Mainstream and Arthouse Erotic Movies

Editor's note

Editor's note: this page is under heavy construction, we have currently these following pages that deal with eroticism, sex and nudity in film:
  • sex in film the history of sex, nudity and eroticism in film, general approach, includes timeline of sex in films
  • nudity in film the portrayal of nudity before the seventies, first time pubic hair in the cinema
  • nudie films genre of films featuring nudism/naturism, the fifties and early sixties
  • NC 17 films (violence in films may also be rated NC17 (US rating) too, though this happen less frequently)
  • pornographic film from the days of clandestine private shows at the beginning of the twentieth century, up to the age the VCR
  • Banned films films may be banned for reasons of violence, eroticism and politics
  • R18 films (UK)

Over the next few days, we will reassemble the pages to fit the schema above.


What we understand under erotic movies depends largely on what we define as erotic.

For the purpose of this site, mainstream erotic movies are those movies that were/are allowed to play in mainstream, first run theatres in Europe, the US and the UK. By the same token, arthouse erotic movies are those movies that were/are allowed to play in arthouse or reperteroy theatres in Europe, the US and the UK.

Since the advent of the VCR and later the DVD, theatres are not the only place where films can be watched so our criterium here is, movies that are available through Amazon.

There was a time - around the mid seventies - when pornography was played in mainstream theatres. This era has been dubbed the porno chic era. It came just after the sexual revolution and before the popularization of VCR. Many mainstream directors started to include sex and nudity in their movies; at the time it was hip to do so. And people of all walks of life went to mainstream cinemas to see movies like Deep Throat (1972) and In the Realm of the Senses (1976).

Recent movies that are doing well at Amazon are the Swimming Pool (2003), Sex and Lucia (2001), Y tu Mama Tambien (2001), The Dreamers (2003), Secretary (2002) and Irréversible (2002).

This page can be divided in the work of directors who have consistently played a role in the representation of eroticism in arthouse and mainstream cinema:

...there are also those directors that were always active in the erotic movie business, not catering for first run theatres, but more for grindhouse theatres

... and one hit wonders: individual movies, not made by a famous director, but movies that influenced eroticism in cinema by being the right movie at the right time.

Another subdivision are those films that deal with sexuality and gender but that portray hardly any nudity nor sex. Examples of those are for example The Servant (1963)

One last subdivision are movies which portray a great deal of nudity/eroticism/sex but can hardly be called erotic. Examples that come to mind are Intimacy (2000), Sweet Movie (1974), I Am Curious Yellow/I Am Curious Blue (1967), Irréversible (2002), Quiet Days in Clichy (1970)


Erotic movies appeared shortly after the creation of the movie technology that made them possible. Erotic films have much in common with other forms of erotica. --adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornographic_movie [sept 2004]

History of Erotic Films [...]

The history of erotic films began five minutes after the film medium was invented with The Kiss (1896) and Douche après le bain (1897).

Nudity in film [...]

Art or Porn?

"Art" has long functioned as a code word for erotica in certain contexts. Phrases like "art photos," "art films," "art house" have all been coopted by clever entrepreneurs to market porn — soft and hard — to audiences who could more easily accept the idea under this respectable rubric. [...]

Despite the convenience of the label, truly artistic erotica has always been a rarity in any genre. For every successful novel like Lolita or Terry Southern's Blue Movie, there are a zillion trash-pulp derivatives from Beacon, Beeline, Pad, Saber, and other legendary sleaze publishers. For every Mapplethorpe there are reams of tired commercial porn mags bulging on pornshop shelves. Cinema's no different. --Gary Morris for brightlightsfilm

The history of sex in film [...]

The story of sex in the movies is really two stories. For all practical purposes, they begin at the same moment - the invention of motion pictures - but take off running in parallel universes. One is the story of a very public debate over how much of the reality of human sexuality can be shown, discussed or even implied in movies meant for general audiences; the second is the story of an entire industry thriving along underground yet rarely even mentioned in polite company until the 1970s. --http://www.greencine.com/static/primers/adult1.jsp [Sept 2004]

Gay cinema [...]

