Entertainment Weekly Takes the Heat Out of Marriage

Marriage is not sexy.  

That's the conclusion that readers might make after examining Entertainment Weekly's list of the “50 Sexiest Movies Ever.” 

Of the 50 movies on the list, 42 center on unmarried adult relationships.  Three of the relationships featured on the list occur between two women (Kissing Jessica Stein, Bound, and Mulholland Drive), one occurs between two men (Yossi & Jagger) and one is a bisexual web of past and current relationships (Basic Instinct). 

None of the movies depicts a normal, loving married couple in an everyday situation.  The three “sexy” movies on the list that did address martial sex were Mr. & Mrs. Smith (in which Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play rival assassins hired to kill each other), Don't Look Now (a horror movie in which the sex scene had to be trimmed to avoid an X-rating), and 300 (a comic book movie). 

And while marriage may not be sexy by Hollywood's standards, adultery certainly is.  Movies about adulterous relationships appeared on the list 14 different times, more than quadruple the number of times marriage appeared.  Movies such as The Bridges of Madison County, Unfaithful, The Postman Always Rings Twice (Jack Nicholson's version), Body Heat and American Gigolo all made the list.  

Four movies focused on teen sex.  Y Tu Mama Tambien, a Mexican film about two teen boys taking a road trip with an older woman, features a scene in which the trio engages in a threesome, complete with a kiss between the two boys.  Cruel Intentions features a kiss between two girls as well as depictions of various characters engaged in sexual activity. Dirty Dancing depicts sex between a teen girl and an older man.  Maurice, set in early 20th Century England, explores homosexuality in teen boys. 

EW also accompanied each movie listing with its “sexiest moment.”  Not surprisingly, sex scenes were the sexiest moment in 15 of the movies listed.  Interestingly though, the list makers recognized the power of language, as evidenced by conversations ranking second with eight “sexiest” moments being conversations or quips by movie characters.  Included is the following exchange between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as ex-spouses in His Girl Friday:

             Grant (as Walter Burns): Want my fingerprints?

Russell (as Hildy Johnson): No thanks. I've still got those.

Kisses were the sexiest moments in six movies and touching was sexiest in four movies while exhibitionism was sexiest in three. 

EW's movie list mirrors what's on TV.  A Parents Television Council study in 2007 found that verbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered marital references by nearly 3 to 1.  For every four television scenes that depicted or implied sex between unmarried couples, only one scene showed similar scenes between married couples. 

PTC President Tim Winter said following the release of the study that “many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner.” 

As with its fictional counterparts,  Entertainment Weekly's  unspoken message is that married sex is non-existent or simply a fantasy. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.