Movies should be able to tell any stories they want to, free of censorship. Every one of the movies on our list fits that description exactly.
Whether they’re set in France, Italy, or right here in the U.S., these stories break down barriers, and many of them shocked audiences when they were first released.
With that said, here’s our list of some of the raunchiest movies of all time, for individuals 18 and older.
You’ve probably already heard of this movie before. It’s also probably one of the most famous NC-17 movie releases in the history of that rating, which took the place of the former X rating.
Showgirls was directed by Paul Verhoeven, but only under a pseudonym: Jan Jansen. That should give you a hint as to how shocking the movie was at the time it was released.
It follows Nomi, played by Elizabeth Berkley, as she relocates to Las Vegas to try to make it as a Vegas showgirl, as the title implies.
From there, she is faced with a set of challenges that threaten to degrade her very soul.
This movie is not for the faint of heart, but it has also become an American classic, one that gives a look at a very different version of the American Dream.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom
We’ll just say this up front: don’t watch this if you’re at all squeamish about strange sexual acts, especially those involving pain.
This film is based on a novel by the infamous Marquis de Sade, whose last name is the basis for the term sadism, which should give you an idea of the kind of stuff he usually wrote about.
This adaptation sets the story in Italy, and at the time of its release, the cruelty of the authorities in the movie was supposed to represent the awful acts of the fascist Italian government leading up to and during World War II.
The extremes the movie visits are far beyond even much of contemporary media, even media dealing directly with sex.
The activities go from slightly inappropriate to outright torture in very little time. And while it earns the title of raunchy, it also goes far beyond it to a place of uncomfortable situations and difficult scenes.
Last Tango in Paris
This film by Bernardo Bertolucci is also one of Marlon Brando’s most famous roles, for better or worse.
The film is set in Paris, where an older American befriends a young French girl. Soon, the two start up an adventurous romantic relationship in a beautiful and bare apartment.
The couple explores different aspects of intimacy. One of the most controversial scenes in the movie, discussed even to this day, involves Brando using butter as an improvised lubricant.
The movie was extreme for the time and still carries that label today. It is beautiful, distressing, and empowering all at once.
Eyes Wide Shut
This is the last film from Stanley Kubrick, one of the most well regarded American filmmakers of the 20th century.
Kubrick is perhaps most famous for directing The Shining, Paths of Glory, and Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. But Eyes Wide Shut is something entirely its own.
It tells the story of a New York City couple, played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Their marriage is on the rocks, which leads Cruise on a journey of discovery through the strange underbelly of the country’s wealthiest individuals.
Certain sources claim that Kubrick hadn’t truly finished the movie before dying, while others close to him say that it came out exactly as he wanted.
Regardless of Kubrick’s feelings on the piece, it has become an American classic, one that has earned the respect and admiration of other prominent filmmakers, including another great New York director, Martin Scorsese.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Alfonso Cuaron created this intimate and moving portrayal of two friends who spend a summer encountering and developing their own sense of sexuality.
The two become friends with a middle-aged woman who wants to travel with them to a faraway beach.
Along the way, each of them has to confront their attraction to each other in some form or another.
They argue, share moments of joy, and struggle to confirm their identities, both to each other and to themselves.
The movie’s portrayal of sex is beautiful but also blunt and matter-of-fact. And ultimately, it’s a story of friendship and personal growth through one of life’s most difficult and confusing times: adolescence.
Bernardo Bertolucci makes the list once again with The Dreamers, a deceptively simple film that quickly becomes fully engrossing in more ways than one.
The plot focuses on an American student, Matthew, visiting Paris during a time of civil unrest and multiple student protests.
From there, he meets two siblings, a young man and a young woman. They are the children of a poet and share the American boy’s deep love of films and cinematic history.
The brother and sister invite him to stay at their house while their parents travel. Casual discussions turn from issues of sex and relationships to outright attempts to seduce Matthew.
There are elements of incest, unusual sexual acts, and much much more in this explosive installment from one of the greatest filmmakers of the last 50 years.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Steven Soderbergh is likely most well known for the Ocean’s movies, as well as the hit movie Magic Mike.
But before finding widespread success with these broadly entertaining films, he put together intimate dramas and strange art films.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a little bit of both. A married couple play host to an old friend visiting town. Their marriage is already in question due to the husband having an affair with her wife’s sister.
Meanwhile, his wife starts to visit the strange man from out of town. Slowly, he introduces her to his sexual interests, which involve recording women talking to the camera about their sexual experiences of the past.
The third act spirals into a divisive and exciting ending where each character attempts to find some kind of inner peace, despite recent events that proved to be difficult.