There are those who would argue that movie sex scenes are like the act itself: There's nothing better than a great one; otherwise don't bother. Yet despite how effortless things may look on screen, they're more difficult than you'd imagine -- chemistry between actors is never so delicate as when physical intimacy is involved. But when it works... The following ten are ones which left us breathless.

[Text by Michael Rowin]
Photo by <em>Body Heat</em>, Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, 1981. © Warner Bros./Courtesy of the Everett Collection

A very unprofessional S&M relationship between control-freak lawyer James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal culminates in Spader sweeping her off her feet and onto a grass turf bed for their first real romantic consummation. In a taboo-busting movie, it's the old-fashioned, if surreal, declaration of love that truly proves hottest, even if it's too cute to be entirely pulse-pounding.
Photo by <em>Secretary</em>, James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, 2002. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Notorious for containing virtually nothing but sex scenes in tracing a traumatic affair between Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, 9 ½ Weeks pushed kinky foreplay and experimentation to new screen heights with gourmet food teasing and blindfolded ice cube body rubs. Its borderline silly eroticism manages to just tilt on this side of scorching.
Photo by <em>9 ½ Weeks</em>, Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, 1986. © MGM/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Like a fly to a spider, William Hurt's unscrupulous Florida attorney is seduced by femme fatale Kathleen Turner, who plays achingly hard to get until her soon-to-be-lover can take it no longer, throwing a chair through a window in pursuit of his desire. The sweaty, uninhibited sex scene that follows more than makes good on the movie's title.
Photo by <em>Body Heat</em>, Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, 1981. © Warner Bros./Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Gay sex scenes existed in the movies long before Brokeback Mountain, but none have been as unexpected, controversial, or as widely seen as this one: Wyoming cowboys Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger share a night together in the deeps of a country where the love that dare not speak its name isn't supposed to happen at all.
Photo by <em>Brokeback Mountain</em>, Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, 2005, © Focus Films/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Amnesiac mystery woman Laura Harring seduces Hollywood ingénue Naomi Watts, dropping her wig and towel before joining Watts in bed. The steamy, sinister, and foreboding mood of their foreplay is interrupted by one of the great sexual jokes of all time: "Have you ever done this before?" "I don't know."
Photo by <em>Mulholland Drive</em>, Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, 2001. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

The Production Code was still a force to be reckoned with when James Jones' graphically sexual novel was adapted for the screen. But the movie's famous scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling on the sand together as waves crash over their bodies is enhanced by a romantic modesty that allows our imaginations to do the rest.
Photo by <em>From Here to Eternity</em>, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, 1953. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

A long way from the innocence of From Here to Eternity, there's no doubt that Paris' infamous act of sodomy between Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider -- involving a stick of butter -- is among the most shocking, controversial, and memorable of such scenes in movie history, smashing taboos and bordering on the distasteful.
Photo by <em>Last Tango in Paris</em>, Maria Schneider, 1972. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

With so many iconic, sexy scenes -- especially the one of Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay making love in an empty subway car -- Risky Business does much to raise one's temperature. De Mornay's seduction of a dozy Cruise, however, stands out for its almost unreal depiction of a first-time sexual coupling. More please.
Photo by <em>Risky Business</em>, Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, 1983. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Did you think we could let this list go by without a threesome? Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, and Neve Campbell -- locked in stab-in-the-back blackmail plots against each other -- briefly unite for a ménage à trois on a seedy motel bed, elevating Wild Things to the level of unforgettable softcore, and making Dillon the luckiest actor in Hollywood.
Photo by <em>Wild Things</em>, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, 1998. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Out of Sight pays homage to one of the great sex scenes in movie history -- Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now -- and makes it even better. The major upgrade? George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Flashing forward and back on these two perfect specimens of their respective genders in mutual seduction, first tableside and then to their bedroom tryst moments later, Out of Sight brings sexy back, retro style.

Which scene do you think is steamiest? Click here to vote.
Photo by <em>Out of Sight</em>, Jennifer Lopez, George Clooney, 1998. Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Sex scenes can be hot. Which one is hottest?
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