9 ½ Weaks: 14 Unsexiest ‘Erotic’ Movies
Arousing, tantalizing and titillating an audience is ostensibly the easiest thing a filmmaker can do. Take two (or more) good-looking people, have them get naked and watch the theater perk up with curiosity and lust.
Yet for every Basic Instinct and Mulholland Drive, there are scores of flaccid films that aim for the crotch, but hit the funny bone; movies so unsexy — due to bad chemistry, cheesy dialogue or implausible situations — that you question the first-hand carnal knowledge of everyone involved. We broke down the least sexy erotic films and looked at where they went wrong.
‘Stealing Beauty’ (1996)
Nearly a quarter of a century after helming the erotic classic Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci directs Liv Tyler in this tale of an American teenager "finding herself" in Tuscany and driving every man around her into a frenzy. Roger Ebert called the film "the kind of line a rich older guy would lay on a teenage model," with Bertolucci's eye for sumptuous visuals overshadowed by the film's ponderous pacing and duller-than-dirt sex scenes. The only thing it steals is two hours of your time.
One year after Showgirls, Andrew Bergman's Striptease earned headlines for both Demi Moore's multiple stripping scenes and the immediate critical drubbing it received. Moore plays a FBI secretary who resorts to "exotic dancing" to pay her legal bills in a child custody fight. While some saw it as a broad, Southern-fried satire of sleaze films, audiences were mostly turned off by the numerous stripping scenes that looked more technical than sexy. It did clean up at at least one award show, though, earning Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Actress, Worst Original Song and Worst Screen Couple at that year's Razzies.
‘The Canyons’ (2013)
Few films were more written about and dissected than Paul Schrader's The Canyons, thanks to the unholy trinity of its screenwriter (Bret Easton Ellis), star (Lindsay Lohan) and leading male (porn star James Deen). Still, a documentary on the various cast and crew infighting would be more compelling than the film itself, which pits young trust funders against each other in a series of warped mind games. Unsurprisingly, Lohan's animosity with both Deen and Schrader made its way to the screen. And while hate sex can be hot, restrained hostility diva sex is less so.
After leaving NYPD Blue after its first season, David Caruso earned a Worst New Star Razzie in 1995 for the one-two punch of the cliched thriller Kiss of Death and this psychological thriller. Caruso plays a district attorney investigating the prime suspect in a murder, who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend (Linda Fiorentino). Written by Joe Eszterhas (who won a Razzie for Worst Screenplay) and directed by The Exorcist director William Friedkin, Jade bombed immediately, with Friedkin dropping in staid, superfluous sex scenes that confused more than titillated.
‘Basic Instinct 2’ (2006)
Sharon Stone became a star thanks to her steamy turn as femme fatale crime novelist and icepick enthusiast Catherine Tramell; some 14 years later, the actress reprised her role in what was essentially the same plot as the original film — and the result wasn't exactly leg-crossingly exciting. What passed as erotic in the original now played as silly, with the more graphic scenes — including a melodramatic threesome — aiming more for shock value than sexiness.
Still riding high from playing a sexually charged murderess in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone followed up her career-making turn with this erotic thriller based upon voyeuristic landlord William Baldwin and his cast of eccentric tenants. Whereas sleaze pioneer Joe Eszterhas' script for Instinct was taut and suspenseful, using its power-through-sex motif as a way to advance the story, Sliver often feels like the previous film's sadder, more desperate cousin. "Anyone ever tell you you've got a very nice butt?" asks Baldwin, causing Stone to reply, "Nobody's told me that in a long time." Answers Baldwin: "That's because the wrong people have been looking at it."
‘Body of Evidence’ (1993)
The success of Basic Instinct led to a surge in sexy blonde female erotic thriller protagonists, which dovetailed perfectly with Madonna's most prurient phase of her career. With Erotica and the coffee table book Sex only three months old, the singer played a black-widow female whose multimillionaire lover dies in flagrante delicto and leaves $8 million to her. On paper, a hot wax candle scene between Madonna and Willem Dafoe is intriguing. It's hard to get in the mood, however, with Madge's wooden acting style in every scene.
