History of Sex in Cinema:
The Greatest and Most Influential
Sexual Films and Scenes



The History of Sex in Cinema
Title Screens
Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description

Altered States (1980)

Director Ken Russell's R-rated sci-fi thriller with impressive visual and sound effects was based upon a 1978 Paddy Chayefsky novel - it was also Chayefsky's final film. [Note: Chayefsky denounced the film, and replaced his name in the credits with the pseudonym Sydney Aaron.] The film's tagline described the plot:

In the basement of a medical school Dr. Jessup floats naked in total dakness. The most terrifying experiment in the history of science is out of control...and the subject is himself.

It told about a late 1960s professor searching for ultimate truth. His sensory deprivation and hallucinatory experiments eventually led to drastic consequences. The two main characters were:

  • Dr. Edward "Eddie" Jessup (William Hurt in his screen debut), a single-minded scientist studying schizophrenia, first in NYC, and then teaching at the Cornell Medical College at Harvard
  • Emily Jessup (Blair Brown), Eddie's girlfriend and soon after, his wife

In the opening titles sequence, Jessup used a sensory deprivation tank on himself. Anthropologist academic grad student Emily was smitten with Jessup at a party - intrigued and intensely drawn to him by the experiments he was conducting. She was agreeable to his suggestion to make love in her place, even though she had a roommate. While they made love in reddish hues, both naked and sweating, she questioned him about his thoughts, possibly either inspired or insane, and learned that he was seeing visions of a crucified Christ during sex:

Emily: "What are you thinking about?"
Eddie: "God, Jesus, crucifixions."
Emily: "As a rule, do you usually think about Christ and crucifixions under sexual stress?"
Eddie: "When I was nine years old, I used to see visions, visions of saints and angels, even Christ himself. Of course, I don't do that anymore, not since I was sixteen."
Emily: "Were your parents religious?"
Eddie: "Anything but. My father was an aeronautical engineer. My mother a clinical psychologist."

Love-Making and Hallucinatory Visions with Emily (Blair Brown)

After his father died a terrible death from cancer, he lost his belief in God. During the course of Jessup's experiments after he and Emily were married (but then separated due to Eddie's obsessive quest), he was able to regress through the evolutionary scale - enhanced later by ingesting hallucinatory (peyote) drugs. When he took a trip in Mexico to participate in a mushroom ceremony - in the midst of pyrotechnic fireworks exploding around him, he envisioned Emily in one of his strange visions, in which she morphed into a large naked Kimono dragon-lizard and then crumbled into dust during a sandstorm.

In the final scene, Eddie had almost given up, but fought his way back from primitive regression to be with Emily (by slamming himself into a hallway wall to regain his humanity), to keep himself from devolving into an amorphous mass of primordial matter and energy. As he struggled to be free, she brought him back to reality and life, by demanding: "Defy it, Eddie! You made it real. You can make it unreal. If you love me, Eddie, if you love me. Eddie! Defy it!" They embraced and grabbed onto each other, naked and human again, after he had successfully escaped from the "real and living horror." He confessed with the final lines of the film: "I love you, Emily."

Edward (William Hurt) and Emily (Blair Brown)

American Gigolo (1980)

Writer/director Paul Schrader's stylish and hip early 80s romantic crime drama with attitude was very loosely based on French director Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959). This ground-breaking film contained full-frontal male nudity - one of the first instances in a mainstream film for a major Hollywood actor.

It was noted for its iconic title character - an American gigolo:

  • Julian Kaye (Richard Gere), a high-priced, vain, and cocky-arrogant Beverly Hills hustler and gigolo

Julian enjoyed the luxurious fruits of his hedonistic lifestyle (Giorgio Armani silks and linens, a black Mercedes 450SL convertible) and his Westwood apartment. Kaye bedded down affluent older women, widows, rich housewives, beach girls (Playboy Playmate of May 1979 Michele Drake and Linda Horn), and foreign tourists.

The American Gigolo (Richard Gere)
with Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton)

One of Julian's bed partners was Michelle Stratton (supermodel Lauren Hutton), a bored, unhappy, and elegant trophy wife of a rising Californian politician. They initially met in a reddish-lit, ritzy hotel bar, where they engaged in sexy foreplay talk as she encouraged him: "My husband's in New York... I'm not waiting for anyone" and then asked: "Why did you come on to me?" She also coyly inquired about whether he knew the "international language" of sex and also asked as she held up one finger:

"How much would you charge me?...Just one f--k."

He declined her invitation, but later she boldly asked again: "I want to know what it would be like to f--k you. I brought money" - he responded by slowly moving his hand down her chest to her raincoat belt and untied it.

Julian was also hired by a wealthy and sadistic Palm Springs client Mr. Rheiman (Tom Stewart) to make love to his abused wife Judy (Patricia Carr). While the husband watched, he caressed her gently, saying:

"Don't worry about anything. I can take care of you. I know what you want... I'm gonna take care of you. I'm gonna get you wet. I'm gonna get you very wet. I know how to do this."