Erotic and non-erotic.

Porno Chic [...]

  1. Deep Throat (1972) - Gerard Damiano [Amazon UK]
    Deep Throat Linda, frustrated that her hugely energetic sex life leaves her unsatisfied, seeks medical help. The doctor informs her that the reason for her problem is that her clitoris is mistakenly located at the back of her throat - but there is a very simple remedy, which the doctor, and various other men, proceed to demonstrate...

    Damiano's Deep Throat (1972) became porn's cross-over hit, as Damiano recognised that, with changes in structure and publicity, its explicit content could be rendered acceptable to a wider audience. Unlike most previous porn films, Deep Throat was feature-length, with a script and a plot, its sex scenes thus being justified by their narrative context. The film played in mainstream cinemas, its success being dubbed 'porno chic'. --Matthew Hunt

  2. Emmanuelle (1974) - Just Jaeckin [Amazon US]
    Sylvia Kristel became an international star as a result of this French screen adaptation of Emmanuelle Argan's controversial book about the initiation of a diplomat's young wife into the world of sensuality. As the pretty wife of a French ambassador in Bangkok, Emmanuelle discovers a burning sexual passion she has previously repressed. Under the tutelage of the wise old Mario, and with her husband's complicity, Emmanuelle discovers the joys of eroticism and lets herself slide into pleasure. --From the Back Cover

Erotic Horror [...]

  1. Peeping Tom (1962) [1DVD, Amazon US]
    Michael Powell lays bare the cinema's dark voyeuristic underside in this disturbing 1960 psychodrama thriller. Handsome young Carl Boehm is Mark Lewis, a shy, socially clumsy young man shaped by the psychic scars of an emotionally abusive parent, in this case a psychologist father (Michael Powell in a perverse cameo) who subjected his son to nightmarish experiments in fear and recorded every interaction with a movie camera. Now Mark continues his father's work, sadistically killing young women with a phallic-like blade attached to his movie camera and filming their final, terrified moments for his definitive documentary on fear. Set in contemporary London, which Powell evokes in a lush, colorful seediness, this film presents Mark as much victim as villain and implicates the audience in his scopophilic activities as we become the spectators to his snuff film screenings. Comparisons to Hitchcock's Psycho, released the same year, are inevitable. Powell's film was reviled upon release, and it practically destroyed his career, ironic in light of the acclaim and success that greeted Psycho, but Powell's picture hit a little too close to home with its urban setting, full color photography, documentary techniques, and especially its uneasy connections between sex, violence, and the cinema. We can thank Martin Scorsese for sponsoring its 1979 rerelease, which presented the complete, uncut version to appreciative American audiences for the first time. This powerfully perverse film was years ahead of its time and remains one of the most disturbing and psychologically complex horror films ever made. --Sean Axmaker

  2. Maschera del demonio, La (aka Black Sundayà (aka The Mask of Satan) (1960) - Mario Bava [1 DVD, Amazon US]
    The reigning masterpiece of Italian horror cinema, Mario Bava's Black Sunday remains one of the most stylishly photographed of all horror films, ranking with any other black-and-white film of lasting repute. This was the master cameraman's official directorial debut, and his striking compositions are the work of a genuine artist in peak form. Loosely adapted from a story by Nikolai Gogol, this chilling vampire tale begins in 17th-century Moldavia, where the evil Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) is executed for witchcraft and vampirism, along with her brother Javutich (Arturo Dominici). Two centuries later, a pair of traveling doctors discover Asa's crypt and inadvertently revive the evil princess, whose scheme of vampiric revenge is aimed at her own identical descendant Princess Katia, an innocent beauty (also played by Steele) whose lifeblood will ensure Asa's immortality.
    Influenced by Universal's classic horror films of the '30s and British Hammer films of the late '50s, Black Sunday (released in Italy as The Mask of Satan) is a dark fairy tale, with horror queen Steele as the definitive embodiment of erotic horror. With shocking violence (tame by today's standards) and visual emphasis on tombs, secret passages, ominous castles, and unseen forces, the film offers a wealth of memorable imagery and inventive technique. Redubbed, rescored, and harshly edited for its American release in 1961, Black Sunday is presented on DVD in the original English-language director's cut of The Mask of Satan, never before available in the U.S. The perfect movie to watch on a dark and stormy night, this timeless classic is the Citizen Kane of horror films, entirely worthy of its lofty reputation. --Jeff Shannon for amazon.com

SM in Mainstream Movies [...]

