30 of the Sexiest Erotic Thrillers of All Time

What exactly is going on in this erotic thriller? The distribution of sexy programmers followed a bell curve, rising as production code relaxed in the late 1960s, peaking in the 1980s with prestige titles like Fatal Attraction , and tapering off in the mid-2000s with franchises cultural dominance. Today's box office values ​​big-budget, four-quadrant blockbusters, making it nearly impossible to market movies about adult sexuality.

Streaming has opened a window for films similar to the erotic thrillers of yesteryear, but the kind of films they used to produce that featured horrifying suspense and big stars remain conspicuously absent from theaters. (Genre maestro Adrian Lyne even returned as director of the Ben Affleck/Ana de Armas Hulu thriller Deep Water in 2022 , a welcome return if largely Critically reviled.) Sex on the big screen is quietly making a comeback as the superhero wave recedes, but sex content on the big screen has dropped by nearly half since 2000. Many people would say this is a good thing; but it is not. Those people are wrong.

Yes, even the best examples have a lot to criticize. Sex is often more exciting than reality. These films are also almost always written and directed by men, emphasizing the male perspective, and many of the women who star in these films don't have the best time (think of Sharon Stone's repeated criticism of the film's iconic nude scenes ) Basic Instinct involves some nasty shenanigans from director Paul Verhoeven). Obviously explicit imagery isn't a requirement for porn, as some of these movies will show, but we're not here to be prudish either.

Yet, curiously, sex seems to have largely disappeared from movies released in mainstream theaters. So, without further ado, let's celebrate the best - or at least the funniest - examples of the kind of movie they no longer make.

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Any erotic thriller worth its salt must at least pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock, film noir, or both, and director Brian De Palma sets the tone with Dressed to Kill , a multi-faceted Juice is a suspense film involving a sex worker (Nancy Allen) who witnesses a murder and murder. Becoming both the prime suspect and the murderer's possible next victim. This style is absolutely delicious, and there's a reason it started a new trend; the combination of classic tropes and overt sex is almost too much to handle. Without spoiling too much, though, it's very much from a cinematic era where queer representation was limited to absolute shit-slayers, and thus loses by falling back on lazy (and overused even in 1980) stereotypes scored some points.

Live broadcast location: MGM+, Fubo

Dangerous Games (1993)

Provocative director Abel Ferrara is perhaps best known for Bad Lieutenant , while Madonna's very brief erotic thriller phase is often seen as epitomized by Body of Evidence . "Dangerous Game " is better than both of them, though: brutally direct, with several great starring performances from Harvey Keitel and Madonna. Keitel plays an independent director who becomes increasingly obsessed with the low-budget marital drama he's filming, while Madonna plays a young actress whose confidence is slowly eroded by the role and the director's increasingly frenzied demands.

Where to watch: Roku Channel, PlutoTV

The Stand (1984)

Far less successful than his previous "Dressed to Kill ," Brian De Palma's "The Stand" is in many ways a better film, beefing up the sex and violence while also simplifying the plot and Narrowed the focus. Craig Watson plays Scully, a failed actor who works as a housekeeper in the Hollywood Hills. While bored, he sees a beautiful woman through the house's telescope and then, of course, witnesses her murder. When he enlists the help of adult film actress Holly (Melanie Griffith in a career-defining role) to solve the problem, he becomes a suspect in the case and is drawn into the world of Hollywood porn. There’s nothing particularly sympathetic about Scully—he’s either a dupe or a poor decision-maker—but that’s how it should be. As with the best classic film noirs, we're not cheering for Scully; We are witnessing his long fall.

Where to stream: Netflix

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

As an erotic thriller, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut is a bit of a bait-and-switch, but only a little. The trailer promises to take everyone inside the bedroom of then-power couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, and Kubrick does as much in the film as he did in Space Travel or Ghost Hotel That way. And he does, just not in the way we expected: Bill Harford (Cruise) embarks on a long night's journey involving murder and a sex club filled with R-rated eccentricities, discovering the raw thrills of danger and The dehumanizing nature of sexual obsession. In his final film, Kubrick created an erotic thriller that challenged the expectations of the genre.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Angel Heart (1987)

Mickey Rourke stars as Harry Angel, a private detective who is contracted by Robert De Niro's Louis Cypher to track down an iconic singer who has gone missing. Not only does Angel's protagonist keep dying, but he also crosses paths with the singer's daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet), and has some memorably rough sex with her. There's plenty of style and erotic content on display, as well as a questionable voodoo aesthetic, but the film is memorable for its blend of tones and performances, especially those of Burnett and Rourke.

