Erotic movie

An erotic film , also said soft porn or Softporn is a movie finality erotic where sexuality is central. If nudity is present in erotic films, sex is simulated, which is their main difference compared to pornographic films . Erotic films are linked to what is known as ”  soft pornography  ” , while pornographic films are ”  hard porn  ” .

In France, the majority of the films grouped under the name “erotic” are films banned under 16 years.


1895-1951: the years of censorship

In 1896, the first kiss on the screen in The Kiss , between John C. Rice and May Irwin , sparked controversy: a Chicago Tribune journalist called for police intervention against this “obscenity”.

Film censorship appeared in 1907 in the United States and in 1909 in England and France . From there, the nudity is revealed in two parallel circuits, the first, clandestine, with the erotic bands making for a wealthy bourgeoisie, the second, general public, in the form of suggestion. To show more than a bare shoulder, we need an alibi , that of a “decadent” society belonging to the past as in Cabiria in 1914 . The character of the femme fatale appears for the first time in Embrasse-moi, idiot (1915) in the guise ofTheda Bara .

To create a semblance of eroticism, filmmakers play with shadows and transparencies. Erich von Stroheim , whom Hervé Bazin called “the Marquis de Sade of the cinema”, multiplies the love scenes in the moonlight and the rapes in Folies de femmes (1922), The Marriage Symphony (1928), Marriage of Prince ( 1927) and Queen Kelly (1928).

Promoted by Senator William Hays and adopted by Hollywood studios, the Hays code establishes precise morality rules: the necklines are limited from back to waist, from the front to the birth of the breasts, and the navel can not be shown. “Inappropriate movements” are prohibited.

If Tarzan is shirtless, exoticism forces, the evolution of Jane’s outfits in the series produced by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with Johnny Weissmuller is blatant: in Tarzan, the monkey man (1932) and in Tarzan and his companion ( 1934) she wears only a skin animal that does not hide much, in Tarzan escapes (1936) she is wearing a combination that no longer value its forms. American producers will play with the hints. The sexual fetishism reached a kind of golden age. The actresses develop breasts more and more strong. At Mae West , that the newspaper magnate William Hearstdescribed as “lecherous monster”, succeeds Jane Russell . The advertisement for Howard Hughes’ The Banned is based primarily on his generous belly, which delayed the release of the film by three years. In 1946, a striptease still appears as the height of eroticism when Rita Hayworth only removes her glove in Gilda .

European cinema is freer than its American counterpart. In 1933, in Czechoslovakian Gustav Machatý’s Ecstasy , Hedy Lamarr appears completely naked out of his bath. The US government will burn symbolically a copy in 1935. In France, in The day is rising (1936), Arletty is naked in his shower but the plan will be cut by censorship.

1952-1968: the screen is released

In 1952, the United States Supreme Court reversed the 1915 decision and ruled that the film industry must enjoy the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution .

Four years later, the simultaneous release of And God … created the wife of Roger Vadim with Brigitte Bardot in world – famous sex-symbol and Baby Doll of Elia Kazan who puts forward the sensuality of her heroine, opens a way in which an important part of the European and American production will rush, the Italian cinema in the lead. There will be a hardening of censorship in the late 1950s, but the movement is launched.

In Hollywood, filmmakers play with metaphors, including in non-erotic studio films. In Kill It Up , Alfred Hitchcock follows the scene where Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint get entangled in a wagon by a shot of a train entering a tunnel. In Spartacus , Stanley Kubrick subtly evokes the homosexuality of the character of Laurence Olivier who explains to Tony Curtis that he likes “oysters” as well as “snails”.

Independent producers create a new genre, nudist film without physical contact and nakedness shown. Russ Meyer , a former Playboy photographer , enters the breach to create his parody movies with actresses with enlarged breasts.

Russ Meyer’s Immoral Mr. Teas (1960)is one of the first American pornographic films to have received official distribution and the attention of a serious critic. Compared to the European production imported under the mantle, the film of Russ Meyer innovates by telling a story – Mr. Teas has the faculty to undress the women of his glance! – with characters with a minimum of psychology. The Immoral Mr. Teas marks the beginning of a series of blockbuster films for its author that go far beyond the specialized rooms and thus attract a new audience.

In Europe, erotic films are still hiding behind the alibi of sex education. The German Helga series was very successful in 1968 with more than four million viewers in Germany and as much in France for the first of two films. On the posters, prostitution , the white slave trade , and the liberation of morals make warnings appear on the posters of the films concerned, in the form of a call to consume.

In 1965, The Pawnbroker by Sidney Lumet ‘s first film produced by a major studio to show bare breasts. In Europe, Michelangelo Antonioni is the first to show a female pubis in Blow-Up in 1967.

