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Let’s roll back the years a little, and think of a time long before we all had access to an unlimited supply of sexualised images. The mid-late 80s are often seen as the heyday of high concept movies, Brat Pack flicks and ridiculously upbeat comedies full of misunderstandings leading to hijinks, soundtracked by power rock anthems and electro prototypes. In contrast, this era is less highly regarded when it comes to erotic cinema.
It’s a misleading stereotype, mind. In an age wherein the closest thing most adolescents got to today’s hardcore smut were shoplifted Hustler centrefolds and some dodgy VHS your friend stole from his dad’s ‘private collection’, erotic movies were more valuable than gold itself. You know the kind- sexually charged scene followed by sexually charged scene, more often than not interspersed with a few moments in which the plot attempted to move forward via ludicrous devices and hard-to-believe scenarios.
None of which really mattered as a frustrated teenager yearning for more than a fleeting glance at some side boob. But what about the more mature viewers out there, or younger eyes that had grown bored of ridiculous premises, shoddy filmmaking and painfully poor acting, but still wanted to watch people getting it on?
Surprisingly, they weren’t left wanting, with scores of well-above-average movies released during this period that answered both sides of the argument. I’ve put a few memories to the test, thought long and hard about what flicks I taped off the TV and labelled, in bold, ‘NEVER DELETE’, and come up with this (almost) definitive list of erotic movies from the early 80s.
Spoiler – this might not be the best thing to read at work.
How did you know? How did you know I’d respond to you the way I have?
In the 21st Century, Mickey Rourke is best known as that disheveled-looking brute who returned to the Hollywood A-list via tales of drug-addled wrestlers and deformed avenging angels. Back in the 80s, he was a bona fide sex symbol, and ‘9 1/2 Weeks’ explains why.
Meeting Kim Basinger in the early scenes leads to a highly charged, passionate love affair (they even do it outside on some steps in the pouring rain at one point), but the problem is she knows nothing about his life, leading to paranoia and second-guesses.
Come off it John, we all have something to hide, what a boring life it would be if we didn’t…
This movie is highly unusual because it subverts the standard male-dominance prevalent in most erotic films – Caton-Jones’ movie is based on the real life Profumo scandal of 1963.
Christine Keeler is a pretty young thing in London who, alongside her best also-attractive gal pal, becomes perhaps a little too familiar with members of the Conservative Party elite during frequent trips to parties.
Although it sounds as though she’s subservient, in many ways the ladies hold power over the men here. Or at least they seem to have more carefree fun, what with their jobs on the line once those inevitable headlines hit.
If the previous two entries are relatively well known to those old enough at the time, this is much (much) harder to find.
In the late 1980s, South Korean cinema was going through something of a sexual revolution, with this the jewel in that crown. ‘Prostitution’ topped the country’s box office ranking in 1988, going on to become the third biggest hit of the entire decade.
Yeonghui is a high class call girl who acts with dignity and sees her job as just that – a career. Tragically, she also views herself as someone who cannot dream of a future, must forget the past, and is forbidden from falling in love.
Deep, considering it’s kind of like watching softcore porn.
I had known Betty for a week. We screwed every night. The forecast was for storms…
If you attended university in the immediate years following this release, chances are at least one guy who tried to come across all cultured and thoughtful had the ‘Betty Blue’ poster on his halls of residence wall. In reality, the smart money is on the fact he was actually just a massive sleaze who watched a bit too much ‘art’ on screen.
Nevertheless, this Oscar and BAFTA-nominated effort about a woman who is utterly irresistible, confident in the bedroom, yet teetering on the brink of sanity, is actually a very good movie.
In dreams, I walk with you. In dreams, I talk to you. In dreams, you’re mine, all the time. Forever. In dreams…
Heralded as a work of visceral genius, Lynch transports us to the archetypal small town in USA, where sexual expression is far from encouraged.
After a young man discovers a severed ear on the floor, he finds himself increasingly lost in a world behind closed doors, complete with rampant fetishisation, a strange pervert wearing an oxygen mask played by Dennis Hopper at his finest, and the equally unbalanced mistress who is willing to treat him as an adult baby.
So there you have it then – five films that have at least one thing on their mind, from runaway love affairs to troubled-yet-passionate encounters and freaky perversions.
Of course, by nature, sex is something that we all view differently- everyone has their own ideals of what makes the perfect bed date or bed date film.
With that in mind, why not share a few thoughts on your favourite erotic movies from the first half of the 80s with the rest of the world?
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