With rare exceptions like "The Night Porter," cinematic sadomasochism (usually in the form of a cartoonish leather-clad dominatrix wielding a riding crop) has tended to be a visual joke shoehorned into a movie to certify its sexual hipness. But when it becomes the subject of a film, the humor vanishes, and the mood turns grim and clinical. [This is a long list]

Hollywood is a purveyor of the sensational, the glossy, the pseudo-hip. So it was just a matter of time before themes of sadomasochism and fetish sex made their way into the movies. Beginning in the Eighties, movies gave mainstream audiences their first sustained look at the forbidden world of dominance, submission, and BD/SM. True, in most cases these movies offered sinister, heavy-handed portrayals, but the door to the masked chamber creaked open, and more than just a crack. --William, http://www.uncommon-ground.org/movies.htm [Dec 2004]

The Servant (1963) - Joseph Losey [Amazon.com], Femina Ridens - The Frightened Woman (1969) - Piero Schivazappa [Amazon.com], Night Porter (1974) - Liliana Cavani, The Story of O (1975) - Just Jaeckin [Amazon US] , The Image aka The Punishment of Anne (1975) - Radley Metzger [Amazon US] , Maitresse (1976) [Amazon.com] Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami [Amazon.com], Secretary (2002) - Steven Shainberg [Amazon.com]

By Year (1900-1999)

Sex in film, theatrically released or with a clear connection to the mainstream. Sex in this list does not necessarily mean nudity nor eroticism. In short, films that tell something about our cultural morals via our sexual morals.

  • 1896
    The Kiss (1896) - William Heise
  • 1897
    Douche après le bain (1897) - Louis Lumière
  • 1898
  • 1899
  • 1900
  • 1901
  • 1902
  • 1903
  • 1904
  • 1905
  • 1906
  • 1907 El Sartorio (1907)
  • 1908
  • 1909
  • 1910 Am Abend (1910)
  • 1911
  • 1912
  • 1913
    Traffic in Souls (1913) - George Loane Tucker
  • 1914
    Damaged Goods (1914)
  • 1915
    A Fool There Was (1915) - Frank Powell
    A Free Ride (1915)
  • 1916
    The Sex Lure (1916)
  • 1917
    The Tiger Woman (1917), Cleopatra (1917) both starring Theda Bara
  • 1918
  • 1919
    Male and Female (1919) - Cecil B. DeMille
    Opium (1919) - Robert Dinesen
  • 1920
    The Tree of Knowledge (1920)
  • 1921

