Behold: The 42 Most Romantic Sex Scenes in the History of Cinema

·14 min read
Behold: The 42 Most Romantic Sex Scenes in the History of Cinema


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Nothing quite puts the cherry on top of a great movie like a hot sex scene—except, of course, a hot, ~romantic~ sex scene. You know what I’m talking about: those sex scenes that are equal parts passion, animalistic desire, and love—the ones where you can tell these characters aren’t just horny, they’re literally obsessed with each other. These scenes belong to the v important sex scene subgenre known as the “romantic-sexy love scene.” Ever rewatch (and rewatch and rewatch) a scene between two characters who are so in love the only way they can properly express it is by, well, getting all up in each other's business? Congrats—you've discovered the magic of the romantic movie sex scene.

Look, a hot sex scene is a hot sex scene. (Unless of course it comes on unexpectedly when you’re just, like, trying to have a chill movie night with your fam, then it’s just an awkward sex scene.) But the sexy-romantic ones add a little something to the whole sexy viewing experience. That extra level of passion—whether it’s from love, longing, or some other hot and heavy emotion—has a way of turning things up a notch. Like, there’s horniness, and then there’s passionate, eternal-love-and-desire horniness, and sometimes you just want your horn with a healthy side of romance.

Fortunately, Hollywood figured out that we like our romantic sex scenes pretty early on in cinema history, and has since blessed us with literal decades of steamy-sexy love scenes. For your convenience—and, uh, viewing pleasure—we’ve gone ahead and rounded them all up right here. Alert: Some of these scenes are so hot they're just not on YouTube (lol), so go ahead and rent the movies right this second. Trust me. Pick one that speaks to you—or treat yourself to a little sexy movie marathon! You deserve it.

(If content warnings matter to you, make sure you check out the guides for these films before you go on. Happy watching!)

1. Secretary

Before 50 Shades, there was this. It's not the most accurate portrayal of BDSM, but it is a very hot story between an attorney (James Spader) who acts out his fetishes with his more-than-willing secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Their dom-sub relationship is both intense and off-the-charts hot.

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2. Bound

The Wachowski sisters know how to shoot a love scene (*fans self*). Even though this film was released over 25 years ago, they also knew to have an intimacy coordinator on set—we love to see it. Also, they somehow created a love story about two women trying to outsmart the mob, and wow does it work.

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3. Atonement

For this one, I have only three words: Me and who? Okay, actually, three more words: *That* green dress. (Also, for any literary buffs out there, this scene is equally as hot in the book, just saying.)

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4. Carol

Two women fall for each other—in the '50s, when it's not really safe for them to be out—and begin to conduct an illicit affair. When they finally give into their mutual passion and get together on a road trip, it's quiet and tender, but the release of all that tension is still increeeeedibly hot.

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5. 9 ½ Weeks

You might call 9 1/2 Weeks the 50 Shades of the ’80s, by which I mean it was the shockingly sexy, erotic romance of the day that everyone was talking about. For the uninitiated, Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke's characters share a whirlwind romance for, you guessed it, 9 1/2 weeks. In the process, they engage in all kinds of kinky (and now-iconic) sex scenes, including a certain ice cube moment.

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6. Elisa & Marcela

Speaking of period romances (there are a bunch on this list, I regret nothing), the first (technically illegal) same-sex matrimony in Spain is imagined as the most epic love story of all time. Elisa poses as a man so she can be with her one true love Marcela, and the lengths they go to are impressively romantic. Their first hook up will leave you speechless, tbh.

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7. Premature

Ah, summer love. This movie has a bunch of weepy stuff, but! It also has a ton of sexy sex scenes between two people falling in love. Just wait until you get to the rooftop scene—trust me on this, ok? The whole thing's so vulnerable and raw that it feels almost voyeuristic, in the best way.

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8. Mulholland Dr.

This trippy, dreamy movie is kinda difficult to explain—just know that it's (sort of) about a woman who loses her memory and another woman tries to help her figure out what happened. Also, it's not at all about that, but the point is that, along the way, the two women explore their intense attraction to incredibly sexy effect.

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9. Y Tu Mama Tambien

Road trips are sexy, apparently, because this is another film on the list with travel-based sexytimes. This one is frank and open around sex between its main characters (played by the incredibly sexy Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Diego Luna) and at its climax is an adorable exploration of sexuality between two BFFs who thought they were platonic. And are absolutely not!