Government censorship attempts to ban Suzanne Simonin, the Religious of Diderot (after Diderot ) directed by Jacques Rivette in 1966 and who presents an “enterprising” senior mother. In the United States, in 1967, Congress passed the creation of a Commission on pornography and obscenity to face a production showing full nudity and sexual behavior increasingly released 1 .

1969-1980: The Golden Age

Popular wave of erotic movies (“soft”)

The end of the 1960s is marked by a very strong libertarian social movement which finds its main concretisation in France with May 68 and in the United States with the Woodstock festival . The film dedicated to this last event spreads throughout the world an image of sexual freedom. While some call this period golden age, others speak instead of a moment of great confusion of gender, both morally and aesthetically. Specifically, the legislative float, the pleasure of braving the ban and commercial appetites lead during these 20 years to no longer distinguish pornography and eroticism, two genres that some critics consider as.

This libertarian trend will allow traditional cinema to address new themes or to talk about sex more openly. The homosexuality is addressed in Therese and Isabelle , the polygamy in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice , or the collective wedding . In 1971, Le Dernier Tango in Paris tackled sodomy , assuring the film a reputation and an important success with more than five million entries in France.

From 1973, France sees the arrival of a film production B or Z “with additional sequences”, that is to say, traditional low-budget films with scenes added from hard or erotic films. This phenomenon lasts one year, until the exploitation in extenso of the films from which these additional scenes are drawn. Among this production of erotic films, we find The Italian Stallion which marks the beginnings of Sylvester Stallone .

Then develops a luxury production of openly erotic films that enjoy a promotion comparable to that of traditional films. Emmanuelle is the flagship of this era.

The popular cinema seizes the movement and Georges Lautner realizes a comedy on the subject, It will have seen everything with Pierre Richard and a Miou-Miou beginner very undressed. The first films of Bertrand Blier , Les Valseuses and Calmos , are marked by the desacralization of the nude that characterizes the time. In the United States, leading actresses agree to undress. The cartoon is not better, as 1976 also sees the screens Tarzoon, shame jungle of Picha , which tells the naughty adventures of the ape-man.

The movement is rapidly gaining traction with the intelligentsia and authors-directors such as Alain Robbe-Grillet , Marco Ferreri and Barbet Schroeder are directly addressing the various aspects of sexuality. Thanks to eroticism, Japanese cinema is able to be exported and the filmmaker Nagisa Ōshima obtains two great successes with The Empire of the senses (515 000 entries on Paris-Périphérie in 1976) and The Empire of the passion (104 000 in 1978).

Italian cinema also produces a lot of works playing on the eroticism of its heroines. In 1973, Laura Antonelli won her international star ranks thanks to her sexy garter belts in Malizia . The genus reaches its peak with Tinto Brass’s Caligula in 1980.

The Quebec is no stranger to the movement, entered the round with a wave of erotic films beginning with Valerie (1968), with Danielle Ouimet , followed Initiation (1970) and two women in gold (1970). Although relatively undefined, these films take on a special meaning in this province in the midst of the Quiet Revolution just emerging from the age-old sanctimonious yoke of the Church; also these films will have a great impact and will win a great commercial success.

Multiplication of pornographic films (“hard”)

At the same time, the first hardcore movies (with non-simulated sexual acts) appear from 1969. The movement begins on the West Coast of the United States ( San Francisco ) and quickly spreads to the rest of the world. Deep Throat (1972) with Linda Lovelace , and The Devil in Miss Jones by Gérard Damiano (1973) only came out in France in 1975. The first draws 157,000 spectators on Paris-periphery and the second 102 000. The United States will only have the right to soft versions of these two films yet American.

The other great classic of this era is Behind the green door (1972) of the Mitchell brothers. On the French side, José Bénazéraf released the same year four hard movies. The pornographic films which represent half of the projected films take 20% of market share on Paris-city and 15% on France (that is 25 M of spectators). Exhibition by Jean-François Davy attracts 575,000 spectators on Paris-periphery and 1.5 million on France 3 , a score comparable to the success of the James Bond of the time. Three other films will exceed the millions of entries in France: Les Jouisseuses in 1974 (2.2 M), The sexual experiences of Flossiein 1975 (1.5 M) and the perverse masseuse in 1973 (1.1 M).