In the meantime, the voyeuristic husband instructed cruelly: "Slap her. Slap that c--t." As the story progressed, Julian was framed by his black pimp Leon (Bill Duke) for Judy's murder, and Michelle was at first reluctant to provide an alibi for him due to the political ramifications.

With Beach Girls Sunbathing (Michele Drake and Linda Horn)

With Mrs. Judy Rheiman
(Patricia Carr)

Julian Kaye
(Richard Gere)

Bad Timing (1980, UK)

Director Nicolas Roeg's non-chronological, dark psychological drama/thriller, an X-rated film subtitled A Sensual Obsession, was condemned by its distributor as a 'sick' film and pulled from its short release, and not re-released for decades. The film contained some erotic but unexplicit sex, and was regarded as problematic for its unflattering and emotionally brave performances regarding obsessive love.

The story, told in flashback and with a series of overlapping non-chronological segments, was about the destructive, twisted and disturbing relationship (taglined as "a terrifying love story") in Cold-War Vienna between:

  • Dr. Alex Linden (pop singer Art Garfunkel), a creepy, intellectual and chilly American research psychology professor from NYC
  • Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell) - a free-spirited, hedonistic, extroverted, semi-alcoholic, suicidal American woman living abroad

The innovative film opened with an unconscious Milena in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, with Alex at her side. She had attempted suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Her condition was serious and he was suspiciously questioned by authorities led by Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel), since Alex had found her comatose in her apartment, and had reported the emergency. Netusil was suspicious and confronted Alex: "Would you like to confess, Dr. Linden?"

In the operating room, one scene was the intercutting juxtaposition of a bloody tracheotomy being performed on Milena's throat with one of their orgasmically-passionate sexual encounters. At the same time during a heart resuscitation scene, Alex was confronting her with the words: "To whom?!"

"Bad Timing" with Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell)

In the past, Alex had exhibited obsessive control and jealousy over Milena and expressed violent cruelty and suspicion, especially when he found out that she was married - although estranged - to Czech citizen Stefan Vognic (Denholm Elliott). Their relationship consisted of a series of love-making episodes and quarreling breakups, seemingly doomed by 'bad timing.'

During questioning, it appeared that Alex had falsified some of the facts about the timing of his appearance at Milena's apartment. In flashback, it was revealed, in the film's most controversial and disturbing scene, that he had possibly stripped (cut her underwear with a scalpel), fondled her, and then raped her unconscious body (as he repeated: "I love you") after she had suicidally overdosed on pills.

Dr. Linden (Art Garfunkel)
Raping Unconscious
Milena (Theresa Russell)

Bare Behind Bars (1980, Brazil) (aka A Prisão)

Writer/director Oswaldo de Oliveira's X-rated (and banned in the UK), sensationalistic, mean-spirited women in prison film has been regarded as the ultimate sleazy, and often hard-core example of its sub-genre of exploitation.

It featured a rat-infested Brazilian prison with a communal toilet where female inmates had been falsely incarcerated, and were repeatedly tortured, hosed down and raped. The psychopathic, sado-masochistic lesbian blonde warden Silvia (Maria Stella Splendore) was supported by the prison's perverted, incompetent, fruit-loving and sex-obsessed blonde nurse Barbara (Marta Anderson) who pleasured herself by conducting deviant activities with nude inmates.

Another Women-in-Prison Film: The Behind-Bars Staff
Warden Silvia
(Maria Stella Splendore)
Assistant Warden Sandra
(Neide Ribeiro)
Nurse Barbara
(Marta Anderson)

There were numerous tortures and whippings, catfights, naked exercises, invasive cavity searches for concealed items such as shaving razors, and forced sex. A giant carved pineapple dildo and plastic one were sported by goofy Nurse Barbara.


Prison guards (with open-buttoned white blouses as uniforms) supervised pretty naked inmates with tan lines having sex and steamy showers, and a subplot involved white slavery - the pimping of the females as sex slaves.

The film concluded with an escape attempt that ultimately failed (including a brutal male castration scene of a dead man).

Warden Silvia
(Maria Stella Splendore)



The Blue Lagoon (1980)

In director Randal Kleiser's version of Henry DeVere Stacpoole's 1903 novel set on a South Pacific tropical island, the facts of life were awkwardly and dumbly unfolded between the two sex-starved, ship-wrecked, and marooned teens:

  • Richard Lestrange (Christopher Atkins)
  • Emmeline Lestrange (14 year-old Brooke Shields)

[Note: It was followed by the unnecessary sequel Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991) with Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause in the lead roles.]

In this "sensuous story of natural love," they grew up together on the remote South Pacific tropical island and experienced the first awakenings of love and sexuality (including menstruation, puberty, masturbation, and intercourse) - and even teenaged pregnancy and the birth of a child.

The idyllic film contained inane dialogue:

  • "You're always staring at my buppies."
  • "I've seen you play with 'it', and I know what happens when you play with 'it' for a long time."

