Despite the accessibility of erotica, audiences still seek out the more substantial approaches to sex that only narrative cinema can offer.
Here you’ll find the full array, from Sixties-era cautionary tales to incisive art films that scrutinise the theme of sexual obsession.
Drama2019138 minsDirector: Albert Serra
Albert Serra’s explicit and opulent exploration of the limits of the erotic imagination is realised in this remarkably radical and subversive cinematic experience.
Drama202197 minsDirector: Cécile Ducrocq
From writer-director Cécile Ducrocq comes a bold, provocative drama starring an electric Laure Calamy (Call My Agent!) as a single mother and sex worker in a desperate situation.
Comedy2021106 minsDirector: Radu Jude
Berlin Golden Bear winner, Radu Jude’s scathing satire finds schoolteacher Emi threatened with dismissal when a private sex tape goes viral.
Thriller2010107 minsDirector: Im Sang-soo
An enigmatic housemaid and her wealthy, totalitarian employer begin an affair that will have disastrous consequences for them both.
Thriller200988 minsDirector: Damjan Kozole
After starting work as a call girl, young English student Alexandra finds herself caught up in political intrigue when her politician client dies of a heart attack.
Period drama2016146 minsDirector: Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker) channels Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, to create a sumptuous twisty psychological thriller full of erotic intrigue.
Drama2013118 minsDirector: Lars von Trier
Volume 1 of Lars von Trier’s explicit, controversial film about a woman recounting the history of her sexuality in episodic style.
Drama2013124 minsDirector: Lars von Trier
Volume 2 of Lars von Trier’s explicit, controversial film about a woman recounting the history of her sexuality in episodic style.
Drama199998 minsDirector: Catherine Breillat
Shockingly explicit, Catherine Breillat’s critically acclaimed Romance is one of the most controversial films of modern cinema.
Drama200377 minsDirector: Catherine Breillat
Catherine Breillat's rigorously intellectual exploration of sexuality, about a woman who employs a gay man to spend days watching her naked.
Comedy200295 minsDirector: Catherine Breillat
A director struggles to film a difficult sex scene between two actors who happen to hate each other, in Catherine Breillat's witty exploration of intimacy coordination.
Drama1996100 minsDirector: David Cronenberg
Technology and sexuality meet in head-on collision in David Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of writer J.G. Ballard’s hugely transgressive 1973 novel, starring James Spader and Holly Hunter.
Drama201798 minsDirector: Eliza Hittman
Gripping account of repressed sexual desire in a hyper-masculine environment, with British newcomer Harris Dickinson as a virulently macho Brooklyn teen.
Drama1986185 minsDirector: Jean-Jacques Beineix
Jean-Jacques Beineix’s story of a volatile, highly sexual relationship was one of the most successful French films of the 1980s.
Drama201096 minsDirector: Bernard Rose
Bernard Rose updates Tolstoy's tale about the corrupting power of sex and jealousy, with Danny Huston as the wealthy husband of a beautiful, famous pianist (Elisabeth Röhm).
Romance201697 minsDirector: Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau
A brief encounter at a naked sex club in Paris seems to be going well for Theo and Hugo, but a sudden realisation changes everything.
Biopic2017116 minsDirector: Dome Karukoski
The story of a gay icon is brought to life in Dome Karukoski’s handsome biopic of Touko Laaksonen, the artist whose homoerotic drawings gave visual expression to a growing gay culture.
Drama2013100 minsDirector: Alain Guiraudie
A young man witnesses a violent crime at a gay cruising ground and becomes obsessed with the killer in Alain Guiraudie’s acclaimed mystery-thriller.
Drama1976113 minsDirector: Barbet Schroeder
Gerard Depardieu plays the young innocent who falls for the mysterious maitresse Ariane (Bulle Ogier), a leather clad dominatrix, in Barbet Schroeder’s controversial film.
Comedy197598 minsDirector: Walerian Borowczyk
An outrageous classic of erotic cinema, Walerian Borowczyk’s playful and subversive fantasy finds a horny heiress courting the ravenous desires of a wild beast.
