Some dismiss erotic film as smut, others call it art. If you didn’t have an opinion before, watching one of these films from our primer of cinema erotica is certain to get you forming an opinion of your own, but remember: keep an open mind.
Tinto Brass, a mainstay in the erotic genre, directed this gem featuring one of Ancient Rome’s most notorious emperors. Often referred to as the most notorious film of its era, the uncut version of Caligula features explicit scenes that include oral sex, penetration, and plenty of nudity. Malcolm McDowell, famous for his portrayal of Alex in A Clockwork Orange¸ plays the mad, sex-crazed emperor as he debauches one of humankind’s most celebrated civilizations. Playing Ceasonia, Caligula’s unfortunate wife, Helen Mirren once remarked that the film was an “irresistible mix of art and genitals.”
The Story of O (1975)
The Story of O is based on the French novel of the same name written by the unassuming Anne Desclos under the penname Dominique Aury The film documents the debauching of a sophisticated Parisian photographer, O, by her boyfriend Rene, played by the famous German actor Udo Kier. While not explicitly shot, the film deals with extremely explicit themes, including dominance and submission. Marquis de Sade enthusiasts are bound to enjoy this offering, especially with its subversive, twist ending.
Another film inspired by a novel, Crash, originally penned by the famous English author J.G. Ballard, details the strange sexual exploits of auto fetishists who mix car crashes with copulation. Basically, they get their sexual kicks from car crashes and have intimate relations during the crash. Starring the inimitable James Spader alongside Holly Hunter, David Cronenberg’s tour-de-force is certain to thrill and titillate. While the film features some graphic content, its documentation of mankind’s bottomless appetite for stimulation gives it loftier ambitions. Controversial, disturbing, and exciting, Crash is erotica with depth.
Salo or 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
By far the most controversial film on this list, Salo takes place in the Northern Italian fascist state of the same name during the final days of World War II under the Mussolini regime. A heady combination of domination and control, the film would likely make one of its inspirations, the Marquis de Sade, blush. Its premise: four powerful men collect young men and women and subject them to excessive cruelties. Be warned, this one’s graphic and might be considered disturbing to some.
Ken Park (2003)
Ken Park, arguably director Larry Clark’s masterpiece, depicts the soul-crushing teenage wasteland of the new millennium with aplomb and grit. Taking place in a pessimistic California setting, the film follows the lives of a skateboarding set as they come of age only to realize that the world they’re inheriting is totally f*cked up. Banned in Australia, this movie makes for riveting dramatic viewing. Also, stay tuned for the graphic MMF threesome that caps it off.
While certainly not exhaustive, this list of five offers a survey of erotic film from its most sensuous to its most thought provoking. There’s something here to challenge, disturb, titillate, and entertain—so enjoy!