Decoding Passion: The Most Iconic Movie Sexual Scenes

Decoding Passion: The Most Iconic Movie Sexual Scenes

Romantic comedies are back! Or were they ever truly out? Backed by popular streaming giants (i.e. Netflix) and an emphasis on diverse cast, and plot points, rom-coms are remixing the iconic, late 1990s, early 2000s rom-coms!

Not only do they have quotable lines and memorable outfits, but they also contain famous (or maybe infamous) sexy scenes that had us sweating. 85% of movies contain sexual content. Some are mere references, but others include scenes that many of us will always remember after just one viewing. Iconic sexual scenes in movies cross boundaries of gender, orientation, and, sometimes, even the supernatural. Here are the picks of our favorite iconic sexual scenes in movies!

“Cruel Intentions” 

Released: 1999

Actors: Ryan Phillipe and Reese Witherspoon

This cult classic from 1990 has some of the most iconic sexual scenes of all time. The one we remember best is between Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Philippe’s characters, Annette and Sebastian. Their off-screen romance created on-screen chemistry like no other! Annette slowly appears up the escalator at Penn Station, surprised as Sebastian comes closer into view and they finally meet in the middle with a passionate kiss. Before their sex scene, Sebastian’s line, “Well I’m in love” causes our hearts to flutter. We can see why this couple was married for so long in real life!

“The Notebook

Released: 2004

Actors: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams

*Sigh.* Although more known for its romance, “The Notebook’s” Allie and Noah, played by McAdams and Gosling respectively, are one of our favorite couples and this sex scene was too passionate to not mention on this list. When Allie and Noah finally reunite, they share an iconic makeout in the rain, followed by a steamy scene where Noah carries Allie up the stairs to the bedroom. Plus, who can forget the heartbreaking ending?

“50 Shades Darker”

Released: 2017

Actors: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson

This series took BDSM from the shadows and allowed women everywhere to explore their sexuality. Would it be a Christian Grey (Dornan) sex scene without a little teasing? In this scene, Anastasia (Johnson) wears ben wa balls to Christian’s parents' masquerade gala. For Mr. Grey and Anastasia, the appeal comes from the secretive, yet public nature of the act.


Released: 1997

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

“Draw me like one of your French girls” has to be one of the most repeated movie phrases of all time, right? This scene between Jack and Rose is just as sweet as it is tragic. Knowing the fate these two will experience is bittersweet as an instrumental version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” plays in the background.


Released: 2015

Actors: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

We love a period drama, and one centered around a tender lesbian love story makes it all the better! Carol and Therese have some of the most palpable on-screen chemistry of this list. With the slow-burn tension of their relationship, it only adds to the desire when they finally have their long-awaited love scene. The scene, shot from Carol’s perspective is beautiful and rare in cinema. It simply switches between their perspectives and zooms in closer and closer until the scene fades leaving just the two of them together.


Released: 1990

Actors: Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze

“Ghost” is our first film that crosses into the supernatural with this sexual scene. Molly (Moore) and her murdered boyfriend Sam (Swayze) star in this iconic scene. Pottery has never been so sexual as Sam sits behind Molly as her legs wrap around a phallic pot. This scene is referenced in pop culture time and time again in the form of parodies, but we will always love the original!

 “The Ugly Truth”

Released: 2009

Actors: Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler

Abby (Katherine Heigl) wears a remote-controlled panty vibrator to an important corporate dinner. When the remote to the vibrator gets into the hands of the wrong person, she experiences an unexpected and very noticeable orgasm at dinner. Mike (Butler), her work-nemesis turned dating coach is the only person at dinner to know the full truth of what is going on. She excuses herself to go to the restroom to a table of stunned coworkers. Reenact your own version of this scene, at a restaurant, movie theater, or even at home with your own panty vibe.  

“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”

Released: 2003

Actors: Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey

We always associate this classic early 2000s formula romantic comedy with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and the incomparable yellow dress. Andie Anderson (Hudson) and Ben Barry (McConaughey) unknowingly have separate goals in dating each other. He wants to prove he can make any woman fall in love with him and she’s writing an article about how she can get a man to dump her in 10 days. When they finally give into their real feelings, they share a steamy (literally) kiss in the bathroom and hop into the shower for this scene. 

“Brokeback Mountain”

Released: 2005

Actors: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal

Widely regarded for its advancement of queer-cinema, this blockbuster hit has some of the most passionate sex scenes. Ennis (Ledger) and Jack (Gyllenhaal) continuously meet up on fishing trips, while leaving their wives and failing marriages at home. Their first time together in a tent was the first time a mainstream Hollywood film featured two men kissing on screen.

“9 1/2 weeks”

Released: 1986

Actors: Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke

Perhaps one of the most famous sexual scenes on our list, before “50 shades” was “9 ½ weeks.” This widely-popular BDSM flick saw everything from a blindfold, to food used in its many sexual scenes. In the infamous food scene, John (Rourke), a Wall Street Trader is seen feeding Elizabeth (Basinger), an art gallery assistant anything from strawberries to pasta as they sit on the floor in the refrigerator light.

“Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Released: 1975

Actors: Susan Sarandon and Peter Hinwood

“Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the only sex/musical scene combination on our list and it exemplifies camp more than sexy. In this scene between Janet (Sarandon) and Rocky Horror (Hinwood), she seduces Rocky entirely through the aptly named song “Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me.” The ensuing drama unfolds when they are found in bed together by Janet’s fiancé Brad and Dr Frank-n-Furter.


Released: 2013

Actors: Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson

Samantha (Johansson) an AI virtual assistant and Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) star in this Academy Award winning movie and modern day take on a sexual scene. Since Samantha is only a female voice, this scene utilizes audio in a way we’ve never seen on screen and may never again. It brings a whole new meaning to phone sex. 

“Basic Instinct”

Released: 1992

Actors: Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone

This sex scene is so hot, we even have a product named after it! The carnal attraction between Nick Curran (Douglas) and Catherine Trammell (Stone) shows a total loss of control in the bedroom. Basic Instinct is perhaps more recognized for the infamous leg-crossing scene, but it also completely raised the bar for sex scenes in Hollywood. Nick, a cop, and Catherine, a sociopathic crime novelist, make for an electric pair as they scratch at each other's backs and hold onto the bed for dear life.

Once you finish all the sexual scenes in movies, check out these steamy TV shows that’ll have your imagination running wild.

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