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Top 15 Sexiest Mainstream Movie Scenes

Updated on December 21, 2015

One of the very first movies ever made was of a man and woman kissing. From the beginning, film makers knew that sex sold tickets. From Claudette Colbert exposing her thigh to stop a car in It Happened One Night ( 1934 ), to Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing in the surf in In From Here to Eternity ( 1953 ) and Marilyn Monroe having her dress blown above here head while standing over a subway grating in The Seven Year Itch ( 1955 ), mainstream movies have featured gratuitous sex. Things began to change in the 1980s. For one thing, studios got rid of the strict Hayes code in the 1960s, replacing it with the ratings system, which lead to scenes of R rated sex by the late 70s. All this just in time for the arrival of video rental clubs in the 80s. This began an era of teenagers renting movies specifically to watch that one scene they found sexy. This gave rise to movies that are popular just for that one sexy scene, and often nothing else. Some of them films that would have faded away to obscurity long ago, but are kept alive via that one memorable sexy scene.

For the past few months I have been asking around at various web communities what they thought the sexiest scenes in mainstream movies were. The ones that got them to rent those films, or even purchase a copy of the movie for their library, just to watch that scene again and again. I kept tabs on these surveys to come up with a top 15. Here they are in no particular order:

Eight Days a Week ( 1997 )

The Sprinkler Scene

Peter ( Joshua Schaefer ) has developed a crush on his next door neighbor Erica ( Keri Russell ) which this movie demonstrates in it's first scene. While Peter watches Erica from his front stoop, she is with other neighborhood children, frolicking in a lawn sprinkler. Erica is wearing cut off shorts and a t-shirt, which when drenched, becomes clingy and slightly transparent. Erica seems to be oblivious of the wet t-shirt show she is giving Peter, and continues to frolic in the sprinkler as he watches. This low budget comedy could not even find a distributor and sat on the shelf for two years. This all changed when Keri Russell became famous on the series Felicity. Legacy Releasing Corporation bought the film and rushed it onto home video to capitalize on her success. Keri Russell fans rented the film, and word soon spread about the wet t-shirt scene.

When Harry Met Sally ( 1989 )

The Deli Scene
You know the scene. While sitting at a table in Katz Deli, Sally Albright ( Meg Ryan ) is arguing with her friend Harry Burns ( Billy Crystal ) about how most of the time women need to fake their enjoyment to please the guy. Harry thinks this is nothing more than an urban legend, when Sally demonstrates her point by faking it right there at the table, then casually goes back to eating her meal. This is the only scene on the list to be honored on an AFI list ( # 33 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes for "I'll have what she's having" )

Some Kind of Wonderful ( 1987 )

The Kissing Lesson

Working class teen Keith Nelson ( Eric Stoltz ) has fallen in love with the hottest girl in school, Amanda Jones ( Lea Thompson ). The problem is that she is one of those rich kids, and way out of Keith's league. But this was one of those '80s John Hughes comedies, so naturally Amanda ends up agreeing to go out on a pity date with Keith. His best friend, a tomboy named Watts ( Mary Stuart Masterson ) has secretly had a crush on him for years. When she can't convince Keith that Amanda is not the girl for him, she instead agrees to help him with his date. Watts points out that Keith has very little experience at kissing a girl, and suggests he practice on her before the date. This was Watts' way of tricking Keith into kissing her, and the entire time he is clueless that she is even into him. But you can see on her face how much she desires him. They kiss, during which both begin to get carried away. Watts begins to wrap her legs around Keith while he begins to grope her bottom. Suddenly Watts breaks off the kiss, letting Keith know that the lesson is over, and walks away flustered. Some sites have listed this among the greatest kissing scenes in motion picture history. Certainly, it is the best from any 80s movie. It also has you wondering how stupid Keith is for not falling in love with Watts on the spot. Because that is what millions of boys watching this film did, falling instantly in love with Mary Stuart Masterson. But the movie still had a few more reels to go before Keith realized that Watts was the girl he really liked.

