An adult movie has to have the quality of an erotic fever dream but at the same time, you watch it objectively questioning the plot and the story. In this article, we take a look at 30 of the best adult movies that shocked even us, as 50 Shades Of Grey wasn’t the first of it’s kind. Interestingly, before Christian Grey ever spanked anyone into submission, James Spader played Mr. Grey, an extra bossy boss whose demands really rev up his employee played by the famous Maggie Gyllenhaal in the movie Secretary. Her brother, Jake Gyllenhaal spices things up in Brokeback Mountain. Then there are otherworldly creatures (like David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as The Hunger’s vampire lovers) or disreputable schemers (like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe’s conniving stepsiblings in Cruel Intentions, a modern take on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 sexual-manipulation masterpiece Les Liaisons Dangereuses). We discuss everything from affairs to BDSM to sex scenes that play without minds because the stimulation was more mental than physical.
There are as many ways of defining a movie’s sexiness, but in one way or another, all of these movies on this list have the power to put us in the mood for love.
30 Of The Best International Adult Movies For When The Mood Strikes
1. Belle de Jour (1967)
In Luis Buñuel’s surrealist erotic gems, Catherine Deneuve plays a frigid bourgeois housewife who attempts her hand at prostitution.
She makes use of her previously empty afternoons to entertain clients. The picture is funny and strange and hypnotic, an experience that leaves you wondering if you’ve dreamed the whole thing. Only a filmmaker as inventive and gently twisted as Buñuel could have thought this for fans of adult movies!
2. Secretary (2002)
Thirteen years before Christian Grey ever spanked anyone into submission, James Spader played Mr. Grey, an extra bossy boss whose demands really rev up his employee (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.)
Under the direction of Steven Shainberg, the award-winning adult movie showed how a sadomasochistic relationship could evolve from a tilted dynamic that traps the female submissive into one that freakishly empowers her. The quirky brilliance of this indie redefined Spader’s career and made a star out of Gyllenhaal, who masters all office tasks while she’s literally cuffed to a bondage bar.
3. Brokeback Mountain
The love story of lonely cowboys Jack (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (played Heath Ledger) is a cult adult movie making it a gay tour-de-force.
Director Ang Lee uses minimal dialogue to deliver maximal sexual impact. Brokeback‘s story of repressed gay love resonated with audiences on its way to the Oscars. Despite its tragic finale, the movie’s beating heart is the electric romance acted out by Ledger and Gyllenhaal. Their rough passion in a dark, cold tent in the wilderness deepens into anguished love forbidden turning even the straights slightly into it.
4. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
A gorgeous amnesiac (played by Laura Harring) and a bright-eyed movie-star hopeful (played by Naomi Watts) fall into bed before, possibly, falling into the abyss. David Lynch’s noir Hollywood reverie is like midnight in a bottle. It’s a sunlight-and-shadow view of a dream-busting town that leaves a heady perfume in its wake. No other film offers quite the buzzing erotic charge this one does.
5. Cruel Intentions (1999)
Before there was 50 Shades Of Grey, there was this cult classic.
With a cast of pretty young actors and plenty of youthful debaucheries, Cruel Intentions could easily be mistaken for just another teen drama. But there’s a menacing, provocative edge to director Roger Kumble’s film adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Manhattan’s ruthless prep school elite (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair) find their way to seduction as being the ultimate way to get what they want. This adult film gave audiences a cold, hard look at just how sexy the art of manipulation, including that famous sapphic kiss, can be. Even when it’s also serving as an exploration of teenage sexuality including incest.
6. In the Mood for Love (2000)
Wong Kar-wai’s adult film, set in early 1960s Hong Kong, may be the sexiest movie to feature absolutely no sex. The moody romance of the film exists in the negative space between humans that will never make contact. Starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as next-door neighbors whose spouses are having an affair with one another, the story of unconsummated love aches with desire without touching.
There is no nudity, and still Wong serves up shot after shot of lush imagery: the lonely glow of a red lampshade, a disappearing wisp of cigarette smoke, steam escaping from a kettle. It’s a melancholy affair, and still a reminder that sometimes the possibility of sex can be sexier than the act itself.
7. Love and Basketball (2000)
If you don’t think sports movies can pack sexual chemistry, you’ve never seen this one. Gina Prince Bythwood’s first film (she went on to make the also-sexy Beyond the Lights) is about two ambitious basketball players (played by Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan) trying to figure out if professional and personal happiness are compatible. The adult film, which begins when they are childhood sweethearts, take a look through adolescence and into adulthood. It’s shot primarily from the woman’s perspective. And the sexiest scene may be when the two face off on the court, first in a playful strip basketball game and later in a more serious competition for each other’s heart.
8. Swimming Pool (2003)
Charlotte Rampling is at peak provocation in this thriller, stuck as she is in a French country house where she presumed she’d have peace to work on her novel. She didn’t count on a young guest (Ludivigne Sagnier) coming over to sun herself and to entertain various local men. The chemistry and tension between the two women comes to be deliciously unbearable. With a final twist that reinvents Rampling’s aging-writer character and forces you to wonder just how rapacious the erotic imagination can be, Swimming Pool is one adult movie as taut and tense as its sun-drenched setting is louche. The contrast is electric.
