30 Mainstream Movies That Are Almost Porn

Some movies employ sex and nudity as plot devices to delve into the heart of the story. These movies — some of them made by great directors like Stanley Kubrick and Lars von Trier — feature multiple explicit sex scenes. And to be honest, there is nothing wrong with that as long as filmmakers achieve the vision they are after. In the end, whether it be sex or violence, everything is just a tool in the hands of directors.

Some of you may feel the choice of having explicit sex scenes in the films is artistic, whereas others may feel these movies are pornographic. Ultimately, what matters is whether these so-called near-porn films delivered the message home. The following movies are the ones that achieve this delicate balance.

30. I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967)

Directed by Vilgot Sjöman, this is an erotic drama starring Vilgot Sjöman, Lena Nyman, Börje Ahlstedt and Börje Ahlstedt. It centers on 20-year-old rebellious Lena who is hell-bent on knowing everything she can about the world around her, learning and experimenting, including sleeping with multiple men to know more about that gender, and interviews of famous leaders. Needless to say, her exploration of the socio-political climate, accompanied by that of her own sexuality, raised many eyebrows. The film’s content was seized by the US Customs Department and taken to court followed by which many cities banned it. You may watch it here.

29. In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Directed by Nagisa Ōshima, this erotic art drama stars Eiko Matsuda, Tatsuya Fuji, Aoi Nakajima, and Yasuko Matsui. Striking in terms of its unstimulated sexual content, the film centers on Sada Abe, a former prostitute who now works as a hotel maid. Despite being molested by the hotel owner, the two get into an intense affair. As their mutual obsession increases, Sada realizes that nothing gives her more pleasure than strangling the man while having sex. And in the process, she even kills him. The movie is a fictionalized treatment of a murder committed by a Japanese woman named Sada Abe in 1936. She not only killed the man, but she also cut off his private parts and carried them with her. Her actions have her nationwide popularity while the story itself has acquired a mythical status. You can watch ‘In the Realm of the Senses’ here.

28. Crash (1996)

‘Crash’ is directed by David Cronenberg and stars James Spader, Holly Hunter, and Deborah Kara Unger. Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by J. G. Ballard, this surreal film combines the rawness of car accidents and sexual energy. When James Ballard finds himself sexually aroused by car accidents after undergoing one that severely injures him, he and his wife, both of whom have been trying to rekindle their sex life, join a cult that takes pleasure in car crashes and re-enacts famous ones for the same. As weird as it sounds, the film is a fun watch, disregarding its sex scenes.

27. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this is a Mexican road movie (English: ‘And Your Mother Too’) that revolves around two guys/best friends, Julio and Tenoch, and an older woman named Luisa. After the girlfriends of the two boys head off for a vacation, the boys, enamored by Luisa, invite her to a fictitious beach. While declining the offer at first, she ultimately agrees after finding out that her husband has cheated on her. Thus begins their journey and, along with it, an exploration of their sexual experiences that ultimately leads to both the boys having sex with Luisa. More truths come to the surface and pose a threat to the friendship of Julio and Tenoch. Will Luisa be able to keep them from breaking apart? You can find out by streaming the film here.

26. Lust, Caution (2007)

This Ang Lee directorial is set in Japan-controlled Shanghai (World War II) and tells the story of a female college student from Hong Kong. She is hired by a Chinese theater troupe to seduce and assassinate Japanese collaborator Mr. Yee. This she will have to by befriending Yee’s wife and then getting him involved in an affair. However, complications arise when the lady finds herself falling for Yee. Whether she overcomes her emotions or gives in to them is what we see in the film, along with a lot of sex scenes and the outcome of the assassination plot itself. You may watch the film here.

25. Elles (2011)

‘Elles’ is a shocking film that could have easily fallen under the class of a soft-core porn feature had it been more explicit. Following a female journalist played by Juliette Binoche, who, as part of her assignment, enters a prostitution ring run by college students, much of the sleazy activities that warrant this film a place on this list happen while she is there. Though nothing is too graphic, several key sex acts are implied and performed on screen. These include blowjobs, masturbation, and pleasurable lovemaking. Being a witness to such events, there is a scene where the journalist herself gets intrigued well enough to try out the sex acts for herself. You can watch the movie here.

