Since the dawn of porn, X-rated movies have tackled science fiction and fantasy themes. We've listed hundreds of science-fictional porn movies in the past. But most of the time, when porn goes scifi, it ventures into "spoof" territory. But not always. Here are some X-rated films that have actual merit as science fiction.
Oh, and there's going to be NSFW stuff below. Watch out!
Note: A few of these were originally rated "X" in the United States or United Kingdom, but have since been downgraded or were later edited to secure an "R" or "15" rating. This list also includes a couple of movies that were rated NC-17, which has more or less replaced the "X" rating in U.S. cinemas. To some extent, this is a list of decent, or artistically important, science fiction and fantasy movies that were punished by our strange ratings system.
This film by Yugoslavian director Dusan Makavejev is partly a strange X-rated documentary about fringe sex culture, and partly an examination of the real-life scientific theories of rogue sexologist Wilhelm Reich, who believed that you could capture sex energy, or "orgones," in special "orgone boxes." In Makavejev's fictionalized account, sexual liberation sweeps through a small Eastern European Communist country, and destabilizes its repressive regime. Notable for having long sequences where women make plaster casts of erect penises. "To list "WR" as a great movie will stir outrage from some.," wrote Roger Ebert, who nevertheless praised it for its anarchic view of sex and weird science.
Perhaps somewhat ironically for a film about social control, this movie was originally rated "X" in its first theatrical release, although it later won an "R" rating in 1973. As the IMDB page explains, the "X" rating meant something somewhat different in 1971, before the porn industry appropriated it — but this film is still famous for pushing the limits of violence and sex on screen, and for its speculation about future mind control and social breakdown. The New York Times writes:
Released in late 1971 (within weeks of Sam Peckinpah's brutally violent Straw Dogs), the film sparked considerable controversy in the U.S. with its X-rated violence; after copycat crimes in England, Kubrick withdrew the film from British distribution until after his death.
This strange supernatural tale of a community that resists outsiders, and winds up dealing a harsh fate to a visiting policeman, was originally rated "X" in the U.K. for its casual nudity and the shocking ending. "The main classification issues that determined the decision were sex, nudity, occult theme and horror," according to a post-mortem on the BBFC site. And in fact, the film was never shown uncut in the United States until recently, and it's only in the last few years that the director's original cut has been shown anywhere.
Andy Warhol's Dracula movie, made at the same time as his Frankenstein movie, is a weird art film that features Udo Kier as a hauntingly androgynous and decadent version of a vampire. It's also full of casual nudity (see above) and jarring, weird moments. Dracula, as the women discuss in the above clip, is unhealthily obsessed with virgins, which leads to a whole discussion of whether women can only be "clean" if they've never been touched, or if they just need to take a good bath. The initial theatrical release was rated X for violence and nudity, although a shorter, R-rated cut later appeared in theaters.
For a long time, the unedited "X-rated" cut of this movie was only available in the United Kingdom — this depiction of an alien who comes to Earth seeking water and then falls into decadence gets pretty extreme in parts. Above is one of the main sequences that could not be shown in the United States — in which Mary Lou sees David Bowie's alien in his true form and then pisses herself.
Now here's an actual X-rated movie with porn stars, including Jamie Gillis. There were a few X-rated supernatural and horror films in the 1970s — you could argue The Devil in Miss Jones belongs among them — but this is often mentioned as one of the supernatural movies with the best use of atmosphere and the most attention to real storytelling. It does feature some rape as well as some other nonconsensual stuff, though, which almost made us keep it off this list. It's very much of the same era as A Clockwork Orange, in fact.
