William Hurt’s sleazebag Florida lawyer, Ned Racine, is the hapless dupe to Kathleen Turner’s rich, unhappily married beauty in this sweaty genre high-water mark. Turner’s manipulative bombshell, Matty Walker, is so many steps ahead of her outmatched lover – and just about everyone else in Florida – that there’s moments when you practically feel her pausing to let them all catch up a bit. The sex, of which there’s a lot, is relentless in a way that even has poor Racine complaining about the state of his neds at one point (get some more ice on there, mate). But it’s always in service to a noirish plot that director Lawrence Kasdan marshals with supreme discipline as he charts two genuinely terrible people jettisoning their morals, professionalism, pants… the lot.
It’s hard to imagine now but at one point in time it seemed like you couldn’t go to the multiplex without having the option of watching a woman have sex with a man – usually Michael Douglas – and then try to ruin or end their life. Or both. Yes, erotic thrillers were often ‘problematic’ and almost always self-consciously campy, but damn, they could be a lot of fun – and during their ’80s and ’90s glory years, they did big box office. But then, sometime around the turn of the millennium, studios just stopped making them. What gives?
Whatever the reason, it took a failed revival to remind us just how much we miss them. Earlier this year, Adrian Lyne, the British director who made his name cranking out blockbuster erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful, came out of retirement to adapt the Patricia Highsmith novel Deep Water. But instead of bringing the genre back from the dead, it only served to show just how prudish movies have become over the last two decades – the film shows more close-ups of Ben Affleck’s pet snails than actual sex.
Thankfully, for a while, Hollywood was cranking out more erotic thrillers than most of us could watch, leaving us with a rich back catalogue of steamy violence to revisit. Here are TK of cinema’s best erotic thrillers to get your blood boiling.
🍆 The 101 best sex scenes in movies
😬 The 100 best thriller movies of all-time
😍 The 100 best romantic films of all-time
🕵️ 40 murder mystery movies to test your sleuthing skills to the max
🔥 The 100 best movies of all-time