Top 10 Directors Not Afraid of Nudity

If you spend a lot of time analyzing movie sex scenes like we do, you might find yourself rolling your eyes at how many on-screen couples manage to have sex without ever showing any skin…or who fall asleep with a sheet covering them just so…or who always put on a shirt and underpants when they get out of bed to pee, no matter how raunchy things just got. Where’s the nudity? Where’s the raunch?

And even when there is nudity, it isn’t always what it seems: It’s not uncommon these days for actresses to wear band-aids over their nipples during shooting, and then nipples are added later, in CGI (with the actresses’ full permission). We’re not sure what this accomplishes, exactly — except put a bunch of body doubles out of work.

Fortunately, there are still some directors around who are very, shall we say, comfortable with on-screen nudity. And we mean the real kind — not the CGI kind. Only after we finished this top 10 list did we realize it was entirely male, which we suppose shouldn’t surprise us — after all, most of the nudity is female. But we dug up male nudity — or, at least, equal-opportunity nudity — where we could. You’re welcome!

10. Lars Von Trier
Is there anything Lars Von Trier is afraid of when it comes to movie-making? (Except perhaps slapstick humor — we can’t quite see him going with a banana peel gag.) This Danish filmmaker makes very smart films, which might make you feel like less of a perv about all the nudity if the works weren’t also extremely disturbing. He is one of the founders of the purist avant-garde film movement Dogme 95, which shuns special effects and other Hollywood gimmicks — which is perhaps why he’s known for showing unsimulated sex in his films like THE IDIOTS (1998) and ANTI-CHRIST (2009), as well as full-frontal nudity of both the male and female variety. Oh, and his company, Zentropa, also produces hardcore pornography. Who doesn’t have a hardcore porn-producing hobby these days?

9. Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow was so annoyed at a test audience’s squeamish response to a penis in WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007) –which he wrote and produced — that he announced, “I’m gonna get a penis or a vagina in every movie I do from now on. … It really makes me laugh in this day and age, with how psychotic our world is, that anyone is troubled by seeing any part of the human body.” That might explain the closing-credits penis montage in SUPERBAD (2007), which Apatow produced. “America fears the penis,” he said. “And that’s something I’m going to help them get over.” The offending schlong in WALK HARD — which appears behind John C. Reilly’s head in an orgy scene — made the cut, though from a different angle than the original, to reduce the delicate audience’s exposure to too much ballsac. Apatow also produced FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008), which features Jason Segel’s awesome nude breakup scene.

8. Adrian Lyne
Adrian Lyne’s movies are pretty much synonymous with dark sex — think, 9 ½ WEEKS (1986), INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993), FATAL ATTRACTION (1987), LOLITA (1997), and UNFAITHFUL (2002). But on the set, while shooting nude scenes, Lyne claims the atmosphere is much lighter. He says he sets the mood by acting like a “demented cheerleader,” shouting encouragement like, “Good, good, good. Give me a little more of that. Show me your beast. Water, water! Great!” He’ll even pop a bottle of bubbly to help his actors relax, like when shooting that kitchen sink scene between Glenn Close and Michael Douglas in FATAL ATTRACTION. Directing this sort of thing, he says, is like a “bizarre kind of menage a trois” with the actors.

7. John Waters
Like Lars Von Trier, John Waters is a fan of equal-opportunity, full-frontal nudity and unsimulated sex scenes — but only Waters includes real live chickens between his actors’ bodies while they do it (that was 1972’s PINK FLAMINGOS). And while we find it hard to defend his infamous dog poop scene, we will say that most of his nudity makes a point — his life’s work examines sexuality, homosexuality, and gender issues.

PINK FLAMINGOS was part of a trio that Waters labeled the TRASH TRILOGY, along with FEMALE TROUBLE (1974) and DESPERATE LIVING (1977). These early films are the filthiest and starred his personal troupe of actors known as the Dreamlanders, including Divine and Mink Stole (with names like that, you could hardly expect them to keep their clothes on); he’s also a fan of casting pornstars.

Until THE WIRE came along, John Waters was pretty much the only reason most Americans ever thought about Baltimore.

6. Steven Soderbergh
So there’s no dog poop in Soderbergh’s films, and you probably won’t find any snuffed chickens, either. This director manages to be incredibly racy (e.g. SEX, LIES, and VIDEOTAPE, 1989) while maintaining his mainstream Hollywood status with movies likes CONTAGION, ERIN BROCKOVICH, and the OCEAN’S ELEVEN franchise. You’d think that to achieve this, you’d have to focus exclusively on female nudity — but he just proved this theory wrong with MAGIC MIKE (2012). Okay, sure, there was plenty of female nudity in there, too, but we’ll take it.