One Night At McCool's ( 2001 )

Jewel Washing Her Car
The washing of a car has been a staple of sexy movie scenes since at least the 1960s. The soap suds, the water, the escalating possibility that the girl washing the car will get her clothing soaking wet, the way she bends over in different positions to scrub the car, and there is the skimpy outfits, because if you are going to wash a car then you need to do so in short shorts and a tied off shirt. My personal pick for the all time greatest car wash scene would be from Cool Hand Luke, but that one barely registered with the people I polled. Instead, two other car wash scenes ( and possibly a third ) made the top 15. One comes from the movie One Night At McCool's. Your basic black comedy about a bar tender named Randy ( Matt Dillon ) who falls for the trouble making killer vamp Jewel ( Liv Tyler ) who leads him into a path of crime. So why would Randy and many other cast members fall for Jewel? Well, one of the ways that this movie demonstrates how much of a sex goddess Jewel is, is by an old fashioned car washing scene. This time catching the attention of a police detective played by John Goodman. It is an everything and the kitchen sink type of scene, with Jewel climbing all over the hood of the car, getting her tight purple dress good and soaked, inexplicably drenching herself with the soapy sponge, then spraying herself off with the hose.

Basic Instinct ( 1992 )

The Interrogation
A rock star is killed, and novelist Catherine Tramell ( Sharon Stone ) is the suspect. Brought in to be interrogated by the police, she distracts the detectives by crossing and uncrossing her legs. Did I mention she is not wearing any underwear? Sharon Stone had been an actress for the past 12 years, even landing a co-starring role in one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's blockbusters. But it was not until the movie Basic Instinct that she became a household name. Much of that due to this famous scene. In later years, Stone claimed she had been tricked by director Paul Verhoeven into shooting the scene. Stone said that Verhoeven promised that the camera would not be pointed up her dress, and the audience would not see anything. It was not until after the film was released that Stone says she realized she had been duped.

Black Swan ( 2010 )

Nina and Lily Have Sex

The only film on this list to get an Academy Award nomination for best picture is Black Swan. It also earned actress Natalie Portman an Academy Award for Best Actress, making this the most prestigious scene on the list. Taking place midway through the film, ballerinas Nina ( Portman ) and Lily ( Mila Kunis ) have spent the night at a club. Nina returns to her home with Lily, and gets into a confrontation with her mother for coming home so late. Ignoring her mother, Nina pulls Lily into her bedroom and locks the door, where the two have passionate sex. It is actually a pivotal scene where Nina begins to have her mental breakdown. But when Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis are making love with each other, who's paying attention to the plot?

Flashdance ( 1983 )

The Water Dance ( a.k.a. the Chair Dance a.k.a. "He's A Dream" scene )

In romance movies, the scene where boy meets girl is important. Film makers need to convey to the audience in a short amount of time that both have fallen in love on first sight. In a film like West Side Story ( 1961 ) this was done by having the rest of the cast blurred out, leaving Tony and Maria the only visible characters, suggesting in a dance hall full of teenagers, they can only see each other. A more direct way to convey to the audience the idea of love at first sight, is to make both actors as attractive as possible. This usually involves a boy meets girl scene where the girl is doing something incredibly sexy. The idea, if every male in the audience finds the girl on screen attractive, then they will instantly understand why the lead male character on screen has fallen for her on first sight. The movie Flashdance has the love at first sight scene that the people in my survey found the sexiest, and enough to make the top 15. Nick Hurley ( Michael Nouri ) is the owner of the towns steel mill. One night he and one of the mill's foremen decide to wind down by going to a local bar with a stage for exotic girl dancers. He is mesmerized by one of the dancers. At first she is wearing an oversized zoot suit, which is soon stripped off, along with other articles of clothing, until all that is left is a garment that is part teddy and part one piece bathing suit. The only prop on the stage is a chair which she reclines in. Above her is a chain which she pulls, and she is doused by a torrent of water from above. Now soaked, she gets up from the chair and once again begins to dance around as drops of water fly off her body. Nick tells his companion that he would like to meet the girl, and then is informed that she is none other than one of his employees at the mill, Alex Owens ( Jennifer Beals ). Paramount realized how sexy this scene was, because it became the first promotional clip they had distributed to Entertainment Tonight and movie reviewers like Siskel & Ebert. It also helped make an instant star out of Jennifer Beals. Only a few weeks after the movie was released, word got out that there was a double for Beals in the dance scene. It was not Beals getting drenched in the scene, but dancer Marina Jahan. More disturbing, that whenever the movie called for Alex to do a stunt while dancing, like a somersault, they used a male stuntman. The revelation that it was not Beals doing those sexy dances, and her decision to take a four year hiatus from acting to finish college ( even turning down a role in St Elmo's Fire ( 1985 ) ) lead to her quickly fading from super stardom. However, while many now know the truth about the dance scenes, they still find the Flashdance scene very sexy, and enough to make the top 15 in my survey.

