Sex in Movies 2015

Let's explore 11 movies that didn't shy away from exploring our baser natures this year.


To look at the top grossing movies of 2015 is to see a strangely desexualized snapshot of pop culture. But dig a little deeper and the cinema’s passions were alive and well — and associated with some mostly sharp films. With a few exceptions, movie sex was the dominion of indie comedies and prestige drama this year. It might get thrown into TV shows with abandon, but filmmakers have begun using it more thoughtfully recently. (Unless, of course, we're talking about the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey, but we'll get to that.) Now let’s dig into some of the year’s biggest sexy movies.

1. Trainwreck

We have the mismatched Amy Schumer and John Cena to thank for the funniest sex scene of the year. Watching Schumer prod Cena into some ill-advised dirty talk sets the tone for a movie's that's oversexed while somehow not being totally gratuitous with all that raunchiness. Those dirty jokes are making a point! The most telling scene comes when one character makes a joke to her boyfriend about Amy’s sexual past, and quickly apologizes, shows shame, and walks out of the room. Because yes, women deserve to be able to enjoy sex without being shamed for it.

2. Love

If the difference between art and porn is knowing one from the other when you see it, it's going to be hard for some to figure out why, exactly, Gaspar Noe's 3D ode to "sentimental sexuality" isn't being screened exclusively in seedy adult theaters. The French filmmaker filmed real, largely improvised, sex scenes with his cast to tell a story of longing, love, and lust. The result, which played widely on the arthouse festival circuit, received mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the main character was too much of a jerk to really be that interesting. Still, it was the only movie this year to deliver a literal 3D moneyshot.

3. Fifty Shades of Grey

The Fifty Shades books took kink mainstream, and the movie adaption brought it all to glorious life. Fortunately the film didn't take itself too seriously, allowing fans to enjoy a few giggles as they indulged in an erotic journey that was safe enough to see with your friends, but not your mom. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson worked admirably to bring on the steaminess of the books to the screen. Haters predictably hated, but a surprising number of critics were won over by the film's mix of lust and fun.

4. It Follows

A monster movie that doubles as a metaphor for coming-of-age fears and anxieties, It Follows takes a ridiculously simple premise — a sexually transmitted ghost — and turns it into something both meaningful and haunting. The old joke about life being a sexually transmitted disease with a 100 percent mortality rate is made literal as a group of teens tries to figure out how to stop a slow moving ghost that slowly follows and follows and follows its prey until it finally kills them or they have sex with someone else. Not only does the film successfully articulate some all-too-real moments of young adult sexuality, it also solidifies Maika Monroe as one of the most interesting up-and-coming leading ladies in the industry.

5. Magic Mike XXL

Is it wrong to make a sequel just for the eye candy? It's rare for a movie to cater so blatantly to the female gaze, and to have so much fun while doing it. The theatrical equivalent of hitting up a Chippendales show, Magic Mike XXL does have a plot and drama and conflict, but those things felt secondary to serving up loving shots of oiled up abs and rhythmic male thrusting. It wasn't as good a film as its predecessor, and it suffered some diminishing returns at the box office, but it still made it home at the end of the night with enough cash stuffed into its G-string to possibly warrant a third movie sometime in the not-too-distant future.

6. Tangerine

Following two trans prostitutes on the rough and gritty streets of LA, Tangerine starts out feeling like a gawkfest, but it taps into something deeper as it explores the friendship between its two main characters. There actually isn't much sex in the movie, but one scene finds us watching a man give a trans prostitute oral sex as they pass through a car wash. So that's a first.

7. The Overnight

With a cast that gamely tackles some over-the-top sexual shenanigans, The Overnight follows a couple of young parents new to LA (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) getting to know a couple of local parents (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèch) in unexpectedly intimate ways. The moment of crowning glory comes with some bonkers full frontal male nudity as Schwartzman and Scott dance together while celebrating their anatomical differences — Schwartzman wearing a giant prosthetic enhancement and Scott wearing a much much tinier one.

8. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Exploring the very inappropriate relationship between a teenage girl (newcomer Bel Powley) and her mom's boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard), Diary follows the titular girl's perspective to try and offer an honest, nuanced take on a scandalous situation. Kristen Wiig plays the girl's mother, adding another layer to the deft film.

9. By the Sea

Angelina Jolie directed herself and husband Brad Pitt in this beautifully lush and moody exploration of a disintegrating marriage as it begins to heal. Set in 1970s France, every frame in the movie looks like a painting, but it was dinged by some critics for not languishing too long in its own beautiful misery. Still, it delivers a voyeuristic thrill to watch these two get sexy (pervy even) as they pry on a newlywed couple in an adjoining room at their resort by watching them through a peephole they find.

10. Carol

One of the year's most touching onscreen romances is played out by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as they try to navigate family, 1950s norms, and an attraction that threatens to rip their lives apart. Based on the seminal lesbian romance novel The Price of SaltCarol follows Therese (Mara) as she gets to know Carol (Blanchett) and the two soon fall in love — much to the chagrin of their respective male partners. Blanchett and Mara have both said filming their sex scenes was about the same as filming a sex scene with any male actor. "I mean, you take your clothes off psychologically and emotionally," Blanchett said.

11. Ex Machina

An alcoholic billionaire genius (Oscar Isaac) cracks artificial intelligence, puts it in a female robot body (Alicia Vikander), and invites an overwhelmed computer nerd (Domhnall Gleeson) to figure out if she possesses consciousness in the year's most provocative bit of science fiction. In one particularly blunt moment, the inventor explains to the geek that yes, his robot girl is capable of having, desiring, and enjoying sex. The movie takes on subtler and deeper meaning as it explores the dark side of a mind that would invent such a thing only to lock it in a windowless room and recycle it as he refines his work. The trailers make it seem like all that sex was thrown in as sci-fi window dressing, but the truth — that the sex is the meat of the movie — makes it far more subversive and meaningful than just another movie about the implications of creating artificial intelligence.

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