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22 Great Erotic Thrillers, from Adrian Lyne to Brian De Palma

What happened to Hollywood's sleaziest and, at one point, most bankable genre for adult moviegoers? We look at 22 entries in the psychosexual thriller canon.

Erotic Thrillers

“Basic Instinct,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Cruel Intentions,” “The Handmaiden”

The erotic thriller — the sleaziest and at one point most enduring genres of the 1980s and ’90s — seemed on the cusp of a comeback last year with the return of director Adrian Lyne. The master behind films like “Fatal Attraction” and “9 ½ Weeks” came back to screens (albeit small ones) with “Deep Water,” his first film in two decades since “Unfaithful” earned Diane Lane an Oscar nomination and one that firmly returns him to the erotic stomping grounds of his heyday.

Alas, the turgid drama, based on a Patricia Highsmith potboiler and starring a listless Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas as open lovers who detest each other, is a turkey, a straight-to-streaming dud that evokes better ideas from better movies and fails to be neither erotic nor thrilling.

Still, “Deep Water” can serve as a twofold instruction point: for Hollywood to dig deeper to come up with hopefully better erotic thrillers and for viewers to revisit or, for the first time, discover the movies that precipitated “Deep Water’s” existence in the first place.

Last year, Karina Longworth took filmgoers back in time to the “Erotic ’80s” with the latest season of her “You Must Remember This” podcast, looking back on Hollywood’s quintessential erotic thrillers, body horrors, neo-noirs, and sex comedies. The first part of the season debuted last spring, with the follow-up “Erotic ’90s” set to debut next.

And this year at the Sundance Film Festival, Chloe Domont’s “Fair Play” put the defibrillators to the genre with a shocking workplace psychosexual thriller starring Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor. Netflix scooped it out of the festival for a cool $20 million — expect this to be a big hit on the streaming platform.

Meantime, IndieWire picks 22 of the best movies from Hollywood’s golden age of erotic thrillers and now, kicking off with 1980’s “Cruising” and ending with a few recent titles that fit the bill.

Jude Dry and Samantha Bergeson contribute to this story.

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