The scent of baby oil and warm wine cooler fills the air. Shrieks, moans and giggles ring out as leather chaps squeak and bass-heavy, suggestive pop tunes grind forth from giant speakers. Lights flash; the air is thick with a two-way traffic of undergarments. Yes, “Magic Mike XXL” (our review is here) is coming to town, which is either a cause for celebration, indifference or insecurity depending on your gender, sexuality and general worldview. It’s not the kind of thing we usually attempt, but to cater to those who just can’t wait to see a little taut, rippling man-meat on display, or for those who are merely strip-curious, we thought we’d herald the arrival of the Channing Tatum-starring sequel to the Channing Tatum-starring original “Magic Mike,” by investigating —from a purely academic standpoint, of course!— the phenomenon of male strippers in the movies.
This is the part where I should make a “it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it” comment, and sure, it’s not been all bad. But the thing about male strip scenes is that not only are there far fewer than their distaff counterparts, but this variety is far more often played for laughs rather than for real erotic potential, and often comes from the point of view of the embarrassed male participant (“American Pie” is a good example there,which no one gets particularly turned on by). Before ‘Mike,’ there were very few cinematic instances where the straight women or gay men watching were going to get the equivalent of Salma Hayek (“From Dusk Till Dawn“) with that snake or Natalie Portman in the pink wig (“Closer“) or Demi Moore or Lindsay Lohan or Jennifer Aniston (“Striptease,” “I Know Who Killed Me” and “We’re the Millers,” respectively) or any of the myriad other famous actresses who have performed onscreen stripteases. So in compiling this list, some trawling through the darker recesses of recent movie history was necessary, but this is the kind of thing we do for you guys. So here are the fruits of that hard, hard labor: 15 Male Striptease Scenes ranked in ascending order. You may toss a dollar onstage at the end if you wish.
15. “Forces of Nature” (1999)
To say that this is the best scene in the lame, contrived “Forces of Nature” is faint praise, but it is the one time in this film which there seems to be even a hint of chemistry between Ben Affleck‘s normcore dullard and his possible soulmate, Sandra Bullock‘s manic pixie free spirit. Due to a series of progressively tiresome and increasingly less believable mishaps, they end up penniless in a gay bar where Affleck is prevailed upon to strip for money. Thankfully, one of dreamgirl’s many previous jobs was as an exotic dancer, so she can show him the ropes! He doesn’t get more naked than a shy dude on a breezy day at the beach, and the dutch angles are hideous, but Affleck’s transition from awkward to kind-of-getting-into-it is the high point of the film. Seriously, you’re best off switching off after this.
14. “Summer School” (1987)
So this is also a pretty terrible film, almost as bad as “riff on the ‘Inspirational Teacher’ movie played for laughs starring Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley” makes it sound. An artifact of the late-’80s, this comedy sees Harmon as an unenthusiastic gym teacher forced to teach a bunch of misfit students during his summer vacation —care to take a guess at whether he Learns a Little About Life and/or Wins the Girl via his encounters? Anyway, there is one lively scene, courtesy of one of his particularly dim-bulb students (Ken Olandt) who moonlights as a stripper by night. We don’t see too much of his routine, and Harmon’s goggling and the tongue-out salivating of the women are distracting to say the least, but what we do see looks pretty slick. In all senses of the word.
13. “The Proposal” (2009)
The second of two entries here to feature Sandra Bullock —which I’m sure tells us something about the nature of the roles she chooses— makes it onto this list less for the stripper’s raw sex appeal than for his victim’s highly relatable cringing embarrassment that Ramon’s (Oscar Nunez) “erotic dance” inspires. Tricked into an impromptu bachelorette party while visiting the hometown of her fiance-of-convenience (Ryan Reynolds), Bullock’s uptight harridan character is “treated” to some unsophisticated Girls’ Night fun, much to her horror. But while he’s not the buff Chippendale we get elsewhere, Ramon’s unashamed celebration of his highly ordinary physicality is endearing, and the affection that the women of the small community have for him is oddly sweet. He seems so happy —bless him!
