William Hurt’s sleazebag Florida lawyer, Ned Racine, is the hapless dupe to Kathleen Turner’s rich, unhappily married beauty in this sweaty genre high-water mark. Turner’s manipulative bombshell, Matty Walker, is so many steps ahead of her outmatched lover – and just about everyone else in Florida – that there’s moments when you practically feel her pausing to let them all catch up a bit. The sex, of which there’s a lot, is relentless in a way that even has poor Racine complaining about the state of his neds at one point (get some more ice on there, mate). But it’s always in service to a noirish plot that director Lawrence Kasdan marshals with supreme discipline as he charts two genuinely terrible people jettisoning their morals, professionalism, pants… the lot.
Back in the late 1980s and into the ’90s, if you went to a multiplex and picked a theatre at random, chances were high that you’d end up walking in on a man and a woman having sex. The former would most likely be Michael Douglas, the latter any number of icy-cool female leads. And then, if you kept watching, someone would end up getting killed – maybe by a handgun, possibly an ice pick, or sometimes just overly vigorous thrusting. It was truly a boom period for the erotic thriller, a genre that could often be described as both ‘problematic’ and self-consciously campy, but also damn fun. But then, sometime around the turn of the millennium, they kind of just… disappeared.
It’s hard to say if audience prudishness or cultural saturation killed the erotic thriller. In any case, earlier this year, we got a reminder of just how much we miss them. Fatal Attraction director Adrian Lyne came out of semi-retirement with Deep Water, a movie about Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas’s open marriage skidding off the rails and leaving several corpses in its wake. It wasn’t exactly thrilling or particularly erotic – the movie contains more close-ups of pet snails than actual sex – but it did just enough to get us thinking fondly of those films that did manage to get our blood boiling all those years ago. Here are 35 of cinema’s best erotic thrillers to get your heart rate up.
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