The film was self-censored and sanitized with glued-down hair and palms carefully concealing genital areas and breasts, and the use of a body double (stunt double Kathy Troutt) for Shields when obvious nudity was shown without her accompanying face.

Body Double? for Brooke Shields as Emmeline

(Brooke Shields)

Can't Stop the Music (1980)

TV actress Nancy Walker's debut film was this R-rated gay, pseudo-autobiographical disco musical film.

It was a major flop, and won the Razzie Award for the Worst Film of its year - and was also nominated as the 'Worst Musical' in the Razzies' first 25 years.

The notable film (for all the wrong reasons) contained explicit and overt homo-eroticism in the YMCA musical sequence (the famed number by the Village People), and images that included full-frontal male nudity in a locker-room shower, shirtless virile men, free-spirited, topless ex-model Samantha Simpson (Valerie Perrine) in a hot-tub with lots of guys, and a knockoff of Busby Berkeley-style pool choreography.

(Valerie Perrine)

A Change of Seasons (1980)

This romantic comedy was nominated for three Razzies at the inaugural Golden Raspberry Awards - for Worst Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Worst Screenplay (co-writer Eric Segal, known for Love Story (1970) and others), and Worst Original Song. It was a post-sexual revolution, 1980's update of an earlier Paul Mazursky comedy titled Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) - about the challenges of marital infidelity.

It opened with a memorable hot-tub title-credits sequence filmed in slow-motion. Two of the film's four main characters, a young 20 year-old student (Bo Derek) and her 42-year-old English literature professor (Anthony Hopkins) were frolicking - with glistening and slippery skin - in a hot tub. She repeatedly emerged from under the bubbling water and flipped her hair back in a cascade.

The sequence was added to the already-shot footage for the film, to highlight Bo's nakedness, and to appeal to moviegoers, who had just seen Bo in a star-making role in 10 (1979). Hopkins played Adam Evans, an over-40 university professor who was having an affair with one of his nubile students - Lindsey Rutledge. His 41 year old wife Karyn (Shirley MacLaine) discovered the affair and confronted her husband - and also began an affair of her own with the handyman Pete Lachapelle (Michael Brandon) who had been hired to build bookshelves.

Things came to a climax when the two cheating couples spent a foursome weekend at their country home in the snow, where the Evans' grown-up daughter Kasey (Mary Beth Hurt), her on-and-off lover Paul Di Lisi (Paul Regina), and Lindsey's wealthy lothario father Steven (Edward Winter) also appeared.

Opening Title Credits Sequence - Hot Tub

"Would you like to join me?"

Adam (Anthony Hopkins) and Lindsey (Bo Derek)

Cruising (1980)

William Friedkin's notorious, grisly slasher-thriller film about a police investigation examined the seedy and dangerous underworld of gay S&M in NY's heavy leather bars (including The Ramrod). NY Times reporter Gerald Walker's 1970 novel of the same name was the basis for the dramatic film, about an NYPD police investigation to find a self-loathing homosexual serial killer who was targeting gays.

It displayed actual leather-clad gay-bar patrons as extras in the meat-packing district rather than actors, and was considered a precursor to some segments of Irreversible (2002, Fr.). It received three Golden Raspberry nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Director (losing twice to Can't Stop the Music (1980) and to Xanadu (1980)). Two months after the film was released, a man killed two patrons and injured almost a dozen others at The Ramrod with a sub-machine gun.

The originally X-rated film (eventually reduced to R after massive cuts) is currently truncated. It still lacks approximately 40 minutes of footage that were censored and edited out.

[Note: Co-director James Franco's semi-documentary Interior. Leather Bar. (2013) reconstructed or "imagined" the missing 40 minutes of hardcore footage that were cut from the film.]

It opened with a disclaimer:

"The film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world which is not meant to be a representative of the whole."

However, major protests by gay groups - the first of their kind - accused the semi-exploitational film of being anti-gay and homophobic prior to the AIDS crisis for its depiction of the gritty, kinky, dangerous, sex-obsessed and depraved lifestyle of homosexuals. The protest centered around the film's ultra-provocative plot -- murders in gay nightclubs, and the film's negative, one-sided and stereotypical view of gays portrayed as crude psychopaths, sexual deviants, and sexual predators engaged in violent fetishistic activity and various hardcore sexual acts (i.e., a scene of fisting with a nearly naked man shackled and hanging from the ceiling).

Scenes of Burns Going Undercover in Gay Bar

The controversial film about an alternative or extreme lifestyle starred Al Pacino as a supposedly-straight undercover cop. He was investigating violent serial killer murders in the Big Apple's homosexual underworld, after the murder of Paul Vincent, a gay college professor at Columbia University. The killings were evidenced by body parts found in the Hudson River, thereby connecting violence with the homosexual lifestyle.

