Best 15 Sex Scenes in Action Movies of All Time (Video)
The Most Notable Sex Scenes in Action Movie History
These top picks are based on their (legitimate!) importance to the plot, and how memorable they are.
When we think of action movies, our minds don’t immediately go to sex. There is, however, a shared relationship. After all, both action movies and sex have plenty of physicality, and require a delicate dance of intimacy. That’s especially true on the sets of these movies, where it’s commonplace these days for an intimacy coordinator to make sure all parties involved are comfortable with the acts taking place.
In films with loud explosions and gun fights, sex scenes can also establish emotional stakes between characters and break up the set pieces. The latter is especially important, as some of these scenes are critical to the authenticity of the plot. Sure, there’s also an element of titillation in play, but more often than not, it’s grounded to what’s happening on screen.
With all of this in mind, we rounded up 15 notable sex scenes across a handful of action movies for their (legitimate!) importance to the plot, and how memorable they are in the genre. From Crank: High Voltage to Skyfall, here’s our definitive list of the best sex scenes in action movie history.
Crank: High Voltage (2009)
In a just world, we’d have a handful of Crank movies, but my theory is that the sequel, Crank: High Voltage, features a sex scene so absurdly funny that it just couldn’t be topped, and therefore the Mark Neveldine- and Brain Taylor-written and directed franchise had to end. The crux of High Voltage is that Jason Statham’s Chev Chelios has to keep his artificial heart charged, or he’ll die. Around the midpoint of the film, Chev starts to lose power at a horse track and tells his girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart), that he needs friction to cause a charge, leading her to dry hump him until the two fall off a balcony before rolling onto the track itself and going for it. The editing and sequencing of the whole thing are brilliant from start to finish (sorry).
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
While the whole of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is ostensibly foreplay for the then-impending Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie marriage, the actual sex scene in the film is a climactic explosion of passion. If you don’t remember the plot, Pitt and Jolie are married assassins—with a fledging sex life—who end up being tasked to take out one another after a botched hit. After the two engage in a shootout at their home in an attempt to take each other out, the two put aside their guns and reignite their relationship in an incredibly hot sequence. The scene becomes particularly loaded, considering how the two fell in love throughout the shoot. While the sex is fake, the love isn’t.
The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s genre-defining action movie features a sex scene that’s key to the plot’s entire narrative. As Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) states, he’s traveled through time not only to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) but to ensure the birth of John Connor himself—thus establishing the sequence as anything but gratuitous. It takes a much larger importance within the Terminator canon and provides Sarah with a brief moment of respite before she entirely devotes herself to destroying the machines.
Zack Snyder is a polarizing figure, but man does the visually-minded director shoot the hell out of a sex scene. In the preamble to the Battle of Thermopylae, Snyder posits Gerard Butler’s Leonidas and Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo in a brief but arresting sequence in a moment of bliss before a bloody battle. It’s fleeting but leaves an impact nonetheless, thanks to Snyder’s craftsmanship.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
While the use of bisexual lighting dates back to the BBC’s Sherlock series, David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde is one of the films that helped popularize the lighting trend. The sex scene between MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) and French agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) begins after a spirited moment inside a club (who amongst us hasn’t shared a kiss at a club?) drenched in the pink, purple, and blue lighting before turning into something more intimate. Theron stated the shared dancing background she had with Boutella made it easier for the two to make it “real and cool.” Consider that goal achieved.
Out of Sight (1998)
We’re cheating slightly here with the inclusion of Steven Soderbergh’s masterful crime story. Still, the George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez film contains plenty of action when it comes to the romantic tension between the two leads. As two-star-crossed lovers—Clooney’s Jack Foley is a master thief, while Lopez’s Karen Sisco is the US Marshal tasked with capturing him—the two begin a cat-and-mouse chase that mirrors the way they circle around one another romantically. Sweetly tender and charming with picturesque snow falling in the background, it’s a wonderful example of just wanting to see two gorgeous people share a connection.
