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The Best Sexy Movies of the 21st Century, From ‘Y Tu Mamá También’ to ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’

From "Y Tu Mamá También" to "Blue is the Warmest Color," "In the Mood for Love" to "Hustle & Flow," here are the best sexy, steamy, and daring films of the 21st century (so far).

15. “Spring Breakers” (2012)

"Spring Breakers"

“Spring Breakers”

A group of four college-aged friends head down to Florida for a spring break trip unlike any other in Harmony Korine’s luscious and totally insane drama. Doused in social satire and dripping with empowered teenage sex appeal, “Spring Breakers” flips nearly every script on its drug and sex-fueled joy ride into the most hedonistic depths of humanity. Deliberate with every move, Korine cast three beloved teen stars as girls gone certifiably wild: Ashley Benson (“Pretty Little Liars”), Vanessa Hudgeons (“High School Musical”), and pop star Selena Gomez. (His wife, Rachel Korine, rounds out the group). When they meet drug dealer Alien, (an unhinged James Franco in one of his best roles), they indulge every desire and descend into the dark underbelly of spring break. While certain scenes have undoubtedly landed on x-rated streaming sites, the image of Alien sucking the barrel of a handgun will not be forgotten anytime soon. -JD

14. “Magic Mike” (2012)

“Magic Mike”

Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew McConaughey strip for fun and profit, with an eye towards making their audience of screaming bachelorette parties very, very happy indeed? It’s hard to imagine a sexier bunch of stars with a sweeter set of dance moves. What else do you need to know? -KE

13. “Lust, Caution” (2007)

“Lust, Caution”

While the plot of Ang Lee’s 2007 historical drama is heavy on the intrigue, fitting a tricksy spy tale inside a lush setting, the feature’s treatment of the complexities of human desire and emotion are what set it a cut above. Initially concerned with a convoluted plan to off a high-powered special agent sent to Hong Kong to help sell a Japanese puppet government that also involves, of all things, a deeply patriotic acting troupe, Lee’s film steadily inches towards its real story: the unexpected and very dangerous relationship that blossoms between young Wong Chia Chi (a revelatory Tang Wei) and the agent, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung, because duh) as they double cross themselves and each other. Lee’s film celebrates the power of physical love — it’s only after lots and lots of lovemaking that Chia Chi begins to feel actual love for Yee — before getting to the emotional stuff, which packs an even greater wallop after all that getting down. Capped off by a tragic ending, “Lust, Caution” doesn’t shy away from its downbeat tone, but the memories of the love that came before keep it deeply satisfying to the last. -KE

12. “Swimming Pool” (2003)

“Swimming Pool”

If you’re going to find a strange girl in your vacation swimming pool, better hope it’s someone as compelling and appealing as Ludivine Sagnier. François Ozon’s 2003 erotic thriller takes some amusing cues from other genre entries and turns it into a smart, tension-filled, and very sexy look at the way women interact when pushed into dramatic, sensual competition. Sagnier is the free-wheeling Julie (…or is she?), who suddenly appears in the eponymous swimming pool of her father’s vacation villa, currently occupied by Charlotte Rampling’s struggling writer Sarah, upending her retreat in the process. A case for the sexy bonafides of “Swimming Pool” could easily rest on Julie’s exploits alone, as she inventively screws her way through the French countryside, but once Sarah joins in on wildness (thanks to their shared lust for a waiter), things get even more steamy. As with any good erotic thriller, it all works its way up to a nutso murder, but Ozon smartly couches the entire thing in some big intellectual questions that put plenty of weight on the sexiness of the mind. -KE

11. “Love” (2015)

“Love”

Gaspar Noé’s jaw-dropping Cannes entry does not fuck around. Ostensibly a story about a dude (newbie Karl Glausman) who lost the love of his life (Aomi Muyock) because he couldn’t keep it in his pants when it came to the young Danish student (Klara Kristin) the pair previously engaged in a threesome with, the film is really an excuse to get down with some exceedingly dirty (and often admirably inventive) love scenes. While there’s a deep tenderness underneath all the fucking and fighting, Noé’s feature actually finds its most transcendent moments in scenes that hinge entirely on the act of physical love, forgetting the emotional and drilling down on, well, drilling down. Bolstered by an amusingly kinky marketing campaign that played up its sexiest bits to occasionally shocking results, “Love” wears its heart on its sleeve, and then promptly takes it off, flings it across the room, and takes you to bed. Scintillating! -KE

10. “The Duke of Burgundy” (2014)