    The Sheik (1921) -starring Valentino
  • 1922
    Blood and Sand (1922) -starring Valentino
  • 1923
  • 1924
  • 1925
    The Merry Widow (1925) - Erich von Stroheim
  • 1926
    Son of the Sheik (1926) -starring Valentino
  • 1927
    It (1927) - Josef von Sternberg, Clarence G. Badger, Hula (1927) (both It and Hula starred Clara Bow
  • 1928
    Un Chien Andalou - Dali/Buñuel
    Pandora's Box (1928), starring Louise Brooks
  • 1929
    Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages) (1929) Benjamin Christensen
    Queen Kelly (1929) - Erich von Stroheim
  • 1930
    L'Age d'Or (1930) - Luis Bunuel
    The Blue Angel (1930) - Josef von Sternberg
    Madam Satan (1930) - Cecil B. De Mille
  • 1931
    Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) - F.W. Murnau
  • 1932
    Extase (1932) - Gustav Machatý
  • 1933
    Queen Christina (1933) - starring Greta Garbo
    42nd Street (1933)
  • 1934
  • 1935
    The Devil is a Woman (1935) - Josef von Sternberg
  • 1936
  • 1937
    Damaged Goods (1937) - Phil Goldstone
  • 1938
  • 1939
  • 1940
  • 1941
  • 1942 Sex Hygiene (1942) - Otto Brower, John Ford
  • 1943
  • 1944
  • 1945
    Mom and Dad (1945) - William Beaudine
  • 1946
  • 1947
    Anger 1 (1947) - Kenneth Anger
  • 1948
  • 1949
  • 1950
    Un Chant d'Amour (1950) - Jean Genet
  • 1951
  • 1952
  • 1953
    Summer With Monika (1953) - Ingmar Bergman
  • 1954
  • 1955
    Garden of Eden (1955) - Max Nosseck
  • 1956
    ...And God Created Woman - (1956) Roger Vadim
  • 1957
    I Vampiri (1957) - Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda
  • 1958
  • 1959
    The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959) - Russ Meyer
  • 1960
    Peeping Tom (1960) - Michael Powell
    The Virgin Spring (1960) - Ingmar Bergman
  • 1961
    Victim (1961) - Basil Dearden
  • 1962
    Jules and Jim (1962) - François Truffaut
    Knife in the Water (1962) - Roman Polanski
    Lolita (1955) - Stanley Kubrick
  • 1963
    Flaming Creatures (1963) - Jack Smith
    Tystnaden/The Silence (1963) - Ingmar Bergman
    Contempt (1963) - Jean-Luc Godard
    The Servant (1963) - Joseph Losey
  • 1964
    Sexus (1964) - José Bénazéraf
    The Dirty Girls (1964) - Radley Metzger
  • 1965
    I, A Woman (1965) - Mac Ahlberg
    Repulsion (1965) - Roman Polanski
    Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1965) - Russ Meyer
    The Alley Cats (1965) - Radley Metzger
  • 1966
    Persona (1966) - Ingmar Bergman
    Hugs and Kisses (1967) - Jonas Cornell
  • 1967
    Belle de Jour (1967) - Luis Buñuel
    Jag är nyfiken - en film i gult / I Am Curious ... Yellow/Blue (1967) - Vilgot Sjöman
    Blow-Up (1966) - Michelangelo Antonioni
  • 1968
    Teorema (1968) - Pier Paolo Pasolini
    Barbarella (1968) - Roger Vadim
    Histoires Extraordinaires aka Spirits of The Dead (1968) - Louis Malle, Roger Vadim, Federico Fellini
    If.... (1968) - Lindsay Anderson
    Therese und Isabell (1968) - Radley Metzger
  • 1969
    Easy Rider (1969) - Dennis Hopper
    Femina Ridens - The Frightened Woman (1969) - Piero Schivazappa
    The Libertine (1969) - Pasquale Festa Campanile
    Camille 2000 (1969) - Radley Metzger
    Kärlekens språk/Language of Love (1969) - Torgny Wickman
  • 1970
    Performance (1970) - Nicolas Roeg
    Donald Cammell The Lickerish Quartet (1970) - Radley Metzger
    Trash (1970) - Paul Morrissey
    Women In Love (1970) - Ken Russell
    Pornography in Denmark (1970) - Alex de Renzy
    Why? (1970) Eberhardt and Phyllis Kronhausen
  • 1971
    A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Stanley Kubrick
    Klute (1971) - Alan J. Pakula
    The Devils (1971) - Ken Russell History of the Blue Movie (1971) - Alex de Renzy
  • 1972
    Deep Throat (1972) - Gerard Damiano
    The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) - Rainer Werner Fassbinder
    Deliverance (1972) - John Boorman
