news The 50 Best Sexy Movies of the 21st Century, from ‘Spring Breakers’ to ‘X’

Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted on July 23, 2017, and has been updated multiple times since.

Few cinematic moments can burn themselves into an audience’s psyche better than a good sex scene. They can shock, arouse, or simply capture human beauty in ways that cinema is uniquely positioned to do. Sex scenes don’t have to define the movies they appear in, but they’re often the parts you remember the most.

The nature of sex scenes are constantly evolving, as the prevalence of intimacy coordinators and increased concern for performers’ safety in Hollywood is hopefully making regrettable sex scenes a thing of the past. That has allowed sexy cinema to flourish, with plenty of tantalizing movies hitting the multiplex in recent years. With that in mind, it felt like the right time to compile some of the best additions to the sexy film canon.

Our list of the 50 best sexy movies of this century is an international affair, with films originating from around the globe. From the biggest studio projects to the smallest independent films, the artists on this list prove that you can be sexy with budgets of any size. Keep reading to see our picks for the sexiest movies of the 21st century (so far).

Kate Erbland, Jude Dry, Eric Kohn, Ryan Lattanzio, Zack Sharf, and Jamie Righetti also contributed to this story.

50. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”​

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, (aka WO HU CANG LONG), from left: Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, 2000. ©Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”

©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ang Lee’s landmark martial arts epic is a love story as much as anything else, telling the story of the forbidden romance between Lo (Chang Chen) and Jen (Zhang Ziyi). The film’s intimate fight choreography and Lee’s sensitive camerawork blur the line between combat and sex, culminating in one of the sexiest fight scenes in modern film history. The sexiness isn’t the only reason to check out “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” — though the liberating feeling of Lo and Jen’s romance in the desert is pretty great — but it’s one of many factors that has turned the film into an enduring classic. —CZ

49. “Bones and All” (2022)​

BONES AND ALL, from left: Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell, 2022. ph: Yannis Drakoulidis /© MGM /Courtesy Everett Collection

“Bones and All”

©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

After “Call Me By Your Name,” Timothee Chalamet and Luca Guadagnino’s ability to craft sexy cinema together was never going to be questioned again. So for their second film together, it’s almost as if the collaborators decided to challenge themselves and make something erotic out of one of the least sexy topics on the planet: cannibalism. By many measures they succeeded, crafting a disturbingly sensual road movie set against the backdrop of middle America in the 1980s. While certain viewers will always be haunted by the slurping sounds, the sexual chemistry between Chalamet and Taylor Russell is impossible to ignore. —CZ

48. “The Northman” (2022)​

THE NORTHMAN, Alexander Skarsgard, 2022. ph: Aidan Monaghan / © Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Northman”

©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

Robert Eggers promised not to hold back in his attempt to make a historically accurate Viking movie, and nobody can deny that he delivered. The Norse revenge saga, loosely adapted from the same myth that inspired “Hamlet,” is overflowing with sex, violence, and very sexy violence. The Viking warriors (led by Alexander Skarsgard in the best shape of his career) are as jaw-droppingly muscular as they are scantily clad, and Anya Taylor-Joy’s presence ensures that the fairer sex is equally well-represented. Come for the Shakespearean drama, stay for the naked men fighting in a volcano. —CZ

47. “2046” (2004)​

2046, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Zhang Ziyi, 2004, (c) Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection


©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Wong Kar-wai films are essentially cinematic foreplay. No filmmaker is better at capturing the beauty and sensuality of slow-burning flirtations that never have to be consummated to entrance audiences. So it’s hardly surprising that his sort-of sequel to his most beloved film (“In the Mood for Love”) would feature the same brand of agonizing sexiness. Set in 2046, nearly a century after the 1960s Hong Kong romances that took place in “Days of Being Wild” and “In the Mood for Love,” the sci-fi romance features some of Wong’s most iconic characters finally reaching the conclusion of a lifetime of unexplored desire. It’s a singular film that could have only been made by a singular filmmaker, but it’s essential viewing for fans of his work. —CZ

46. “Decision to Leave” (2022)​

DECISION TO LEAVE, (aka HEOJIL KYOLSHIM), from left: TANG Wei, PARK Hae-il, 2022. © MUBI / courtesy Everett Collection

“Decision to Leave”

Courtesy Everett Collection

Expectations for a new Park Chan-wook movie are always high, so the rave reviews that “Decision to Leave” picked up at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival were hardly surprising. But few expected his police procedural to be so damn romantic. Park Hae-il stars as a detective whose interest in solving a case is significantly outweighed by his romantic feelings for his prime suspect (Tang Wei). The sexual tension that builds between them over the course of the film is never quite paid off in the way that many audiences probably hoped for, but the entire film is a testament to Park’s ability to find the humanity in any genre. —CZ