Barb Wire ( 1996 )

The Opening Credits
There is not really anything good to say about Barb Wire. Based on the Dark Horse comic book of the same name, it was basically a low budget sci-fi remake of Casablanca. Pamela Anderson is the title character, a bounty hunter in a city called Steel Harbor. It takes place in 2017, which in 1996 was the future. And if you are doing a low budget sci-fi film, you make sure your future city is run down, low tech and close to being something from Mad Max, rather than a big shiny technically advanced city that George Jetson would live in. Barb Wire was so low budget that if not for landing Pamela Anderson as the lead, it probably would have been destined for a direct to video release. And there is not really any reason to watch this film other than to see Anderson parading around in leather outfits. Most of those who rented this movie needed not even get past the opening credits. Anderson is performing in a stage show ( which involves sometimes hanging from a trapeze ), wearing a skin tight rubber dress, completely unzipped in the front, while she is being hosed down with a torrent of water. It all has nothing really to do with the rest of the movie, but at least the film makers put the sexiest scene at the top of the film so no one need bother fast forwarding, or even having to watch the actual film itself.

From Beyond ( 1986 )

Dr Katherine McMichaels Puts On The Leather Outfit
Dr. Edward Pretorius ( Ted Sorel ) has invented The Resonator, a machine that opens a portal to another dimension filled with creatures, one which bites his head off. The sight of this turns his assistant Crawford Tillinghast ( Jeffrey Combs ) mad. Crawford immediately destroys the Resonator with an ax, closing the portal, but then is seen running screaming out of the house holding the ax, and is assumed to have decapitated Pretorius. Crawford is institutionalized, but his psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine McMichaels ( Barbara Crampton ) believes he is innocent, and decides to take him back to the house to re-enact the Resonator incident. Of course that is a bad idea, and soon they are fighting monsters from another dimension, including the giant worm creature that merged with the head of Dr. Pretorius. It is a standard 80s horror film with special effects. But what made the film memorable was the scene of Katherine, driven mad by the Resonator, dressing up in a tight leather outfit to seduce Crawford. The entire movie is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, an obscure author from the 1920s who, by the 1980s, had a loyal cult following among fans of the horror genre. Director Stuart Gordon was determined to make Lovecraft as popular as Steven King, and in 1985 had a minor hit with the Lovecraft film Re-Animator. He immediately began work on a followup film featuring most of the same cast. The problem was that almost all of Lovecraft's works were short stories written for pulp magazines. This meant that the original From Beyond story needed to be lengthened. The introduction of Katherine McMichaels, as well as all references to sex, were Gordon's work, perhaps at the insistence of Empire Pictures. From Beyond bombed at the box office and was soon after pulled from distribution. It was a few years later on home video that many teenaged boys discovered the scene with Barbara Crampton in leather.

