The steamiest sex-free scenes in cinema

A handy guide for all you prudish cinephiles out there.

Sex. No one’s having it and no one wants to watch it – if reports are to be believed, at least. Shagging stats illustrating the dwindling number of people hooking up have populated headlines for a few years now but, recently, there’s been a new development.

It all started with Yous Penn Badgley, when he announced last month that he no longer wants to do sex scenes. Which is, you know, fair enough. But things are never that simple on the internet. Debate soon erupted over the necessity of sex scenes full-stop, with many wild statements being thrown around about how they violate the viewer’s consent (incorrect) and are uncomfortable to watch with parents (correct).

But this article isn’t about that. Instead, we’ve decided to cater to all the prudish (but still horny) cinephiles out there by compiling a list of the sexiest scenes in cinema that feature… no sex at all. Turns out actors don’t need to get their kit off to get steamy on screen. Often the titillation comes from the tension, a longing look or an everyday act of intimacy. Or a chapstick.

Not that we’re against sex scenes here at THE FACE, of course – you can brush up on our favourite horny films and TV shows here and here. For now, though, exercise some cinematic celibacy with these scenes that prove some of the sauciest moments in life can be pretty PG.

(Trigger warning-slash-promise: if you watch all of these films, you will eventually see some proper shagging. Just close your eyes or fast-forward, alright?)

Decision to Leave

Anyone who’s seen The Handmaiden will be well aware that Park Chan-wook isn’t afraid of a sex scene. But in his latest film, the Korean director practised restraint, somehow making a contemporary erotic thriller in which the two forbidden lovers, detective Hae-Jun and his suspect Seo-Rae, only kiss once. The steamiest plot device? A stick of lip balm, which Seo-Rae delicately pulls from Hae-Jun’s pocket before swiping it across his lips, stradling to the fine line between innocence and intimacy. No one wants to snog chapped lips, do they?

Dirty Dancing

Dancefloors are inherently sexy places: bodies writhe around to music, inhibitions are left at the door, there is sweat. Makes sense, then, that back in 1987 they made a whole film about how seductive dancing can be. But the hottest partner work in Dirty Dancing isn’t the iconic lift during the final dance to (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. Instead, it comes midway through the film, when Johnny and Baby’s rehearsal turns into a flirty lip-sync to Love Is Strange, with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey crawling across the floor to nearly, almost share a kiss. The scene is made even better by the fact it wasn’t scripted. Pure, unfiltered chemistry.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Céline Sciamma’s tale of an illicit affair between two women in the 18th century wasn’t steamy enough for the French – not enough nudity, apparently. But for those who get turned on by intense, longing gazes and forbidden desire, it’s an overload of sensual anticipation. That’s precisely why the first kiss between Marianne and Héloïse is so gratifying. Away from prying eyes, panting as they lock eyes and lean in to each other, the emotional climax of their simmering romance is sexier and more meaningful than any full-frontal shot could be.


When the lighting fades as Ryan Gosling pushes Carey Mulligan to the corner of the elevator in Drive, it feels as though time is about to stand still. And it does, kind of. Shot in slow motion, their kiss lingers for a good 50 seconds, as music masks the hum of the elevator and a golden glow casts over their faces. Nevermind the hitman in the corner, or the fact that, shortly after their kiss, Gosling will brutally smash his face in. During those 50 seconds, no one else in the world exists.

Out of Sight

A gun-wielding Jennifer Lopez on the prowl as a sexy defender of the law. George Clooney enjoying a candlelit bath after a hard day of breaking the law. Need we say more? This dream sequence from yet another tale of forbidden attraction is, quite literally, as steamy as it gets. The way Clooney smirks as he grabs J‑Lo’s wrist, the way she flinches before relinquishing and falling into the bath with him for a passionate kiss. It’s enough to make your nan blush.

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