Where to watch: Hoopla, Kanopy

9 1/2 weeks (1986)

The film that helped make a name for director Adrian Lyne ( "Fatal Attraction , " "Indecent Proposal , " "Unfaithful" and 2022's "Deep Water" ) also stars Zalman King of "Red Shoe Diaries" fame. Co-screenwriter. At this point, it represents a team of erotic thriller royalty that's still valid thanks to early-career performances from Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. Rourke plays a Wall Street trader who leads Basinger's art gallery assistant down an increasingly eccentric path, much like Fifty Shades of Gray of the era (except with real heat).

Locke, whose career was at a very different stage at the time, starred in a direct-to-video sequel in 1997 but not in 1998's equally cheap prequel . That said, you could spend quite a bit of time in the passionate 9 1/2 weeks of poetry if you wanted to.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Elements of "Fatal Attraction" aren't as appealing today as they were thirty years ago, but it's still a tense, suspenseful thriller that incorporates adult sexual elements (including a memorably awkward sequence involving the kitchen sink) All the way to the Academy Awards; although it didn't win any awards, the film was nominated in all the top categories. Glenn Close (playing the femme fatale Alex) is clearly enjoying her time playing an unhinged woman who has completely lost her mind to married Dan (Michael Douglas). The setup has a strong "woman, amirite?" vibe to it, but the script is smart enough to recognize that Dan isn't a hero either, and the two develop a genuine passion.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Paramount+, MGM+

Threesome (2000)

What we think of as the erotic thriller genre is overwhelmingly white. The major studios already have little interest in making movies about and marketing to black people, and are clearly even less interested in dealing with sexuality in characters of color. This reticence is a big reason why "Troy" stands out, even if it doesn't subvert genre tropes in any other way. But it's also an interesting drama in its own right, about a man who convinces his wife to join him in a threesome, only to discover that their choice of third was unwise. As an independent film, it achieved respectable results and performed well among black audiences. It spawned two less successful but overall more sweaty sequels.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Tubi

No Way Out (1987)

There's a lot of Hitchcock in the more overtly sexual thrillers of the 1980s and 1990s, which fully reflected the master's more understated eroticism (Hitchcock himself seemed eager to explore filmmaking more freely in his films towards the end of his career ) like crazy ). The neo-noir film No Way Out certainly doesn't reach the heights of the film that inspired it, but it does make something of the twists and turns of a love triangle between Kevin Costner, Sean Young, and Gene Hackman Many contributions(!) Costner was the lead investigator on the murder and the prime suspect. It wasn't the biggest hit movie of the era, but there was definite chemistry, with Costner's all-American charm matching Young at the peak of her early career - before Hollywood's misogyny pushed her aside .

Where to stream: Tubi, MGM+, Pluto TV

Bad Influence (1990)

The female characters in this Curtis Henson film are almost entirely incidental, if you couldn't tell from the poster, which features Rob Lowe, James Spader and a bad guy whose face we can't see. An eye-catching woman. Nebisi Michael (James Spader) begins a relationship with the more experienced Alex (Rob Lowe), embarking on adventures involving sex, drugs and petty crime. It's all good and fun until Michael realizes that thrill-loving Alex is 100% going to get him killed. The film loses points for its lack of substantial female presence (and for its creepy casting choices that came back after Law's teen sex tape scandal), but stands out for focusing its sexual chemistry on its two mismatched male leads. .

Live broadcast location: MGM+

Basic Instinct (1992)

Basic Instinct became a bona fide pop culture phenomenon due to its controversy and quality, garnering multiple Academy Award nominations and widespread praise for Sharon Stone's career-defining performance. Director Paul Verhoeven ( "Showgirls ") knows how to elevate lurid material to an arty, or at least camp, level, so the film works, even if its central mystery doesn't make much sense. Michael Douglas stars as a police detective investigating a murder who becomes embroiled in an intense and occasionally eccentric romance with the prime suspect, Katherine Trammell (Stone). The bisexual serial killer angle was already a tired trope by the time the movie came out, but there's no doubt that Katherine Trammell is a memorable (and, I would argue, sex-positive) villain. Stone co-starred in 2006's big-budget, completely forgettable sequel.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Paramount+

Kingdom of the Senses (1976)

Generally speaking, erotic thrillers tend toward noir and neo-noir sensibilities, but I included this Japanese classic about sex, obsession, and being dismembered because this true crime story set in the 1930s has all the ingredients, even if the setting It's a little further than usual. Oshima Nagisa's provocative psychological tale incorporates considerable non-simulation and horror undertones in its tale of love and murder, based on geisha, sex worker, and unlikely folk hero Abe Sada (played by Eiko Matsuda Perfectly played) true story. This is a beautifully hypnotic film, aptly titled, that culminates in a truly shocking act of violence. The original X rating was updated to NC-17 in 1991.

