each other for a long, long time and fate has this toyed with their emotions in the most cruel way possible. Allie is engaged to another young man who seemingly makes things a lot more complicated, making this scene a lot more intense, emotional and powerful than you could probably think.
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11. Black Swan (2010) – Nina and Lily
Darren Aronofsky’s disturbing psychological thriller features one of the most dashingly erotic lovemaking scenes you’ll ever see. The sheer randomness from which it comes out brings on a special level of tension and excitement on to the scene. Aronofsky creates a wildly erotic atmosphere, rightly keeping us on the edge and adding a sense of anticipation to the heated moment. Mila Kunis dominates the scene, subduing Portman, with her ravishingly seductive eyes and dashing charisma that further pumps up the scene. It’s rough, tense, wild and incredibly arousing.
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10. Shame (2011) – The Threesome
‘Shame’ is a painful film to watch and experience. An unflinching and honest depiction of addiction and how it consumes our existence, ‘Shame’ is one of the most harrowing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. In one of the film’s most famous scenes, Brandon Sullivan, played brilliantly by an in-form Michael Fassbender, has sex with two women in a wild display of unbridled fantasies that is both undeniably erotic and passionate yet so profoundly harrowing and disturbing to look at. Masterfully directed and acted with breathtaking intensity, this scene is one of the most powerful and honest portrayals of raw sexuality on-screen.
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9. Antichrist (2009) – Prologue
An immensely disturbing portrait of parenthood and sexuality, ‘Antichrist’ is one of Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier’s most exciting works that attracted and repulsed viewers in equal measure. The prologue sequence begins with a couple making intense, passionate love as their kid watches them, climbs up to the window and jumps out of the apartment. In a classic Von Trier-ish opening sequence with extreme use of slow mos intended to devastate viewers, the scene quite brilliantly achieves what it sets out to; a viscerally erotic and profoundly disturbing image of human nature at its most frighteningly vulnerable edges.
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8. Atonement (2007) – Cecilia and Robbie
The lovemaking scene in ‘Atonement’ is so gelled in its context that it might not strike a chord for those of you who haven’t watched the film. Cecilia confronts Robbie about a sexually charged letter he had written to her as the two make out in a library in a spontaneous, uninhibited moment of heated romance. The scene manages to capture the plethora of emotions the characters go through as their throbbing desires and emotions become almost palpable and is vital to forming the emotional core of the relationship between its characters.
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7. Irreversible (2002) – Alex and Marcus
Few films have the power to devastate you on an emotional level so much that by the time the film ends, you realise you’re no longer the same person. Gaspar Noe’s ‘Irreversible’ is exactly that kind of a film. While the film is infamous for its disturbing rape scene that goes on for a bit longer than 5 minutes, it also features one of the warmest and most beautiful lovemaking scenes ever captured on screen. Hours before Alex and Marcus leave for the party, they lie in bed, engaging in a playful lovemaking sequence so full of charm and warmth that becomes almost painful to watch as we are already revealed of their tragic destiny. It’s a sad, sad scene that depicts the warmth and brutality of life at once because in the end we know that “time destroys everything….”
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6. Broken Embraces (2009) – Lena and Mateo
Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar’s highly stylized noir-ish melodrama is a searing tale of intense, pulsating romance that explodes in the form of a thriller. Almodovar splashes feelings and colours on to the screen, blending elements of romance, comedy, melodrama and film within a film. The lovemaking scene between Lena and Mateo is a beautiful, cathartic explosion of feelings and desires captured with magnetic intensity and raw emotional power that so beautifully depicts the characters’ pain, desperation, madness and longing for each other.
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5. Brokeback Mountain (2005) – Jack and Ennis
Ang Lee’s unforgettable cowboy romance melted our hearts almost 12 years back and continues to be revered as one of the greatest romance dramas of the 21st century. Jack and Ennis spend time together in the mountains during the summer and gradually develop a complex sexual and emotional relationship. Nearing the first half hour of the film, both spontaneously break into sex in an outburst of searing emotions and repressed desires. Ang Lee beautifully conveys the passion, intimacy, angst and repression felt by his characters and makes way for character development with this scene which manages to sketch out the complex nuances and dynamics of their relationship.
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4. Carol (2015) – Carol and Therese
Todd Haynes’ modern classic is a subtle, graceful tale of romance between two women in Manhattan in 1950s; a married mother going through a divorce and a young photographer. The main characters make out in a hotel room during a vacation in a stunningly captured moment of sexual liberation and emotional freedom. It’s a gorgeously shot scene, enriched with a sense of warmth and tenderness that you wraps you up in its humanity. Cate Blanchett’s magnetic feminine charisma further brings a rare maturity to the scene.
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3. Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) – Adele and Emma
Perhaps the greatest romantic film of this decade, Abdellatif Kechiche’s ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ tells the story of Adele who meets an attractive, blue-haired painter in a lesbian bar and forms a deeply intimate bond with her. In one of the most famous sex scenes ever filmed, Kechiche captures every breath of passion his characters exude in a long 6 minute take with no cuts and intense focus on the nuances and details that bring an incredible amount of realism on to the scene. Some criticised the scene for its length but it floats like a wave with unbridled desires and emotions, overwhelming you with its raw intimacy.
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2. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) – Luisa and Tenoch
Arguably the greatest road trip film ever made, ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ is a visually enthralling, emotionally charged, melancholic tale of friendship, love and self-discovery. Famously triggering controversy over its explicit depiction of sex and drugs, the film is replete with some of the most memorable lovemaking scenes ever filmed on screen. In the motel room, Luisa seduces Tenoch and they abruptly break into sex in an intense moment brimming with passion and nerves. It’s a brilliantly captured scene of astonishing power and beauty that is invigorating and addictive in its verve and enthusiasm.
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1. Mulholland Drive (2001) – Betty and Rita
For readers of our site, this would hardly come off as a surprise. But the biggest issue with a film like ‘Mulholland Drive’ is that it somehow manages to creep on to every list for its open to countless interpretations and meanings. However, the one thing that I believe fascinates most people here is the irresistibly powerful lovemaking scene between Betty and Rita midway through the film. Emotions are locked, desires unfeigned and souls intertwined. The sheer amount of grace, passion and intimacy thrown on to the scene here elevates the film to new heights as we get a peek into the characters, their frailties and what makes them so vulnerable.
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