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The Playlist Bares All: 20 Unforgettable Nude Scenes

The Playlist Bares All: 20 Unforgettable Nude Scenes

Not to dick around, but we’ve got nudity on the boob right now. Mind. On the mind. Thing is, with an intriguing article over at EW exploring the death of the movie sex scene and the rise of the New Prudishness, with waves made over Kristen Stewart‘s nudity and handjobs in “On the Road,” and now with this week’s “Trance” under fire from some quarters for Rosario Dawson‘s (some say plot-driven, others say gratuitous) birthday suit scene, we’ve been thinking about nakedness in film almost as much as Seth McFarlane was when he wrote his already-infamous Oscars opening song, though largely without, we hope, the sniggering misogyny.

What makes nudity gratuitous? We all know the simple answer: when it doesn’t serve the plot or illuminate the characterization. But getting a consensus on whose ass crack does actually inform the story, and whose nipples are completely surplus to narrative requirements, is a much, um, slipperier issue.

So we’re pretty sure you’re going to level the g-word at some of our picks for the nude scenes that, like or loathe, we just can’t forget. But if, as the EW article persuasively argues, the sex scene is basically migrating to the small screen (see “Game Of Thrones,” “Girls,” “Mad Men,” etc.), this list is also something of an exercise in nostalgia, as we fondly remember our own first bolt-upright-eyes-wide-was-that-just-a-shadow-or-something-else? big-screen moments.

And of course, not all nude scenes are about sex (we have a best/worst sex scene list here for that) — in fact, many of the best and least potentially gratuitous of them are about vulnerability or powerlessness, sometimes subverted into statements about strength and empowerment. In the right context, nudity can and should be part of a storyteller’s arsenal.

So here they are, the 20 instances of skin-baring, sometimes partial, sometimes total, that made a lasting impression on us. Read, comment, but remember, underneath just a thin layer of clothing, every single blessed one of us is butt naked. And, and obviously, this is NSFW.

“Basic Instinct”

Sharon Stone spends lots of time in the altogether in Paul Verhoeven‘s “Basic Instinct,” but there’s a single sequence for which she’ll be forever remembered, and she’s almost fully clothed. In the scene, a squadron of police officers (including Michael Douglas) is interrogating Stone about a murder, and as she uncrosses her legs, the camera lingers on her while she stares the gibbering policemen down, legs parted, “precious flower” on display. Many’s the undergraduate thesis that’s been written on the subversion of the male gaze that has had this image emblazoned across its front cover, but while of course that’s true, and of course it’s about Stone’s Catherine Trammell asserting her mastery over the very people who would dominate her, we’re pretty sure those are politics most hot-breathed teens didn’t really pick up on. Then again, freeze framing a VHS was an inexact science that required a lot of concentration.

“Eastern Promises”

If nude scenes are supposed to (ideally) function like musical numbers – meant to forward the plot, add character development, or embellish the story thematically – then the sauna showdown from “Eastern Promises” is the “I Dreamed A Dream” of nude scenes. Viggo Mortensen‘s Russian thug is confronted at a bathhouse by a couple of assassins, and Viggo has nothing – literally nothing – to defend himself with. It’s a phenomenal scene, simply one of the fleshiest ever committed to film, played wordlessly, with the only sounds being the slap of slick skin on hard marble, the thunk of sinew meeting sinew, and the grunts and moans of messy, effortful death. Mortensen’s fearless full-frontal lends the scene an amazingly visceral power that means it ranks among the very best of David Cronenberg’s body-fixated moments.

There’s a reason why “Draw me like one of your French girls” has become an Internet meme – the moment in “Titanic” when Rose (Kate Winslet) disrobes so that her ragamuffin lover Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) can sketch her is one of the most memorable in the entire movie. It combines director James Cameron‘s rather juvenile view of sexuality with a kind of daft teen-girl romanticism, creating a sequence that, despite boobies, fits seamlessly into a PG-13 rated movie (with the MPAA, sweetness, no matter how saccharine, slides). Of course there is a purpose to this and their subsequent steamy-windowed consummation: it is basically the very definition of the calm before the storm. And Winslet herself received the ultimate accolade for our weird times: in the meme, she’s replaced by a variety of animals lying down in a similar fashion. At one point a hamster. Oh, the Internet.

Sure, “Shame,” Steve McQueen‘s drama about a man battling his sex addiction problem in modern-day New York, was always going to be a tricky thing to get past the notoriously persnickety MPAA. But looking back on it, did the movie really deserve its NC-17? Especially given the amount of frank sexual content and (what’s worse) violence that’s on basic cable these days? The answer, most assuredly, is no. But if one moment secured the potentially lethal rating for the movie, it’s the opening shots of the film, which feature star Michael Fassbender walking around his cramped Manhattan apartment completely in the buff. Most reported this like it was a sideshow attraction (you get to see him pee!) but it’s the offhand way that McQueen treats the nudity that makes it so powerful, something he does again when he introduces Carey Mulligan in a similarly starkers fashion. It’s just parts, y’all.

