Like it or not, cinema is littered with sex scenes. The best examples can be romantic, or titillating, or convey something deeply meaningful.
Bad ones, meanwhile, can come across as cheap or tawdry, or in the worst cases, simply laughable.
But what about those sex scenes that fit into neither category? What about the NSFW sequences that simply feel weird?
Recently, Emerald Fennell’s divisive class satire Saltburn has provoked shock and bewilderment in viewers thanks to a much-talked about scene involving bathwater.
But Saltburn is far from the only movie to have tackled sex on screen in a way that’s surpising, unconventional or downright bizarre. And it’s not just films – the small screen has also featured its share of strange sex-filled moments.
Please note, this article contains descriptions of sexual acts.
Here’s a list of 17 of the weirdest and most outrageous sex scenes in cinema and TV…
17. Call Me By Your Name
The most talked-about moment in Luca Guadagnino’s sun-baked romance saw Armie Hammer sink his teeth into something unusual… a peach that his young lover, played by Timothée Chalamet, had just used to masturbate. Call Me By Your Name didn’t actually depict any sex onscreen, but this scene was enough to forge its reputation as a modern sexy classic.
16. American Pie
Sometimes sex scenes are just a small part of a film; in American Pie, it’s right there in the title. This raunchy lowbrow comedy’s big set piece sees randy teenager Jim make sweet whoopie to a freshly baked pie. What more is there to say?
15. Toni Erdmann
There’s little conventional about Toni Erdmann, Maren Ade’s fascinating three-hour German comedy about an uptight businesswoman and her eccentric, practical joke-loving father. The film culminates in a wonderful scene set at a spontaneously naked birthday party, but it makes this list thanks to an earlier scene, in which Ines (Sandra Hüller) has a sexual rendezvous with a co-worker, and he ejaculates onto a cupcake, which is promptly ingested. It’s hard to imagine the rumoured – and now, seemingly abandoned – Hollywood remake getting away with such stuff.
14. Enter the Void
Argentine provocateur Gaspar Noé has indulged in his fair share of sex scenes down the years – 2015’s Love was basically a full-blown pornography, released in 3D – but Enter the Void contains what must be his most startling explicit sequence. Penetrative sex is shown, with the camera offering the point of view from within a woman’s vagina. To say it’s full-on would be rather the understatement.
13. I’m a Virgo
Boots Riley’s Prime Video series follows a man who was born four metres tall, played by Jharrel Jerome. One plotline follows his relationship with aspiring chef Flora (Olivia Washington), a regular-sized woman who moves at superspeed. The supernatural abnormalities make for a truly unique lovemaking scene, even if much of what transpires is left to the imagination.
12. Peep Show
British sitcom Peep Show had its fair share of uncomfortable sex scenes – made all the more jarring by the unrelenting first-person-POV camerawork. But there’s one in particular that stands out. In the season two episode “Dance Class”, Jez (Robert Webb) enters a relationship with Nancy (Rachel Blanchard), in which their lovemaking is often charged with taboo. Towards the end of the episode, in pursuit of busting ever-bigger taboos, Jez agrees to wear blackface while getting randy. It’s not just awkward but obviously problematic, and the scene was removed from streaming platforms in 2020.
Borrowing a move from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode (“Once More With Feeling”), Leos Carax’s Annette injects music into the sexual act – with comedy bad boy Henry McHenry (Adam Driver) singing a number while going down on his opera singer wife Ann Desfranoux (Marion Cotillard). It’s sexy, but, like everything else about this eccentric, puppet-featuring film, very strange.
10. 40 Days and 40 Nights
In this 2002 romcom, Josh Hartnett plays a libidinous man who decides to abstain from sexual activity for the duration of Lent. As he gets closer to love interest Shannyn Sossamon, he finds it increasingly hard to respect the vow. With carnal intimacy off the table, he instead brings his paramour to apparent climax simply by… waving a flower around. OK then.
Emerald Fennell’s polarising 2023 drama starred Jacob Elordi as a benevolent has-it-all rich kid and Barry Keoghan as the lower-income interloper who befriends him. There’s lots of material that strains for sexual transgression – a grave-humping sequence was apparently Keoghan’s invention on the day – but the “bathtub scene”, in which Keoghan’s character slurps the, um, contaminated dregs of his opulent host’s bath water, is the one that really got people talking.
8. Team America: World Police
This crude but impressively crafted satire from the creators of South Park didn’t really do anything by halves – and that includes the extended sex scene, staged entirely using marionettes. The amorous sequence saw the puppets placed in a variety of increasingly acrobatic sexual positions, while a thumping guitar ballad plays underneath.
7. Holy Motors
For those who haven’t seen it, Holy Motors basically comprises several of the most bizarre scenes ever put to film, all stitched together one after the other. Directed by French maverick Leos Carax, the film includes one sequence in which two actors simulate sex while fully dressed in motion-capture suits. The slightly haunting end product is then rendered on a screen: two serpentine creatures giving it the full triple-X treatment. It’s a lot!
6. Bride of Chucky
Another puppet sex scene in the vein of Team America, comedy-horror sequel Bride of Chucky featured some unpalatable sex between the demonic dolls voiced by Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly. “Do you have a rubber?” she asks. “Look at me, baby, I’m all rubber!” comes the reply. That just about sums up the tone of this strange, deeply un-sexy sequence.
This little-seen sci-fi-satire starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead took some big swings – including its very premise, which saw aliens devour the brains of the American political class. The sixth episode features a scene that Winstead described as the “weirdest” of her entire career: a vigorous bout of sexual intercourse, all while chowing down on a selection of chocolates and salami. It ended up being the show’s biggest talking point – but wasn’t enough to save BrainDead from cancellation after one series.
— BrainDead (@BrainDeadCBS) August 3, 2016
This 2016 Russian drama follows a woman who suddenly grows a tail. It’s a strange and unsettling piece of body horror, presented through the lens of realist drama. The most disturbing scene, however, comes when a prospective suitor begins fetishistically incorporating the tail into his sexual advances. Call me a prude, but I’m out.
3. Howard the Duck
This bizarre comedy – technically the first Marvel film – follows the adventures of an anthropomorphic duck living among humans. In the film’s most infamous scene, Howard shares a night of romance with Lea Thompson, who says she “just can’t resist his intense animal magnetism”. “This relationship… it defies all the laws of nature,” another character comments – and quite rightly, too.
2. The Counselor
Depending on who you ask, Ridley Scott’s The Counselor is either a terrible, off-putting disaster or a stone-cold masterpiece. In what might be the film’s weirdest set piece, Cameron Diaz has sex – not with a person, but a car. The act is subsequently described in the foulest terms by Javier Bardem: “It was like one of those catfish things, you know, one of those bottom feeders you see going up the way of the aquarium sucking its way up the glass.”
1. Pink Flamingos
Pretty much everything about John Waters’ seminal filth comedy was shocking: it’s small wonder this scatalogical oddity was banned in several countries. It’s hard to pick just one scene, but the part in which Divine fellates her no-good son Crackers (Danny Mills) remains particularly outrageous. British censorship board BBFC reinstated the scene in 2008, having initially cut it for a previous release, explaining that the moment “could be justified by the wider context of the film, in that the whole purpose of the film was to shock, disgust and amuse (in a blackly comic fashion), rather than to arouse”.