There's no need to blush here: Dirty movies are actually a fantastic subgenre of film. Beneath the simmer and sumptuousness of a good sex scene, dirty and sexually-charged films have a way of ushering in conversations around heftier topics like race, gender, and (as a favorite of the genre), female sexuality in particular. Basically, dirty movies can be super thought-provoking and if you don't believe me, keep reading. I am well-studied in the art of an intelligent, sexy movie and I am more than happy to open up your mind to this wonderful world.
I'll admit it's easy to get stuck on the sexiness of a dirty movie when you're being asked to parse out the more high-brow themes the film is bringing to the table. "Can a film really show a woman being brought to orgasm while second later discussing how she feels, psychologically, about the kinds of men she has sex with?" To that, I answer "Yes" because a film can do that and actually has done it: 2013's Nymphomaniac Vol. I and Vol. II (more on those below).
It is interesting to note than a great many of the most thought-provoking dirty movies really concentrate on female desire, sexuality, and working through what the intersection of modern female sexual habits look like. From the way society shapes women to the way women perceive their own sexual boundaries, dirty films really love bringing them into focus. On that note, let's take a deep dive into the world of thought-provoking dirty films.
Alright, our first entry on our list brushes very hard against the boundaries of softcore pornography, but trust me: as provocative and sexual as Love is, it's also deeply thought-provoking. Exploring the intoxicating and sexually-charged boundaries of a love triangle between three young people, Love is at times a meditation on the darkness of human passion, the beauty of sexual liberation, and what modern society demands on millennials who are searching for love.
2. Magic Mike XXL
Talk about having a hell of a lot of fun while talking about sex. Magic Mike XXL was made with keeping and honoring female sexuality and sexual desire to the fullest extent. The dudes of Magic Mike XXL regularly talk about why they do what they do, often discussing how their prime directive is to make sure women feel they are seen, appreciated, and fulfilled. The sequel to Magic Mike is surprisingly thoughtful, although you may need to concentrate on those thoughtful ideas when faced with some seriously sexy man abs.
3. Nymphomaniac Vol. I And II
Director Lars von Trier's sexiest and most explosive film is focused on a young female nymphomaniac. Over the course of two films, we not only witness some incredibly explicit sex scenes (somewhat sympathetically shot in favor of female protagonist Joe), but we listen as Joe recounts her sexual escapades and connects them to her own search for true love, spiritual fulfillment, and how she came to be this way. It's a bitter, thought-provoking and exacting tale of female sexuality.
4. The Duke Of Burgundy
The international art house answer to Fifty Shades of Grey is the undoubtedly sexy, semi-'60s pastiche, and very sexy character study The Duke of Burgundy. In world where there are no men, two women are engaged in an intimate, intense, BDSM-laden relationship that leaves them grappling with what they desire most from their union. BDSM is used as a way for The Duke of Burgundy to discuss women exploring their control and influence over one another, what kind of effect that has, and whether or not women even have a right (romantically, personally, psychologically) to attempt to dominate or submit to one another in these deeply affecting situations.
Wetlands is going to shock you. It might make you gag. It will probably leave you clutching onto a pillow out of pure squeamishness. However, it is also going to make you think deeply. We're introduced to Helen, a German teen with somewhat extreme sexual proclivities. Through her, we are made to reconsider how women sexually mature, especially through emotional trauma and duress.
6. Sleeping Beauty
There may be an instinct here to, as a viewer, reject Sleeping Beauty on moral grounds. The plots a bit of an unusual one, to be fair: college student Lucy finds a job where she lets men sleep beside her while she's sedated in order to earn money. There's some serious implications about Lucy's safety in the film but what Sleeping Beauty also interestingly explores is female sexual repression and the limits of intimacy within its set-up.
7. Black Snake Moan
Chaining a young woman to a radiator, half-naked and beaten up, may sound like some kinky business, but Black Snake Moan has more meaningful things on its mind. Through the cautious and platonic bond formed between characters Lazarus and Rae, Black Snake Moan uses things like sex and violence as a starting point for unpacking the unsavory and heartbreaking histories of these two broken people. It provokes thought as much as it provokes the viewer's morals and preconceived notions about these two people.
8. Basic Instinct
Erotic thrillers don't get any better than Basic Instinct. This '90s flick features peak Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas furtively investigating one another while sexing it up. This movie — complete with gratuitous and infamous upskirt flash — intriguingly explores the femme fatale archetype in film through the murderous and sexy Catherine Tramell.
9. Fifty Shades Of Grey
The first installment in the Fifty Shades franchise was definitely sexy, dirty, and all things tantalizing. Yet its somewhat vanilla approach to the sordid world of BDSM and power dynamics within a relationship — themes that get unpacked through protagonist Anastasia Steele – is what makes this film more thought-provoking than you might have expected.
You may scoff, but Showgirls is a campy masterpiece. The cult of obsession that has arisen around this film in the 20-plus years since its release has meant that this sexy, silly movie has gotten a more serious lens of analysis thrown onto it; watching this film demands questioning it. Even if it's just critically engaging with this film's portrayal of female sexuality and agency in an industry that thrives on objectifying women, Showgirls works no matter how seriously you take it.
11. Blue Is The Warmest Color
You may roll your eyes because somehow Blue Is The Warmest Color often ends up on lists about sexually-charged movies regardless of how you try to specifically class it. That's because this deeply intimate and sexual film is applicable to lots of sub-categories and is actually such a damn good film, it deserves to pop up everywhere. In this instance, Blue Is The Warmest Color's exploration of sexual awakening, young queer love, and the deep impressions and attachments that passion can leave on the female psyche are all on the table. It makes the sex between protagonists Adèle and Emma more enlightening, the fights more intense, and the resolution more heartbreaking.
All this talk of dirty, thought-provoking movies definitely just gave me inspiration for what to Netflix and chill with tonight.