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The best sex scenes in cinema

Time Out's pick of the lustiest lovemaking scenes on celluloid

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Fully aware that Paris is the world's premier destination for amorous couples, we at Time Out try hard to do justice to the city's reputation for romance. With features on everything from the capital's most romantic restaurants to its sexiest hotels already under our belt, we now turn our attention to films – Paris's other great passion – for some heated under-the-belt action. Cinema's special relationship to eroticism, which places the viewer in the privileged position of voyeur, has been the subject of much academic theorising (notably by feminists). As the scandal that surrounded the 2013 Palme d'Or winner 'Blue Is the Warmest Colour' shows, it's a fine and ill-defined line that separates legitimate sex scenes from pornography. But let's leave theory aside for an instant, and take a look at how lovemaking – straight, gay, bi, surrealist – has been portrayed on the silver screen throughout the ages. Read on for our blow-by-blow account of the best busses, bonking and blozzers in cinema. 

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We thought we’d ease into the list with a selection of straight ‘n’ simple sex scenes set in pretty bucolic landscapes. But before we knew it, our research had led us to a YouTube clip of Scarlett Johansson devouring Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Woody Allen’s otherwise turgid ‘Match Point’... 

'Match Point' by Woody Allen

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Given that films are there for you to indulge without restraint the fantasies that reality denies you, allow us to plough on into the heady realm of onscreen threesomes. They certainly aren’t lacking in cinema: from Jean Eustache’s ‘La Maman et la Putain’ to Harmony Korine’s recent ‘Spring Breakers’ via Bernardo Bertolucci’s sweaty Parisian romp ‘The Dreamers’, three-way thrusting has enlivened many an arthouse film over the years. Our pick, though hardly original, is taken from one of the most nuanced and beautifully observed films on a triangular love affair ever made. Take it away, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Ana Lopez Mercado: 

'Y Tu Mama También' by Alfonso Cuarón


Et ta Mère aussi (FERMETURE)by DAVID1234567891011

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Don’t be deceived by its title; the most memorable moment in Bertrand Blier’s seminal road movie ‘Les Valseuses’ (literally ‘The Waltzers’ – actually French slang for your meat and two veg) involves not two but four people. And what people: an as-yet-unknown Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert, a stunning Miou-Miou in her breakout role, and her real-life partner Patrick Dewaere, making cinematogenic love like only young French actors can. 

'Les Valseuses' by Bertrand Blier

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Fourgasms not enough for you? You’re in luck: not a few film directors have felt compelled to film orgies, from Shohei Imamura (check out the bleak climactic scene of his 1966 masterpiece ‘The Pornographers’) to Lars von Trier (multiple examples). Yet arguably none is as hair-raisingly eerie as the scene in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, which with its masquerade theme and bonkers cultish undertones pulls off the considerable feat of making us forget Tom Cruise’s blankness as an actor. It all somehow works, thanks to Kubrick’s mastery of space – all symmetrical compositions and slinking travelling shots. The film was met with very mixed reviews upon its 1999 release, though perhaps unsurprisingly it fared better in France than elsewhere… 

'Eyes Wide Shut' by Stanley Kubrick

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When Abdellatif Kechiche’s ‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ sparked a sexy scandal in the run-up to its release, the main bone of contention was not that it depicted lesbian lovemaking, but that it did so at such length, in such graphic detail, and with such attractive actresses. Such was the furore that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the first film of its kind. But while LGBT cinema has only come to serious critical attention in the last few decades, homosexual love and sex have been portrayed in movies since time immemorial. Our selections below are only two recent mainstream examples of a long and not always noble tradition of onscreen lesbians. 

'Mulholland Drive' by David Lynch

'Black Swan' by Darren Aronofsky

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Moving from yin to yang, minge to wang, we now come to our two representatives of male gay cinema: Xavier Dolan’s ‘I Killed My Mother’, which the astonishingly precocious Canadian director made aged 19, and of course Ang Lee’s cowboy saga ‘Brokeback Mountain’, whose all-mumbling, all-grunting sex scenes in the tent became for many viewers the definitive depiction of gay sex in film. 