    Behind the Green Door (1972) - Mitchell Brothers
    Last Tango in Paris (1972) - Bernardo Bertolucci
    Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) - Woody Allen
  • 1973
    La Grande Bouffe (1973) - Marco Ferreri
    Score (1973) - Radley Metzger
    The Mother and the Whore (1973) - Jean Eustache
  • 1974
    Le Fantôme de la liberté - (1974) Luis Buñuel
    Going Places (1974) - Bertrand Blier
    The Night Porter (1974) - Liliana Cavani
    Wife To Be Sacrificed (1974) - Masaru Konuma
    Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS (1974) - Don Edmonds
    Caged Heat (1974) - Jonathan Demme
    Sweet Movie (1974) - Dusan Makavejev
  • 1975
    The Story of O (1975) - Just Jaeckin
    The Image/The Punishment of Anne (1975) - Radley Metzger
    The First Nudie Musical (1975) - Mark Haggard
    Bruce Kimmel
    Salo (1975) - Pier Paolo Pasolini
    The Beast (1975) - Walerian Borowczyk
  • 1976
    Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima
    Maitresse (1976) - Barbet Schroeder
    Je t'aime
    moi non plus
    (1976) - Serge Gainsbourg
    Dirty and Bad
    (1976) - Ettore Scola
  • 1977
    Bilitis (1977) - David Hamilton
    Una Giornata Particolare (1977) - Ettore Scola
    Outrageous (1977) - Richard Benner
  • 1978
    La Cage Aux Folles (1978) - Edouard Molinaro
    Pretty Baby (1978) - Louis Malle
  • 1979
    The Brood (1979)- David Cronenberg
    Caligula (1979) - Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione
  • 1980
    Dressed to Kill (1980) - Brian De Palma
    Spetters (1980) - Paul Verhoeven
  • 1981
    Beau Pere (1981) - Bertrand Blier
    Taxi Zum Klo (1981) - Frank Ripploh
    Pixote (1981) - Hector Babenco
    Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981) - Marco Ferreri
  • 1982
    Cafe Flesh (1982) - Stephen Sayadian
    Querelle (1982) - Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • 1983
    Videodrome (1983) - David Cronenberg
    Woman in Flames (1983)
  • 1984
    Special Effects (1984) - Larry Cohen
    Tightrope (1984) - Richard Tuggle
    Crimes of Passion (1984) - Ken Russell
    The Company of Wolves (1984) - Neil Jordan
    Body Double (1984) - Brian De Palma
  • 1985
    Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) - Hector Babenco
    Tampopo (1985) - Juzo Itami
  • 1986
    Blue Velvet (1986) - David Lynch
    Betty Blue (1986) - Jean-Jacques Beineix
    Something Wild (1986) Jonathan Demme
    She's Gotta Have It (1986) - Spike Lee
    9 1/2 Weeks (1986) - Adrian Lyne
  • 1987
    Angel Heart (1987) - Alan Parker
  • 1988
    Story of Women (1988) - Claude Chabrol
    Tetsuo: The Ironman (1988) -- Shinya Tsukamoto
    Dangerous Liaisons (1988) - Stephen Frears
    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) - Pedro Almodóvar
  • 1989
    The Cook
    the Thief
    His Wife and Her Lover
    (1989) - Peter Greenaway
    Mr. Hire (1989) - Patrice Leconte
    sex, lies, and videotape (1989) - Steven Soderbergh
  • 1990
    Henry & June (1990) - Philip Kaufman
  • 1991
    My Own Private Idaho (1991) - Gus Van Sant
  • 1992
    Bitter Moon (1992) - Roman Polanski
    Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami
    Damage (1992) - Louis Malle
  • 1993
    Boxing Helena (1993) - Jennifer Chambers Lynch
  • 1994
    The Adventures of Priscilla
    Queen of the Desert
    (1994) - Stephan Elliott
  • 1995
    Wild Side (1995-98) - Donald Cammell
  • 1996
    Bound (1996) - Larry Wachowski
  • 1997
    Conspirators of Pleasure (1997) - Jan Svankmajer
  • 1998
    Fucking Åmål
    Show Me Love
    (1998) - Lukas Moodysson
  • 1999
    Romance (1999) - Catherine Breillat
  • 2000
    Baise-Moi (2000) - Coralie, Virginie Despentes
  • 2001
    Intimacy (2001) - Patrice Chéreau
  • 2002
    Irréversible (2002) - Gaspar Noé
  • 2003
    In the Cut (2003) - Jane Campion
  • 2004
    Ma Mère (2004) - Christophe Honoré