‘Color of Night’ (1994)
A suspense film without suspense, Color of Night finds Bruce Willis as a psychiatrist who travels to Los Angeles after witnessing the suicide of a patient, and ends up falling for a mysterious girl named Rose (Jane March). While March, two years removed from her debut in Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Lover, showed promise, Willis ended up missing the mark — coming off more like your creepy, perverted uncle than a leading-man sex symbol. They could have called this Die Limp.
‘Boxing Helena’ (1993)
The directorial debut of David Lynch's daughter Jennifer revolves around a psychologically damaged doctor (Julian Sands) who obsesses over his titular neighbor (Sherilyn Fenn). After she gets hit by a car, Fenn finds both of her legs amputated by Sands, with both her arms soon to follow. Despite being made in 1993, the film's sex scenes are rife with cheesy Eighties signifiers including wind-swept hair, arrays of candles and bad power ballads.
‘Killing Me Softly’ (2002)
Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige has directed gorgeous films such as Farewell, My Concubine and Yellow Earth; unfortunately, the director was unable to translate his gift for storytelling to his English language debut, which finds Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes becoming lovers (and eventually spouses) after meeting by chance. We blame the casting director, as the Boogie Nights star and and Ralph's brother look like they shot each sex scene separately and were then digitally inserted back into the final product during post-production. The film's convoluted plot and sub-Hitchcockian themes make its 0% Rotten Tomatoes score suspiciously high.
The throwback Times-Square-porn-theater update of All About Eve quickly shot past "So bad it's good" status into multiple "Worst Movie of All Time" lists. Elizabeth Berkley plays Nomi, an aspiring dancer who climbs the pole of success in Paul Verhoeven's bomb-turned-cult-classic. And while it's easy to laugh at Joe Eszterhas' ludicrous script, there's enough unintentional pathos to every character that most sex scenes, dialogue aside, have a squirming discomfort that trumps any cinematic strip club fantasy. The film would go on to win seven Razzies and, nearly 20 years after its release, its 13 Razzie nominations has yet to be beaten.
‘Blown Away’ (1993)
When a giant stuffed animal covering your naked body is the most erotic thing in your "erotic thriller," you're in trouble. In between Charles in Charge and Baywatch, Nicole Eggert starred in this turgid film about a woman who falls for an employee (real-life fiancé Corey Haim) at the ski resort owned by her father. Lines like "Does this look like the body of a 16-year-old?" and "Wes and his amazing penis" do little for the libido. Very little.
‘Original Sin’ (2001)
"Do you believe that pleasure can ever be sinful?" Angelina Jolie asks Antonio Banderas in the only instance the word "pleasure" is associated with this film. Banderas plays Luis Antonio Vargas, a rich, 19th century entrepreneur who falls in love with imposter and con artist Jolie. Michael Cristofer's film noir was roundly mocked for its cringeworthy dialogue ("I give you all the keys to this house. The keys to his heart, you will have to find for yourself") and reliance on campy melodrama. For those of you who thought that it would be impossible to make a non-sexy film starring the stunning Jolie, we present Exhibit A.
‘9 1/2 Weeks’ (1986)
Like most things that skate by purely on their sexuality, Adrian Lyne's 1986 film has not aged well. A bomb upon its initial release, the story of a Wall Streeter (Mickey Rourke) dominating an art gallery employee (Kim Basinger) eventually became one of the most popular films of the decade. Yet its most iconic scene — Rourke feeding Basinger a series of different foods — is as sexy as a root canal. The film remains, deservedly, a camp classic, yet the falsetto shriek of the Newbeats' "Bread and Butter" and unsexy growl of Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On" should stay off any romantic mix.