Sex sells, and the further a director pushes the boat out, the more money he or she is likely to make through infamy or on the back of the inclusion of a famous star with their kit off. Sometimes, however, directors go too far and incite a response to their work that is all together more different – the results are often the same, in terms of financial return, but it changes the game and generally means that those more extreme or disturbing sex scenes last longer in audience memory than the fleeting glimpse of an A-list bust or penis.
This article will celebrate those scenes – looking at those scenes, which courted controversy and inspired voracious reaction from critics and fans – and examining why the films have gone on to be classed as notorious.
Some films came under consideration, but didn’t quite make it: honourable mentions have to go to both The Idiots – Lars Von Trier’s typically provocative shocker, and its disability-mocking orgy scene – and Lolita, which was hugely controversial in subject matter, but which avoided particularly explicit exploration of the sexual relationship at its centre. Not that it stopped the film being commercially shunned, and pretty much left to rot.
So, which films made the cut? Hold tight as we explore ten of the most controversial sex scenes from all of cinematic history…
No, not the 2004 Paul Haggis film that attracted its own controversy thanks to an unlikely, and some say unworthy Oscar win – this pick refers to the 1996 David Cronenberg erotic psychological drama. Probably one of the kinkiest films you’ll ever see, Cronenberg’s adaptation of the controversial JG Ballard novel is a strong adaptation, and it is certainly entertaining, but a good deal of its pull is thanks to the nature of the content.
Why So Controversial?
Two words: Masochistic Symphorophilia. Crash focused on a particular sexual paraphilia (some would call it a perversion) that causes sexual arousal from car accidents. We watch James Spader’s lead grow increasingly aroused by the idea of car crashes, and the wounds caused by them to the point that he has rampant sex with a survivor’s vagina-like scar. The explicit intertwining of violence and sex was profoundly affecting at the time of the film’s release – prompting a major campaign lead by the Dail Mail (of course) to get it banned in Britain – and it is still almost as affecting now.