Made during a time when Hollywood wasn’t afraid of sex or dangerous adult fantasies, these movies are the opposite of boring.

They once ruled the box office, beneficiaries of a bolder class of directors, a burgeoning home-video market, and the skinfluence of MTV. But then, just as suddenly, the erotic thrillers disappeared, pushed into the tar pits by superheroes, sequels, and a self-infantilizing industry. What happened? That question is too big for this paragraph, but when we heard that director Adrian Lyne (9½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal) was returning to make another movie after a 20-year hiatus, our hopes soared. Deep Water doesn't quite justify the excitement — it's neither sexy nor trashy enough — but it's as good a moment as any to return to the subgenre's high points, each paired with a suggestion for deeper exploration.

Melanie Griffith, Body Double
Credit: Everett Collection

Body Double (1984)

Brian De Palma could have invented the erotic thriller on his own, and come to think of it, pretty much did with this synthy Hitchcock-a-thon that struck the mold: a seductive female lure (Melanie Griffith's savvy pornstar, the role that later landed her Working Girl), a ridiculous kill or two, and a stellar use of a pop song (Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax"). Don't question how believable any of this is — you'll spoil the fun.

Advanced studies: Femme Fatale (2002), in which De Palma topped himself

Credit: Everett Collection

Fatal Attraction (1987)

As "classy" as erotic thrillers come (relatively speaking), this one has an unhinged Glenn Close refusing to be ignored by philandering yuppie Michael Douglas. It also has enviable New York apartments, and one boiled bunny. The ending was famously reshot to reassert the survival of the family, a Hollywood cop-out parodied in Robert Altman's The Player. This is the movie we hoped for when we heard Lyne was returning to his roots.

Advanced studies: Unfaithful (2002), also by Lyne and even better.

Nick and Catherine (Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone) in Basic Instinct
Credit: Everett Collection

Basic Instinct (1992)

It's remembered for Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs with a smile, but the whole movie has a naughtiness that's of a piece (and deserving of a rewatch). Michael Douglas again — the signature actor of the erotic thriller — gets in over his head as a coked-up detective whose murder investigation leads him to Stone's manipulative novelist. Director Paul Verhoeven shoots San Francisco like Vertigo, but he understands the job better than most.

Advanced studies: Lost Highway (1992)—yes, even David Lynch has dabbled in erotic thrillers.

Single White Female, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Credit: Everett Collection

Single White Female (1992)

Another high point from the early-'90s peak period of erotic thrillers, Barbet Schroeder's you-stole-my-haircut identity thriller is a commanding showcase for Jennifer Jason Leigh, diving into the meltdown of a clingy psychotic roommate. (If you end up liking her villain more than Bridget Fonda's ostensible leading character, the most boring web designer in Manhattan, you're not alone.) Robustly entertaining, it's an urban nightmare that holds up well.

Advanced studies: Persona (1966), Ingmar Bergman's artier progenitor.

Black Swan, Natalie Portman | What Owen said: ''Darren Aronofsky's backstage ballet thriller Black Swan is lurid and voluptuous pulp fun, with a sensationalistic fairy-tale allure. You can't take it…
Credit: Niko Tavernise

Black Swan (2010)

Ballet and Tchaikovsky go a long way toward perfuming what is essentially a down-and-dirty sex misadventure, with Natalie Portman's sheltered diva learning the ropes from Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. The psychodrama is deep-dish, and director Darren Aronofsky balances his darker impulses with humor and some of the best performances of his filmography. Easily the best erotic thriller to ever win an Oscar (because it is the only one).

Advanced studies: Crash (1996), David Cronenberg's auto-erotic stunner.

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