While some might find the films of the 1990s to be a bit, shall we say, hokey, there are actually a plethora of cinematic endeavors that broke down barriers in the realm of sexuality, particularly in the year 1992. From Basic Instinct to The Crying Game, the film industry was willing to make a daring statement about what was then becoming the common mainstream version of “normal” in the bedroom and in relationships. What follows are the most influential movies that blazed the trail of a new sexual revolution.
Basic Instinct (dir. Paul Verhoeven): More than just Sharon Stone flashing her snatch. It’s about female empowerment through sexuality, and yeah, murder. But sex and death have always been two sides of the same coin. Catherine Tramell’s (Stone) cold, calculating ways leave washed up detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas, who would go on to be in another sexually charged 90s movie, Disclosure) scratching his head (and his balls).
Batman Returns (dir. Tim Burton): Some may see this as a bit of a curveball, but what could be more illictly sexual than Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman guzzling milk lasciviously à la Madonna in the “Express Yourself” video?
Boomerang (dir.Reginald Hudlin): Before Eddie Murphy was being accused of paternal negligence by Scary Spice, he was still keeping it chauvinistic as advertising executive (remember when that was a job title?) Marcus Graham. His sexual escapades are given a run for their money by his new boss, Jacqueline (Robin Givens, former girlfriend of Mike Tyson), who is just as sexually appetitive as he is, and, in fact, proves to be more promiscuous than he is–a huge deal for women at the time this movie was made.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (dir. Francis Ford Coppola): Vampires and Keanu Reeves = the epitome of sex. Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman aren’t bad either.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (dir. Fran Rubel Kuzui): It’s not just because anything to do with vampires is sexual, it’s mainly because the other star of this movie is Kristy Swanson’s constantly bared midriff, a trend that would become a staple throughout the mid-90s.
The Crying Game (dir. Neil Jordan): Sex and politics go hand in hand as the protagonist of The Crying Game, Fergus (Stephen Rea), a member of the IRA, falls in love with Dil (Jaye Davidson), the girlfriend of one his now dead fellow soldiers, Jody (Forest Whitaker). The bigger twist than Fergus pursuing her? The fact that she’s trans. As if the name wasn’t a tip-off.
Husbands and Wives (dir. Woody Allen): No Woody Allen movie would be complete without a bit of sexual deviancy–and Husbands and Wives proved no exception to the rule. Released right around the time of the controversy over Allen’s separation from Mia Farrow after cheating on her with their adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, the plot of the film covers the age-old problem of being bored as fuck with your spouse–a pandemic that seemed to be made more fully acceptable by the life and art of Allen in 1992.
Like Water for Chocolate (dir. Alfonso Arau): A lot of lust, a lot of sex scenes and a lot of food.
Poison Ivy (dir. Katt Shea): When you’re tryng your best to shed a certain child star image, there’s no better role than a manipulative sex kitten with a penchant for older father figures. Perhaps this is what led Drew Barrymore to the role of Ivy, a ruffian sort of high school girl who befriends Sylvie (Sara Gilbert) and infiltrates her family life in the creepiest sexual ways possible.
Single White Female (dir. Barbet Schroeder): Another cult classic in the ranks of Basic Instinct and Poison Ivy, Single White Female centers around the almost lesbianic obsession of Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) with her new roommate, Allie (Bridget Fonda). Though things never get overtly salacious, the tinge is always there.
Singles (dir. Cameron Crowe): One of the movies that defined the decade, Singles was Crowe’s examination of gen X love and the fact that, for the first time in modern history, commitment in a relationship was not a necessity so much as an existential dilemma. Its setting in Seattle also adds to its snapshot of the 90s alt vibe.