With 50 Shades Of Grey finally finished after three years of casting mystique, I thought it time to look at the bonkbuster – the tried and tested Hollywood money machine, the idea of sex as a culture.

It’s hard to see how 50 SoG would fail. The book sold over 100 million copies worldwide and it’s  been translated into 52 languages, It’s pretty much the movie is going to be a slam dunk. It has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood bonkbuster: no plot, cardboard characters and sexual violence. well, spanking – if that is strong enough to be called violence.

Now, here it the incredibly strange thing about the film’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson. She must know that the film is being billed as an S&M themed cultural event. Yet when asked about the movie she responds that she’s really glad there is finally a movie that deals with S&M.

Really? Sam? What about 9 1/2 Weeks (1986), Secretary (2002) The Night Porter (1974), Pretty Woman (1990)?

The point is this. If 50 SoG is going to have an impact on the sexual cultural landscape it has to be more than a marketing exercise. It has to be more than freaky hype. It has to become a sexual epic. As each of these ten movies show sex as culture

Sex as culture:10 Hollywood bonkbusters

10. Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981)

“I’ve never touched a man before” crows Jane (Bo Derek) as she traces her hands towards an unconscious Tarzan’s crotch. Millions of teenage penis leapt into action with this knocker-based action movie lovingly shot in Breast-o-vision by director John Derek, Bo’s man at the time.

9. Last Tango In Paris (1972)

Ground breaking and controversial at the time, Bernardo Bertolucci hit paydirt with this now-classic sexual epic. Menopausal women in Europe and America so turned on they forgot to feed their cats. Marlon Brando’s simmering looks were perfectly counter-poised to Maria Schneider’s come-get-me eyes.

8. Monster’s Ball (2001)

former B movie actress Halle Berry won an Oscar for her portrayal of a sex-starved grieving mum on a wild date with Billy Bob Thornton. Director Marc Forster launched a five minute raw and therapeutic thrusting scene intercut with closeups of fingers groping, and a bird being freed were enough to pull the wool over the Academy’s eyes.

7. Shame (2011)

Steve McQueen hit a home run with this film. It combines the Hollywood style marketing campaign with the grit and grind of an indie flick. Michael Fassbender engages in a series of sexual adventures with Carey Mulligan in a movie profoundly examining the sexualisation of today’s culture.

6. The Outlaw (1943)

That Howard Hughes was obsessed with Jane Russell is no secret in this supposed story about Billy The Kid. In fact, it’s about his side-kick, Rio McDonald (Jane Russell). Everything about the movie was based on Jane’s voluptuous breasts. even the campaign poster screamed “What are the two reasons for Jane Russell’s rise to success?”

In scene after scene, Russell appears in lower and lower cut dresses until the last scene she is splayed passively over a watering hole, her hands bound and raised for the pure pleasure of the male audience. It was the first time a movie’s message was simply: “Fuck me.” The woman’s place as a sexual object had arrived at the movies.

5. Blue is The Warmest Color (2013)

If you are into lesbian sex with lots of nipple and ass shots, this is the film for you. Crudely lit and shot for the art-house look, Abdullatif Kechiche’s film won tons of awards with this sex romp. He has proved that, no matter how innovative the sex scene, or how many vag-teases you include, a sex scene is a sex scene and is pretty sleazy.

4. The Graduate (1967)

Mike Nichols Oscar winner put Anne Bancroft’s MILF on the American sexual menu. To do it All-American, Dustin Hoffman did it guilt-free with music by the squeaky clean Simon and Garfunkel.

3. Bound (1996)

This flick’s depiction of Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly’s titillating lesbian romance (and kinky sex life) was as exciting as their scheme to steal Mafia money. By the Wachowski Brothers, later of The Matrix fame.

2. Angel Heart (1987)

A mystery horror film with a twist starred Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a private investigator in New Orleans searching for a missing person – himself (Johnny Favorite), and encountering young sexy voodoo priestess Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet).

1. Emmanuelle (1974)

This was the first – and most infamous – of a long series of discreetly-shot, French soft-core films about the awakening of a suppressed, sexually-curious female (Sylvia Kristel) in various erotic locales.

* Raindance members can read the script of most of these movies here

What bonkbusters have I missed out? Please leave your comments below.

About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

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Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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