Where to watch: Criterion Channel

Single White Female (1992)

The elevator pitch was solid enough that the term "single white woman" remains in the pop culture lexicon—Ellie (Bridget Fonda) is looking for a roommate when she meets Heidi (Jennifer Jason) Lee), Heidi is so obsessed with her new landlady that she wants to be her. In these terms, it's effective, even if it's more disturbing than you remember: Heidi is the latest and probably greatest in a long line of unhinged, murderous lesbians (gay sex scenes The filming was like we were suddenly in a horror movie) ). The film also suggested, as many movies still suggest, that female friends are always one step away from killing each other. Still, it's stylishly made, surprisingly funny, and has two great central performances.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

There's nothing explicit here, but that's not a special request: it's all about the desire to sublimate the sweaty Mediterranean, and this adaptation brings the subtext of Patricia Highsmith's novel (barely) to the foreground, as in Like any adaptation before or since. Sociopathic conman Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) becomes obsessed with Dicky Greenleaf, played by Jude Law, and wants to be with him as much as he wants to be him. The resulting relationship was far from healthy, especially for Dickie.

Where to stream: Paramount+

Indecent Proposal (1993)

This Adrian Lyne drama occupies a strange place in the pop culture musings of the early '90s, asking what it would be like to make a Robert Redford play about your spouse. And back his proposal with $1 million, what happens. In the more fluid world of 2022, the answer becomes more or less complicated. In 1993, this was a shameful thing.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Paramount+

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Mulholland Drive follows "Rita" (Laura Herring), an actress suffering from amnesia after a car accident in Los Angeles, who accidentally meets a healthy Midwestern transplant (Naomi Watts) ), she begins to become a star. The two try to uncover Rita's true identity and then have some undeniably sexy sex. The intimate moment becomes the turning point of the film, before the walls of reality are broken down and we enter a more overtly noir, almost horror world.

Where to watch: Criterion Channel

The Last Temptation (1994)

Linda Fiorentino plays one of the greatest femme fatales of all time in this film about a woman trying to escape an unhappy marriage. First convincing her husband (Bill Pullman) to sell cocaine (as one does), she creates a pyramid scheme of temptation with the goal of eventually getting back to the man who murdered her husband. Fiorentino's character is very good and well written, and we root for her throughout.

Where to watch: Peacock, Tubi, Freevee, Roku Channel, Shout Factory TV

Bondage (1996)

The film that introduced the world to the Wachowskis came out at a perfect time: independent films were starting to make an impact on mainstream audiences and queer content was starting to find its way into widely released films. It doesn't hurt that "Bound" is very sexy and a smart neo-noir inspired by Billy Wilder. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly are one of the most influential couples in film history; the erotic thriller genre leans toward lesbian exploitation, and feminist sex educator Suzy Boo The presence of Wright and two closeted trans women behind the camera almost entirely sidesteps these tropes.

Where to play: Pluto TV

Body Heat (1981)

Kathleen Turner plays an over-the-top femme fatale in Lawrence Kasdan's classic neo-noir, a dynamic with Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity To match, the film is loosely based but wears far less clothing. She plays the wife of a wealthy businessman who gets William Hurt involved in a conspiracy (involving Mickey Rourke) to murder her husband and run away with them (he thinks). The sex here is part of the game she plays with William Hurt, although he thinks he is toying with her.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Night (1994)

I'm not here to prove that "In the Night" is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. It's silly, to be honest, but it's no less than entertaining, playing like a farce in the erotic thriller genre (unintentionally, I assume?), including some unforgettably raunchy sex scenes. Bruce Willis plays Dr. Bill Capa, who witnesses a bloody tragedy after which he can no longer see red. After he becomes embroiled in a friend's murder mystery and begins a romance with the mysterious Rose (Jane March), heading to Los Angeles to escape it all proves to be a bad idea. The impressive supporting cast includes Rubén Blades, Lesley Ann Warren and Scott Bakula.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Obsession (2009)

As I think we've established so far, there are some erotic thrillers that work as legitimate movies, and others that function very effectively as guilty pleasures. While the best movies can do both, there's something to be said for a movie that's both sexy and a little silly. This is Obsession , about a successful black couple who are terrorized by a deranged, horny white woman (Ali Larter) at work. One of the reasons (perhaps the only reason) for its success is the wild casting of Beyoncé and Idris Elba in the lead roles. Not to spoil too much, but a climactic fight between Beyoncé and Larter's characters won an MTV award for Best Fight.

Where to Stream: Digital Rental

Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock inspired much of the erotic thriller genre, although he primarily worked in an era that required more subtlety - he wasn't a huge fan of the era, but took every opportunity to do as much as he could Push those boundaries. Vertigo, while not at all explicit, is one of his most erotic films and also his most disturbing. James Stewart stars as Scotty Ferguson, a retired cop hired to stalk the wife of an old friend, concerned about her mental state. Scottie falls in love with Madeline (Kim Novak) before she falls to her death. When Scottie, now suffering from clinical depression, meets someone who looks like her, his obsession leads her to reshape the woman in Madeleine's perfect image.