'I Killed My Mother' by Xavier Dolan

'Brokeback Mountain' by Ang Lee

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Getting hot and bothered? So are we. Let's cool down by taking a detour through a handful of strange, dreamlike love scenes, nicked from the oneiric cinema of David Cronenberg and Pedro Almodóvar. So watch on, and witness James Woods making love to his television in the wry satire ‘Videodrome’, followed by a surreal homage to Jack Arnold’s ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ in ‘Talk to Her’… 

'Videodrome' by David Cronenberg

'Talk to Her' by Pedro Almodóvar

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An overview of erotic scenes in cinema that ignores oral sex would suck indeed, and so we’re going to bring our feature to a climax with three heady scenes of fellatio and cunnilingus. Between Louis Malle, Andy Warhol and Almodóvar, we believe we’ve found something for all tastes. 

'Les Amants' by Louis Malle

'High Heels' by Pedro Almodóvar

'Blow Job' by Andy Warhol

Read on...

Romantic Restaurants

Whether you want to impress, re-light the fire, or simply treat your heart's desire to a meal somewhere intimate, this pick or five romantic restaurants should have you lip-locked by dessert... For some "oh la la" on (and off) the plate... Taillevent Taillevent’s first room, with its round, evenly spread tables, is gorgeous, but it lacks the intimacy required for a seductive tête-à-tête. We prefer the second dining room, which makes you feel like you’re in a secret club. La Tour d'Argent The views from La Tour d’Argent over Notre-Dame and Montmartre wow your eyes, while the food woos your stomach. This year, patissier Guillaume Caron has created a special Valentine’s dessert, “Mon ange chocolat-passion” (my chocolate passion angel). Delicieux! Restaurant Le Meurice In a sumptuous dining room, inspired by the Château de Versailles and reworked by Philippe Starck, you’re in for a sophisticated meal. Yannick Alléno’s subtle, refined cuisine is utterly inspiring and the setting is enough to make anyone go starry-eyed. Le Moulin de la Galette The Moulin de la Galette is set in one of two remaining windmills in Montmartre - both of which were immortalised by Renoir. After a meal signed chef Antoine Heerah (known for his fresh, minimalist cooking), take a stroll around the Butte’s romantic cobbled lanes. Angelina Angelina tea-room has two ways of inspiring love: A Mont Blanc meringue with chestnut cream and the most velvetine and naughty hot chocolate in Paris.

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By: Time Out editors

The 100 best French films

Time Out's definitive countdown of the finest French films – as chosen by industry experts Here they are: the 100 best French films as chosen by a panel of film industry experts, including directors Marc Caro (‘Delicatessen’, ‘La Cité des enfants perdus’) and Zabou Breitman (‘Se souvenir des belles choses’), actors Serge Hazanavicius (‘The Artist’, ‘OSS 117’) and John Malkovich (erm, 'Being John Malkovich'), newspaper and magazine critics and the heads of France's major cultural organisations. Click here to start exploring the list or here to read how we did it. |HOME| |THE LIST| |THE JURY| |HAVE YOUR SAY| |INTERNATIONAL LISTS| Explore the best French films |100-81| |80-61| |60-51| |50-41| |40-31| |30-21| |20-11| |10-2| |No 1|

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The 50 best films set in Paris

A brief history of the French capital on celluloid The city in cinema Romance blooms on a belle époque street corner. A dark-eyed girl in Montmartre runs her hand through a bag of dried beans. In the suburbs, Arabs square up to skinheads. Nicotine-stained tales of sexual misadventure unfold in beds all over the city, while gangsters commit crimes and cartoon rats cook up a storm. Paris, which boasts a higher concentration of picture houses than any other city, has been the inspiration and the backdrop for countless films. Below, we present 50 of the best, organised by era. Be they Nouvelle Vague masterpieces or populist comedies, the capital is always in the starring role... Up to 1960 Les Enfants du Paradis In Marcel Carné’s rich, literary romance from 1945 ('France's answer to "Gone with the Wind'!"), four men tussle for the affections of one woman, the conflicted, sphinx-like Garence (Carné regular Arletty), an ice maiden in the league of Marlene Dietrich who, in nearly every shot, has her eyes masked by a beam of light. Such ethereal, delicately cinematic touches add to a film which is content to let a dazzling, witty script (by Jacques Prévert), sumptuous set design and exceptional performers lend the fiction its lifeblood. An American in Paris An American soldier stays in Paris after World War II to paint and falls in love with a French beauty . La Traversée de Paris Paris, 1943. Martin (Bourvil), a slow-witted spiv, persuades a stranger, Grandgil (Gabin), to help

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