    1. Hollis Alpert-Arthur Knight Playboy series (series, 20 issues), “Sex in the Cinema.” (1965-1969)

    2. Eros in the Cinema (1966) - Raymond Durgnat [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK] [...]

    3. Ado Kyrou, Amour - érotisme et cinéma, Le Terrain Vague, 1957 [...]

    4. Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984 - Cathal Tohill, Pete Tombs [Amazon US]
      "I urge you: learn how to look at 'bad' films, they are so often sublime." This remark by Ado Kyrou heads up the introduction to Immoral Tales, from which horror and exploitation film fans, especially Americans, can learn much indeed. Not so much a movie guide as an insightful critical overview of European sex/horror films (there is much overlap between the two genres), this book is elegantly organized into a sequence of essays proceeding from general themes (the history of horrific art, the surgical metaphor), to regional styles (Italian, German, French, Spanish), to individual directors (Jesus Franco, Jean Rollin, José Larraz, José Bénazéraf, Walerian Borowczyk, Alain Robbe-Grillet). The writing is intelligent, engaging, and packed with fascinating historical and technical details. The book includes plenty of photos and poster art (including many in color), a useful appendix covering miscellaneous actors and directors, an index, and a bibliography. Immoral Tales was a finalist for the 1995 Bram Stoker Award in Nonfiction.

    5. Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror & Erotic Cinema (1996) Andy Black [Amazon.com]
      Necronomicon: Book one continues the singular, thought-provoking exploration of transgressive cinema begun by the much-respected and acclaimed magazine of the same name. The transition to annual book format has allowed for even greater depth and diversity within the journal's trademarks of progressive critique and striking photographic content. Includes:
      * Jean Rollin: The surreal and the sapphic
      * Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Exploitation or modern fairytale?
      * Barbara Steele: Icon of S/M horror
      * Frightmare: Peter Walker's psycho-delirium classic
      * Marco Ferreri: Sadean cinema of excess
      * Deep Throat: Pornography as primitive spectacle
      * Dario Argento: Tortured looks and visual displeasure
      * Last Tango in Paris: Circles of sex and death
      * H P Lovecraft: Visions of crawling chaos
      * Witchfinder General: Michael Reeves' classic of visceral violence
      * Herschell G. Lewis: Compulsive tales and cannibal feasts
      * Evil Dead: From slapstick to splatshtick [...]

    6. Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood - Mark A. Vieira [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      Prudes and the faint-of-heart shield your eyes! The stunning Sin in Soft Focus contains some of the most breathtaking black-and-white stills ever taken, all from the debaucherous decade before the Hollywood production code was established. With chapters devoted to "The Warners Grit," "The MGM Gloss," and "The Paramount Glow," and to horror films, gangster movies, and the sexy scandal of Mae West, Mark A. Vieira illustrates the story of classic Hollywood's most delightfully lascivious period--brought to a stop when Joseph Breen began enforcing the puritanical production code of 1934.

      The text of this book is fascinating even for those familiar with the films of the era, but the mesmerizing photographs are what will keep readers glued to the pages. Oversized and abundant stills capture stars like Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, William Powell, Mae West, Joan Blondell, James Cagney, and Greta Garbo in striking clarity, dashing poses, and of course, shockingly revealing outfits. Voyeurs seeking more on this naughty era will also want to read Thomas Doherty's Pre-Code Hollywood. --Raphael Shargel --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

    7. Sex in Films (1974) Parker Tyler [Amazon.com]
      It's good to see this fascinating book still in print after all these years. I believe the original 1974 edition went up to 8 or 9 printings. Where Parker Tyler found his material is anyone's guess. Jammed-full of photographs from obscure and well-known films, both Hollywood produced and from foreign countries, this book is casually laid-out which makes it great for thumbing through. Everytime I open the pages I find new and interesting facts I didn't know. Each picture carries a short caption identifying the film and the book is divided into chapters of sexual preference or deviation, like "Bedroom and Bath", "The Bosom and the Bottom" and "The Gay Sexes." (Hollywood didn't miss a thing!) The chapters describe every era of filmmaking and the fight with censors, eventually bringing us to 70's and Black Exploitation Films. Highly Recommended! --Tom Hopkinson , amazon.com

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