This proliferation of hard films arouses a real uproar. We think first of self-discipline, but it is not enough. On October 31, 1975, the French law that institutes the ” X” classification, which requires the distribution of films deemed pornographic in specialized cinemas , is voted in France , the value-added tax is increased by 20%, and the elimination of any right to automatic support. . A tax of 300 000 francs is put in place on the exploitation of X foreign films, which creates a protectionism of fact that will allow the French production to live properly for a few more years: 85% of the films projected in France are French . The French X cinema then creates its stars: Alban Ceray ,Jean-Pierre Armand , Richard Allan for men, Marilyn Jess or Brigitte Lahaie for women. In 1977, cinemas X still make eight million admissions to France, or 5% of admissions.

This law is voted by the parliamentary right while the left is mostly opposed. A large demonstration has even taken place in Trocadero and the left parties announce that they will denounce this “censorship” at the next alternation. In 1981, the left returns to power …

Since 1981: eroticism leaves the halls

From 200 rooms in 1975, the law of October 31, 1975 reduced the number to 136 the following year. This number fell to 72 at the end of 1981, but the share of X films is still 13% of the number of visitors to Paris and 5% to France. The biggest hits of the genre attract about 170,000 spectators. The two directors in the wind are then Burd Tranbaree ( The black silk stockings , Initiation of a married woman ) and Gérard Kikoïne ( Bourgeoise and whore ). The out of Exhibition still attracts 87,000 spectators in 1983.

The following year marks a break. Times have changed (the fear of AIDS appears) and the libertarian spirit of the 1970s gradually left the field to the liberal spirit of the 1980s. The rise of video allows the viewer of erotic film (hard and soft) to stay at home. The X theatrical market collapses, as illustrated by the biggest success of 1984 [Which one?] Which will be less than half of that of 1983 (55,000 against 134,000 admissions in Paris) ref.  desired] . The movement grew in 1985, when Canal + was allowed to broadcast a film X per month (which saves the chain of bankruptcy). The first will be Exhibition. The same phenomenon occurs in every country in the image of that describes very well Boogie Nights by Paul Thomas Anderson , inspired by the history of porn actor John Holmes . In 1991, there are only 24 X theaters in France and, ten years later, only one in Paris ( Le Beverley – 75002).

Even for the film of charm (soft), the attendance is eroded. Emmanuelle 4 (1984) on the French side and 9 1/2 weeks (1985) on the United States side are the latest erotic films to be successful in cinemas. John Derek, in association with his wife Bo Derek (revealed in Elle by Blake Edwards ) and David Hamilton, were unsuccessful as they represented the successful directors of the soft erotic film in the late 1970s. will now be limited to television productions calibrated for the second half of the evening. The eroticism of the films of the 1980s and 90s is less natural. We play more on suggestion ( Sharon Stone inBasic Instinct ) and sensuality ( Exotica or The Lover ). Only Spanish cinema will give the nude a bit of warmth with personalities such as Pedro Almodóvar ( Tie Me Up ) or Bigas Luna ( The Loulou Lives ). Nevertheless young actresses do not hesitate to undress to gain celebrity.

The creation of a hard news on Canal +, the fall in the price of cassettes (which go from more than 1000 Francs in 1984 to less than 100 francs fifteen years later), advertising by television channels to the stars of the X and the rise of the DVD finally deflower the spectators. Brigitte Lahaie and Traci Lords were among the first stars of the genre (they tried a conversion in traditional cinema – Henry and June for the first and Cry-Baby for the second – but without success).

The market for hard video explodes and real empires of the filmed sex are created (the Swedish Private or the American Vivid for example), taking advantage of the rise of specialized television channels (Play-boy TV in the United States from 1980s, XXL in France in the mid-1990s). Hard erotic films provide more than 75% of pay-per-view receipts in hotels and X-cassettes leave specialized stores to be sold in traditional newsstands … This cinema creates its stars: the men remain ( Christopher Clark , Tom Byron, Roberto Malone , Rocco Siffredi ), women go by (Traci Lords, Praisley Hunter,Julia Chanel , Tabatha Cash , Laure Sinclair …). The dialogues are not fundamental, the stars quickly reach an international status like the Italian Selen or the many nymphets of Eastern Europe: Tania Russof , Lea Martini, Anita Blonde …) . The interview granted to by Ovidie , actress and director of pornographic films, is particularly instructive to understand the reality of an X production today. In the middle of a production of very poor quality, emerge quality films which are based on directors such as Andrew Blake (former photographer), Marc Dorcel(former producer), Pierre Woodman (former policeman) or Paul Thomas and John Leslie (two former actors of the X of the early 1980s).

In the 1990s , the Hot d’Or , which reward the best productions X are organized in parallel with the festivities of the Cannes festival … The traditional cinema makes more appeal to the actors of the X: Ovidie in the pornographer and Mortel transfert , Raffaëla Anderson and Karen Bach in Fuck Me , Rocco Siffredi in Romance .

