The 20 Best Erotic Thriller Films Of All Time: Part 1
We're not only the UK finest purveyors of PVC catsuits. We're experts in erotism AND film buffs. Here are the definitive 20 Best Erotic Thriller Films Of All Time!
PART 1: the top 10!
1) Basic Instinct 2 (2006) & Basic Instinct (1992)
What kind of lunatic puts Basic Instinct 2 at the top of any list?! The truth is that non-experts just don't understand Basic Instinct 2. They think it's too campy, far-fetched and living off the fumes of the original. All of this is true. However Catherine Tramell is just a little more unhinged, arrogant and charismatic in the sequel. Her outfits are more outlandish, the body count is higher and the sex scenes are just a bit more pervy. So we say get out the popcorn and do the Basic Instinct double bill!
2) Body Heat (1981)
Dumb, horny and lazy Ned Racine doesn't stand a chance against femme fatale extraordinaire Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner). Body Heat (1981) is a richly textured, intricately plotted masterpiece. Mickey Rourke plays a criminal and explosive expert, J. A. Preston an honest cop, Ted Danson a tap dancing public prosecutor and Dick Crenna a mobbed-up entrepreneur. Much of the film is densely peopled, then we're drawn away to Ned and Matty's private erotic world - where she cunningly leads him on to doing her bidding! It's a gorgeous, sexy film - go watch it.
3) Crash (1996)
Videodrome (1983) is David Cronenberg's most enjoyable film. Crash (1996) is his perfect film. Based on the J. G. Ballard (1973) novel of the same name. It's an impenetrable, dark and dreamlike slab of cold erotism. The film follows renegade group of car crash fetishist, led by led Vaughan (Elias Koteas) as they live out the philosophy that a car crash is a "benevolent psychopathology that beckons towards us". It's deep, dark and porny! J. G. Ballard was a very sexy, twisted chap.
4) Stranger By the Lake (2013)
The first thing you notice about Stranger By The Lake (2013) is the atmosphere and isolation. There's no music. Only the wind through the trees at the picturesque southern French cruising spot (Lake of Sainte-Croix). The intimacy between the characters is inherent to the setting - they're constantly nude or in swimwear, in queer space. We're invited into their world and somehow feel pleasantly trapped there. It's a vicarious, absorbing, quiet, deadly film that invites you in by the hand. I don't want to say too much more about this one, and implore you not to read the synopsis before viewing.
5) American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman holds a strange allure to those that encounter him in American Psycho (2000). They perceive him to be handsome, quirky, rich, mysterious and cultured. All of this is lost on Bateman - he has an overriding sense that he is an entity rather than a person. He has no sense of self. This is compounded by acquaintances constantly mistaking him for other people from his privileged social circle. Friends and enemies who also wear boxy Valentino suits, oversized trench coats, Oliver Peoples glasses and haircuts of varying expense. However you already know this. You've probably read the book and seen the film. Watch it again and focus on Patrick's chilling power and erotic magnetism. Imagine yourself in his bedroom, in front of his camera.
6) Damage (1992)
Damage (1992) is the great tragedy on this list. It's a rare film that exceeds the novel. Unlike Match Point (2005) and the more recent Saltburn (2023) it's also a film that accurately depicts the British upper-class. The sets are particularly noteworthy. The contrast between Anna Barton's flat and Dr. Stephen Fleming home is perfect. Their sex in the flat is violent, strange and terminal. His life at home is icy and adrift from his family. A sad, poetic film.
7) Mulholland Drive (2001)
Mulholland Drive (2001) is a work of art. I encountered it at a cinema in Hull. Walking into the screening I had no knowledge of David Lynch's work. I was unqualified for what was to come and held rapt throughout. Afterwards I had a horrible sense of déjà vu. Years later, I realised that this was partially caused by Lynch's mastery, and partially by one of the locations (director Adam Kesher's modernist home) being the same location that was used to shoot the 1996 film 2 Days in the Valley. Mulholland Drive works on many levels. It's open format invites every viewer to bring something of their own to it. Much like Lost Highway (1997) multiple viewings help one chart this films unusual chronology.
8) Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Status and power are every present in sex, and they are key theme throughout Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Tom Cruise gives a brilliant performance as Dr. William "Bill" Harford. He's charming, hopelessly bourgeois, utterly incapable of exploring his own sexuality and estranged from his wife's erotic world. The worst in his nature is revealed by his interactions with the high status, nouveau-riche Victor Ziegler. Bill's obsequious to Ziegler is sharply contrasted with how comfortable he is lying to a waitress, manipulating a hotel clerk and negotiating with female sex workers. These skilful manipulations bring him closer to his goal of sexual exploration - however, whenever he's at the brink of discovery he has no follow through!
Kubrick believed Eyes Wide Shut to be his greatest film and it might have been, if he'd lived longer and been able to spent more time in post-production - as it stands, it's certainly a great erotic film.
9) Swimming Pool (2003)
Swimming Pool (2003) is a film that I frequently - especially when I'm desiring a holiday! Morally ambiguous mystery author Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is suffering from writer's block. Her publisher insists that she use his French holiday home as a writer's retreat. In France she is confronted by Julie his French daughter, who's liberated, party loving nature initially annoys Morton. However as time passes, she develops a fascination with Julie. She begins listening to her have sex with random men and steals her diary to use as material for her new novel. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that is bonded through a pragmatic response to a tragedy.
10) Internal Affairs (1990)
Internal Affairs (1990) is Richard Gere's best erotic film. American Gigolo (1980) while being more stylish and even having a sleek Giorgio Moroder soundtrack, does not come close. Dennis Peck (Gere) is a thoroughly corrupt LAPD cop. He's got that 90s bad boy thing going on. He's dangerous and promiscuous - he attracts bored females like a magnet. In one scene he manually stimulates a willing business woman under a restaurant table, whilst her unwitting husband, whom is sitting directly opposite them, tries to hire him to kill his parents.
Amy Wallace (Laurie Metcalf) and Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia) are Internal Affairs Division cops who are onto Peck's wrongdoings. Avilla is a hot headed character who's marriage is disintegrating due to his obsession with Peck. Wallace is a much cooler customer and a more experienced investigator. They work well together to antagonize Peck in a high stakes game of cat and mouse.
PART 2: 11 to 20 will be revealed in March!