Top ten sex scenes

Cinematic eroticism being the slippery beast it is, it's hard to miss the glaring disparity between the marketing-fuelled myth about a film's sexual content, and the prosaic reality. Hence, we found it too hard to resist taking a look at five of the most laughable love scenes in cinema history, as well as five of the best. We kick off with the latter...

Don't Look Now

No reviewer has ever managed to write about Nicholas Roeg's classic gothic thriller without mentioning one particular scene. The much-talked about three minutes begins with Julie Christie wiping toothpaste from Donald Sutherland's mouth and then progresses to tender lovemaking. Hollywood-style screaming sex is spurned for nuts and bolts bonking: crumpled newspapers on the bed, wet kisses, and they even put their clothes back on at the end. In fact, it all looked so authentically good that rumours went around that Sutherland and Christie did it for real and that out-takes were being viewed in private Beverly Hills screening rooms.

Body Heat

When a sultry Kathleen Turner in an icy white dress slithers up to William Hurt, you know what follows is going to be hot. It might be summer in Florida, but nowhere appears to be air-conditioned. Hurt stands half-naked in front of an open fridge, and smashes through a window in order to get the girl as the screen boils with scorching red and orange. For two relative unknowns - this was Turner's film debut - the chemistry is electrifying. Critics took swipes at Turner, but the magic works - her character is so terrifyingly sexually confident that we believe her lover could be dazed into doing almost anything for her.

Out Of Sight

George Clooney's debonair bank robber and Jennifer Lopez's foxy federal agent circle each other hungrily like a noir crime movie Wildlife On One. Crammed together in the boot of a car with Clooney's hand cheekily stroking Lopez's thigh, the atmosphere can only be described as molten lust. Later, director Soderbergh unashamedly steals from Don't Look Now by cutting between their conversation in a hotel lounge and scenes of them, minutes later, kissing, undressing and getting into bed. Despite the lack of nudity and an absence of guttural sounds, these two make it look like there's not much acting going on.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

This version of James M. Cain's novel is famed for replacing the raunchiness unsurprisingly missing from the 1946 version. This time, the kitchen table is the arena for a brutally sexy scene in which Jack Nicholson's groping veers dangerously close to rape. But all becomes clear when Jessica Lange swipes away the cutlery and loaves of bread - and it's not because she's in cleaning mode. A rumour put about by Nicholson - and never denied by Lange - concerning the authenticity of the scene has more or less been taken as read.

The Piano

Stripping for piano lessons might not sound like the height of eroticism, but in the hands of Jane Campion it becomes one of the most sensual scenes in recent cinema history. Holly Hunter's mute bride strikes a deal with Maori-tattooed Harvey - she will teach him one black key on the piano for every item of clothing she takes off. As in all the most potent eroticism, the keywords here are delay and restraint. You'd never think the sight of skin being caressed through a hole in a thick woollen stocking could be so steamy.

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