“The Duke of Burgundy”

Peter Strickland’s visually evocative tribute to ’70s European sexploitation films explores the sadomasochistic relationship between two lesbian entomologists. The film begins with a series of humiliating punishments that, due to a significant reveal early in the film, the viewer begins to see as being both lovingly tender as well as being hardcore kinky. The filmmaking itself is the key to unlocking the film’s eroticsm. The lighting is sensuous, the camera charged, the upscale costuming titillating. Strickland understands the key to being sexy is mounting anticipation and with “Duke of Burgundy” he establishes himself as the Hitchcock of building sexual tension. -CO

9. “Blue is the Warmest Color” (2013)

Wild Bunch/Sundance Selects

No sexy movies list would be complete without Abdellatif Kechiche’s three-hour romance that prompted prudish walkouts at Cannes before winning the Palme d’Or — split three ways between Kechiche and the two lead actresses. Based on a graphic novel, the film is a sexual coming-of-age tale about a young teacher named Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), who finds herself immediately drawn to a blue-haired lothario named Emma (Lea Seydoux). The room stops when they lay eyes on one another in a crowded club, and they begin a sex-fueled affair that results in three epic sex scenes (though not as long as they feel). But it’s not only the sex scenes that are long, Kechiche’s commitment to realism extends to long shots of Adele eating spaghetti, Adele teaching young children, and Adele in the shower. In fact, the character is named Adele because Kechiche so often filmed Exarchopoulos without her knowledge. Still, even with the controversy surrounding the film, we wouldn’t throw “Blue is the Warmest Color” out of bed. -JD

8. “The Piano Teacher” (2001)

“The Piano Teacher”

Isabelle Huppert goes truly taboo in Michael Haneke’s daring adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek’s Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same name. Her eponymous piano teacher Erika Kohut is driven by desires she works to extremes to conceal, including a bent towards sadomasochistic fetishes that she is unable to hide once she meets young student Walter (Benoît Magimel), who soon becomes party to her secret needs even as he struggles to respond to them. As their dual (and dueling) passion for each other grows, they’re at loose ends to express themselves in ways the other will appreciate, leading to scene after scene of push-pull lovemaking that zip between erotic and uncomfortable. It all culminates in a shocking, violent finale that stays sexy and appealing thanks to the full force of both Huppert and Magimel’s commitment to their parts and their shocking chemistry. -KE

7. “Stranger By the Lake” (2013)

stranger by the lake

“Stranger By the Lake”

Alain Guiraudie’s “Stranger By The Lake” unfairly earned a bad rap by gay viewers who thought it perpetuated the trope of gay sex leading to tragedy, a great injustice to such a finely tuned erotic thriller. Set mostly in the single location of a French lakeside cruising ground during one lazy summer, it follows Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) on his daily exploits as he befriends the older Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao) and finds himself attracted to the menacing Michel (Christophe Paou). After witnessing a shocking event one evening, Franck pursues Michel anyway, well aware of how dangerous it may be. Guiraudie cuts the tension with humor, letting it simmer just beneath the surface. As Franck and Michel search for a private clearing in the woods, they bump into other anonymous pairings, one who invites them to join. Through Henri, Guiraudie explores the ripe territory of a non-sexual relationship in a cruising context, as well as cross-generational gay friendships. It’s a rare look inside a world open to so few. Guiraudie never forgets Franck risks his life with each anonymous encounter, and this unsettling tension drives the film to its inevitable conclusion. -JD

6. “The Handmaiden” (2016)

“The Handmaiden”

One of the best movies of last year, Park Chan-wook’s inspired adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel “Fingersmith” is also one of the hottest. Moving Waters’ lurid con story from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea, Park and period costumes are a very pretty match indeed. From the opening shot in the rain, to stunning erotic poses as pretty as a painting, the imagery alone is enough to stimulate certain cinephiles. But the star-crossed romance between the sheltered Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim) and her sprightly handmaiden, Sook-hee (Tae-ri Kim), provides plenty of loaded exchanges while playing dress-up or lessons in the ways of love. Park strays from the source material, pushing the story to lewd extremes with the mysterious all-male gatherings at which Hideko’s evil guardian auctions off his rare erotica collection. But the sexiest scene has to be the consummation of Hideko and Sook-hee’s flirtation, which graciously holds nothing back. (Even if that inverted bridge scissoring position is totally ridiculous). -JD

Check out our top 5 choices on the next page, including a bevy of bad choices from compelling characters, one hell of a weird workplace environment, and our undisputed winner.

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