1. Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux, Blue Is the Warmest Color
It was the most talked-about sex scene of the year for a reason. Abdellatif Kechiche’s three-hour French drama centers on Adèle (Exarchopoulos), a teenager who falls for blue-haired collegiate art student Emma (Seydoux). After sharing a few kisses in the park, the sexual tension builds to a fever pitch, resulting in a seven-minute paroxysm of sexual desire replete with clawing, slapping, scratching, moaning, and howling. Adèle and Emma contort themselves into a plethora of sexual positions. It’s feral, an explosion of their desire for one another. The scene is a bit problematic, too. It’s composed of medium shots from the perspective of the filmmaker (male gaze), never shifting to the perspective of the women, and it does drag. Oh, and the actresses hated shooting it—over 10 days. Nevertheless, it’s a powerful, important scene that challenges viewers’ heteronormative cinematic perspective. The first time I viewed it was at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, seated next to a lil’ old lady slurping a gigantic cup of coke, who “oohed” and “aahed” the entire time. Priceless.
2. Cameron Diaz & A Ferrari, The Counselor
This Ridley Scott-Cormac McCarthy thriller may have fizzled at the box office, but it did bring us one of the most unforgettable scenes of the year: Diaz having sex with a Ferrari. Yes, this really happens. The scene occurs in flashback as a thug, Reiner (Javier Bardem), tells the unnamed Counselor (Michael Fassbender) about an image he can’t get out of his head: his Russian girlfriend, Malkina (Diaz), doing his car. The action then flashes back to Reiner driving his Ferrari around a golf course. He parks, and Malkina turns to him and says, “I’m going to fuck your car.” Then, she gets on the hood of his Ferrari, hikes up her skirt, and… grinds on it to completion, howling with ecstasy. Dios mio.
3. Lindsay Lohan, James Deen & Two Porn Stars, The Canyons
The Canyons, a Kickstarter-funded film directed by Paul Schrader from a screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis, got a pretty bad rap. The New York Times printed a takedown piece on well before its release, chronicling star Lohan’s unruly behavior on set. The irony here is that, while the film is too melodramatic by half, Lohan delivers a staggering performance. Also, the four-way sex scene between a pair of sadistic lovers, played by Lohan and porn star Deen, as well as two randoms, is gorgeous. It’s shot in the dark with laser lights projected on the foursome, giving a sort of sexy Christmas vibe. It’s also a pivotal point in the film—one where Lohan’s character, who’d been manipulated by Deen’s for most of the film, takes her power back, forcing Deen’s character to do her bidding.
4. James Franco, Ashley Benson & Vanessa Hudgens, Spring Breakers
In addition to being one of the best films of the year—sorry, haters—Harmony Korine’s fever dream contains one of the year’s most indelible scenes. Mind you, this is not your typical sex scene. Alien (Franco, in corn rows with a grill), a fugazi crime lord, has just taken a quartet of nubile collegiate girls under his wing (played by Benson, Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and Rachel Korine). Two of them depart, and Franco engages in three-way sex with Benson and Hudgens in a pool. But the more impactful sex scene occurs when the two girls expose Alien for the goofball he is by sticking a gun deep into his mouth. For a moment, Alien looks terrified … and then he starts fellating the gun.
5. Joaquin Phoenix & Scarlett Johansson, Her
It’s one of the most tender—and least physical—sex scenes of the year. Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) plays a kindhearted romantic still reeling from being dumped by his wife (Rooney Mara). So, he purchased the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, installs a female voice for it, which names itself “Samantha” (voiced by Johansson). After some light flirting, the two fall for one another and their first stab at phone sex is a wonderful scene that starts out with Twombly dictating kissing Samantha’s cheek, then her lips, then her breasts, before moving down. The screen goes black. Samantha is overcome by these newfound sensations, and moans with pleasure. The next morning, she tells him, “I feel like something changed in me. There’s no turning back. You woke me up.” The scene provides an interesting contrast with an earlier phone sex snafu between Twombly and a kinky woman he met in a chatroom who requests that he choke her with a dead cat—and she's voiced by Kristen Wiig.