Drama201389 minsDirector: Yann Gonzalez
Eric Cantona and Beatrice Dalle star in an outrageous erotic fever dream about a couple who invite four diverse guests to their midnight orgy.
201360 minsDirector: James Franco and Travis Mathews
James Franco and Travis Mathews recreate explicit footage cut, rumoured to be lost, from one of the most notorious gay features ever made.
Comedy198524 minsDirector: Ron Peck
Ron Peck tests the thin line between pornography and art with his amusing rumination on the difficulties of showing the naked male form.
Thriller196695 minsDirector: Alain Robbe-Grillet
This stylish, cult 1966 erotic thriller stars French New Wave icons Jean-Louis Trintigant and Marie-France Pisier.
Anthology1974103 minsDirector: Walerian Borowczyk
Walerian Borowczyk presents four stories of sexual taboos throughout the ages, in his highly controversial classic of 1970s erotic cinema.
Drama201390 minsDirector: Kieran Evans
In modern Liverpool, a couple meet and begin a transgressive, sexually charged affair set against a background of crime and encroaching danger.
Horror196985 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
Jean Rollin’s second vampire film is a mesmerisingly surreal art-horror, short on logic but steeped in gorgeously sensual imagery.
Thriller2006110 minsDirector: Andrea Arnold
Andrea Arnold’s highly acclaimed film, winner of top prizes at Cannes and the BFI London Film Festival, is a haunting drama about a woman confronting past demons.
Drama1978113 minsDirector: Ron Peck
A schoolteacher juggles everyday life with nights spent cruising for Mr Right in this fascinating landmark in British gay cinema
Documentary199191 minsDirector: Ron Peck
Ron Peck’s experimental follow up to the groundbreaking Nighthawks is both a making-of documentary and a deeply personal film memoir.
Drama1976133 minsDirector: Tinto Brass
Before Caligula, Italian provocateur Tinto Brass directed this controversial and transgressive drama, inspired by the true story of a Nazi-run brothel in 30s Berlin.
Horror197982 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
Jean Rollin’s best-known film is the most full-blooded of his vampire tales, teeming with sex and lavishly filmed gore scenes
Thriller1984107 minsDirector: Ken Russell
Ken Russell's second Hollywood film is a deliriously excessive erotic thriller with Kathleen Turner as an imperilled prostitute.
Drama196998 minsDirector: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Alain Robbe-Grillet’s sensual fantasy follows a group of students who enter a bizarre sado-masochistic realm after taking a mysterious drug.
Drama1974106 minsDirector: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Alain Robbe-Grillet’s serpentine erotic mystery presented as a surreal investigation into a woman with feared sexual powers.
Sex comedy2008116 minsDirector: Anna Biller
Anna Biller's outrageous sexploitation satire follows bored housewife Barbi as she searches for adventure in predatory 1970s Los Angeles.
Fantasy197165 minsDirector: James Bidgood
With its highly charged hallucinogenic quality, its atmosphere of lush decadence, and its explicit erotic power, Pink Narcissus is a landmark of gay cinema.
Drama198920 minsDirector: Nigel Wingrove
Nigel Wingrove's experimental depiction of the erotic imaginings of the 16th Century Carmelite nun remains the only film ever to banned under Britain's blasphemy laws.
Biopic2012117 minsDirector: Peter Greenaway
An artist stages a series of erotic dramatisations illustrating sexual taboos from the Old Testament, in this startling and shocking return from director Peter Greenaway.
Drama1969116 minsDirector: Barbet Schroeder
The first feature by Barbet Schroeder (Maîtresse, The Valley), More created a sensation when it was released in 1969, quickly becoming a cult classic and famed for its Pink Floyd soundtrack.
Drama1981105 minsDirector: François Truffaut
Happily married Bernard (Gérard Depardieu) has his life is thrown into turmoil when Mathilde (Fanny Ardant) - an old flame - moves into the house opposite.
Anthology1962204 minsDirector: Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and Mario Monicelli
Four of the greatest Italian directors – Fellini, Visconti, De Sica and Monicelli – join forces with show-stoppers Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg and Romy Schneider in a carousel of sex and satire mocking the mores of Italian '60s society.