From “The Bronze” to “Blue is the Warmest Color”: The buzziest film festival sex scenes of the past five years

Here are some of the erotic moments that stunned critics and festival attendees the most

Published January 23, 2015 6:20PM (EST)

Last night's Sundance opening night film “The Bronze,” a comedy about a retired Olympic gymnast, is already generating major buzz for its intensely raunchy sex scenes, which feature two gymnasts making love as only gymnasts can -- in an acrobatic sequence full of pole vaults, pirouettes and cartwheels.

While the scene itself may be shocking, the narrative surrounding it is not. Every year, film festivals like Cannes and Sundance reliably yield a handful of must-see erotic moments, some risqué bedroom rendezvous or controversial cunnilingus scene that people simply can’t stop talking about. While some of the films will go on to achieve mainstream renown, others remain insider talking-points limited to festival attendees and film buffs. Here are the movies that stunned and shocked at festivals over the past five years.


“Nyphomaniac pt. 1,” the first offering from Lars von Trier’s sex epic, was the big topic of conversation when it debuted at Sundance last year, as people couldn’t wait to see what the controversial director had up his sleeves. However, it ended up being tamer than expected. As Vulture's Jesse David Fox wrote in response to the question How Dirty is it?:

"The short answer is "Not incredibly." ... Let me be clear, Nymphomaniac Volume I is dirty. It's not The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's definitely not Mr. Peabody & Sherman. There's a lot of sex in it — the main character, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is a sex addict — but, at least by today's cable and movie standards, for the most part it doesn't reach an unbelievable level. By my count, there were six instances that felt like something you wouldn't see in a hard-R."

Honorable mention:

Goes to the feminist raunchfest "Wetlands,” from German director David Wnendt, which Vulture's Jada Yuan described as Sundance's crassest, most outrageous film:

"Stories of sexual poop fetishes, girlfriends swapping used tampons, and a pet rat found while throwing up in a toilet all follow, intercut with the central story line, in which Helen winds up in the hospital for anal surgery following a shaving injury, and uses her hospitalization to try to get her divorced parents back together... Oh, and did I mention there’s also an operatic sequence in which four men jack off on a spinach pizza?"


After “Blue is the Warmest Color" premiered at Cannes in 2013,  where it won the Palme d’or, all anybody could talk about was its sprawling, graphic, ten-minute long lesbian sex scene. As's Jordan Hoffman wrote:

"Some critics may wonder if these sequences – lengthy, intense, un-simulated and numerous – are necessary to tell the story. Please believe the part of my brain that doesn’t house a lecherous voyeur when I say yes, absolutely... Adele and Emma connect first and foremost on a sexual level and to understand the depth of their passion you can’t just hear them talk about it – you need to see it. Despite the tongues, heaving breasts and exposed sex organs, Adele’s flushed cheeks are the most erotic things on display. They make evident the reality of her experience – and they alone tell the true story of this budding relationship."

“Blue” would go on to achieve mainstream success -- winning the Golden Globe for best foreign film -- as well as inciting public controversy when the actresses alleged that director Abdellatif Kechiche pushed them too far while shooting these scenes.

Honorable mention:

John Krokidas' Sundance film “Kill Your Darlings” got a lot of buzz in this department, mainly because it featured Daniel Radcliffe, who played a young Allen Ginsberg, in a gay sex scene.


Not the most well-received film to ever come out of Cannes, "The Paperboy" was notable because it featured major stars — Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack and Zac Efron — being party to some pretty lewd acts. As Adweek's Eddie Scarry wrote:

"Paperboy contains possibly the most uncomfortable, disgusting sex scene ever filmed; and it doesn’t involve actual sex. In the scene, Kidman’s character sits across from Cusack, the prison inmate. Kidman, wearing a dress, spreads her legs, rips open the crotch of her pantyhose and touches herself while simulating oral sex. Meanwhile, Cusack, an ugly hillbilly mess, masturbates through his clothes, shouting “you bitch.” This happens in front of a trio of men, including McConaughey and Efron, who look on in horror."

Honorable mention:

"Post Tenebras Lux," from Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas, got mixed reviews when it premiered at Cannes back in 2012, but people couldn't stop talking about the film's kinky sex scene, which features the central couple on a mysterious visit to a bizarre sex spa. As Rodrigo Perez writes over at The Playlist:

"In a large, labyrinth-like steam room/sex dungeon with dozens of people, the wife is laid down and fucked by strangers while a naked older lady holds her to her breast in a Pietà-like pose and comforts her while her husband and others look on. Depending on your kinky proclivities it's either strangely hot (fetishists may enjoy) or just deeply unsettling."


Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar has always pushed boundaries when it comes to depictions of eroticism in his films, but some people still walked out of the film's Cannes gala premiere of "The Skin I live in" because of its disturbing content. As Fox's Jo Piazza explains:

The film "focuses on a mad but brilliant surgeon (Banderas) who kidnaps a man who raped his daughter. The doctor's daughter killed herself from the grief and it drives him to take very drastic measures. This is where it gets complicated and disturbing.  Banderas then gives the rapist a sex change and transplants his deceased daughter's face onto his body. He later has sex with the man he has brutally experimented on and turned into a woman." (You can see why this may have offended some sensibilities).

Honorable mention:

Israeli director Hagar Ben Asher's "The Slut" may be, according to the Hollywood reporter,  the first time a "female director of a legitimate feature [filmed] herself performing in a hardcore sex scene."


Derek Cianfrance's Sundance film "Blue Valentine," starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Wiliams, was an extremely hot conversation topic when it premiered back in 2010. An intimate portrait of a marriage as it evolves over the course of several years, the shoot was extremely immersive, with the pair staying in character even when the cameras stopped rolling. What's more, many of the scenes were improvised, which lead to some of the most realistic sex scenes people had seen in ages -- perhaps to the film's detriment. After the film got an NC-17 rating for its cunnilingus scene, people criticized the MPAA for upholding a double standard. "There's plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it's a man receiving it from a woman - and they're R-rated. Ours is reversed and somehow it's perceived as pornographic," said Gosling. It was later put back to an R rating.

Honorable mention:

Kristen Stewart was still best-known as Bella Swan when "Welcome to the Rileys," in which she plays a 16-year-old stripper, debuted at Sundance. While the movie itself wasn't that raunchy, it marked the "Twilight" stars first nude screen appearance, which became a talking point in itself. (That year she also played Joan Jett in "The Runaways," which involved her making out with co-star Dakota Fanning).

By Anna Silman

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