The year 2000 marked the encounter between traditional film and X. First, Fuck me of Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi (ex-porn star) was stripped of its license to permit the normal circuit. On the other hand, 15 years after the blowjob of Maruschka Detmers in The Devil in the body , the unmasked film Patrice Chéreau in Intimacy no longer causes any controversy. Finally, Lars von Trier ( Golden Palm at Cannes 2000 for Dancer in the Dark ) produced a real movie X: Pink prison which contains authentic hard scenes.

Main article: List of non-pornographic films containing non-simulated sexual acts .

In 2002, following the publication of a report on the media environment of youth 4 (revealing that 11% of 4/12 years whose parents subscribe to Canal + have seen an excerpt) and a European regulation In this respect, the broadcasting of X-movies on French television is called into question. It must be said that the genre has become democratized on French television: more than 100 pornographic films offered on cable and satellite channels (XXL, CinéCinémaand TPS cinéma), to which should be added 80 titles on Kiosque and Multivision multicast (bought between 1,500 and 10,000 euros – 25,000 for Canal +). For Video Marc Dorcel, television accounts for 15% of its turnover (€ 4.2 million out of € 28 million). As for the audience of these films, it is far from being confidential:

  • With more than one million subscribers 5 , XXL represents a quarter of Canal + (without having the financial constraints);
  • channel + X movie is seen by 35% of subscribers 6 .
  • according to one operator, 5 to 10% of cinema subscribers are motivated exclusively by pornographic films.

Some reference films

  • 1975  : Emmanuelle de Just Jaeckin
  • 1975  : Supervixens of Russ Meyer
  • 1975  : The beast of Walerian Borowczyk
  • 1976  : The Empire of the senses of Nagisa Oshima
  • 1979  : Caligula of Tinto Brass
  • 1984  : The Days and Nights of Ken Russell’s China Blue
  • 1986  : 9 1/2 weeks of Adrian Lyne
  • 2003  : Innocents: The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci
  • 2013  : Nymphomaniac by Lars von Trier
  • 2015  : Fifty Shades of Gray by Sam Taylor-Wood
  • 2016  : The Neon Demon by Nicolas Winding Refn


  • Christophe Bier , Censure Me – History of the X ranking in France , Paris, L’Esprit frappeur editions, 2000.
  • Christophe Bier ( dir. ), Dictionary of Pornographic & Erotic French Films in 16 and 35 mm , Paris, Serious Publishing,, xxiii-1194  p. 25cm ( ISBN  978-2-36320-001-3 , instruction BNF  FRBNF42461291 , online presentation  [ archive ] ).
    List of authors: Grégory Alexandre, Edgard Baltzer, Daniel Brémaud, François Cognard, Serene Delmas, Maxime Delux, Denis Duicq, Gilles Esposito, Dominique Forma , Pierre-Arnaud Jonard, Herve Joseph Lebrun , Emmanuel Levaufre, Armel de Lorme , Italo Manzi , Patrick Meunier, Alain Minard , Francis Moury, Britt Nini, Jean-François Rauger , Frédéric Thibaut and Jacques Zimmer .
  • Joseph-Marie Lo Duca , The Eroticism in the Cinema , Paris, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, collection “International Library of Erotology”, three volumes, 1958-1962
  • Paul and Pierre Scudéry, Eroticism in the cinema. Almanac , Paris, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, collection “International Library of Erotology”, 1964
  • Jacques Zimmer , The X cinema , Paris, La Musardine 2002, co-written with Stéphane Bourgoin , Henri Gigoux, Christophe Lemaire , Gérard Lenne and Didier Roth-Bettoni; new edition prefaced by Gaspard Noé , Paris, La Musardine, “Cinema” collection, 2012
  • Jacques Zimmer, Sade and the cinema , Paris, La Musardine, 2010
  • Jacques Zimmer, Stories of Cinema X , Paris, New World, 2011

See also

Related Articles

  • List of non-pornographic films containing non-simulated sexual acts
  • Sex symbol
  • Erotic thriller
  • Pinku eiga


  1. ↑ Remember that the Hays code was not a law but a “moral” code that the studios self-imposed to precisely avoid the tutelage of the law.
  2. ↑ cf. Matthieu Dubost, The pornographic temptation – reflections on the visibility of intimacy, 2005
  3. ↑ Taken in a book Movie passions Simon Simsi – ed. Dixit  [ archive ]
  4. ↑  [ archive ] (page 23)
  5. ↑ [1]  [ archive ]
  6. ↑ Dominique Farrugia , Chairman of Canal + SA in July 2002

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