24. Henry & June (1990)

In the novel from which this film is adapted, Anais Nin’s character is intrigued by the titular couple, who help decorate her erotic writing style. Charmed by the way they go about their sexual lives, she takes inspiration to spice up her own back home with her husband Hugo. Not really constrained by means of a structured plot, the film sees Anais going about and exploring the different layers of human seduction by making love with several other people, including Henry himself, at a point in the tale.

23. The Canterbury Tales (1972)

Adapting eight of the famous Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, the film has its base set amongst a couple of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury, on a journey that is absolutely mundane and boring, forcing them to tell stories to excite themselves. These stories are excessively erotic in nature, and translating that to film Pasolini-style easily makes a lot of the visuals seemingly pornographic in nature. Of course, the difference here is the coherent structure and the unwillingness to exhilarate the audience sensually (a trait in even the sexiest of the director’s films), but since the tales are particularly sexy themselves, there are little setbacks and corner-cuts thrown in, to communicate the essence of these short retellings in their full. This is one of Pasolini’s more simple watches, which isn’t saying much, because he never made easy films. You can stream the film here.

22. Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman (1975)

While any of the Emmanuelle films could have been mentioned here, ‘The Joys of a Woman’ is a film where pretty much all the elements of cinema that can be manipulated to attract the senses of the audience in a sensual manner have been effectively executed. Let it be Francis Lai’s seductive music, or the soft portrait-like lighting set-up making each scene resemble a painting of some sort, or the abundant lovemaking that comes as a result of an admittedly poor script, or simply lead Sylvia Kristel’s eyes – everything about this film is erotica at its absolute best. This cinematic push given to the genre through artistic elements makes it more exciting than the standard sex film. You can stream ‘Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman’ here.

21. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

A lot of the pornographic films of today owe their tropes to Russ Meyer’s early works like this one, which is covered from top to bottom in women who crave nothing but sex. Following the story of three pop singers who wish to make it big after coming to Hollywood, the film attempts a rather weak parody of celebrity culture that is funny in the way a B movie would tickle your ribs. There’s some good nudity here and there, but the connection to be made here with pornography is in the characters themselves. You can stream the film here.

20. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)

Though the classic ‘The Devil in Miss Jones’ (1973) garnered a huge collection at the box office when it came out and has a couple of pivotal nude scenes that resemble, in some ways at least, a handful of moments from the aforementioned Golden Era of Porn masterwork. ‘Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!’ is directed by Pedro Almodovar. Following the lives of an ex-convict porn star and a mentally slanted man who lures her in with his charm, the film talks about their odd, highly violent, and misogynistic relationship that apparently springs out of a lack of understanding on both their parts on the question of how to carry forth an intimate romantic venture. You can check out the movie here.

19. Sex and Lucia (2001)

Narrated from the perspective of a possibly eccentric writer, who happens to be the boyfriend of the titular Lucia, it really is he who leads the tales that are told. It is only the images that he conjures up in his imagination that we see unfold on film, all of which may perhaps be a confused recollection or a poetic interpretation of his past and all the things that led him to where he is now. This film is extremely explicit with its content, featuring some of the boldest scenes ever put to screen, but they all aid the sedated atmosphere in some way or the other, making for a worthwhile cinematic experience. You can watch the movie here.

18. Tokyo Decadence (1992)

Ryu Murakami’s directorial venture is nothing short of an assessment of the world around us, the people residing here, and their brutality, coldness, and lack of empathy, traced along the outlines of its presentation of a sexually charged little locality in Japan, lit by neon lights and populated by introverted people. The calmness we see outside is a façade, hiding the derivation of sensual pleasures through sadomasochistic methods that people (both of respectable occupations and otherwise) partake in within the walls of their residences. We follow a naïve, young call girl who walks around these parts as she is used, battered, and torn up by her clients, though she bears it all and stays submissive throughout. Murakami’s film cuts no corners in its depiction of human violence in connection to sexual excitement, and that is where it finds a connection close to several of the BDSM works churned out in pornography. You may watch the film here.

17. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989)

Sporting one of the greatest and most descriptive titles to ever find themselves attached to a feature film, ‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover’ signifies a pattern of infidelity and colorful characters. Singular colors give walls of specific rooms within the restaurant in which this film takes place certain human traits, making for an unnerving, claustrophobic experience, only heightened by the showcase of violence here. The nudity is something of a saving grace in that sense since it is plentiful, and though not always erotic, its presence guides the story about a woman who finds comfort in a male guest who frequently resides in her husband’s restaurant. Throwing filmy niceties out of the window, this picture is uncaring and unconcerned about anything to do with morality, which is what makes it so great.

16. Je Tu Il Elle (1974)

For the most part, ‘Je Tu Il Elle’ feels like your standard unconventional art-house masterpiece. It is in the last ten minutes or so of the picture that it totally flips out and becomes something resembling a porn film, although it doesn’t compromise much on the aesthetic side. Directed by Chantal Akerman, one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, she appears as one of the women who take part in the final, stretched-out lesbian sex scene, which is miserably passionate. You can check out the film here.

15. Caligula (1979)

An erotic historical drama film that focuses on the rise and fall of the Roman Emperor Caligula and stars famous names like Malcolm McDowell, Teresa Ann Savoy, Helen Mirren, and Peter O’Toole. Caligula was infamous for sleeping with his own sister and organizing elaborate orgies. The film saw its fair share of controversies when the producer decided to film explicit, unstimulated sex scenes that the director had refused to film.

14. Intimacy (2001)

The film, despite featuring some explicit sex scenes, has a beautiful, emotional core to it. It is the story of Jay, a failed musician, who is visited by a woman every Wednesday afternoon at his house, where they have graphic, almost wordless, sex. One day, Jay follows her and finds out about the rest of her life. That changes their relationship. The film divided the critics; some thought it to be a masterpiece, whereas others felt it was another exercise in eroticism. You may watch it here.

13. Il Futuro (2013)

‘Il Futuro’ aka ‘The Future’ is a story of two orphans, Bianca and Tomas, who develop a scheme to rob an aging movie star and one-time Mr. Universe. The plan is to have Bianca seduce the now-blind star so they can get access to his hidden fortune. Part psychological thriller and part erotic drama, the film has several sexually charged scenes. You may watch ‘Il Futuro’ here.

12. The Dreamers (2003)

‘The Dreamers’ has some of the most memorably beautiful and provocative sex scenes ever filmed. Actress Eva Green was pretty nervous about taking up the project because of the film’s graphic depiction of sex, and her parents almost begged her not to take the lead role as they did not want her life to be destroyed the way Maria Schneider’s life had been after the hugely controversial ‘Last Tango in Paris.’ However, ‘The Dreamers’ is another cinematic gem that deepens the distinguished oeuvre of one of the most controversial filmmakers of all time.

11. 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)

An erotic romance directed by Adrian Lyne, ‘9 1/2 Weeks’ has Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in the leads. It showcases the sexual relationship between art gallery assistant Elizabeth and Wall Street trader John in the aftermath of the former’s divorce. As John becomes more and more intense in his sexual scenarios, Elizabeth, though succumbing to her attraction towards him, wonders about the effects of these experiences on herself, especially since she doesn’t know anything about John. Will this eventually compromise what they have? To know more, you may stream the movie here.

10. Secretary (2002)

Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader, and Lesley Ann Warren, this Steven Shainberg directorial is an erotic rom-com based on Mary Gaitskill’s 1988 short story of the same name. It revolves around two people, Lee Holloway, who has a past of mental illness and currently serves as a secretary to attorney E. Edward Grey. But there’s more to them than their professional relationship, as they serve as playmates in different kinds of BDSM activities or sadomasochism. You can check out the film here.

9. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

Adele Exarchopoulos Lea Seydoux

‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ is a coming-of-age tale of Adele, an introverted high-school girl who discovers and explores her sexuality through Emma, an aspiring artist whose hair is the warmest shade of blue. But this film takes a more tender yet raw, passionate but not-too-schmaltzy approach to telling its story. But it isn’t an indulgent film bringing only a unique gay relationship to light, nor is it an ode to “coming out” with stockpiled clichés of “being different.” It shows how an interaction with a person, any person, can have a truly provocative impact. ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ is a touching ode to blossoming love, fiery passion, and same-sex relationships. You can check out the movie here.

