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Fifty Shades of Grey is set to hit theaters this Friday and will set the box-office on fire with its release. The movie has already gained notoriety because of it’s sexual content. Sex scenes are set to be a fifth of the movie’s running time and earned an 18-rating in the UK. It also led to an increase in sales of sex toys, while anti-domestic violence campaigners demand the movie to be boycotted. There have been many movies that have looked at the subjects of sex and sexuality so we are going to look at some of the most controversial ones ever made.
15. Lust, Caution (2007)
Based on a novella by Eileen Chang, Ang Lee turned Lust, Caution into a 2 hour 40 minute spy drama about a Chinese student (Tang Wei) who uses her beauty to romance a collaborator with the invading Japanese as a group of students plan to assassinate him. Lust, Caution aroused controversy because of its explicit sex scenes, which collectively span for 10 minutes and took 100 hours to film. Due to this, Lust, Caution earned a NC-17 rating in America, a R21 rating in Singapore (NC-16 for the cut version) and was cut for the release on the mainland of China.
14. The Brown Bunny (2003)
Vincent Gallo’s second directional feature The Brown Bunny is an infamous movie that was panned at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. A slow, tedious movie that Robert Ebert called the “worst film in the history of Cannes”. One of the movie’s most notorious scenes is one in which star Chloë Sevigny performs unsimulated fellatio on Mr. Gallo until completion. It is a scene you can easily find on pornographic websites if you want. It was also the scene that was used heavily for the marketing of the movie. They must have been thinking: sex sells.
13. 9 Songs (2004)
Michael Winterbottom has had an eclectic career as a filmmaker, including making the art romance movie 9 Songs. 9 Songs tells the story about relationship between a young couple, Matt (Kieran O’Brien) and Lisa (Margo Stilley), having a mutual love for rock music and is notable because of its explicit, unsimulated sex scenes, including ejaculation and oral sex. O’Brien became the only actor in a mainstream British movie to ejaculate on screen. It is also the first non-pornographic film with explicit sex scenes to receive a mainstream rating in France.
12. Shame (2011)
Steve McQueen’s Shame was a well received movie back in 2011. It garnered numerous awards and nominations and earned the box office poison of the NC-17 rating. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a sex addict, unable to function without pornography, masturbates at any given opportunity and hires prostitutes for sexual relief. When he is offered a chance for happiness and intimacy, he is unable to take it and has to control his urges when he has to look after his sister. Shame is not really movie about sex, but really about how a man would battle an addiction. Sex could easily be replaced with drugs, gambling or any other vice you can think of.
11. Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Directed by Bernadro Bertolucci and starring Marlon Brando the French-Italian movie Last Tango in Paris tells the story about a middle-aged American man (Brando) and a young French woman (Maria Schneider) who embark on a sexual relationship and rendezvous in a Parisian apartment. One of the most infamous scenes is when the pair end up having anal sex, which will ensure you will never think of butter the same way again.
10. Showgirls (1995)
Showgirls has earned a cult following since its notorious release back in 1995. It was the movie that was meant to be Paul Verhoeven’s big follow-up to Basic Instinct. It was the most expensive screenplay at the time, costing $2 million and was going to be the movie to make the NC-17 rating legitimate. It was a massive flop, making only $37.7 Million from a $45 Million budget and won seven Razzies, which Verhoeven actually claimed at the ceremony. Saved by the Bell‘s Elizabeth Berkley stars as Nomi a young woman who goes to Las Vegas and becomes an erotic dancer. This is a movie that features plenty of nudity, an awkward sex scene in a swimming pool and the line ‘everyone has AIDS and shit’.
9. Nymphomaniac (2014)
Danish auteur Lars von Trier is never one to shy away from controversy and his two volume film titled Nymphomaniac was aiming to achieve this. Though, considering Nymphomaniac is low on this list you can imagine what we are in for following this. Stacy Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg star as Joe, a woman who goes through a fifty year sexual journey as she explores her sexuality and how her sex drive affects her relationships with all those close to her. Nymphomaniac was explicit with its sex scenes, using porn actors with the stars’ faces and bodies being put on with CGI. Some of the scenes include Joe losing her virginity with anal sex, Joe and her friend having a contest on a train to see who can have sex with the most people, Joe seducing two African men because they do not speak English and performing fellatio on a paedophile.
8. Secretary (2002)
Before Fifty Shades of Grey could provide everyone’s BDSM fix, there was the indie romance movie Secretary, which offered us Maggie Gyllenhaal’s break out role. Gyllenhaal stars as Lee Holloway, a young woman with a history of self-harming who is recently released from hospital. To adjust back to normal life, she takes up a legal secretary job with lawyer E. Edward Grey (James Spader) and the pair enter into a sexual relationship, starting with a bit of spanking to correct typing mistakes to more elaborate set ups with saddles and restraints.