9. Dirty Dancing (1987)
Rarely do more scenes have more sex appeal than the moment in Dirty Dancing. You know the one. The one when roguish older dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) teaches the naive 19 year old Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) how to swivel her hips to the beat of the music. Or maybe it’s actually the one when they crawl across the floor mouthing song lyrics to each other. Or the big dance finale with that lift? Most scenes from the Emile Ardolino picture (with a screenplay by Eleanor Bergstein) have become a re-watch mainstay for one good reason: you can’t beat their chemistry.
10. Magic Mike (2012)
Welcome to the secret lives of male strippers shown through this adult movie.
This film (and its sequel) used gleaming six-packs and Channing Tatum’s lithe charm to hit a raw and lucrative nerve. Objectifying men has never been heard of much, and women fell head over heels for the chance to turn the male gaze inside out. Director Steven Soderbergh’s first movie employed tough economic reasons to give its characters depth. While the sunnier XXL directed by Gregory Jacobs was satisfied to give audiences a bumpy, grindy show. There’s nothing subtle about this adult movie and nothing called for a subtitle either when hedonism, fantasy and shallowness look this good.
11. Unfaithful (2002)
Director Adrian Lyne’s erotic thriller is an adult movie that invites viewers to get lost in the fantasy of an illicit affair between married suburban mom Connie Sumner (played by Diane Lane) and young French bookseller Paul Martel (played by Olivier Martinez).
The film—which also stars Richard Gere as Connie’s husband Edward—plays up the suspense as it delves deep into Connie’s obsession with her infidelity. A clip of Connie riding the train back from a tryst with Paul shows her struggling with a flood of pleasure and pain.
12. Atonement (2007)
Cecilia Tallis (played by Keira Knightley) and Robbie Turner (played by James McAvoy) smolder in Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Ian McEwan classic. Viewers found it impossible not to root for the lovers separated by a tragic lie—and class more importantly. The raciest scene, easily, is their furtive encounter in a library, where the tension of getting caught ran high. Even more memorable: Knightley’s emerald evening gown, possibly the sexiest sartorial flourish on film. In literature, the color often represents magic and folly. In the adult movie Atonement, it stood for desire, especially when she was getting banged against a book collection.
13. Body Heat (1981)
A tempering Florida heatwave is the perfect backdrop for this legal thriller about an adulterous tryst between unhappily married socialite Matty (played by Kathleen Turner in her first role) and her enamored lover Ned (played William Hurt). What ensues is a game of cat and mouse in which Matty convinces Ned he’s in control while, in fact, she’s the narcissist pulling all the strings. Director Lawrence Kasdan got the idea from watching another famously tantalizing film noir, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity.
14. The Hunger (1983)
Tony Scott presented horror at its most sensual with this early work about a failed relationship between a sexually violent flesh-feasting vampire (played by Catherine Deneuve) and her conquests (played by David Bowie and Susan Sarandon). The topless woman-on-woman sex scene was controversial back in its day. Fortunately, it also helped turn Sarandon into a sex symbol. The Hunger may have been light on the story, but it became a template for high-concept adult movies. Bowie’s curled mouth, Deneuve’s bewitching stare, and Sarandon’s innocent eyes still burn bright for the film’s cult followers.
15. Weekend (2011)
Two men meet at a gay club late one Friday and spend the night together.
An adult movie about that may have been a fairly avant-garde proposition for a film with artsy ambitions, given the state of funding for LGBTQ+ cinema. But what’s really shocking about Weekend is that it is one of the adult movies with an ongoing hang session suffused with longing and angst and possibility. Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen’s (Chris New) liaison has a hard endpoint, as Glen is leaving central England at the weekend’s end for an arts program in the U.S. The pair’s time together is running quick, punctuated with quick passionate, we-may-never-meet-again coupling. But it’s also imbued with something even sexier: real conversation. The gay men of Weekend are more than just a demographic label—a feat director Andrew Haigh would repeat with his HBO series Looking. They’re two characters who, ever so briefly, genuinely managed to fit together perfectly.
16. 9½ Weeks (1986)
The brief, ill-fated romance between Elizabeth McGraw (played by Kim Basinger) and John Gray (played by Mickey Rourke) only lasted 9 ½ passionate weeks.
The adult movies’ director Adrian Lyne used kinky sex (with some not-so-subtle nods to BDSM) and the underlying psychological power play to full effect. The adult film’s steamy role play—including a notorious kitchen scene that gives a whole new meaning to “food porn”—have been noted for being some of the most sexually explicit scenes back in the day!
17. Do the Right Thing (1989)
No film re-creates the feverish chemistry of a heatwave more than Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.
This old school classic glimmers and glistens with a restless energy that pulses through one sweltering New York City day where tempers flare on one block.
Especially when it’s Rosie Perez’s Tina who sets the sultry mood of the film with a mesmerizing, impassioned dance sequence in the opening credits set to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
18. The Graduate (1967)
Mike Nichols’ era-defining adult movie rolled through boring suburbia like a Sherman tank.