12. “Love & Basketball” (2000)
Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s low-key romantic drama didn’t do huge business on release, but it has grown in evaluation ever since as a sincere and well-made love story that occupies the not-often-seen crossroads of, as the title suggests, romance and b-ball. But even those who may have forgotten everything else about this film probably recall this scene, where childhood, basketball-obsessed besties/now college-age lovers Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan engage in a game of “strip basketball” in a dorm room —a twist on a regular game of one-on-one that sees him “lose.” There’s not a lot of flesh shown for titillation purposes, but that’s not really the reason for the scene. Instead, this is a character-driven stripping moment that reveals genuine chemistry between the participants and sets up the mirror-image finale.
11. “Jarhead” (2005)
Only fairly low on the list because there’s not enough of the scene, plus we don’t actually see him strip (he barrels into the scene already clothesless except for a Santa hat on his head and one on his Rudolph), Jake Gyllenhaal‘s dance is memorable not just because it shows off his rather well-sculpted rear in all its G-string-ed glory, but also because it’s a strange moment in Sam Mendes‘ tonally unconvincing but interesting film. Really, it’s an evocation of the boredom, bro-dom and bravado that can set in among military troops trained for ultimate machismo, but seeing too little, ahem, action —and as such this scene, though humorous, has a kind of edge of hysteria that makes it feel truthful. Also: butt.
10. “Slap Shot” (1977)
This striptease scene, which actually forms the climax of the Paul Newman-starring knockabout hockey movie is, like the film itself, warmhearted, affectionate and played more for laughs and absurdity than for hot-damn sexiness. But Michael Ontkean is pretty fit and does almost wholly disrobe (down to jockstrap anyway), flinging piece after piece of bulky hockey padding and team uniform off and into the crowd, all while on skates, which is impressive. So impressive that in literalizing the “lover not a fighter” ethos, he manages to halt the bloody fisticuffs happening at the other end of the rink and win the girl. It’s such infectious fun that it even looks at one point like Newman might join in —but no such luck.
9. “Mr Mom” (1983)
Because the ’80s was the heyday of male strip shows, and because everyone knows there’s nothing more hilarious than men disrobing for the hubba-hubba delectation of sexually starved women, there are more than a couple of ’80s comedies that have male striptease scenes. But one of the few that works both as a strip scene for the flashes of flesh, dress-up and choreography, and as a comic performance moment for Michael Keaton‘s affable and believable responses, is this moment from “Mr Mom” (which made into our list of Best Keaton Performances). The spaceman costumes are ridiculous, the poses are macho and I kinda dig lead guy’s non-shaven chest too, meaning that unlike many similar scenes, this strip show actually seems like it could be fun.
8. “A Night in Heaven” (1983)
So cheesy you could grate it over pasta, this muddled early ’80s nonsense features several strip scenes, including a worrisome one deep into the film in which manipulative stripper Rick (Golden Raspberry winner Christopher Atkins) is forced to disrobe at gunpoint by the irate husband of the college professor (Lesley Ann Warren) whom he’d seduced. But the more impressive striptease is the initial seduction scene taking place at a club when Warren’s frustrated, prim teacher suddenly realizes the stripper on stage is none other than the jock student she just “flunked in her class” —a phrase her overheated female companions twice mishear. Gotta love Warren’s thunderstruck expression for the rest of scene after the kiss.
7. “13 Going On 30” (2004)
I genuinely love this movie for its actually pretty heartfelt riff on the body-swap genre, as well as the winning combination of Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner who…I mean, awww. But you have to hand it to Sam Ball for his terrific supporting role as Jenna’s (Garner) douchey, dimwitted but famous hockey player boyfriend Alex —amid a strong supporting cast (Andy Serkis and Judy Greer are both great), he stands out. And it’s mostly down to this scene which, while brief, sees him totally commit to a horrendous would-be-erotic striptease that is as much about self-love as it is about seduction and unfolds to the strains of Vanilla Ice. Also to cherish —Garner’s reaction: “We could play Monopoly! We could play Parchese!”
6. “Trick” (1999)
While the film details the somewhat improbable series of mishaps that keep Gabriel (Christian Campbell) and Mark (Jean-Paul Pitoc) from finding a place to have sex after they first meet (Tori Spelling is perfectly cast as the ultimate buzzkill flatmate), Mark’s job as a stripper means this gay romance is not without a fair bit of writhing flesh. This scene from early in the film is pretty jaw-dropping, as go-go dancer Mark shows off his incredible bulging, um, talents and ripped physique in a display that surely makes even the most striptease-averse do a double take. And it is refreshing overall to have a story that finally acknowledges the fact that frustrated housewives and drunken hen parties are not the sole audience for male strip acts.
