Steaming It Up
It’s getting hot in here — as we pay tribute to the best in 25 years of the screen’s hottest scenes, ahead.
Want more? EW has detailed the best in movies, TV, music, and books for 25 years with the Must List, and in celebration, The Must List: Ranking the Best in 25 Years of Pop Culture is out now. This gallery is an excerpt from the book. The Must List: Ranking the Best in 25 Years of Pop Culture is in stores now, or available for order online.
25. How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
As Winston Shakespeare, Taye Diggs seduces the 20-year-older Stella (an ageless Angela Bassett) with his smooth Jamaican accent and equally smooth bod. Their steamy post fight shower romp is just one of many perfectly choreographed sex scenes that made women everywhere want to jet to Jamaica to get their own grooves back.
24. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
A character is defined by what he wants. And what he’ll do to get it. For Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), his greatest desire is to be as close as possible to Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), a layabout who makes everything — even tanning — an act of idle seduction. When Tom and Dickie play a simple game of chess — over a bathtub, with Law naked inside — ever move is an advance and a rebuff. Nothing that steamy ever ends well.
23. The Tudors (Season 1, 2007)
Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ King Henry VIII just can’t get enough. Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) wants a ring. So episode 10’s clandestine meeting in the woods is frustration and passion personified.
22. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
There’s nothing sexy about Robert Hames Waller’s 1992 novella — 192 pages of literary saltpeter. So it’s a miracle that the onscreen chemistry between Clint Eastwood’s globe-trotting photographer and Meryl Streep’s shy farm wife winds up being so passionate, profound, and heartbreaking. Their romance’s hottest moment is one of its quietest: late afternoon, two total strangers making dinner together. Seriously.
21. The Bodyguard (1992)
Whitney Houston, playing a pop diva/movie star, and Kevin Costner, as her sullen bodyguard, do more than smolder and flirt — they square off like angry tigers. And when he carries her out of a club-gig-turned-riot, you know just why she throws her arms around her protector.
20. Lost (Season 3, 2006)
Being stranded on an island leaves lots of time for… getting to know one another intimately. In “I Do,” Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) let loose during a pent-up animalistic encounter in a polar bear cage.
19. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Rarely has a bare chest made such an impression or launched a more stellar career: Wolfish J.D. (Brad Pitt) and his washboard abs show sheltered Thelma (Geena Davis) “what all the fuss is about” with a motel fling that steals more than her innocence.
18. Ghost (1990)
What if, after your lover dies, his soul stuck around to watch over you? The triumph of Ghost — starring Patrick Swayze as the specter and Demi Moore as the bereaved — is turning that kinda creepy premise into something sad yet sensual. The potter wheel scene, played to the tune of “Unchained Melody,” set a new standard for cinematic sensuality. (Fun fact: Moore’s character was originally a woodworker.)
17. Friends (Season 2, 1995)
Central Perk was steamy — and not just because of the coffee. In fact, this sitcom’s seminal moment took place within the doors of the famed java joint, when Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Ross (David Schwimmer) shared a fervent, rain-soaked kiss in “The One Where Ross Finds Out.”
16. Bound (1996)
It could’ve been just a very stylish male fantasy, But the Wachowskis recruited bisexual erotic writer Susie Bright as a “sex consultant” to help give a realistic edge to the romantic relationship between Jennifer Tilly’s Mafia moll and Gina Gersho’s ex-con handywoman. Sexiest moment? When Tilly shows Gershon that she, too, is useful with her hands.
15. My So-Called Life (Pilot Episode, 1994)
Claire Danes’ Angela gazes dreamily at Jared Leto’s Jordan, a sensitive bad boy who doesn’t even know the intelligent, radiant, but shy Angela exists. The yearning in her look and the ache in Danes’ voice tell you everything about youthful desire.
14. Love and Basketball (2000)
This hardwood romance about two longtime neighbors with b-ball talent understands that on the right woman, a sports bra is as alluring as anything sold at Victoria’s Secret. When they’re in college, tomboy Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and BMOC Quincy (Omar Epps) channel their competitive juices into a strip game of one-on-one enhanced by trash talk and hands-on defense.