45. Casino Royale (2006)​

CASINO ROYALE, Eva Green, Daniel Craig, 2006, (c) Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

“Casino Royale”

©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Martin Campbell’s 007 film didn’t just mark the introduction of a new actor (Daniel Craig) playing James Bond — it represented a complete reinvention of what the iconic spy character could be. After years of increasingly goofy and dated Bond films, Campbell opted to ignore the character’s campy past and bring the womanizing secret agent into the 21st century with a bang. “Casino Royale” is sleek, gritty, and yes, very sexy (making Craig’s swim shorts one of the defining examples of sexy onscreen apparel). Rather than portray Bond as some kind of comic book character, it allowed audiences to see what it might look like if one of his high stakes spy missions took place in something resembling the real world. While the Daniel Craig era saw several other acclaimed directors put their own spin on James Bond, they all owe a debt to “Casino Royale.” —CZ

44. “The Love Witch” (2016)​

THE LOVE WITCH, Samantha Robinson, 2016. © Oscilloscope / courtesy Everett Collection

“The Love Witch”

Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Any horror lover should get a kick out of Anna Biller’s “The Love Witch,” which dutifully captures the Technicolor aesthetic in a playful tribute to 1960s horror movies. As the title suggests, the film follows a witch who uses her supernatural powers to lure men into her bed. The film is actually an intelligent commentary on gender roles and the unique power that women have over men in the real world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the multitude of delightfully campy sex scenes too. —CZ

43. “Lingua Franca” (2019)​

Lingua Franca

“Lingua Franca”


Isabel Sandoval’s masterful portrait of a trans Filipina immigrant is so intimately rendered it almost feels too close at times. The elegant breakout film was entirely directed, written, produced, and edited by Sandoval, who also plays the film’s sympathetic lead Olivia. The film follows an undocumented trans woman as she saves up for a green card marriage while working as a home health aide for an elderly Russian woman (Lynn Cohen) in Brighton Beach. Her plan becomes complicated by a simmering romance with the ne’er-do-well grandson Alex (Eamon Farren), a lost but gentle soul with a Slavic sex appeal. Their scenes are laden with a sexual tension that eventually gives way to latent desire, foreshadowed by intimately erotic scenes of Olivia’s self-pleasure. With her many hats translating into such confidently crafted cinema, Sandoval is the closest thing queer film has to a trans auteur working on such a level. Sharply edited and shot with an austere beauty, “Lingua Franca” is a profound example of what happens when marginalized voices are given full creative control. —JD

42. “The World to Come” (2020)​

The World to Come

“The World to Come”

Bleecker Street

Mona Fastvold’s frontier lesbian romance is fraught with all manner of hardships that afflict living life on the edge in the 1850s — apocalyptic snowstorms, perishing livestock, buried desires confined to secret diary entries. But the spark between Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby), two women coupled in heterosexual relationships to difficult men, is volcanic. What’s not seen is what’s most throbbingly romantic, as the two women do a sort of drawn-out dance over the course of a blooming friendship that always had an electric erotic current. Eventually, they take it to the bedroom in a kind of supercut of sharp sex scenes that punctuate the film’s inevitably tragic last passage — underlining that their affair was doomed from the start, but one that will stay indelibly close to Abigail’s heart (and loins). —RL

41. “Parallel Mothers” (2021)​

PARALLEL MOTHERS, (aka MADRES PARALELAS), from top: Milena Smit, Penelope Cruz, 2021. ph: Iglesias Mas / © Sony Pictures Classics /Courtesy Everett Collection

“Parallel Mothers”

©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Pedro Almodóvar is never one to shy from a complex erotic bond, and here the one between Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit) is both a kind of mother-daughter connection, but one that takes increasingly kinky turns. Their dynamic is ever-shifting from the maternal, to the erotic, and back again. Plenty of Almodóvar films have featured raunchy, vigorous sex scenes, but “Parallel Mothers” is sexiest for the electricity humming between Janis, who is childless in middle age and derailed by a busted affair, and Ana, a scared teenager staring down the precipice of parenthood. All these threads are tied up in a twisted little package that’s also one of Almodóvar’s most sumptuous love stories to date. —RL

50. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”​

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, (aka WO HU CANG LONG), from left: Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, 2000. ©Sony Pictures Classics/courtesy Everett Collection

fucking LOL crouching tiger isn't sexy AT ALL

"Lee’s sensitive camerawork blur the line between combat and sex, culminating in one of the sexiest fight scenes in modern film history"

What the fuck is this - did we watch the same movie ?

GIF by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

do i make you horny austin powers GIF
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