6. Jonah Hill & A Demon, This Is the End
In this hilarious apocalyptic meta-comedy, longtime pals Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel attend a house party at James Franco’s pad replete with a cocaine-snorting Michael Cera, a sassy Rihanna, and a cocky Jonah Hill, among others. Then things start to get weird. There are blue portals coming from the sky that's sucking people up, the ground starts to split, and demons begin roaming the streets of Los Angeles. One of these demons targets Hill. He thinks he’s having a dream, as the demon scratches his arm with his long beastly nail. Then, you see the demon’s big shadow, revealing a giant erection, as it climbs on top of the sleeping Hill. “This is no dream … this is really happening!” he screams. Fade to black.
7. Shailene Woodley & Miles Teller, The Spectacular Now
In teen films, we’re usually treated to gross, hypermasculine sex scenes—some idiot frat boy pumping away at some poor, poor girl. But the coming of age movie The Spectacular Now takes a more honest approach. Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), still reeling from being dumped by the most popular girl in school (Brie Larson), soon finds himself falling for the geeky Aimee Finicky, played by Shailene Woodley. And when the two finally have sex for the first time—her first time ever, not his—it’s a tasteful, delicately-handled scene bathed in light. It hurts at first, and then Aimee starts to enjoy it. It’s her sexual awakening. That it’s rare to see a woman experiencing pleasure onscreen is, well, a travesty. “It’s different than any other sex scene we’ve seen in a movie before,” Woodley told The Daily Beast. “It’s real, and Miles is such a gentleman. I was topless, but you really don’t see that in the film. He took care of me as far as making sure I was comfortable.”
8. Matt Damon & Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
According to director Steven Soderbergh, his biopic of Liberace was deemed “too gay” by Hollywood studios, but was (thankfully) released on HBO this year. There’s been a great deal of sexual tension building between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his much-younger lover, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). The first time they sleep together, they agree to occupy opposite sides of the bed. When they awake, Liberace is gazing longingly at the blond-haired Thorson, stares down at his member, and remarks, “Well, look who’s up.” He then proceeds to perform oral sex on his young lover, as Thorson gazes at the beautiful paintings on Liberace’s ceiling—which resemble the Sistine Chapel. Right after, the two discuss family, as well as their needs and desires. “I needed to see Jason Bourne on top of Gordon Gekko,” Soderbergh joked to The Telegraph.
9. Leonardo DiCaprio & Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio has repeatedly referred to Martin Scorsese’s three-hour film about shady stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) during the ‘80s and early ‘90s as “a modern-day Caligula.” Indeed, the film is basically a non-stop orgy of sex, drugs, and loose morals. It’s hard to choose a best sex scene from the film. A dominatrix removing a candle out of Leo’s ass? The butler’s gay orgy in his apartment? But the one that best captures the spirit of the film occurs at its midway point, when Belfort is seen having rough sex with his second wife, played by fetching Aussie newcomer Margot Robbie, on top of a gigantic bed stacked with money.
10. Daniel Radcliffe & Anonymous Guy, Kill Your Darlings
In filmmaker John Krokidas’s Kill Your Darlings, which made our list of the most overlooked films of the year, Radcliffe stars as beat poet Allen Ginsberg who, while a student at Columbia University, becomes infatuated with his charismatic classmate Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). They share a tender kiss in the park, but the sadistic Carr then decides to reject Ginsberg—to torment him emotionally. So, Allen picks up a man and, in a very tender scene, loses his virginity to him. It isn’t the least bit graphic—mostly close-ups of Allen’s frightened, yet excited face—but it is sensual nonetheless. “We were talking about what we both wanted from the scene, and John said, ‘I want it to be the authentic loss of gay virginity scene that I have never seen before’—by which we don’t mean we have to be graphic, because it’s not,” Radcliffe told The Daily Beast. “It’s really all about the faces—the fear, pain, excitement, and all the things Allen is experiencing in that moment. It’s also about where it comes in the film. Allen’s just been left by Lucien and is an emotional fucking wreck, so it’s a really intense love scene.”