Miami Vice (2006)
Like many of Michael Mann’s works this century, Miami Vice debuted with a chilly reception only to garner cult status in the intervening years after its release. The film’s plot hinges on the doomed love affair between undercover detective Crockett (Colin Farrell) and cartel financial adviser Isabella (Gong Li), which kicks off on a speedboat trip to Cuba for delicious (and much meme’d mojitos). Scored to Audioslave’s “Wide Awake,” the sex scene between the two heightens the personal stakes of the film, adding another level of danger to the already-fraught proceedings. Many of Mann’s leads are troubled men seeking redemption from the women they love, but Vice might be one of the director’s best executions of the theme.
True Romance (1993)
The true romance of True Romance starts as many relationships often do: with one incredible evening meeting between two star-crossed lovers. In this case, Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and Clarence (Christian Slater) meet at a showing of a kung fu film—albeit Alabama later reveals she’s a hired call girl there to make Clarence’s birthday particularly memorable. But that doesn’t change the affection the two have for one another, as seen in the incredibly passionate sequence that ends with a critical act—a shared bit of hand-holding that feels far more intimate than the sex they just had.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
For some, there’s added excitement to having sex where you shouldn’t. So when Vasily Zaitsev (Jude Law) and Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz) steal a moment for themselves in the middle of the German invasion of Stalingrad, the scene takes on an extra element of sexiness. It’s a great example of the sexual liberation that happened amongst people who were marching towards their death—a chance to find a fleeting bit of pleasure in an otherwise perilous situation. How’s that for some foreplay?
The second entry for Brad Pitt finds the actor at his most ripped as he fights off a knife blade from Rose Byrne’s Briseis before the two fall into gyrations together. That’s also to say nothing of the moment between Diane Kruger’s Helen of Troy and Orlando Bloom’s Paris. Everyone looks fantastic in this, which almost makes up for how lackluster the film around them ends up being.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
For many millennials, there’s a strong possibility that Neo and Trinity shacking during a cave rave for the ages in 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded is one of the very first cinematic sex scenes they ever witnessed. The way that Lana and Lilly Wachowski intercut the intensity of the rave with the intimacy of Neo and Trinity makes for quite a contrasting approach, helping to heighten aspects of both the bacchanal revelries. The moment is tasteful and extraordinarily sultry, showing that you don’t need a lot of skin to make a lasting impact.
Sin City (2005)
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Sin City blends neo-noir and action with an incredibly stylized look and feel that’s the closest we’ve gotten to translating the ink and pen feel of actual comic book art to the screen. It also allowed the two to play with lighting in clever and engaging ways, like during Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Goldie’s (Jaime King) sex scene, where the latter is bathed in heavenly light as the former narrates the transcendent experience he had with her. It’s a visually arresting sequence in a film chock-full of them.
Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Despite not having a sex scene in the first Underworld movie, the sequel, Underworld: Evolution, features a steamy moment between leads Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman, which doesn’t leave much to the imagination. This scene is particularly notable because Beckinsale was dating Evolution director Len Wiseman at the time, making for what I imagine was an, uh, interesting day at the office. Good scene, though!
The Bourne Identity (2002)
While the famous “haircut scene” in The Bourne Identity isn’t a sex scene, it might as well be one, as the sexual chemistry between Matt Damon and Franka Potente is staggering. Director Doug Liman shoots the scene with intense intimacy, allowing Damon and Potente to lean into a kind of rawness that even the most visceral sex scenes don’t have. We don’t see the two do the act, and we don’t need to—the shared glances and tight framing say more than anything else could.
The sex scenes of the Daniel Craig-era Bond films are a little more reserved than some previous installments. Still, the one between Bond and Sévérine in Skyfall is memorable for its staging through the lens of iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins. The steamy shower sex is wonderfully backlit as the two embrace. My favorite little detail, though, is how the door to the room is left open just to the left of the frame, and how Bond’s hand reaches into the frame to close it before entering. It feels a bit like turning the page, which is fitting, considering these are the moments of the film before Javier Bardem’s memorable Silva explodes onto the screen.
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