Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981)
Image source: Fancarpet
Based on the novel written by D H Lawrence in the 1920s, Lady Chatterley's Lover is the story of a relationship between a working class man and an upper-class woman. The movie, released in 1981, might seem like Caspa the Friendly Ghost in comparison to Fifty Shades, but at the time, it was downright naughty!
Dangerous Liaisons (1998)
This epistolary (written as a series of letters) novel was first published in France in 1782 (as Les Liaisons Dangeruses), and has since been adapted for stage, screen, TV, radio, opera, ballet, and has even been adapted into tweets. The 1988 film features a cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman and a young Keanu Reeves. To cut a long story short, this is about a bunch of rich French aristocrats who use sex as a weapon and see it as a game.
Now, this film appears to share a number of similarities with Fifty Shades of Grey. Even the surname of the lead male, E. Edward Grey - played by James Spader - is the same. It follows the story of a young woman who is released from psychiatric care and who becomes – you guessed it – the secretary of a demanding lawyer. Next ensues a strange and sadomasochistic relationship between boss and secretary. This is worth a watch for fans of 50 shades
The Piano Teacher (2001)
Image source: Mubi
Another French film here. La Pianiste centres on a young gentleman who meets a piano teacher whose private life is unveiled throughout the film, revealing that she is not as she seems.
Throw in voyeurism and sexual self-mutilation and you’ve got your hook. La Pianiste won a number of awards of the European film circuit on its release and is generally considered to be one of the best films of its kind to date.
Nine ½ Weeks (1986)
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
The title of this film pretty much sums it all up. A husband and wife let the husband’s friend stay at their humble abode, a friend who just happens to take video interviews with women about their sexual experiences. Throw in an affair between the husband and his wife’s sister and you’ve got a nice boiling pot of sexual tension, lies, and well… videotapes.
Basic Instinct (1992)
If you can thank Basic Instinct for anything, it’s the sheer amount of VHS players and copies of the film that teenage boys must have knackered trying to pause Basic Instinct at ‘that moment’. A scene that star. Sharon Stone would later allege that was filmed without her knowledge.
The film generated controversy even before its release, which usually means that it’ll perform well when it is released. and Basic Instinct did not disappoint. It follows the story of a detective investigating a brutal murder, of which the prime suspect just so happens to be Sharon Stone’s enigmatic character, Catherine Tramell. You can guess the rest.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
In France this film has a rating that is the equivalent of the UK’s U (Universal) rating, meaning that it is suitable for all to view. WHAT?! I don’t know about you but I’m fairly certain that a film about a guy who infiltrates a masked orgy to be family viewing.
Questionable French film classification aside, the film described by New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin as a “dead serious film about sexual yearnings”. It performed well and was reviewed favourably, with director Stanley Kubrick receiving two awards posthumously, having passed away just days after showing the final cut to studio executives
Blue Velvet (1986)
Blue Velvet didn’t exactly set the world on fire on its release back in 1986, however it has since gained cult status. The opening scene sees one of the film’s stars finding a human ear in a field. The rest is filled with sexual relationships and violence. An odd mix, and perhaps a little harder to stick with than the other films on the list, but worth a watch, nonetheless.
The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)
If you want to thank someone for pin up culture, bondage as art, and, perhaps in a roundabout way, Fifty Shades of Grey, then thank Bettie Page. I know it’s a stretch but this is pretty much where it started. A model in 1950s American who wasn’t afraid to remove her clothes for the right shot, and she was equally nonplussed when it came to posing for bondage and fetish shots as well.
This film follows the story of Bettie Page, and gives a fascinating insight into her life and how she came to be the well-known name she is today. It also allows you to see how she opened the door for models such as Dita von Teese years later.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Following an affair where the parties involved even agree not to use names, Last Tango in Paris was an intense experience for the actors and actresses involved, with Maria Schneider saying that the film ruined her life and was her life’s only regret. Marlo Brandon reportedly refused to speak to the film’s screenwriter, Bernardo Bertolucci, for 15 years after production was completed. Bertolucci developed the film from his own sexual fantasies.