The sweat list: 10 films that really perspire

These movies -- from "Do the Right Thing" to "Body Heat" -- turn sticky bodies into glorious spectacle

Matt Zoller Seitz
July 10, 2010 10:01PM (UTC)

It's mid-July. Much of the country is reeling (or recovering) from a heat wave. Why on earth would you want to watch sweaty movies filled with sweaty people?

Because there's nothing more cinematic than sweat, that's why. For brazen, unapologetic, just-because-it's-beautiful screen spectacle, nothing else comes close, except cigarette smoke and huge explosions. And in that three-way race, sweat still comes out ahead because there's so much you can do with it -- so many ways to photograph it, so many possible gradations of texture and volume. Characters can shine, they can glisten, or they can sweat like galley slaves; the sheen can make them gorgeous or gross, depending on the actor, the lighting and the situation. The sweaty movie is very nearly a genre unto itself, so let's just go ahead and give it a pretentious French name -- la cinema de la sueur -- and induct 10 representative titles into a makeshift hall of fame: The Sweat List.


The following films are chosen, as always, for highly subjective reasons. I've tried to account not just for quantity of sweat but for quality -- and for the visual imagination with which the filmmakers capture their characters' incremental loss of precious bodily fluids. Readers are encouraged to submit their own nominees -- and chastise me for daring to omit this, that or the other -- in the Letters section.

Matt Zoller Seitz

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