13. ER (Season 5, 1998)
“Stuck on You” finds the original McDreamy, George Clooney, hopping into a bath with a bubble-covered Julianna Margulies. Who says doctors don’t make house calls anymore?
12. Unfaithful (2002)
How hot is this drama about a bored suburbanite (Diane Lane) having an adulterous affair with a bookselling lothario (Olivier Martinez)? The wronged husband is played by Richard Gere. As the housewife heads for home on the train, she goes between guilt and giddiness while visualizing her first hedonistic liaison.
11. Mississippi Masala (1991)
Director Mira Nair tackles racism and romance in this Mississippi-set bayou drama. Demetrius Williams (Denzel Washington) and Meena (Sarita Choudhruy) spark from the get-go, much to their families’ dismay. When they hit the sheets at a beachside hotel hideaway, the camera lingers on their entwined extremities.
10. Grey’s Anatomy (Season 2, 2006)
The M.D.s of Seattle Grace have graced us with many memorable moments in bed (Mer and George’s weepy, oopsy-awkward one-night stand?). “Losing My Religion” however, titillated like no other: McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) + Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) – black panties = best prom night ever.
9. The Notebook (2004)
This adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel is an electrically erotic weepfest, thanks to the longing exuded by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Seven years after their first attempt to have sex is interrupted, the pair finally, repeatedly get it on in the mansion Gosling has renovated as a tribute to the love he feared he’d lost forever.
8. A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Is there a hippie hotter than Viggo Mortensen’s Walker Jerome? With his tousled bedhead and give-peace-a-chance gentleness, the traveling blouse salesman gives Diane Lane’s Pearl, a frustrated married mother of two, her very own summer of love — most memorably, under a waterfall.
7. NYPD Blue (Season 4, 1996)
After all the drama, the booze, and the attempted engagement, in “Unembraceable You” Diane (Kim Delaney) pays Bobby (Jimmy Smits) a visit and uses her most persuasive language to win him back. The good news is that it works: They tie the knot in season 5. The bad news? He dies in season 6.
6. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Daniel Day-Lewis as a hunk? Yes, indeed, as the long-haired, hard-bodied frontiersman Hawkeye who promises Madeleine Stowe’s Cora “I will find you!” Moviegoers swooned when, at the fort, he seeks out Cora, gazes at her with blunt lust, then leads her to a nook where they engage in a make-out session both intense and tender.
5. Y Tu Mama También (2001)
A drunken, boisterous celebration between two teens (Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal) and their older road-trip companion (Ana Lopez Mercado) escalates into a sensuous three-way; as Mercado heads south of the border, the guys unexpectedly — and passionately — kiss.
4. Alias (Season 2, 2003)
The opening moments of “Phase One — in which Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) vamps in spectacular underwear as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blares — perfectly encapsulates this spy show’s ass-kicking brand of hot. Bonus sexy: Watch the end of this episode for that long-awaited lip-lock between Syd and Vaughn (Michael Vartan).
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 6, 2001)
There’s plenty of heat surrounding our blond heroine and her vampire beaux Angel and Spike — but all that biting and fighting and soul-losing kind of kills the buzz. What turns us on is the floaty joy of Tara (Amber Benson) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) which reached glorious (literal) heights during the musical episode “Once More, With Feeling.”
2. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
The power couple as action heroes: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made a movie about John and Jane, married assassins who must take each other out with really big guns, which ends up turning them on — on screen and in real life, as it happened. Angry, aroused, and armed to the teeth, they hit the dance floor to surreptitiously pat each other down. Quips hubby to his touchy-feely wife: “That’s all John, sweetheart.”
1. Out of Sight (1998)
When George Clooney’s bank robber and Jennifer Lopez’s U.S. Marshal squeeze into the trunk of a car, they intimately spoon with a red-hot sensuality that surprises both of them (and us). It’s a meet-cute in a unique setting and one of the most erotically charged moments of modern movies.