Bad Teacher ( 2011 )

The School Car Wash

Elizabeth Halsey ( Cameron Diaz ) is a gold digger looking for a rich husband. While she waits for a millionaire to marry her, she bides her time working as a grade school teacher, a job she does not take seriously. Believing she has little chance competing against the other younger, better looking gold diggers, she decides her only chance is to get breast implants, but does not have the money for an operation. Looking for ways to scrounge the thousands the doctor wants, she discovers the school's annual car wash where the teachers and students raise money by washing neighborhood cars. Elizabeth decides to join the car wash, raise a lot of money, and then skim from it. She dresses up in a tied of shirt and shorts, spending more time bending over, posing, and getting wet than actually washing any cars. Never the less, every man in town lines up to have his car washed by her.

Sirens ( 1994 )

Estelle In The Pond
The movie Sirens stages many scenes in reference to famous paintings. In this case, the scene in question is a mash up of both John Everett Millais' Ophelia and various paintings depicting Sirens ( such as William Etty's "The Sirens And Ulysses" ). In the movie, controversial painter Norman Lindsay ( Sam Neill ) plans to exhibit a painting of a nude female Jesus. The church sends the Reverend Anthony Campion ( Hugh Grant ) to Lindsey's house to talk him out of it. Accompanying the reverend is his wife Estella ( Tara Fitzgerald ). They become weekend house guests. While the reverend spends the weekend having spirited debates with Linsey on exactly what is blasphemy, Estelle hangs out with the only other women at the house, Lindsey's wife, and his three models ( Kate Fischer , Portia de Rossi and Elle Macpherson ). The models spend the week trying to get the otherwise prudish Estella to lighten up. Eventually they do have an effect on her. The Ophelia scene happens late in the movie. Estella dreams she has walked to the rivers edge in her night gown, walked into the water, and allowed herself to fall on her back and float away. Lindsey's three models rise up out of the water, nude, and begin to caress Estella. Realizing she is having a sex dream, Estella wills herself to wake up. In another hub I had written about the use of the image of Ophelia in motion pictures. Hub: Using Ophelia. And while the image of a girl in a dress floating in a pool of water is in itself sexy, Sirens takes it up a noch by including the nude models. What drew most renters to this obscure art film ( aside from it being a Hugh Grant movie ) was the news that real life super model Elle Macpherson appears nude in it. And when actress Portia de Rossi became famous in the television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Sirens was sought out again.

Kid ( 1990 )

Kate Washing The Horse In That T-Shirt

C Thomas Howell is the title character, a loner with no name who rolls into town. When he was just a kid, he witnessed some bad men killing both his parents. Now he is back in town for revenge. In the meantime, he is taken in by Kate ( Sarah Trigger ) and her brother Louie ( Brian Austin Green ) who offer him a place to stay soon after meeting him. The scene in question happens midway into the film. Up to this point we only though of Kate as a good Christian girl, doing the right thing by giving shelter to an apparent homeless drifter. Pretty, but otherwise a nerd. But then one morning the nameless drifter discovers Kate in the stable, washing her horse. This almost falls into the same category as the car washing scenes, but in this case Kate never once gets herself wet. What makes this scene amazing is what she is wearing, and what she is not wearing. Lets start with what she is not wearing. A bra. The T-shirt she is wearing has been cut so that it is just barely holding everything in, and more than once things come close to spilling out. While we never see any nudity, just the sight of Kate in tight pants and that T-shirt, bending over again and again to wash her horse which each time comes close to a wardrobe malfunction, is one of the sexiest scenes to come out of a 90s film.