8. Basic Instinct (1992)

A violent, suspended police detective investigates a brutal murder in which a manipulative and seductive woman could be involved. ‘Basic Instinct’ is famous for Sharon Stone’s leg-crossing scene, but that doesn’t mean that the film itself is not good. Without going too overboard, let’s just say that the film keeps you hooked till its climax (that’s masterfully left open-ended). And yes, it is still regarded as one of the iconic sex movies. You can watch the movie here.

7. Last Tango in Paris (1972)

From director Bernardo Bertolucci comes this erotic drama starring Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, and Jean-Pierre Léaud. The film is set in Paris and centers on an American expatriate named Paul, whose wife has recently committed suicide, and a young, engaged Parisian lady named Jeanne. While the very first encounter sparks a sexual relationship, albeit anonymous, between the two, Paul soon decides to leave Jeanne only to return later on. But this time, it is Jeanne who doesn’t want to indulge and goes to extreme lengths to make sure Paul stays away from her. How? Well, to see that, you may watch the film here.

6. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Perhaps there can’t be a more sickening and disturbing movie on misanthropy than ‘Salò,’ which even surpasses the greatest extreme pornographic acts of sodomy, coprophagia, and orgies combined.  While flaying, leashing, anal intercourses, fondling, victimization, and objectification of men and women are ubiquitous in the movie, what is extremely disturbing is the questionable sanity of the filmmakers or the conjurers of ‘Salò.’ How could a rational person even think of this? Nevertheless, watching a group of nine young men and women sodomized, mutilated, forced-fed with feces, humiliated, tortured, and killed is next to impossible. A film that is as much controversial as it is a memorable piece of cinematic art.

5. Love (2015)

Gasper Noe’s erotic 3D venture follows the lives of three eligible bachelors with a perennial penchant for adventures. The titillating drama opens up with a racy and sensual threesome between a pair of experienced ex-lovers, Murphy and Electra, and a fledgling novice exchange student from Denmark, Omi. The film ruffled feathers when it premiered at Cannes. Feel free to check it out here.

4. The Brown Bunny (2003)

The infamy that environed the lead actress of the movie was baffling. An A-list star at the time, Chloe Sevigny, had her imminent acting career ruined because of some really controversial scenes in the movie ‘The Brown Bunny.’ An uncensored and undiluted scene of Chloe performing fellatio on Vincent Gallo, the writer, producer, and director of the movie, who also starred in it, sent shockwaves through the industry. What made the issue more disturbing was Gallo’s open confession of his obsession with Chloe and his subsequent statement that he wouldn’t have done the movie if Chloe hadn’t been a part of it.

3. 9 Songs (2004)

A passion for live music unites two longing souls to embark on a journey of simulated intercourse and oral sex. Sounds weird, right? Well, because it purely is. Coming from the land of vestigial traditions and the Royal Queen, ‘9 Songs’ is a film that expectedly landed itself into controversies when it was released. The visceral representation of the physical expression of love between the leads is refreshing and distinctive.

2. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

There is no denying that ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ has a fair amount of eroticism in it. While the film surely has themes that are complex in nature, it has a thrilling element of surprise where, as audiences, we don’t know what to expect next. Its dream-like narrative, fueled by stunning visual detail, bravura performance from Nicole Kidman, and masterful use of Ligeti’s music, lends the film the ability to compel the audience to get lost in it and believe me, it is hard to recover. Cinema never remained the same. You may watch it here.

1. Nymphomaniac (2013)

Image result for nymphomaniac

Lars von Trier furthered his vague and alluring body of work with this European art film. The two-part, five-hour-long film is a vivid exploration of self-discovery, capitalistic greed, and addicted nymphomaniacs. The embellished venture of the film’s interchanging leads into the uncharted territory of sex addiction, and the subsequent finding of love is a treat to watch. The film has several explicit and unstimulated sex scenes that take the film dangerously close to being porn. You may watch ‘Nymphomaniac’ here.

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