Steve Burns (Al Pacino) posed and transformed himself into a gay man in order to fit the serial killer's victim profile. He was forced to bid goodbye to his girlfriend Nancy (Karen Allen) for awhile during the case. He was dispatched to locate and identify possible suspects and possibly to serve as 'bait' for the killer. Burns assumed the name "John Forbes," moved into a West Village apartment, and began to regularly frequent gay bars (such as the Ramrod, Wolf's Den, the Eagle's Nest, the Anvil, and the Cock Pit, among others) to observe the scene. Meanwhile, two more similar murders occurred, one in Central Park, and a second in an adult bookstore peep-show back-room.

Burns conducted a sting operation against a suspected gay man named Skip Lee (Jay Acovone), who worked as a busboy at a fancy Penn Station steakhouse known as The Iron Horse (with steak knives that conceivably matched the kiiller's weapon of choice from forensic photos), but the operation was aborted and ultimately Skip was found innocent. During a brutal police interrogation, both Burns and Skip were confronted and punched by a large black man in thong underwear and a cowboy hat who was inexplicably involved in the questioning.

Burns was about ready to quit being undercover ("I don't think I can do the job, Captain") and feared that he had homosexual tendencies. However, he was pressured to continue the case by following up on a lead in the Paul Vincent murder (a gay Columbia Univ. professor) by questioning one of Vincent's former students (Stuart Richards) found in a yearbook photo.

Burns stalked Richards and broke into his apartment via the fire escape. He found evidence in letters that Richards had a dark history and a disapproving, deceased father (John Richards in St. Louis, MO). In a flashback, Richards remembered his father (dead for 10 years) urging him to seek homicidal reprisal against gays: ("You know what you have to do"). Richards donned black boots (hiding his knife), leather jacket, and police-hat to pursue his next victim. At the same time in his next-door apartment, Burns had a volatile altercation with his crazed, intensely-jealous, belligerent gay Gregory Milanese (James Remar), where he attacked and a knife was drawn on him.

Burns initiated a meeting with Richards, and in a frightening, climactic scene ending up in a park tunnel, Steve uttered the phrase ("Who's here, I'm here, you're here") and put on a police hat. He used homosexual lingo that he had learned to initiate sex, then defended himself against being stabbed, and actually put his knife in Richards' abdomen before arresting him - as the killer.

Burns Meeting the Killer Stuart Richards in Central Park -
and Stabbing Him During an Assault in Tunnel

Meanwhile, Burns continued to wear his leather-garb and visit gay bars even after the case appeared to be solved and the serial killer was apprehended. By film's end, the theme of the ambiguity of the killer's identity was still maintained. Steve's gay neighbor Ted Bailey (Don Scardino) was found stabbed to death in his apartment with a kitchen knife -- and a last-minute scene opened up the suggestion that the sexually-confused Burns had taken on the persona of the killer. Had Burns killed Ted?

In the final sequence after returning to his girlfriend's apartment, Nancy found parts of Steve's costume (the killer's costume = leather jacket, police hat, and pair of sunglasses) draped on a chair and tried them on. Meanwhile, Steve was in the bathroom shaving and engaging in a long meaningful look into the mirror at himself.

Gay Bar Scene

Police Detective Steve Burns (Al Pacino)

Murder Victim: Loren Lukas

Prime Suspect: Skip Lee (Jay Acovone)

Aborted Sting Operation Against Innocent Suspect Skip Lee (Burns Was Tied Up on a Bed, At His Request)

During Police Questioning of Burns and Skip - an NYPD Enforcer?

Another Suspect: Stuart Richards at Gay Club

Richards' Dead Father Urging Him: "You know what you have to do"

Gay Neighbor Greg Threatening His Knife at Burns

Steve's Gay Neighbor Ted Stabbed to Death

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Brian De Palma's Hitchcockian-like thriller (with shades of both Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958)) investigated themes of aberrant sexuality (adultery and prostitution), voyeurism, and graphic violence. Various feminist groups protested the misogynistic portrayal of women as sex objects or punished victims following sexually-promiscuous behavior. It also was criticized for portraying a trans-gendered individual as a crazed killer.

It told about sexually-unsatisfied patient Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson, portrayed by a former Penthouse Pet of the Year body double - Victoria Lynn Johnson - with an air-brushed pubic area to acquire an R-rating in the opening shower fantasy-rape sequence) suffering from vivid erotic fantasies. The scene was actually her fantasy of being taken, while enduring unsatisfactory sex (a "wham-bang special") with her husband in their bedroom.

The Opening Shower Fantasy-Rape Sequence

During a session with Dr. Elliott, Kate told him: "I like to turn men on. I must do a pretty good job, because they pay me alot." She began seducing him, telling him that she often made sex to men that aroused her, without accepting money: "A mature, doctorly type, like you." She boldly proposed: "How about some sexual assistance? Do you wanna f--k me?" She admitted f--king a lot of married doctors in her time, countering his resistance. She removed her coat "and the rest too," showing off black lingerie, asserting why she did it: "Because of the size of that cock in your pants" - and she found herself in a dangerous situation after arousing him - because of his split-personality. He rebuffed or declined her advances.