This might have the strongest claim of any movie here to "art movie" status — it was actually filmed at the San Francisco Art Institute!. And the screenplay to this X-rated film was actually written by novelist Terry Southern, who also wrote Dr. Strangelove. It takes place at a fictional sex institute that's using computers and hypnosis to cure sexual dysfunction. And just like Dr. Strangelove has the scene where they say "You can't fight in here, this is the war room," Randy has a scene (see above) where someone says, "There's no fucking in the Sex Institute!". Also in the clip above: Randy has an orgasm so powerful, it causes punch cards to fly out of the computer and all the sexologists have to start having sex. Or something. She's hooked up to a computer via a bunch of electrodes, and she's been hypnotized to overcome her previous inability to have an orgasm. Her super-orgasm leads to the discovery of a new enzyme, orgasmine, which can make anybody horny.
Co-written by Jerry Stahl ( Permanent Midnight), this horror/porn film won a bunch of awards. It features scientists who use electricity to induce a woman to have strange erotic dreams. Including having sex with a man inside a Cream of Wheat box, as seen above.
Actually, all three of the original Evil Dead films, including Army of Darkness, were hit with X ratings at one point. In the case of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, they were released with no rating, or "Unrated," in theaters. The 1987 L.A. Times article on why the paper violated its own guidelines to accept advertising for an unrated film is instructive:
If "Evil Dead" is an example of circumventing the ratings system, part of the blame rests with those newspapers and television stations whose policies against accepting advertising for MPAA X-rated movies have contributed to the reputation of the dreaded X. How do they justify accepting ads for a movie whose own film makers bluntly admit deserves an X?
There is a full page ad for "Evil Dead 2" in this section of today's Times. There was a full page ad in last Sunday's Calendar, and a small ad Thursday. What gives?
"When we get an unrated film, we ask our editorial department whether or not the advertisement falls within guidelines of our standards of acceptability," said Leonard Pomerantz, Times display advertising sales manager. "This one was approved."
Here's another famous porn film with an actual science fiction story co-written by Jerry Stahl — it's a post-apocalyptic world, and humans are divided into "sex negatives" and "sex positives." The "sex negatives" are unable to have sex themselves, so they go to Cafe Flesh to watch "sex positives" do it — and as you can see in the above clip, it gets pretty freaking weird.
This classic horror movie includes a severed head performing oral sex on a woman — but that's not the reason the original cut was unable to win an "R" rating. It's more just the huge amounts of gore and nastiness in the original cut — which you can see on the DVD. Here's an insanely detailed breakdown of all the stuff that had to be cut to get an "R" rating for this film.
Both of these movies had to go back to the MPAA over and over again — 18 times, in one case — before they could win an "R" rating. And you can see a lot more nastiness and gore on the director's cuts. See above for just one example from RoboCop.
Peter Greenaway's insane post-apocalyptic film was either NC-17 or unrated in the United States, I'm not sure which. It does feature a man being more or less forced to eat a dead man's penis, plus a ton of other insane brutality. And it's a powerful, moving look at exactly what civilization means, and what's left when it's fallen apart.
Is this movie science fiction? It's based on a book by J.G. Ballard and directed by genre MVP David Cronenberg — and a ton of essays have been written about its science-fictional examination of our relationship with technology and how our machines shape us. In any case, its frank depiction of people who become sexually excited by car crashes was too much for the U.S. ratings board, who gave it an NC-17 rating. You can see here what had to be removed to make an "R" version.
And finally... one more hardcore pornographic film. This movie by Taiwanese director Shu Lea Cheang has a lot of explicit sex in it, but also a ton of beautiful visuals and a very Blade Runner-inspired plot about cyborgs working for a corporation, which sends them to collect "orgasm data" on people by having sex with them. It's all in the service of creating a special chip that will allow people to have cybernetic orgasms.
Thanks to Rina Weisman, Christopher J. Garcia, Ted Chiang, Lavie Tidhar, John R. Fultz, Michael Weyer, Christina DiEdoardo, Peter Finfrock, Charles Kruger, Thomas Strange, Joel Schalit, Steven Schwartz, David Alan Mack, Gordon Jackson, Ranjan Bagchi, Paul McEnery, Don Webb, Emilia Lombardi and everybody else who helped with this!