Oscar Wilde once said that “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” This is certainly true when it comes to movies; sex has been a primary subject since the beginning of film. Before the ratings board came into place, sex was something that was only able to be implied. Then in 1969 a movie called Midnight Cowboy, a story about a male prostitute, became the first and only X rated movie to win Best Picture. In 1978, Animal House changed the game as far as sex comedies go, and since then we’ve gone from Porky’s to the American Pie films to Judd Apatow’s films.
Those of course are the most well known ones, but there have been many more made over the years. They may not be as crass and vulgar as the ones mentioned above, but they accomplish exactly what a sex comedy is supposed to do: make you laugh and turn you on. So if you’re feeling randy and wanting to laugh tonight, then check out some of these less obvious choices.
1. Shampoo (1975)
Before he gained notoriety for presenting the wrong winner for Best Picture in 2017, Warren Beatty was the sex symbol of Hollywood. Notorious for his womanizing, it would only make sense that one of the best performances he ever gave was of a womanizing hairdresser named George. His secret? Everyone thinks he’s gay because he’s a hairdresser, so men don’t feel threatened by him. Showing that a womanizer might be able to get any woman he wants, but not the woman he loves, Shampoo is a funny portrait of a time in history when free love reigned, but ultimately shows us that love is definitely not free.
2. Don Jon (2013)
Yes I know, I included a movie from the 21st century. Now that’s a first for me! Well it is a great directorial debut from Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and I wanted to add it because even though it got good reviews, I don’t think it received enough attention. It’s a fascinating character study; Gordon-Levitt’s Jon Martello is a reluctant playboy. He can get any girl he wants, but unlike George, sex is not fun for him. He’d rather watch pornography! Similar to Shampoo, his attitudes about sex are challenged when he actually meets women he feels a connection to. With its struggle between real women and fantasy women, Don Jon proves to be one of the better commentaries on 21st century relationships.
3. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
Scripted by the late great film critic Roger Ebert, BTVD is about a girl band who moves to Los Angeles and encounters the craziness of the music industry. For example, they meet Ronnie “Z Man” Barzell (John La Zar, pictured above), a music producer who turns out to be a woman (Ebert and director Russ Meyer did not plan that in advance). Director Meyer intended it to work as “a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick and a moralistic expose…of ‘the oft-times nightmarish world of Show Business” Trust me. It’s all of that, and more. You’ll learn after watching this movie that there’s nothing like having sex in a Rolls Royce.
4. The Last Picture Show (1971)
Don’t be fooled by its black and white nature: The Last Picture Show is a frank depiction of sexuality in a dying Texas town in the 1950s. If you think of this era as a white picket fence, idealistic time, this movie will destroy that perception. Let me just list a few of the encounters that occur: pedophilia, impotence, older/younger relationships, etc. It doesn’t just focus on the teenagers; it presents adults’ sexuality as well. This doesn’t mean it’s entirely serious, but its honesty is where the humor comes from. Starring Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd and Randy Quaid in their first major roles, this movie may appear bleak and slow at times, but then again, it plays into the sexual frustration that many of us struggle with growing up.
5. The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Better known as the movie where Marilyn Monroe’s skirt lifts up, this Billy Wilder film is based on a play and feels like one. Most of the movie, we watch the monologues of Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell), a man whose family has just left town for vacation as he slowly falls for The Girl next door (Marilyn Monroe; she’s literally credited as “The Girl”). Sherman’s neuroticism borders on being like Woody Allen, but we laugh with him because we all know we’ve tortured ourselves with our crushing on a man/woman who isn’t our significant other. I mean who can blame him? He’s falling for Marilyn Monroe, and she’s falling for him! To his credit, he doesn’t go through with it; winning a battle that some of us have won and unfortunately, some of us have lost.
6. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
Do you ever get embarrassed when you see older people try to act younger? Can you not even comprehend what your parents’ sex life is like? Well, if you watch Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, you’ll definitely feel embarrassed and confused. Both a satire and a love letter to the free love hippie era, the film is about two normal couples in their 30s/40s who decide to spice up their lives by becoming more sexually adventurous. Like The Seven Year Itch, the humor comes out of the characters’ frankness of their situations. The penultimate scene of their adventurousness is when they decide to have an orgy together. Unfortunately, they just can’t go through with it and the result is hilariously awkward.
7. What’s New, Pussycat? (1965)
So far on this list, we’ve seen two different kinds of playboys: George from Shampoo is confident, Jon from Don Jon is reluctant and now, Michael James (Peter O’Toole) is scatterbrained. He can’t stop womanizing to settle down with his fiancée, but he doesn’t know how to. Originally set to star Warren Beatty, the title refers what the actor himself would say into the phone when his lovers would call him. Warren Beatty would have been great, but Peter O’Toole’s farcical performance seems more real; any one of us would have trouble keeping that aspect of our lives straight. Also starring comedy legends Peter Sellers and Woody Allen (in his writing and acting debut), the film culminates in a hotel, where crazy mayhem ensues to say the least.
8. The Man Who Loved Women (1977)
Written while he was acting in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, famed French filmmaker François Truffaut writes and directs a story of a recently deceased womanizer. Like Don Jon, The Man Who Loved Women is a great character study. But unlike Jon, Bertrand Morane (Charles Denner) is not reluctant: he loves women. In fact, he loves women so much he decides to write a book about all of his exploits with them; sort of like Casanova’s Story of My Life. It’s pretty low key and not terribly sexual, but it’ll definitely make you jealous. On an off note, one of my favorite lines is something like: “Like most young boys, I lost my virginity to a prostitute.” As if that was a common thing.
9. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask) (1972)
Like Mean Girls, Everything… is based off a non-fiction book (author Dr. David Reuben was not amused at this movie). The film consists of seven sketches, and like many sketch movies, not all of them are terribly funny. However the ones that are, are great. “What Happens During Ejaculation“, the last bit, is a very amusing sketch where Woody Allen plays a sperm that’s very nervous about leaving the body. My personal favorite of the sketches is “What is Sodomy”, a skit about a doctor (Gene Wilder) who is attempting to help an Armenian farmer who has fallen in love with his sheep. It isn’t long before Wilder discovers the mystery of the sheep…