Its most erotic scene, however, was the brilliant 10-minute sequence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Kate's cat-and-mouse flirting with a mysterious stranger (named Warren Lockman (Ken Baker)) and her taxi-cab seduction en route to his apartment. The film was remarkable for the post-seduction scene in which Kate found a Department of Health letter in the stranger's drawer stating that he had a venereal disease. After her tryst when she left in an elevator (and returned to retrieve her wedding ring), she suffered a vicious razor-slashing - her punishment or fate for 'free love'? - from a presumed blonde female with dark glasses that was witnessed by high-class prostitute Liz Blake (Nancy Allen).

Liz was determined to find who was stalking her, and found herself questioning Kate's psychologist/counselor Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine). Liz and Kate's clever son Peter (Keith Gordon) schemed together to set up traps to track Dr. Elliott's patients. At one point, they entered Elliott's office where Liz sexily stripped down to her black lingerie, when she was attacked by the knife-wielding "Bobbi."

Elliott was revealed to be a pre-operative transsexual whose other transgendered persona (representing his female side) was an unhinged patient named "Bobbi." He was literally 'dressed to kill' as his murderously-jealous alter-ego - wearing a blonde wig and dark glasses for his brutal slayings. "Bobbi" was the female side of Elliott's personality that felt threatened by sexual arousal.

The Blonde Killer "Bobbi"

Liz Blake
(Nancy Allen)

Friday the 13th (1980) - and Other Slasher Films

The correlation between sex and subsequent death, in the burgeoning AIDS era of the 80s, was reinforced by various low-budget slasher and splatter films (with many sequels, parodies and rip-offs) as they came to be called, most prominently first in the landmark Halloween (1978) and then perfected in Friday the 13th (1980).

The moral of these 'dead teenager' films was that if you were promiscuous as an oversexed teen (usually portrayed by anonymous cast members), it foreshadowed stalking (usually for females) and sure death in some gory and painful fashion in a remote location (often woodsy).

In Friday the 13th (1980), after Camp Crystal Lake counselors Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) had made love on a bunk bed, Jack was grabbed and stabbed by a sharp pointed arrow in the throat from UNDER the mattress. In the camp's restroom where Marcie had ventured to 'go pee,' she was stalked and given a false scare in the shower room ("Must be my imagination") but then the shadow of an axe rose behind her, and sliced into her face from an unknown killer.

Similar copycat films included:

  • New Year's Evil (1980)
  • Humanoids From the Deep (1980)
  • My Bloody Valentine (1981)
  • Sleepaway Camp (1983)
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
  • April Fool's Day (1986)

Jack and Marcie
(Jeannine Taylor)

Jack's death

Marcie's death

The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980)

The third film in the three part series of "Happy Hooker" films was a prequel. The entire series extended from 1975 to 1980:

  • The Happy Hooker (1975)
  • The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977)
  • The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980)

In this final installment with the tagline: "SHE CONQUERED EVERY PRODUCER'S COUCH IN TOWN," Xaviera Hollander (Martine Beswicke) had just written The Happy Hooker. From New York, she traveled to Hollywood to meet with wheelchair-bound movie mogul William B. Warkoff (Phil Silvers, TV's Sgt. Bilko), who demanded to make a movie of Hollander's popular book. By film's end, Xavier decided to make the movie herself, with the help of a whole contingent of hookers, and a partnership with Warkoff's grandson Robby Rottman (Jack Lemmon’s son Chris). She set up a brothel in Hollywood to fund her movie.

Before that, she was taken advantage of, seduced and exploited by various producers, including Warkoff's unscrupulous top producer Lionel Lamely (Batman's Adam West). Xaviera and he shared extended sex scenes during a skinny-dip in his swimming pool, in a hot tub, and then in the bedroom. Behind Xaviera's back, Lamely was conspiring to have her sign a contract, as a means to take over the studio.

Copious amounts of nudity were exhibited by its title star Martine Beswicke (a two-time James Bond actress in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965), and the star of Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)), and co-stars Tanya Boyd, Susan Lynn Kiger and K.C. Winkler.

Other Characters in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980)
Susie (Susan Lynn Kiger, January 1977 Playboy Playmate)
Sylvie (Tanya Boyd)
Cowgirl / Amber (K.C. Winkler)

Xaviera Hollander
(Martine Beswicke)

By the Pool

In the Hot-Tub

In Bed

Heaven's Gate (1980)

This notorious, big-budget epic film was a major financial disaster for its studio (United Artists, the studio of Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks) - it also was a disaster for the western film genre for the remainder of the 80s, and it ended the reign of the New Wave of 1970's 'auteurs' or independent film-makers.

Michael Cimino's expensive 'boondoggle' film and revisionistic Western became the biggest flop in film history at the time (US box-office was only about $3.5 million) - it lost at least $40 million when the final tally was taken - and since then has been synonymous for any film judged to be a monumental 'turkey' that faced major financial disaster.