“Don’t Look Now”
One of the reasons the “Don’t Look Now” sex scene has endured for so many years, despite the film’s place in relative obscurity (besides it being immaculately put together and often admired to the point of imitation), is that rumors have persisted that the scene wasn’t, er, simulated, and that Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland were actually getting busy on set. It’s easy to see where these rumors came from (even if they seem largely implausible) as there’s a lot of full-length shots in here, which give it even more power. During most sex scenes, only specific body parts are highlighted (a right butt cheek, let’s say, or a left breast, an arched back, whatever), which is hardly how it works in actual sex. But here director Nicolas Roeg showed off both of his actors completely, making this a sex scene that is also a bona-fide nude scene. Weird that this is the exception and not the rule.

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Great list. I definitely would have added Ewan Mcgregor in Young Adam and Tom Hardy in Bronsan.


Phoebe Cates nude is the only reason to see that movie. So don't waste the effort wondering about anything else and just fast forward to that scene and don't bother watching the rest!

David B

I have to second the comment on how could you have not even mentioned "The Shining", although it was Room 237. That scene owned it own generation of film-goers.

And the shy Anne Hathaway in "Love and Other Drugs" is another inexplicable omission on your part.

9 Songs (if you do a NC-17 list)


How has no one mentioned the naked dancing scene in The Master?


Start working at home with Google! This is certainly the nicest-work I have ever done . Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link,


As long as there is no tobacco drug use in the film.


Corinne Bohrer in the obscure "Dead Solid Perfect" deserves a mention; beautiful woman, funny, sexy scene.


On what planet does The Dreamers, as depressing an example as any of Bertolucci's declined skills, deserve a cult following other than among people who like to look at people naked? It's a coming-of-age story fantasized by people who are depressed that they never had a coming-of-age story like that *because no one has ever had a coming-of-age story like that.* The Hangover is more realistic than The Dreamers, and better made.

Oh, and if you meant Salo was awful in the sense that awful things happen in it and it is difficult to watch, I agree. If you meant awful in terms of quality, I can only assume you are the sort of person who thinks The Dreamers is a meaningful coming-of-age story.


You mention Harvey Keitel but you don't mention The Piano?! Shame on you!


Love your 'people's puritanical streak towards Kristen Stewart' comment. So true. People make such a drama out of EVERYTHING she does. It's not just nude scenes. If she walks down the street you have comment sections evaluating it every aspect of it, a furore breaks out over how she walks, is she smiling, does her hair look pretty, why isn't she dressed like a movie star instead of jeans/tshirt. Yes, walking down the street creates a great debate these days!


Needless spoiler about The Crying Game. Shame on you.

potion lords

Battle In Heaven


How is Ewan McGregor, King of the Nude Scene, not on this list? "Trainspotting" should at least get an honorable mention.


Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut.


Wow. Playlist editing nearly every comment now, eh?

So what's the point of even having the fucking things?

Why not just get rid of them altogether?

Not like any actual conversation takes place in this dank shit-box anyhow.


Graham Chapman opening up the window to the huge crowd of worshipers in Life of Brian.


Oops, sorry, no intention of triple posting… Please trim a few of those off! Dang iphone…


The Shining. When Jack goes into room 213 and the naked woman is in there. I was a kid when I saw it, and it titilated at first, until I realized why the woman was naked… And then she changed to her present "state"… That scene has disturbed me for decades.

As far as "hot" scenes go, you've GOT to mention Natalie Portman in Closer or the opening scene of Darjeeling Limkted… Since you already covered Eva Green, who is hands down the most beautiful woman on film right now.

There, done objectifying


In which The Playlist becomes WhatCulture.


No French movies, WTF? They are the best at this, just watch Rust & Bone for a recent example.
Also what about Tony Scott's The Hunger, Catherine Deneuve + Suzanne Sarandon wow!


is it not a E.W article before?



John K.

Hello. Just One of the Guys!


The Playlist have officially turned into Deadline. They actually changed my comment saying how terrible this article is. You guys are desperate.


I would have put Bronson on the list. Nude Tom Hardy.


I rolled my eyes, but then started reading. Funny.


What an incredibly article.

Dr. Terry & Dr. Teri

Since the invention of film the penis has been on display 886 times in R-rated film or cable (give or take a hundred or two) but the vulva (vagina) has been on the screen once, Rosario Dawson in Trance (2013), unless you want to count the “did I just see what I think I just saw” flash of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. And, from what I understand, giving Trance an
R-rating was one of those that just slipped through the cracks. (pun intended). Anyone have any idea why that is?

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