Most costume movies tend towards the Jane Austen adaptation — repressed emotions, longing looks, hopefully a proposal at the end and maybe a nice kiss. This is all well and good and soul-nourishing, but sometimes you need a little more. It doesn’t have to be dirty, but it can be nice to see your historical costume movie characters get a little bit (okay, or a lot) hot and heavy. So, to that end, here’s my Top 10 Historical Costume Movie Sex Scenes:
10. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991): The food fight
No, it’s not at all literal, but this proto-feminist classic features a VERY HIGHLY CHARGED relationship between Ruth and Idgie, two women living in the Depression era South. It all comes to a head in a cathartic food fight between the two, which the director intended as a stand in for a sex scene.
9. Death Comes to Pemberley (2013): Darcy/Elizabeth make-up sex
This one may seem odd to you, but it works for me, so long as you join me in LOVING the casting as Anna Maxwell Martin as the perfect Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. She’s an amazing actress who absolutely captures Elizabeth’s intelligent attractiveness without being too pretty, and after some time spent dealing with her husband being a blockhead (shocker), he comes to realize that he should STFU because she is always right. And they have make-up sex. It’s not smutty, there’s no real nudity, but it is passionate. And if Pride & Prejudice always leaves you wanting more than a Motion Picture Code-type super-chaste kiss, then give this sucker a whirl.
8. The English Patient (1996): Shhh
These days, The English Patient mostly reminds me of Seinfeld. It’s an overwrought movie that had everyone peeing themselves back in the late 1990s, with two stories that didn’t really go much together … but Kirstin Scott Thomas is at her loveliest, and Ralph Fiennes is quite easy on the eye, and there’s nothing like Illicit, We Shouldn’t Be Doing This Sex. When the two give in two their passions while a party goes on right outside the window, it’s quite … fulfilling.
7. Lady Chatterly’s Lover (1993): Sean Bean edition
Sean Bean. SEAN BEAN! And Joely Richardson. She’s rich and married, he’s poor and hunky. The book was scandalous, and let’s just say it’s a busy, busy film.
6. The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1996): Good girl gone bad
This version of Moll Flanders, starring Alex Kingston, is a super entertaining movie in that whole “period romp” sort of way. Staying true to the source material, Moll gets up to all sorts of trouble, but probably the best is when she’s young, naive, and still trying to be a Good Girl. When the rakish son of her semi-adoptive family applies the “BUT I LOVE YOOOOUUU” pressure, Moll goes from Good Girl to Naughty, Naughty Girl. The best is when she pauses, looks directly into the camera, and says, “Well, what would YOU do?”
5. Fanny Hill (2007): Fictional prostitution is fun!
Fanny Hill was a very smutty novel published in the 18th century, and this adaptation is very true to its source. Innocent Fanny is taught the ways of the world by a succession of men, and ends up having a suspiciously good time working in a brothel. Apparently, syphilis doesn’t exist in this fictional world! It would be hard to pick just one scene, as there are many and most of them are pretty entertaining.
4. The Wings of the Dove (1997): Tit for tat
The Wings of the Dove is something we’re probably going to podcast soon, and it’s worth it: a stunningly beautiful and amazingly acted love triangle set in 1910s London and Venice with some very dark themes. While the obvious sex scene in it is near the end of the film, that one is pretty sad and desperate. I recommend instead the scene during Carnivale, when Merton has agreed to what Kate wants, and in return asks Kate for what he wants. He’s a boy, so of course, that’s s.e.x. (okay, Merton is actually a Nice Boy, but still). Kate being dressed in a Spanish boy’s costume and the dark alley location adds a little extra je ne sais quoi.
3. Tipping the Velvet (2002): Girls just wanna have fun
Tipping the Velvet is a great miniseries for a number of reasons, from great acting, costumes, script, settings, and more. But best of all, it’s based on a great book by Sarah Waters, who has a knack for creating 19th-century (and recently, 20th-century) lesbian stories. This novel and adaptation are probably my favorite, and the run of scenes where Nan and Kitty discover just how much fun “tipping the velvet” can really be are not just sexy, they’re also fun. This is a great example of how you don’t need to show lots of skin to still be sexy! And, later on, there’s a leather dildo. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
2. Original Sin (2001): Get thee to the unrated version
Okay, let’s be honest. Sometimes you just want your historical characters to have a good shagging. If you do, go find the unrated version of Original Sin. Angelina Jolie. Antonio Banderas. You may be thinking, “Hot, but they’re not really thespians…” and you could be right, but both are actually REALLY good in this story of crossing and double-crossing in late 19th-century Cuba. And I’m being 100% honest when I tell you that part of the reason this movie is so good is because the two really have an emotional connection, which translates to the shagging. Apparently Melanie Griffith (then Banderas’ wife) hung out on set to keep an eye on him, and you can see why. I’m sure there are some flesh-colored pasties in there somewhere, but for all intents and purposes, the two get down — without getting nasty. What’s great is that this is relatively early on in the film, and from there both the characters and the plot go through some really interesting developments. So, while you may still be fanning yourself, there’s actually a lot to like in this movie from both an emotional and intellectual perspective. (Okay, so it’s not Shakespeare. But it’s not trash, either!)
1. Queen Margot (1994): Pas la bouche!
Queen Margot (aka La Reine Margot) stars the stunningly beautiful and amazingly talented Isabelle Adjani as the 16th century French princess/queen, and the HOTHOTHOT Vincent Perez as her love interest. The movie has some gorgeous costumes, the story is smart and dark and twisted, and the acting is superb. And, IT’S REALLY DAMN HOT. Early on, Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves Margot decides she wants to get some, so she heads out into the streets of Paris with her trusty lady in waiting to find a man to
rip his head off and eat it shag. She finds La Mole (Perez), takes him into a dark alley, and with her mask on (she’s incognito, right?) she puts him to work. It’s short. They’re fully clothed. And set your phasers to SMOLDER, because shit gets REAL HOT in that alley. At one point he tries to kiss her, and she pushes him away, saying “Pas la bouche (not the mouth)!” Go and GET IT, girl!
What did we miss? Are there some smutty historical costume movies out there that we need to check out? Let us know in the comments!