Tarzan's Hidden Jungle ( 1955 )

The Quicksand Scene

There are online communities devoted to the cinematic quicksand scene, which the members find sexy. This goes well beyond a few fringe individuals who have peculiar tastes. Enough people find the quicksand scene exciting enough that there are actually successful adult film companies that make nothing more than videos of girls trapped in quicksand. The usual story on those videos, an attractive girl takes a shortcut through a swamp and ends up sinking in a mud patch. Quicksand has been in mainstream movies ever since the silent era, and has been the go to scene in nearly every film set in a jungle or swampland. Exactly when film makers realized audience members found the quicksand scene sexy is not known, but what began as an a-typical cliffhanger scene designed to put any character in peril, had by the 1950s become almost exclusively the scene where the sexiest actress in the cast needs to be rescued. And with studios following the strict Hayes Code which determined what could and could not be shown on screen, the quicksand scene was one of the few sexy things filmmakers could get away with. The quicksand scene from Tarzan's Hidden Jungle has been hailed by quicksand enthusiasts as the the best one ever filmed. But even if you are not among the quicksand enthusiasts, you will find this scene sexy. Tarzan's Hidden Jungle was the first of the films in the Tarzan franchise to star actor Gordon Scott. Vera Miles is a nurse who has discovered that the doctor she works for has been tricked into taking poachers on a safari who he thinks are just photographers. She decides on her own to find the doctor and warn him. But as this is a typical 1950s movie, she immediately gets hopelessly lost after a few minutes in the jungle. After being startled by a large snake hanging from a tree, she stumbles into a patch of quicksand and begins to slowly sink. Unlike other quicksand scenes where the actress immediately plunges down to her chest, Vera's decent is slower. There are a few moments when she could have simply walked out. But a poor decision to move forward, followed by panic, slowly sinks her down to her shoulders. There are even a few moments when she comes close to fully submerging as in her panic she keeps trying to cross from one side of the patch to the other, trying to find a plant that will not break that she can use to pull herself out. And to add to her troubles, the snake is slowly crawling closer. She is up to her neck and in complete hysterics when Tarzan finally comes to the rescue. In real life Vera Miles and Gordon Scott fell in love on the set, and were married soon after.

Embrace of the Vampire ( 1995 )

The Photography Session
Fans of Alyssa Milano were waiting for the former child star to make the transition to adult star. She was 10 when Who's The Boss first aired, and 18 when the series ended, just a bit too young to be depicted as a sex symbol. In the years immediately after the show ended, Alyssa frequently appeared in mature roles, including that of Long Island Lolita Amy Fisher. But her first foray into the full adult role involving nudity was in then low budget horror film Embrace of the Vampire. In fact, the only reason this movie is ever remembered is because it was Alyssa's first adult film. The plot itself is forgettable. A vampire ( the film makers never even bother to give him a name ) stalks a girl named Charlotte ( Alyssa Milano ) who is the re-incarnation of his lover who had died centuries ago. But that does not matter, because the scene from this movie everyone references has nothing to do with the plot. While sitting on a bench, Charlotte meets Sarah ( Charlotte Lewis ), a photographer who invites her back to her studio. There Sarah begins to take pictures of Charlotte. She eventually talks Charlotte into unbuttoning her blouse, and before you know it, it is a nude photo session. And then Sarah begins to kiss Charlotte, and it turns into a makeout session. Did I mention that up until this point Charlotte has been portrayed as chaste? The scene comes completely out of left field, and has nothing to do with the rest of the film. But fans of Alyssa Milano loved it.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High ( 1982 )

The Pool Scene

High school senior Brad Hamilton ( Judge Reinhold ) has returned home to find his sister Stacy ( Jennifer Jason Lee ) and her friend Linda Barrett ( Phoebe Cates ) lounging poolside in their swimwear. This leads to Brad having a fantasy of Linda which involves her rising wet from the pool, and while walking towards Brad, removing her bikini top. Generation Xers have a lot of nostalgia for this scene. For many of them, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was one of the first R rated movies they were allowed to see in the theaters. For others, one of the first R movies they got away with renting on video. For both, Phoebe Cates was the first actress they saw topless. Nostalgia aside, it was among the first mainstream Hollywood movies to be released on home video soon after it's theatrical release, and was just about the first movie rented specifically to watch a nude scene.


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