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Is Boogie Nights the Sexiest Movie of All Time?

Um, no. But a dating site thinks it is.
Boogie Nights
(Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The other morning I found a proposition waiting for me in my inbox, courtesy of my trusted SPIN editor. It was an assignment to look over a dating website’s list of the 25 Sexiest Movies of All Time. Maybe I could do a small write-up about the films they found to be most ooh-la-la. Some assignments are no-brainers. And since I have no brain, and I love movies —  especially ones with nudity in them — this seemed right up my alley. 

Culled from a list of 110 sexy movies, with a grading system that included categories such as sexiness (naturally, but subjective), box office earnings (nothing sexier than money), popularity (no incel flicks here) and accolades (“and the Oscar for Best Foreplay goes to…”), has compiled the perfect list for you and your partner’s next cozy night at home. 

Or have they?

I’m no Roger Ebert (not yet, at least.), but some of the movies I found on their list were, um, confusing, to say the very least. Some I would go as far as to say aren’t sexy at all. Different strokes for different folks, sure, and granted I’m a married man, long since removed from the dating scene, but if people are bumping and grinding to portraits of drug-addled porn actors with wieners long enough to make Nathan’s Famous jealous, then I’m the one Hall & Oates sang about in “Out of Touch.” 

To further illustrate my point, I have selected five movies (the numbers next to them are’s rankings) from the list to analyze, scrutinize, and chew over, just like I would with a date. 

Boogie Nights (#1)

Let’s start with the top of the heap: Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 porn opus Boogie Nights. Now, for starters, I think this movie is a fucking masterpiece. Full stop. I could even go as far as to say it’s one of the greatest films ever made. Even if the subject matter isn’t your cup of tea, you would be a fool to ignore PTA’s ability to manage scope (the film plays out over a five year period) and intimacy (there’s not a character in the film, despite screen time, that we don’t fully get to know). The tone of the film is expertly handled. At times, Boogie Nights comes across as a precursor to the Adam McKay/Will Ferrell comedies of the early aughts, specifically Anchorman. Just look at Don Cheadle’s character Buck Swope’s litany of costumes. Unlike those movies, Anderson manages to dig deeper into the lives of those lived on the fringes of society and makes us care for, no, love people we would otherwise want to avoid in real life. 



But is it sexy? OK, that scene, early on in the film, where Heather Graham’s Rollergirl sheds her clothes, minus her trademark roller skates, and lays on top a bewildered Eddie Adams, soon to be known to the skin-flick world as Dirk Diggler and played with the utmost fuckboi perfection by Mark Wahlberg, is pretty hot. But we’re talking about 45 seconds of a nearly three-hour movie about the rise and fall of various smut peddlers. Sure, there’s some glitz and glamour early on, and Julianne Moore is sexy, but soon the lights begin to dim, and not everyone makes it out alive. 

We witness multiple drug overdoses, a failed cocaine deal that turns into a bloodbath, and, around the midpoint of the movie, as a harbinger of the decline to come, William H. Macy’s cuckold assistant director Little Bill sprays his brains all over the wall after catching his wife (played by faded porn actress Nina Hartley) riding someone else’s pony for the umpteenth time. Excuse me while I don’t whip it out. 

Yes, there are dozens of people in various states of undress for you to get your rocks off to, but by the time you and your partner have worked yourselves up into a fever, something bad, even terrible has happened to one of these characters. A bikini-clad bimbo convulsing on the floor while blood trickles out her nose due to some stepped-on blow is a buzzkill anyway you slice it.

We reached out to Amy Pritchett, managing editor of, to comment on the outcome of her own list and whether she feels Boogie Nights is really sexy. We did not get a response.

Ultimately, Boogie Nights is about family, wherever you may find it. Family is not the first thing I think of in terms of what’s sexy, but, glancing at all the step-family porn on the front page of Pornhub, perhaps I’m (happily) in the minority here. 

Look, I could go on for another 2,000 words about how much I love this film. We ain’t got the time, so let’s discuss another film on the list. 


From Here to Eternity (#12)

From Here to Eternity is probably a film my folk’s folks got freaky to. And according to this poll, barrel-chested Burt Lancaster rolling around on the beach with Deborah Kerr, while waves crash all around them, still gets people hot and bothered. Most of this list just made me bothered. Or maybe that bear, Ernest Borgnine, is why people still rank this film, now nearly 70 years old (1953), as one of the sexiest to exist. Of course, what Hollywood doesn’t show you is the slimy seaweed that would undoubtedly blanket your naked bodies or the thousands of sand mite bites on your genitalia. But that’s the magic of the movies, I guess. 