Where to play: Prime Video

Ring of Death (1988)

David Cronenberg did the same disturbing psychological turmoil after The Fly . Jeremy Irons stars as twin gynecologists Beverly and Elliot Mantle. The extroverted Elliot seduces women and impersonates them to deceive the shy Beverly. All is going well (for the creepy brothers) until Beverly develops feelings for Claire (Genevieve Bujold), which causes trouble for the brothers' relationship. Other films of this era might have played this for thrills, but David Cronenberg is fully aware of how unsettling the whole thing is, allowing the film to descend into very scary territory before the final act.

Where to stream: Peacock, Tubi, Freevee, Shout Factory TV

The Handmaiden (2016)

Director Park Chan-wook, known for stylish, over-the-top violent thrillers like "Oldboy" and "Mr. Vengeance ," has lent his flair for flashy excess to the genre, creating one of the best and most ubiquitous examples of the genre. . form. Set in Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s, the film follows thief Su Ji (played by Kim Tae Ri) as she plots to trick a wealthy heiress (played by Kim Min Hee) into becoming her maid, but when she develops feelings for her mark , complex situations ensue. Twist ensues as sex and romance lead to violence and betrayal - which is exactly what we sit down for.

Where to play: Prime Video

Wild Things (1998)

Depending on the viewer, Wild Things is either complete trash or a glorious ode to trash (obviously, it's not the only movie on this list that blurs that line). The plot begins with a disturbing portion of a false rape allegation, but then follows a seemingly endless series of turns and red herrings involving Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, and Denise Richards of trio. There's some new revelation in almost every scene, and the love triangle becomes a love triangle (at least) with the addition of Kevin Bacon, who delivers something memorable and rare in the genre. , male nude.

Where to stream: Netflix

Cruel Intentions (1999)

"Adultness" is almost a defining quality of erotica, which is why Cruel Intentions is almost as much of a juvenile parody of the genre as it is a thriller in its own right. It's also a YA adaptation of the French novel "Dangerous Liaisons," which has already been adapted into "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Valmont" — which suggests there's a lot to unpack here. Or maybe you're better off just enjoying this cult classic for the juicy, intentionally trashy fun it is. Reese Witherspoon plays Annette, who plans to remain "pure" until marriage, facing the horny, scheming couple played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe. Good luck to you.

Played at: Freevee

Infidelity (2002)

Just as director Adrian Lyne was ushering in a golden age for the genre, he swooped in to give a send-off to a thriller whose premise is evident from its title: Diane Lane (Diane Lane) plays Richard Gere, a bored wife who accidentally meets a man with whom she ends up having an affair. Annnndddd hints at the inevitable murder. Average overall, but worth it for Ryan's Oscar-nominated performance.

Where to play: Hulu

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

The erotic thriller peaked in the '90s and largely disappeared (except from the direct-to-video market) by the turn of the century, so much so that this 2013 French film looks like an homage to the older form, for the most part Just like some of the better thrillers of the 80s paid homage to film noir. Pierre Deladonchamps plays Franck here, a regular visitor to the nude beach and surrounding woods, both of which are popular cruising spots. Frank begins a passionate relationship (meaning: lots of sex in the woods) with Michelle (Christopher Pau), whom Frank later discovers drowned a man in a lake . As the investigation into the incident heats up, Frank finds it difficult to let go of a good thing, even in the face of murder. Like the protagonist in any good erotic thriller, the better the sex, the more adventurous Frank becomes.

Live broadcast location: Kanopy

Deep Water (2022)

Adrian Lyne ( "9 and a Half , " "Fatal Attraction ," "Indecent Proposal") returns to the director's chair after a two-decade absence with this Hulu original. Ben Affleck may be roughly on par with the leading men of yesteryear in terms of star power and sex appeal, and Ana de Armas is a solid choice as co-lead, even if The angle does remind us that the age gap in these movies always works to the advantage of the idea of ​​an older man and a much younger woman. Here, Affleck's Vic agrees to ignore his wife's series of extramarital affairs in order to keep his marriage together, but when her lovers start dying, he becomes the prime suspect. It's a solid set-up (taken from Patricia Highsmith's novel) that, while not quite coherent, is still a reminder that there's a little bit of life in the time-honored genre.

Where to play: Hulu

Thorburn (2023)

Yes, it plays a bit like The Talented Mr. Ripley without the subtext - but maybe we're past the subtext now. Scholarship student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) cunningly worms his way into the life of popular, handsome and wealthy Felix Carton (Jacob Elordi). Oliver does his best there, but he's also genuinely smitten with Felix, creating romantic moments in the bathtub and on an open grave. If Oliver couldn't have Felix and his luxurious life and palatial estate, he would have chosen the second one, thank you.

Where to play: Prime Video