You need to watch this documentary about the best sex scenes
If you need a guide to the best sex scenes & nude moments in cinematic history, look no further than the new documentary by Danny Wolf titled Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.
Sex on screen, or even just flashes of nude actors & actresses, have always caused a stir, particularly to an American audience. Skin sits down with actors, actresses, directors, and experts on films, sex, and art to discuss what nudity and the stigma attached to it has meant for cinema throughout the years.
In Skin, we get first-hand accounts of how iconic nude scenes were filmed and the impact they left of the people that made them and the people that watched them. For a lesson in film history and the best movie sex scenes here’s a look at Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.
Sex in cinematic origins
Skin begins at the beginning with the origins of cinema. Jonathan Kuntz, a film historian at UCLA notes, “Probably 20 minutes after they invented film somebody thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we started photographing naked people’. In fact, you could say there has been nudity in films from before there were films.”
The documentary traces the beginning of censorship by “moral guardians” such as the Catholic church and the introductions of the Hays Code in 1930 to regulate the sex & violence shown onscreen. At first, the Hays Code was nothing more than a suggestion until the end of the decade – when it was rigorously enforced until the mid-1950s.
With popular stars like Marilyn Monroe & Jayne Mansfield taking on more risque scenes in their films, the code began to erode. By the late 1960s, the U.S. was beginning to move in the direction of more experimental European films, and nudity in films was then regulated by the modern MPAA ratings that went all the way up to X.
Notable nudity on the movies
The experts on Skin parse through some of the most famous nude scenes that film has to offer, often coupled with the best sex scenes. The film Ecstasy, featuring Hed Lamar fully nude also includes what is possibly the first sex scene that portrays female pleasure.
Malcolm McDowell interviews with some eye-opening anecdotes as an actor who began his career just as the old restrictions of the Hays code were eradicated from cinema and as McDowell mentions, “the floodgates opened”. McDowell was notably nude in many of his films including A Clockwork Orange and the infamous Caligula, the latter film often described as soft-core porn.
There are dozens of other famous scenes including the shower scene in Psycho, the sex-for-hire in Midnight Cowboy, Richard Gere’s penis in American Gigolo, Phoebe Cates’s red bikini reveal in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and the notorious apple pie humping scene in American Pie.
Baring it all for art
Skin also discusses what nudity means to movies. Being nude in films has always been perceived as somewhat scandalous and came attached with a definite stigma. In the era of silent films, nudity was permissible as long as the nude person in question remained still, emulating a work of art.
The documentary frames nudity as an art form as well, to be done onscreen when it’s important to the development of the story. Skin marks the distinction also between actresses shedding layers for a scene versus an actor and notes that careers have been made for actresses because of their willingness to do nudity.
The actresses interviewed for Skin all have their own perspective on the nude scenes they did in their careers, some finding it a positive experience but more often than not, mixed with the institutionalized sexism that has plagued Hollywood.
Now it’s a different story
Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies opens with a snapshot at present-day and the changing film industry standards. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the politics of nudity in film are vastly different from what they were even ten years ago. Sex & nudity is regulated by people like intimacy coordinators who ensure the well-being of the actors during an intimate scene.
Intimacy coordinators were nowhere to be seen thirty years ago when directors could casually ask an actress to do the next take nude. Now, sex & nudity in the movies are more carefully executed elements. Actress Diane Franklin sums up her thoughts on nudity in film, “I think it’s important for women to know that nudity in film is a choice and it’s never an expectation.”