7. Caligula (1979)
Caligula is an infamous mess of a film: it was produced by Bob Guccione, the founder of the adult magazine Penthouse and he ensured his bio-pic about the Roman Emperor had plenty of explicit sex scenes. He added the sex scenes against the wishes of director Tinto Brass who had his name removed from the movie. Writer Gore Vidal also wanted name his name removed from the credits, disowning the project. Many actors like Peter O’Toole were unaware of the hardcore sex scenes that were filmed. Due to the controversy and re-edits, Caligula has ended up being a movie with multiple editions.
6. Lolita (1962)
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabobov’s novel was made in the early 60s, so its sexual content is limited, but it is still very controversial due to its subject matter. Humbert “Hum” Humbert (James Mason) is a literature professor who marries his landlady (Shelley Winters) so he can get close with her 14-year-old daughter Dolores, AKA Lolita (Sue Lyon). As the two have an affair, the pair have to go on the run to escape the authorities. Lolita’s introduction is famous as she is in her back garden in a bikini. Lolita was remade in 1997 and Kubrick revisited the subject of sexuality with his last movie Eyes Wide Shut.
5. Crash (1996)
From the crazed mind of David Cronenberg is his 1996 movie Crash, having the distinction of being his most controversial movie. It splits audiences into two camps, people who love or hate it. Crash focuses on James Ballard (James Spader) who slowly becomes infatuated with a group that is sexually aroused by car accidents, leading him to take dangerous risks for a thrill. One of the most infamous scenes is when James has sex with a woman whose leg is in steel braces and uses her scar as a sexual orifice. A hole’s a hole.
4. The Devils (1971)
Another controversial movie with sexual content is Ken Russell’s historical horror movie The Devils. Set in 17th Century France, The Devils tells the story of a priest trying to protect the town of Loudun from Cardinal Richelieu, but ends up being accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun. Warner Brothers made some big cuts to the movie and the full uncut version has not been released onto DVD. One notable scene is a hallucination where a nun has sex with Jesus and scenes that were cut were a sequence when crazed nuns sexually attack a statue of Jesus and a nun masturbating with a femur. British model Twiggy was due to have a cameo in the movie, but left the shoot after the nuns started stripping and she only filmed one shot. As you can imagine the Catholic Church was not fond of this movie.
3. Kids (1995)
Larry Clark’s Kids based on screenplay by Harmony Korine was a controversial film back in 1995 and is a controversial issue now. It is a film that starts with a 17-year-old boy convincing a 12-year-old girl to have sex with him and ends on a rape scene. Shot using a pseudo-documentary style, Kids follows a group of teenagers in New York City who steal, drink alcohol, take drugs and basically enjoy being pure scum. 17-year-old Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) is a kid on a mission to only secede virgins, believing it is the best way to prevent catching STDs. He targets girls as young as 12 and 13. The film ends with a traumatic scene of a 13-year-old girl losing her virginity and telling Telly it hurts. But one of Telly’s former conquers, Ruby (Chloë Sevigny), a girl who has only had sex with Telly, has contracted HIV from him.
2. A Serbian Film (2010)
A Serbian Film built up a notorious reputation before it was even released to the general public. It had 19 minutes of cuts in the United States to avoid an NC-17 rating, four minutes were cut for the British release and it is one of the few movies to be banned in Norway. Srđan Todorović stars as Miloš, a retired porn star who agrees to go back to the business one last time. But Miloš ends up going down a horrific path, from the usual pornographic activities like fellatio and intercourse to disgusting activities like necrophilia and the director character wanting to make ‘newborn porn’. A Serbian Film ends with Miloš getting drugged and unwittingly rapes his wife and son. Director Srđan Spasojević justified the movie by saying it was a commentary about the Serbian government and Serbian society as a whole. Most critics did not buy into the argument.
1. Salo: or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
The Italian/French art-house film Salo: or the 120 Days of Sodom is not just one of the most controversial movies about sexuality, it is one of the most controversial movies ever made. Set in 1944 in the Fascist-occupied territory of Italy, four wealthy men form their own nation, marry each other’s daughters, recruit some well-endowed men and kidnap nine young men and women. Many depraved acts are enforced on the young people including anal sex, mutual masturbation, rape and coprophagia. The movie was so controversial that the uncut version was only released in the UK in 2000 and in 2006 the Chicago Film Critics Association declared it the 65th scariest film.