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10. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Hello, yes, another sexy period movie! A woman is tasked with painting another woman's portrait—who won't sit for it because she doesn't want to consent to the arranged marriage that will follow. Why is that, you ask? Well, the two women meet and immediately have the hottest chemistry ever. When they finally kiss (and every scene after that), it's an incredible release of tension and attraction.

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11. Anna Karenina

Turns out period dramas can be sexy, y'all. Technically, this one's v depressing, but it all centers around a married woman (Keira Knightley) trying and absolutely failing to resist a young officer (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When they finally just say f*ck it and blow up their lives, it's illicit and so hot.

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12. House of Gucci

It's no secret that Adam Driver and Lady Gaga freaking went for it in this one. This is knock-down-drag-out passion at some of its most intense. There's sex on a table, slamming into walls, and uh, guttural animal noises. It is, in a word, a lot!

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13. Beyond the Lights

A young artist hires a police officer to protect her from the paparazzi. I don't need to tell you anything more; Seriously, just go watch. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker just have the most OTT chemistry on Earth. Two words: Plane sex. Two more words: Yes pls.

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14. Crimson Peak

Oh hey, Tom Hiddleston! This is technically a horror film about a man who marries a woman (Mia Wasikowska) with nefarious purposes in mind (and also his creepy sister (Jessica Chastain) is in the mix, no biggie). However! This sex scene between the newlyweds is also an exploration of her pleasure and consent—and there's nothing hotter than that.

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15. The Handmaiden

Just one of many thrillers on this list, this mystery has about a million twists and turns. But also, it's a v horny love story between two women. What are their intentions for each other? Unclear—just watch, because the surprises are worth it. Oh, and the sex scenes (like this one) will take your breath away.

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16. Broken Embraces

This thriller is...rlly intense, ngl. It centers around a love triangle between two colleagues and friends in love with the same woman (Penelope Cruz). When Mateo (Lluís Homar) and Lena decide to secretly get together, in spite of Lena's abusive relationship with Ernesto (José Luis Gómez), their passion is enthusiastic. Like, six times a day enthusiastic.

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17. Ride or Die

Two women are friends (kinda...) with lots of unspoken longing. One of them kind of jokingly suggests they could get her abusive husband out of the way if her friend kills him. Friend legit takes her up on the offer. They go on the run. You have to wait a while, but when the two (spoiler) consummate their relationship, it's everything.

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18. Brokeback Mountain

I mean, you probably know about this groundbreaking movie, but if you haven't watched it lately, you should. The late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are perfectly cast as two cowboys who can't be apart (as we find out in this hot scene) but also can't be together. Their love scenes have so much longing, it'll break your heart.

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19. Blue Is the Warmest Colour

This is one of a few coming-of-age, exploration-of-sexuality tales on this list—but it's prob the hottest. Full disclosure: this film sparked some intense debate on the actors feeling rlly uncomfortable shooting the scene. The full, 7-minute sex scene is not on YouTube (shock!), but it's also the moment Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) feels sexually fulfilled for the very first time.

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20. Troy

Hi, Brad Pitt's butt, so great to see you! This long Trojan War epic (which has a lot of fighting and political intrigue, FYI) also has the hottest scene ever. Priestess Briseis (Rose Byrne) attempts to kill Achilles (Pitt), and then the two start to have incredibly passionate sex—as you do.

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21. 8 Mile

Okay, is this one more of a raunchy quickie than an act of impassioned lovemaking? Yes. But you can see in Eminem's eyes that he's already head over heels for Brittany Murphy's character. Like, he clearly has a crush, and it's as adorable as it is hot.

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22. Love & Basketball

Ah, the classic. This whole movie is built on the "will they won't they" tension between childhood BFFs and basketball players Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps). The ~first time~ they explore their connection, it's as hot and respectful as you dreamed it would be.

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23. Before Sunrise

Two strangers meet and have an unbelievably intense connection—which the film explores in real time. Part of the appeal of this movie (and the ones following it) is the banter between the two. Here, where they discuss whether they should hook up, and then do, is the perfect example of why there are two more movies about the couple.

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24. Don Jon

There are a bunch of sex scenes in this, but the point of the film is sex addiction—Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) can't stop watching p*rn (including in class). But his connection to a fellow student (Julianne Moore), who teaches him a thing or two about real intimacy, leads to an incredibly hot and tender moment.

