From Hollywood blockbuster to more indie fare, iconic scenes still stay with us long after the credits have rolled. Sex scenes can make us laugh, cry, or cringe with embarrassment. Throughout movie history there have been some truly spectacular sex scenes that take our breath away; moments that challenge us and make us contemplate everything from gender, sexuality and power to desire, intimacy and hatred. 

While often exaggerated and simplified for our entertainment, movies can also be a powerful tool to discuss real issues, debunk myths and bring taboo subjects to light. Here, we picked out some of the most memorable sex scenes in film and explain the reasons why they made such an impression on us.

Blue Is the Warmest Color: Yearning and Passion 

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) is a soulful take on a first love story between two young women in France. Directed by French auteur Abdellatif Kechiche, the movie features Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos as the lead stars and stands as one of the most honest depictions of a lesbian relationship ever seen on the big screen. It not just makes us care for the characters, but also shows us the realities of their passion; the struggles, rejections, breakups and the inevitable pain of a broken heart. The 8-minute long sex scene, where Adèle and Emma finally consummate their relationship, shows all of this so brilliantly. Both actresses were praised at the Cannes film festival for the realism of the scene and how intensely they act out the inner turmoil of the two lovers.

Teeth: Breaking Down Stereotypes 

No conversation on real sex scenes would be complete without mentioning Teeth (2007). The truly disturbing horror story is about a young girl (Jess Weixler) with a birth defect that allows her to become empowered over her attacker. It’s a modern take on female empowerment and defies the ‘damsel in distress’ stereotypes that have defined female characters for centuries. Set in an intense time, the movie doesn’t shy away from showing its protagonist giving in to her sexual desire and assert her dominance in relationships. The act of masturbation in this movie would put most porn films to shame.

Y Tu Mamá También: Yearning for a Connection 

Y Tu Mamá También (2001) gets its title from a humorously vulgar phrase used to express approval among Mexican friends. This coming of age story follows two young boys, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) who take a road trip with one of their older female relatives. They gradually feel an unexpected sexual connection with the woman that soon turns the unplanned journey into an important life-changing experience. Both exciting and sensual at the same time, Y Tu Mamá También is a beautiful reflection on how love and sex can help young adults understand themselves and the world better.

A Bigger Splash: Lust and Self-Discovery 

A Bigger Splash (2015) tells the story of a rock singer (Tilda Swinton) and her record producer boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). The couple live in seclusion on a gorgeous Italian island until a surprise visit from their former lover (Ralph Fiennes) and his ex-lover (Dakota Johnson) shakes things up. Obsessed with emotions and desires, this erotic thriller takes us along a compelling arc of feelings between these four characters entangled in arts and music. The highly sensual sex scene between Swinton and Schoenaerts shows a passionate lust between two characters and shatters any cliche ideas of love.

Call Me By Your Name: Burning Desire 

Call Me by Your Name (2017) is an intense period love story between two young men, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), set in Italy in the 1980s. Luca Guadagnino’s romantic masterpiece captures the complexity of fading love, conflicting emotions and joyful moments. Each gesture, look and glance between Chalamet and Hammer ignite chemistry that slowly drive the characters closer, building up excitement and anticipation. The scene where they finally consummate their affair is a wonderfully choreographed dance of yearning, desire and longing.

Candy: Intimacy and Exploration 

Candy (2006) features an intimate portrayal of a couple, Candy (Abbie Cornish) and Dan (Heath Ledger), as they attempt to cope with life’s difficulties. Richard Kelly’s movie about a young couple in Australia goes for realism rather than sensationalism when it comes to portraying sexuality. We see a young man eagerly exploring a woman’s body and appreciate passionate kissing scenes, full of eagerness and curiosity, as they passionately explore their desires. It’s a beautiful, intimate moment that not just resonates but also celebrates a couple’s connection.

Crash: taboos and identity 

Crash (1996) is a movie about people from different backgrounds, who find themselves engaging in different sexual activities, both as a means to explore their own identity and taboos. It follows a group of characters involved in car crashes, which cause them to discover new sexual identities and explore boundaries. The shining example of the movie is a scene between Holly Hunter and Elias Koteas, where a complete stranger caresses the other absolute fearlessly and intimately – an iconic moment that shows how an unexpected encounter can sometimes be an amazing opportunity for exploration.

There are too many amazing sex scenes in movies to mention in one article, and every single one offers something different. But these examples above just show how far our approach to sex in films has come. From gentle exploration to lustful yearning and exploration, these sex scenes demonstrate how movies can serve as tools to explore our deepest desires and give us a glimpse into our own emotions. It’s a reflection of how we define love, explore our relationship with our bodies and how we respond to pleasure. Through its raw depictions of love and sex, these scenes have the power to connect us emotionally with the characters, educate us, make us consider our societal boundaries, frequently push us outside our comfort zone yet spark conversations about passions and desires.