In 2009’s THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, about a Manhattan call girl, Soderbergh tried — unsuccessfully, in our opinion — to prove that pornstar Sasha Grey could actually act. But with that film he did manage to make one of the raciest R-rated movies we’ve ever seen.

His position on this list was almost rescinded for calling his 2002 movie with Julia Roberts and Blaire Underwood “Full Frontal” when it didn’t contain any nudity, let alone full-frontal nudity.

5. Michael Winterbottom
How could you not shoot nude scenes with a name like that? Winterbottom (see, you’re giggling, right?) is most famous for the porn-lite (or maybe just porny?) film 9 SONGS (2004), which follows one couple’s sexual activity — masturbation, bondage, oral sex, erect penises, labia, unsimulated intercourse, the lot.

He warmed up for this film with 1998’s I WANT YOU, about a mute 14-year-old boy who likes to record couples, in all their naked glory, having sex. If you never thought you’d see a semi-erect penis (with balls!) in an R-rated movie, then you need to see this movie.

His latest film is the forthcoming TRISHNA, an India-set reworking of Tess of the D’Urbervilles (yes, that novel from Fifty Shades of Grey!), which apparently features a whole lot of nude Frieda Pinto.

4. Bernardo Bertolucci
He made LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), okay? Can we just stop right now? Alright, he also made THE DREAMERS (2003), in which a young American student hangs around nude with a Parisian brother and sister. As you can imagine, all sorts of sex games ensue. And who could forget Liv Tyler’s boobs and pubic hair in 1996’s STEALING BEAUTY?

3. Blake Edwards
Some of this director’s nude (or near-nude) images are surely burned into your brain: Bo Derek on the beach in 1979’s 10 (oh yeah, and the full-on nude orgy in the same film); the glow-in-the-dark condom scene in 1989’s SKIN DEEP; a topless Julie Andrews (!!) in 1981’s S.O.B…. it’s okay, it’s okay, Edwards was married to Mary Poppins until his death in 2010. And it was all very meta: S.O.B. is a film within a film about a fading movie producer who wants to get a famously wholesome actress (whom he happens to be married to, get it?) to appear nude on screen to resurrect his career. So it was a statement about gratuitous nudity, you see?

2. Philip Kaufman
Philip Kaufman’s 1990 HENRY & JUNE was the first film released by a major studio to be rated NC-17. That’d be Henry Miller, in case you’re wondering. If you want to know exactly how nude this film gets, you could rent it… or you could just read the unintentionally hilarious “parents’ guide” to the film on IMDB. (Apparently parents need to be warned about any “moaning” in the movie, in addition to scenes when “There are two women that are briefly shown doing an acrobatic trick nude.”)

Kaufman is also responsible for QUILLS (2000), the de Sade movie which brought BDSM to Hollywood before E.L. James was even penning Twilight fan fiction. Not to mention 1998’s UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, which features not nearly enough Daniel Day-Lewis nudity, if you ask us. But fans of Lena Olin’s naked form will not be disappointed.

1. Edward Zwick
Edward Zwick may not have directed as much on-screen nudity as the other people on this list (unless we missed something in 1989’s GLORY), but he takes the number one slot because he is the only director, to our knowledge, who got naked himself while shooting a nude scene.

The movie in question is 2010’s LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS, which apparently a lot of people liked, though we have no idea why. But it sure does have a lot of nudity! Anne Hathaway was nervous during the nude scenes and when Zwick asked how he could make her more comfortable, she asked him to disrobe. He then climbed into bed, naked, with Hathaway and her co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal, to help lighten the mood.

We bet he’s kicking himself now that Demi Moore never asked him to join her in that nude bathtub scene in 1986’s ABOUT LAST NIGHT.


David Lynch
He of course belongs in the top 10, but we’ve already written about him in depth on our site this year (check out the Top 10 Effed-Up Sex Scenarios of David Lynch), so we’re just trying to be fair.

Michael Cristofer
He should probably get an award for special contribution to Angelina Jolie nudity, thanks to 2001’s ORIGINAL SIN and 1998’s GIA.

Ken Russell
We’re recognizing him for his extended nude wrestling scene between two men in WOMEN IN LOVE — it featured full-frontal male nudity in 1969! And Paul Verhoeven should really be on here, too, for SHOWGIRLS (1995) and BASIC INSTINCT (1993): Sharon Stone once called herself and Michael Douglas “the horizontal Fred and Ginger of the nineties” because of how choreographed their main sex scene was in BASIC INSTINCT. It took three days just to shoot that one scene! Now that’s commitment to the nude cause.

This post originally appeared on SundanceChannel.com


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