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25. Disobedience

A woman (Rachel Weisz) comes back to the Orthodox Jewish community that shunned her after her father dies. The childhood friend she loved (Rachel McAdams) is still in the community and married to a man...but the two women can't deny what they still have. You can guess what happens (see above).

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26. My Beautiful Laundrette

Think of this as sort of a forbidden love, Romeo and Juliet story (or, rather, Romeo and Romeo) between a street punk and a young Pakistani man. You'll be surprised by how tender and loving the sex scenes are—and that the movie actually ends on a happier note than you expect. Oh, and a muscular Daniel Day-Lewis is...incredibly hot.

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27. The Notebook

Everyone involved in the making of this sex scene knew exactly what they were doing. Right before we get into the act featuring a wet, shirtless Ryan Gosling, we get a deeply romantic revelation in the pouring rain that ends with these iconic lines: “I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you every day for a year. It wasn't over. It still isn't over.” I mean, how can you hear that and not want to rip their clothes off?

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28. Jason’s Lyric

After going on a lovely boat ride, Jason (Allen Payne) and Lyric (Jada Pinkett Smith) have sex in a stunning field of flowers, as you do. What’s more romantic than showing your affection in an idyllic and empty public place? The next time a man wants to give me flowers, I’ll be suggesting we do this instead and take some unsquashed flowers to go.

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29. Out of Sight

J.Lo and George Clooney’s flirty dialogue paired with snowfall in the background and edited over their strip tease sex scene makes this sequence worthy of a reenactment. It truly has it all, and comes off sophisticated yet fun.

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30. Dirty Dancing

There’s no denying Baby and Johnny’s love story is one for the ages. Their super sensual love scene starts off with confessions, then moves into passionate dancing, of course, and then ends with sex.

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31. Below Her Mouth

Looking for a movie with more than one equally hot and romantic sex scene? This film can provide you with that. It follows a woman who is engaged to a straight man, but finds herself in an all-consuming affair with a woman who she can’t get out of her head.

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32. Fifty Shades Freed

Obviously, every movie in this series has many hot sex scenes. But in the third installment, Anastasia and Christian have solidified their romantic relationship with marriage and have a steamy engagement that involves ice cream.

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33. Pretty Woman

What’s hotter than sex on a piano in a public restaurant? Staring into each other’s eyes before getting into it. The intensity of Edward and Vivian's looks takes the scene from risqué to deeply romantic. Talk about tickling the ivories (I'll see myself out).

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34. Ghost

Pottery-making innately looks like a sexual act, objectively speaking, but Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze really make it look like a romantic activity that will get you all hot and bothered in this Ghost scene. It’s worth noting, though, that this situation would be much messier in real life.

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35. Wild Things

Three words: The. Pool. Scene. There’s fighting, there’s sex, there’s passion, and some extremely iconic woman-on-woman action.

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36. Love & Other Drugs

A womanizer (Jake Gyllenhal) ends up falling in love for the first time with a free-spirited Parkinson's patient (Anne Hathaway). Of course, this happens after they agree to a strictly sexual relationship. In many of the scenes, you just know they’re, uh, in deep—in every sense.

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37. Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Brangelia may be over, but their essence lives on through these characters who make the uber romantic gesture of deciding to not kill each other and have very rough sex instead.

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38. Cruel Intentions

You wouldn’t think a storyline about a guy who accepts a bet to take a girl’s virginity would be romantic. That is, until he inevitably falls for her. And, I mean, who wouldn’t want someone to dramatically meet them at the top of an escalator and confess their love before getting into a physically intimate affair?

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39. Love Jones

The chemistry between Darius and Nina is so powerful that their first kiss leads to sex and lovely cheese omelets for breakfast. While their relationship has its rocky parts, their instant connection is much more than a fling.

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40. Black Swan

Whether or not we can truly consider this iconic sex scene between Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman "romantic" definitely depends on your definition of that word. But look, there's heat, there's passion, and there's chemistry that definitely transcends your everyday sex scene.

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41. Call Me By Your Name

While we don’t actually get to see the sex part happening, the foreplay and short dialogue between Elio and Oliver (Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer) in this scene is enough to know it’s one of the most romantic ones yet. It has a bit of playfulness, some relatable awkwardness, and includes a confirmation of consent.

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42. Titanic

A sweaty car sex scene with foggy window handprints? Iconic. Jack and Rose’s illicit act set high expectations for what making love in a car would really entail, but it’s hard to not obsess over it.

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