5. “The Chippendales Murder” (2000)
TV movies are mostly excluded from this list, but an exception had to be made for “The Chippendales Murder,” not just because it features a great striptease scene, but also because it’s a true-life story about the most famous male revue of all. The tale of the founder of the act who eventually hired a contract killer to off his lead choreographer is such a salacious mix of true crime, sex, greed and murder that it was also made into another TV movie, the black comedy “Just Can’t Get Enough,” and was reportedly on Tony Scott’s development slate when he died. But that’s not even the end of it: Alan Ball has “I Am Chippendales” starring Ben Stiller lined up, which will give this story its highest profile airing yet. Meantime, here’s Victor Webster in a leather jockstrap and…are those stockings?
4. “The Full Monty” (1997)
Prior to “Magic Mike,” there really was only one “male stripper movie” game in town, and it was Peter Cattaneo‘s massive sleeper smash “The Full Monty.” An endearing, gentle comedy about a group of unemployed steel workers in the North of England who form an all-male striptease act, despite not really resembling the platonic ideal of physical perfection, it’s also surprisingly insightful about masculinity in crisis and how you might find self-worth in the oddest of activities. Far from the slickest or most arousing striptease on this list, the raucous climax of this film is still so infectiously joyous that it earns forgiveness for not showing us the full anything, despite the promise of the title.
3. “Pennies From Heaven” (1981)
So yes, it’s hardly the most revealing stripping sequence ever shot, but this Christopher Walken routine (which is a kind of dream sequence as imagined by the doll-faced Bernadette Peters) gives me a major thrill because it’s a.) some of the best choreography on this list —the only strip act that’s done as a jazz/tap routine for one thing, and b.) Christopher Walken. His dance background really shows itself to great advantage here, and his off-kilter, slightly creepy handsomeness means he could be sexy even if he’s gradually putting on his clothes, as opposed to taking them off. The film is uneven, but its musical numbers are a delight, particularly this one, which should be revelatory for anyone who’s only ever seen Walken dance in that Fatboy Slim video.
2. “Chocolate City” (2015)
It’s very possible that this film, overtly dubbed “The Black ‘Magic Mike’” might have passed you by —it was came out earlier this year but was buried in a tiny release and, bland as it is, has been quickly forgotten. But its blatant me-too status (emcee Michael Jai White introduces the act by saying “Y’all seen ‘Magic Mike”? We’re gonna add a little chocolate!” while Carmen Electra DJs) has its upsides, like the fact it contains similarly well-executed dance routines by a group of similarly extraordinarily hot men (Tyson Beckford, Robert Ri’chard, even Ginuwine, who gets to dance to a Ginuwine track and “real” stripper Bolo, from the clip below). Park any pretensions to seeing this movie for anything other than the dance/stripping scenes like this one, and it does the job just fine.
1. “Magic Mike” (2012)
The Steven Soderbergh-directed first film is not only one of the better films on this list, but it also has the best strip scenes, mostly courtesy of Mr. Channing Tatum. His dance credentials had already been firmly established in “Step Up,” yet he also brings an edge of self-aware irony to the routines that undercuts the kind of baby-oiled narcissism that can sometimes make male strippers seem so awkward. A distinct hit, grossing more than $113m off a tiny $7m budget, the movie also has the army-themed dance and Matthew McConaughey‘s solo, of course, but in this “It’s Raining Men” routine, “Magic Mike” gave the male stripper movie its defining, banner moment: its Odessa steps.
There are a couple of others that didn’t make the list —”Bhaji on the Beach” has a very tame culture-clash striptease scene; Jason Biggs is valiantly unsexy in the aforementioned “American Pie” sequence; and I can’t pretend to have watched 1988 Filipino gay stripper movie “Macho Dancer,” though here’s a pretty amazing-looking clip. Oddly enough, “Bachelor Party,” has a scene featuring male strippers, and TV movies like “Just Can’t Get Enough” (see “The Chippendale Murders” above) and “For Ladies Only” also feature a little ecdysiasm. TV shows are a whole other ball game, with almost every sitcom from the ’80s on going to the striptease well at some point or other. Got any more movie examples, though? We’re trying to be completist, in our very serious, academic survey, so do let us know in the comments.