Let’s not forget to mention that the film is presented in black and white. That’s just a turn-off for me. Too old-fashioned. Watching a film where you know for a fact everybody on screen has been dead for years keeps the blood from rushing anywhere further south than my nose. 



It’s a good movie, though, despite saying that “it’s aged terribly.” It hasn’t. From Here to Eternity is classical Hollywood filmmaking at its best. Big stars (Monty Clift and Frank Sinatra, who won an Oscar for his role as Maggio, also appear), beautiful cinematography, and a lush score. I also highly recommend the book, a first in a trilogy that also includes The Thin Red Line and Whistle, by James Jones. Because nothing says steamy date night more than opening up a book in bed.


Shame (#16)

“Hey, honey! Why don’t we light some candles, get cozy on the couch, and watch a dispiriting drama about a sex addict who completely bottoms out!” Are you f’ing kidding me? People find this story about the relentless compulsion to get laid sexy? That’s like putting on Days Of Wine and Roses during a cocktail party to set the mood. Even after awarding the film four stars, esteemed critic, the late Roger Ebert said, “I don’t think I would be able to see it twice.” And that guy wrote Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, for the king of the nudies Russ Meyer. 



Shame, which is rated NC-17, stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, successful executive with a penchant for hiring prostitutes, whose insatiable craving for snizz ruins every relationship he has, whether it be romantic, platonic, or familia. His compulsions even invite harm onto his body. Trolling the streets of New York City, looking for any sort of connection, he ends up in a bar where he aggressively propositions a woman for sex. He explicitly describes what he would like to do to her. I won’t go into detail here — let’s just say some of the stuff mentioned might make Larry Flynt fall out of his chair. Unfortunately for Brandon, the woman’s boyfriend is within earshot and follows Brandon outside where he beats the living tar out of him. Sexy time, indeed!

Let me be totally clear here, if I haven’t been already: never for a minute is this film even remotely romantic or arousing. Brandon is spiraling down the pervert drain to be eventually flushed out into the ocean of depravity. But being addicted to sex hits differently than, say, heroin or cheeseburgers. Sex most likely won’t kill you. And Brandon is never shown wanting help. So he beats on, balls against the current, ejaculated endlessly into the past. In other words, Brandon’s not jerking, but drowning. 


The Piano Teacher (#17)

I’m gonna let the photo selected for their inclusion of this film to speak for itself. If a passionless tit honk is your sort of thing (no judgment) this is the movie for you. 


Basic Instinct (#43)

I have two issues with its inclusion on this list. One is it belongs much higher, say at number two — 10 by Blake Edwards, and starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek, is, ironically, my numero uno — and the other is very, very personal.

See, this sex thriller, featuring a peak, top-shelf, white-hot 24-year-old Sharon Stone and that guy who got cancer from performing too much cunnilingus (hey, you gotta have hobbies), was the movie of 1992. It was on everybody’s lips. There were protests from the LGBTQ+ community over the film’s portrayal of lesbians. Censors were in an uproar due to a now-infamous upskirt shot that Stone apparently didn’t know they were shooting (wasn’t she curious as to why the gaffer was spot metering around her knees?). People could not stop talking about Basic Instinct. 

Including my parents. 



It was one of those early-spring, grade school nights. Baseball practice had just started and my buddy Troy, along with his parents, joined us for dinner after our first practice. While us kids were upstairs blaring Dead Serious by Das EFX, the parents sat around the kitchen table, smoking butts and sucking down a few beers. At some point into the night, for reasons I can no longer remember, I tip-toed down the stairs, so as not to disturb the adults, when I heard them discussing Basic Instinct. Apparently, my parents had a night at the movies without me and they were describing the erotic thriller in fairly graphic detail to Troy’s parents, who had yet to see the film. I sat at the bottom of the stairs, listening to the lamest people I knew describe various acts of debauchery that my virgin ears could barely comprehend. Then the talk turned. 

Like a pair of gossips, my parents started to divulge some secrets another couple had told them about their sex life. That is when I heard my father say these exact words: “They wanted to experiment.” Holding back chunks of pepperoni pizza, Pepsi and bile from spewing out of my mouth, I continued to eavesdrop on some serious Skin-a-max shit. I was equal parts disgusted and intrigued. Some kids walk in on their parents having sex; I pried my parents dishing other people’s kinks. In some ways, this was worse. 

I’m sure Joan and Bill Martin will appreciate my not sharing the details of their sordid sex life. Unlike my blabbering folks. I will say this: My mind wonders if they still own that swing. 

So, yeah, Basic Instinct, a very sexy movie.