The film received numerous Razzie Award nominations (Worst Actor- Kris Kristofferson, Worst Musical Store, Worst Picture, and Worst Screenplay- Cimino), including a Worst Director prize for Cimino, although it received generally positive reviews after release to video, and fairly good results from its international box-office. It was critically re-evaluated by the LA-based Z Channel when it premiered on cable TV in its uncut version in 1982, but it was already too late.

The ponderous and flawed film (with beautiful cinematography and art direction, but often muffled dialogue) included abundant nudity, violence throughout, a love triangle, a cock fight, a country-western roller-skating sequence, and a lengthy series of bloody battles and deaths at film's end. Its tagline represented the film as a romance-western:

The only thing greater than their passion for America...was their passion for each other.

It told about the Johnson County Wars in the 1890s between starving Eastern European immigrant farmers and mercenaries hired by the cattlemen. In the midst of western action, Harvard-educated Sheriff Jim Averill (Kris Kristofferson), the US Federal marshal of Johnson County, found romance on the Western frontier of Wyoming with young Johnson County bordello madam Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert) from Quebec. Ella was also romancing Nathan Champion (Christopher Walken), a friend of Averill, and a deadly hired mercenary or "enforcer" working for cattlemen who suspected immigrants of rustling.

When Averill first arrived, she served him pie for breakfast while stripping down at the table, and tempting him to hungrily follow her as she ran naked to the bedroom. He gave her a birthday present of a horse and rig.

Shortly after she received the gift, they rode to a beautiful mountain stream where she went skinny-dipping in the refreshing water before they picnicked together and she talked about their future.

Bordello Madam Ella Watson Skinny-Dipping

In the film's plot, 125 small farmer-immigrants were hunted down from a compiled death list, by a posse of hired mercenaries led by black-garbed and evil Frank Canton (Sam Waterston), the head of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (with support from the cattle barons). Ella (on the 'death list') was forcibly raped, due to her "cash or cattle" deals as payment for her prostitutes. Averill sought revenge and shot and killed all but one of the rapists. Shortly later, an angered Champion entered Canton's camp and shot the remaining rapist - defying Canton ("You'd better have a guaranteed warrant for every name on that list").

Champion suffered a fiery death when he was killed in a barrage of gunfire and suffered death outside his wall-papered frontier cabin (on fire) by the hired killers of evil leader Frank Canton, the head of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (with support from the cattle barons). Champion hastily wrote a farewell note to Ella knowing that he would die.

The film concluded with a two-day bloody showdown between the immigrants (with Averill joining their side) and the mercenaries hired by Canton and the cattlemen's Association (including the use of a Roman offense) - interrupted by the arrival of the US Army (led by Canton) after the slaughter was essentially over.

During a surprising shock ambush at Ella's cabin, both Ella and John L. Bridges (Jeff Bridges) were killed. Bridges was a local entrepreneur who had built the roller skating rink known as "Heaven's Gate." Sheriff Jim Averill shot back and killed Canton and his men, but his lost love Ella died in his arms (wearing a beautiful white dress).

Roller Skating: Sheriff and Ella

Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert) with Sheriff

The Rape of Ella

Death of Nathan Champion Outside His Torched Cabin by Canton's Men

Before Ambush (l to r): Bridges, Ella, and Sheriff at Ella's Cabin

Ambush Killing of Ella by Canton; She Died in Sheriff Averill's Arms

The Hollywood Knights (1980)

The popular R-rated sex comedy by writer/director Floyd Mutrux attracted a large cult following its repeated showings on the HBO and Cinemax cable stations during the 1980s, and for its rip-off and reworked similarities to George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973) - combined with the coarse sexual content of the future film Porky's (1982).

The low-budget teenage comedy with a great musical soundtrack contained some smutty jokes, early instances of the practice of "mooning," drag races, many shenanigans, and various romantic subplots.

Its nostalgic legacy was assured by the appearance of many young actors at the start of their careers, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Fran Drescher, Robert Wuhl and Tony Danza. However, many of their character roles were as high-school teens, although the actors were much older. Aspiring actress and Tubby's car-hop Suzie Q (Pfeiffer) (with an imminent screen-test the following morning) and mechanic Duke (Danza) were romantically involved, as was recent high school graduate Jimmy Shine (Gary Graham) about to depart for Vietnam.

The film's action was set in Hollywood, on Halloween night in 1965. A number of vengeful teens in a car club, known as the Hollywood Knights and led by prankster Newbomb Turk (Robert Wuhl), aimed to get back at their snooty parents, represented by the Beverly Hills Residents' Association, for shutting down their favorite restaurant where they hung out. It was a diner named "Tubby's Drive-In" ("Home of the Big One").

