Ah, cinematic sex scenes. Usually they're totally sensationalist and unnecessary, and for a while led me to believe that perfectly timed mood music would pump out of the sky during sex. (Not so, it turns out.) But every once in a while, a sex scene comes along that not only enhances the movie, but stands on its own as a legitimate scene. Here are my top 5 (again, I feel it is only fair to just address movies I have actually seen).
In no particular order:
1. American Pie - the sex scene between Vicky (Tara Reid) and Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas). Now I saw this movie a long time ago, and not even in its entirety. Amid all its teen sex romp hijinks, though, is a brutal and rare piece of cinematic truth. Vicky and Kevin are the nice guy and girl, respectively. They are losing their virginity to each other at an after-prom party. The remarkable thing about this scene is, it's AWKWARD. Vicky keeps eliciting little moans of discomfort, and at one point reprimands Kevin for squishing her hair. There's no mood music. It's beautifully awkward.
2. Annie Hall - when Annie and Alvy are having sex and Annie is emotionally absent from the experience, as represented by her translucent ghostlike conscious sitting in the corner. Clever and poignant.
3. The 40-Year-Old Virgin - Andy's (Steve Carrell's) triumphant first time. He has married his true love, Trish, and they go into a hotel room to seal the deal. After violently screaming at the cleaning guy to get out, they begin, and Trish declares "you're officially not a virgin anymore." Then a black screen flashes the words "1 minute later," with Andy looking wide-eyed and ecstatic. They do it again, and again, and then the whole cast bursts into a glorious rendition of "Aquarius." Hilarious.
4. Titanic - Jack and Rose doin it in the car of the sinking ship. Hey, I said memorable, not good, and this one is pretty cheesy. Although fucking on a sinking boat is pretty sexy in an apocalyptic kinda way. And admit it, the image of the hand sliding down the steamed-up window of the car stuck with you.
5. Atame (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) Of course there's an Almodovar movie in here. His approach to cinematic sex is always fresh and innovative, but I chose to include this particular film. It's the infamous sex scene between Ricky and Marina, which helped bring about the NC-17 rating (the film was previously slapped with an X rating). There's nothing perverse or weird here, it's just two people having sex in a bed. According to IMDB, the scene took nine takes and nine hours to get right, and Almodovar used the last take because the actors had by then worked themselves up into a realistic sweat. Veteran director Elia Kazan called it "one of the best sex scenes he had ever witnessed." I agree.
The Graduate - the first intimate encounter of Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. I didn't include it on the list because technically they are not shown doing the actual deed, but the interaction directly beforehand is just brilliant and delicious. He admits he's a virgin, and there's an eerily Oedipal dynamic between the motherly and the naive. The dialogue is great - Mrs. Robinson announces that she is going to get undressed, and Benjamin asks what he should do. "Why don't you watch?" she says. "Oh - sure," he says, "Thank you."
Thank You For Smoking - Heather (Katie Holmes) and Nick (Aaron Eckhart) are starting to fool around on his bed, and media coverage of him comes on the tube. Heather declares lustily, "I want to fuck you while I watch you on TV."
Factory Girl - Okay, I haven't seen this movie. But I am including it because apparently the sex scene is mind-bogglingly realistic. (I tried to find the scene on YouTube - no luck).