Top 10 American Bare-All Scenes
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The fact that the character of Marion is seen in a bra at the beginning of the film was scandalous enough at the time -- but to have her gruesomely killed while naked in the shower? Shocking! According to IMDB, there's a rumor that the release board didn't initially okay the film because they were convinced there was a nipple shot in the shower scene. Of course, there wasn't -- the cinematography and score were so well done, people's imaginations just easily filled in the blanks. We can thank Hitchcock for launching a long, sordid American tradition of combining female nudity with unspeakable violence for cheap thrills and entertainment purposes.
Much like PSYCHO, THE GRADUATE's most famous scene uses quick flashes of body parts. Of course, in this movie, the violence is all emotional and there is indeed a nipple shot. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) famously tries to seduce Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college grad who's struggling to figure out what to do with his life, especially now that he's realizing the lives of his parents' generation aren't necessarily something to aspire to (what with them all being evil succubi and whatnot).
Kramer vs. Kramer
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Ushering in an era of divorce as an acceptable option for unhappy marrieds in America, this heartbreaking movie details the impact separation can have on a family, including the awkwardness of a parent's new single sex life. In this scene, the 7-year-old son confronts his father's first sex partner since the split in the hallway in the middle of the night -- she, of course, is naked. If your parents got divorced when you were young, then you know how impactful this scene can be; if your parents got divorced when you were young and you watched this movie around the same time, then you know how gut-wrenchingly traumatic it can be.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
I had to put in at least one classic teenage boy fantasy: Phoebe Cates in a red bikini climbing out of a backyard pool in slo-mo and undoing the front clasp of her top. This all happens in the mind of the senior boy jerking off to her inside in the bathroom until the fully clasped Cates accidentally busts in on him while looking for a Q-tip for her water-logged ears. Payback's a bitch.
Harold & Maude
Harold and Maude (1971)
A classic movie that cautioned against American consumerism, celebrated the pursuit of happiness (no matter how untraditional that happiness is), and championed the right to literally -- and theatrically --die. Plus, with its tender love story (and post-coital bed scene) between 79-year-old Maude and 20-something Harold, it was the first movie to acknowledge that the elderly are sexual people too -- and this was years before Viagra! Revolutionary
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Two words for you: The tuck. Serial killer Buffalo Bill is rejected for gender reassignment surgery due to mental reasons and decides to make his own lady suit out of actual lady skin. In this scene, he tries on a scalp wig, applies some make-up, throws a shawl over his naked bod, tucks his junk between his legs and flaunts his "feminine" form before his home video camera. This scene may not have done much for the transgender rights movement, but it spawned a generation of stupid party tricks by drunk dudes. It also gave us one of the greatest songs in thriller movie history: "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazzarus.
Coming Home (1978)
The second Hal Ashby film on this list (the first being HAROLD AND MAUDE), this anti-war film features a pretty intense love-making scene between a conservative military wife (Jane Fonda) and her lover (Jon Voight), a Vietnam vet who was recently paralyzed from the waist down in battle. What begins as totally-naked, woman-on-top frottage ends in orgasmic cunnilingus -- a first for Fonda's character (and probably for most movie-goers at the time).
Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing (1989)
There's not a whole lot of male nudity on this top 10 list (which is an accurate reflection of America's double standard when it comes to nakedness) -- and this movie certainly doesn't buck that trend. In fact, it features a fully-clothed Spike Lee rubbing down a totally-naked Rosie Perez with several ice cubes on one of the hottest days of the summer in Brooklyn. It can be seen as an act of worship of the female form with no selfish expectation of male stimulation or release in return OR it can be seen as gratuitous T&A that punishes and humiliates his berating baby-mama by leaving her stripped, unsatisfied and alone. (For the record, Rosie Perez has said she felt exploited in this scene, that what happened was way different from the script, and that you don't see her head in the shots because she was crying during shooting: 'I felt like Irene Cara in FAME.")
For the quintessential fucked-up art-house nude scene, we turn to none other than American filmmaker David Lynch and his creepy BLUE VELVET, in which a masochistic hot mess (played by Isabella Rossellini) ends up on Jeffrey's (Kyle MacLachlan's) front lawn -- naked, battered and in shock. Jeffrey, who has recently schtupped (and punched) said hot mess (but is not the cause of her current state), arrives home with his goody-two-shoes date after being chased there by his date's ex and his jock friends. When the drunk and belligerent ex notices the naked zombie on Jeffrey's front lawn, he asks "Who is that?...Is that your mother, Jeffrey?" We do not think Lynch intended this to be funny, but it is nevertheless disturbingly hysterical, so you never know.
This is the all-American movie with the shiny American Dream (the successful married-with-with-kids couple in a nice house in a good suburban neighborhood) wrapped around the American Reality (depression, drugs, guns, homophobia, and adultery). The sexual fantasies of the main character, a downer dad (played by Kevin Spacey) in full mid-life crisis mode with a totally inappropriate crush on his teen daughter's cheerleading buddy (played by Men Suvari), became the iconic image of the unbreachable chasm between the over-ambitious American dream and its god-awful reality: said cheerleader naked on a bed of roses with just a few strategically placed petals. Be careful what you wish for!
10 classic birthday-suit scenes from American movies with American themes. The fact that only a minority of them are healthy depictions of sex reflects our puritanical country's fucked-up relationship with the topic. Feel free to light a sparkler and disrobe in patriotic solidarity -- maybe you can make American sex a little more positive.
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