Well-known sequences mostly included gross-out gags:

  • Two PomPom girls (Dawn Clark, Kim Hopkins) were sunbathing topless (Sally advised her two topless friends: "I don't know why you're doing that. The last time I did that my tits peeled so much I went from a B cup to an A")
  • A Cheerleader (Michele Drake) in a high school pep rally did cheers without her underwear ("You forgot your underwear")
  • Turk and Sally were preparing to have sex in the back seat of his car (Sally: "Come on, Turk, come back here"), when Turk admitted that he had already prematurely ejaculated in the front seat: (Sally: "What do ya mean, the mood's not right? What do ya mean? I'm in the mood, I'm ready. I'm hot, I'm ready to go. Come on, I'm all ready to go. Are you kidding me? Turk, did you come? Turk, Turk, did you come?" Turk: "A little.")
  • Turk was hiding in the ladies restroom of Tubby's Drive-In, taping gossip, and playing it over the school PA loudspeakers: (Brenda: "Speaking of sluts, did you hear about Jean Friedman? I heard she had an abortion in Tijuana last summer." Shirley: "That doesn't surprise me, I heard she gave half the football team the clap." "They played like they still had it last week, too." Turk: "Hey, that was Brenda and Shirley Weintraub, the 'Ironbox' Twins, coming to you live from the ladies room here at Tubby's Drive-In")
  • In a talent contest for the Beverly Hills Association, a one-armed violinist created the impression that he grabbed his bow with his male appendage: ("He grabbed it with his dick!"); also Turk sang 'Volare' accompanied by the sounds of flatulence in front of a packed school auditorium
  • A Halloween party's punch bowl was "spiked" with urine, and sampled by adults attending the Beverly Hills Residents' Association: ("I've had this taste in my mouth before," and Officer Bimbeau: "It does have a little wang in it. Good, though. Excuse me. Mind if I have some more?")
  • A flaming bag of dog poop was on the porch of two of the adults threatening to demolish Tubby's: ("It's dog s--t!")
  • During an initiation ceremony involving four pledges dropped off in Watts, the group was stripped of their clothes (and wearing nothing but car tires or sheets stolen from a clothesline), and had to make their way back to Tubby's by 2 am. They also went to a local record store and asked the DJ of the rock station to dedicate a song to the Knights and Tubby's Drive-In.
Sally (Fran Drescher)
One-Armed Violinist Dick-Trick
Farting "Volare'
Spiked Punch Scene

Suzie Q (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Duke (Tony Danza)

PomPom Girl
(Dawn Clark)

PomPom Girl
(Kim Hopkins)

Bottomless Cheerleader
(Michele Drake)

Humanoids From the Deep (1980) (aka Monster)

The low-budget Roger Corman-produced cult monster film (with requisite amounts of blood, gore, and nudity) was about mutated, sex-hungry humanoids (similar to the alien beings in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)) emerging from the water near a Pacific Northwest town to kill human males and breed/rape females.

The exploitational sci-fi film even featured a chestburster Alien-type climactic ending, to compete with the most shocking scene from the previous year's film. It was reported that after director Barbara Peeters' film was completed, a second unit crew was brought in to supplement the boring plot with additional gratuitous sex, nudity, and gore.

In one of the more memorable scenes (one of the film's notorious monster-rape scenes), a ventriloquist named Billy (David Strassman) with his wooden Dummy Chuck Wood and his girlfriend Becky (Lisa Glaser) were camping at the beach in a tent.

The Dummy Chuck Wood and Girlfriend Becky (Lisa Glaser)

When Becky stripped off her clothes for sex, she had a conversation with the Dummy:

Dummy: (as Becky stripped) "She's really doing it. Oh my God, get me out of this thing. Billy, what's holdin' ya? Come on, Billy, come on, I'm not passin' this up. What are ya, a clutz? I'll miss all the excitement. Hey, hey honey, wanna see my woodpecker?"
Becky: "Will I get splinters?"
Dummy: "Don't worry, baby. I've been sandin'. (He snickered.) Hey baby, I'll betcha never made it with two dummies. Like they say, two heads are better than one."

He put aside the Dummy, telling the piece of wood, "Two's company, three's a crowd, Chuck."

Shortly afterwards, a humanoid monster ripped its way into their tent and murdered Billy by clawing his back. When the nude Becky fled up the beach, she ran into a second creature which attacked her in the sand and raped her.

Death of Becky
(Lisa Glaser)

Little Darlings (1980)

Close on the heels of films about teenage sexuality and its initiation, such as in The Blue Lagoon (1980), was this coming-of-age comedy film from director Ronald Maxwell. The R-rated sex comedy starred two 15 year-old teenaged girls:

  • Angel Bright (Kristy McNichol, famous from the TV show Family), a poor girl yet streetwise
  • Ferris Whitney (Tatum O'Neal, famous from Paper Moon (1973)), a naive romantic, a rich-girl

It was a semi-sensitive teen comedy about "Little Darlings" ("Don't let the Title Fool You") in a summer camp competition to lose their virginity, advertised in the film's tagline:

"The bet is on. Whoever loses her virginity first - wins!"