It forever established Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) as the poster boy for aimless post-college youth. Influential in its time and far beyond, The Graduate is one of the adult movies that broke new ground with an all-Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack and radical camera angles that brought the desperation of being young in the 60s into focus. It went even further with its eroticism: Mrs. Robinson’s (Anne Bancroft) outstretched, stocking-clad leg gave Ben a new sense of direction. And, of course, today the name “Mrs. Robinson” is synonymous with an enticing older woman.
19. Moonlight (2016)
The main character in Barry Jenkins’s lyrical drama Moonlight is young, black, broke and gay—a demographic that rarely features in romantic films.
Chiron (the main character) at various ages (played by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) each grapple with the challenges of developing masculinity in a gay body.
The film’s imagery too is at turns vibrant, at others ethereal where a person’s skin has never looked so beautiful or alive on film before. Moonlight is a film of quiet moments, repressed longing with the barest of consummation.
20. Before Sunrise (1995)
Imagine the best date you’ve ever gone on in your life? But it won’t compare to the 24-hours depicted in Before Sunrise. In this early Richard Linklater film, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is an American who meets Céline (Julie Delpy) by happenstance on a train – which is the most spontaneous date ever!
They decide to hang on to each other around Vienna before parting ways, possibly forever.
Before Sunrise (and its two sequels) is one of the adult movies that prove the brain is the most vital sex organ. The couple ends up chatting for two hours, sharing their life philosophies, stories of their exes, time travel and—of course—love. It’s the best kind of foreplay, mental or otherwise.
21. The Handmaiden (2016)
The eroticism of The Handmaiden is one of the adult movies that is inextricably linked to its themes of deception and cunning. Movie sex, after all, is more entertaining when there is a possibility that its participants may turn out to be enemies. South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s historical crime drama transports the plot of Welsh writer Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith to Korea under Japanese rule in the 1930s. The less you know about the plot, the better actually. So no spoilers here but let’s just say that a pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) becomes handmaiden to an heiress (Kim Min-hee) whom she intends to swindle out of her fortune. Even if its most scintillating moments are those when the two women find passion in one another’s arms, the question of when and how they will discover it again—and what the consequences may be—maintains the sexual tension even when all are fully clothed.
22. Bound (1996)
In 1996, Lana and Lilly Wachowski—then known as the Wachowski Brothers—made their first movie, the gorgeously tawdry romantic thriller Bound. Mobster’s minx Jennifer Tilly and sultry ex-con plumber Gina Gershon play a duo of schemers out to steal a bunch of mafia money. Violent, sensual and funny, Bound is one of the adult movies that is sly and intelligently made as the love scenes between Tilly and Gershon will really steam up your glasses.
23. Masti (Series)
Masti as a series became a sleaze-fest and even though the instalment was hilarious, the next ones just had deteriorated to include vulgar scenes which were just uncalled for.
While the plot of the story is quite funny, the series is a gamut of adult scenes with double meaning dialogues, which you should just avoid watching with people around you.
An adult movie that talks explicitly on the subject of sexual atrocities that are faced by the women of rural India, Matrubhoomi is definitely a must-watch movie. This non-commercial adult movie is the first feature film based on female infanticide, which is quite noteworthy and real. You should watch this to broaden your mind, just not with people around you.
25. Ragini MMS (Series)
A horror movie mixed with a lot of adult content seems like a good idea, right? There is Ragini MMS for that which is not just the scariest movie made but is also a combination of a lot of steamy scenes, which will definitely make you feel all awkward with people around you.
26. Below Her Mouth
The title, Below Her Mouth, in itself, is provocative and gives a good idea about the concept of this adult movie. But just in case you want to know a tad bit more about it then it’s an adult movie based on erotic romance, which is about a lesbian couple who embark on a steamy love affair. Watch the trailer, before you decide to take the plunge!
27. 365 DNI
A recent adult movie that went live on a digital platform, 365 DNI or 365 days, has left the audience all bothered with so many steamy scenes. This erotic, romantic drama is about a relationship that goes way beyond love and you would witness multiple, sex-filled plots in it, which makes even Fifty Shades Of Grey a tamed version in front of this one.
Love is a French film, an erotic adult movie, which you should not even dare watch with people around you. This adult movie has sex scenes recorded on a camera, and hence it’s best to steer clear of making this one a public affair.
29. Aastha: In The Prison Of Spring
Imagining an adult movie based on explicit raunchy scenes back in time is just a little hard to digest but Aastha made waves, being one of the most unanticipated films of Bollywood. Portraying the role of a married woman who then becomes a prostitute, this movie was severely criticised and yet became a huge success. Kudos to Rekha, for pulling this off so well!
When an adult movie includes a lot of adult scenes, it hardly takes time for it to become a controversial fare. So when a Bollywood movie called Girlfriend was made, there was no doubt, it would all stir up again. Starring Isha Kopikar and Amrita Arora, even this movie has fiery romance which you should not try watching with people around you.