12 great male nude film scenes, beyond the cheap laughs

From funny to erotic to sublime, naked men in feature films are still rare enough to be memorable when done well

Published May 13, 2016 4:17PM (EDT)

Sacha Baron Cohen in "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises"
Sacha Baron Cohen in "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises"

In the opening moments of the new film, “A Bigger Splash” Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) and her lover, Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), are lounging naked by the pool at their Italian villa. Their comfort is desirable, infectious. Their sensuality is palpable. Watching them, you just want to strip off your clothes and dive through the screen to join them. But then Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), Marianne’s former lover, arrives with his daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) and the couple confides to one another that they can’t be naked anymore.

That doesn’t stop their guests from disrobing. The boisterous Harry skinny-dips to cool off or show off—probably both—and Penelope uses her nudity to coax a potential suitor in one key scene. Most notably, however, when an argument develops between Harry and Paul, the scene showcases a full-frontal Fiennes who spends the whole sequence completely naked.

The male nudity here is not erotic, but something more essential. It reveals, exposes, and expresses the truth of who Harry is, what he is saying and why he is naked while saying it: he simply ha...

Few moviegoers expected to see full-frontal nudity in a Merchant-Ivory film, but this fabulous period piece, adapted from E.M. Forster's novel, delivered a terrific extended comedic nude scene featuring George Emerson (Julian Sands), Freddie Honeychurch (Rupert Graves), and Reverend Beebe (Simon Callow) taking a dip in a nearby pond. "Don't be shy!" Freddie commands, jumping in naked. And no one is. The men splash in and dash around the pond in their birthday suits. Their innocent horseplay is slightly homoerotic (it is Merchant-Ivory and Forster after all). The bathing represents a release from Edwardian customs and their clothes. It frees the men until the bathers are surprised by Freddie's mother, Rosemary Leach), his sister, Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter), her suitor Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis). Graves also displayed some full-frontal nudity in "Maurice," the subsequent Merchant-Ivory adaptation of Forster.

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By Gary M. Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a writer and film critic based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter.

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