It showed the teens smoking cigarettes, speaking frank dialogue, and engaging in a team race-competition to be deflowered - a common theme for both sexes in youth films of the time. Angel went after Randy Adams (young Matt Dillon), while Ferris' target was camp counselor Gary Callahan (Armande Assante).

(Kristy McNichol)

Ferris Whitney
(Tatum O'Neal)

The Shining (1980)

Director Stanley Kubrick's 'haunted house' horror film The Shining (1980) was set during the off-season at a remote Colorado resort hotel, the Overlook Hotel. Aspiring writer and half-crazed Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) had been hired as the caretaker with his family.

When investigating Room 237, Jack pushed open the half-closed bathroom door of the mysterious, green and orange room, where he saw a young, totally-nude female figure (Lia Beldam) bathing. She rose, and slowly stepped from the tub and approached. Jack lustfully leered back at her and was sexually seduced by the apparition. When she stopped in the middle of the room, he started toward her - she seductively moved her hands up over his chest and around his neck.

Jack embraced and kissed the illusory, beautiful bather. But when he looked at their embrace over her shoulder at the reflection in the mirror behind her, he saw that her age had accelerated and her body was covered with lesions.

Jack Torrance's Seductive Embrace in Room 237
with Old Woman (Billie Gibson)

She was transformed into a demonic, necrophiliac lover - a pulsating, partially-decomposed corpse - a wrinkled, thick-skinned old hag (Billie Gibson) that was pursuing him!

Young Woman in Bath
(Lia Beldam)

Spetters (1980, Neth.)

One of director Paul Verhoeven's earlier sexually-explicit works before he came to Hollywood (long before Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995)) was this controversial film about sexual obsession. Its sexual frankness foreshadowed the trend to show realistic sex scenes (with equal nudity of both sexes) in mainstream movies, exemplified in the extreme by the sequence of a penis-measuring contest with a mechanic's tool.

It was an action-oriented, sports-centered coming of age film (often compared to the plot of Saturday Night Fever (1977)). The R-rated version ran about 8 minutes shorter than the unrated (and uncut) version The double-entendre title of the film referred to:

  • 'hunks' or sexually-appealing females
  • grease spatterings from a frying grill
  • oily drippings from motorbikes
  • male ejaculate

The main plot was about the coming of age of three troubled, working-class twenty-something hotshots in Rotterdam, the Netherlands who were involved in amateur dirt-bike motocross. All of them idolized Dutch motocross racing champion Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer).

All of them were also interested in a pretty blonde - a manipulative, seductive, opportunistic golddigger named Fientje (Renee Soutendijk) who worked in a race snack bar/mobile trailer serving fast food (french fries/chips and hot dogs). She was also fixated upon singer Olivia Newton-John. The virile Rien (Hans Van Tongeren) was first attached to Fientje after protecting her from a Hell's Angels biker gang, but when a freak accident paralyzed him from the waist down and put him in a motorized wheelchair, Fientje's affections were transferred to his friends: mechanic Eef (Toon Agterberg) and Hans (Maarten Spanjer).

The film was highly criticized for its caricaturing of homosexuals (homophobism), the police, the press, and organized religion. It also contained a graphic, brutal and violent gang-rape scene upon Eef by four leather-clad homosexuals. He responded to the rape by 'coming out' and taking Fientje's gay brother as a lover.

(Renee Soutendijk)

Urban Cowboy (1980)

Director James Bridges' western-styled romantic drama told of the troubled love-hate relationship between two Texans - in this semi-western version of Saturday Night Fever (1977), with its two stars:

  • Bud (John Travolta, with his last major hit of the era), a cocky two-step dancer and stud
  • Sissy (Debra Winger), a cute cowgirl, fiercely independent and strong-willed

After the two were married, they often fought and to spite each other sought out other partners, Sissy with Bud's arch-rival Wes (Scott Glenn), an ex-convict and bull-riding competitor, and Bud with Pam (Madolyn Smith). The film's western soundtrack with the song: "Lookin' For Love (In All the Wrong Places)" by Johnny Lee exemplified their relationship.

To incite jealousy in Bud's mind in a scene set in Houston's honky-tonk bar/dance hall Gilley's (a real-life western bar in Pasadena, TX), Sissy sexily mounted a mechanical bull, wearing an orange skin-tight tank top T-shirt. Before her ride, she bent over backwards to kiss Wes. As she adjusted herself before starting the ride, someone in the crowd yelled: "Look at that. Her nipples are hard."

Sissy's (Debra Winger) Sexy Bull Ride

During the seductive ride as the bull mildly gyrated, she undulated over the bull's entire surface, and eventually stood up, defiantly looking Bud's way, until he uncomfortably left the hall with his new girlfriend.

Bud (John Travolta) with
Pam (Madolyn Smith)

(Debra Winger)

Sex in Cinematic History
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965-66 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

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1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020

Index to All Decades, Years and Features

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