Movies is usually a fun event for the whole family. There’s a reason that movie theaters — filled with people talking during dialogue, overpriced food and snacks, and questionably sticky floors — have survived for so long despite all our other entertainment options. It’s the kind of activity you can do at any time of day, and usually with just about anybody.
Of course, there are exceptions if a movie has some more…grown-up material. Because let’s face it: depending on who you’re watching a movie with, a love scene can be awkward for a variety of reasons. Mom, dad, and grandma are sitting next to you? Forget it, you don’t even want two characters kissing for too long, let alone full-on going at it. But some love scenes transcend even circumstantial weirdness, and are so painfully awkard in and of themselves that you’d be embarrassed to watch them alone. Here’s a list of love scenes that will have you begging, “Ugh, can we go back to the graphic violence, please?”
American Beauty (Your daughter’s friend is never okay)
Despite the fact that American Beauty is undoubtedly a great movie full of fantastic performances, it doesn’t change the fact that one of the storylines involves a dad lusting after his teenage daughter’s friend. When Kevin Spacey and Mena Suvari finally have their vomit-inducing love scene (which thankfully stops short of the big moment), the tenderness of Mena’s vulnerability only serves to highlight how inappropriate the whole thing was from the start. But throughout the movie, Spacey’s lustful fantasies about her are generally played for comedy, so when their real encounter finally happens, it’s a very “Please tell us this is not happening right now” moment. The punctuation of the scene where he covers her with a blanket is such a post-traumatic gesture that most viewers are probably just relieved it’s over. Plus, he gets murdered moments later.
This scene isn’t any easier to watch in a post-MeToo world, where Kevin Spacey has been accused of multiple sexual improprieties, including some involving young people.
Gone Girl (Takes hard left into horrific)
Gone Girl has a few grisly scenes, but the one that takes the cake is undoubtedly the love scene/throat-slitting of Desi, one of Amy’s ill-fated marks in her diabolical plan to frame her husband for murder. For the sake of getting right to the matter at hand, we’ll set aside some seemingly large plot holes with the scene in general—like how would she later explain her access to a razor if she was supposedly Desi’s captive? Anyway, the scene is set up for tension from the start. The lighting makes the room look like a bordello, and the score is nothing but foreboding tones that signal imminent dread rather than sexy time. And just when Desi’s going to give us the always cringe-worthy moment of any love scene, we’re sliced right into “OH MY GOD!” territory and everything changes. Needless to say, Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Desi, did not have the best time ever in this scene. But at least it was over quick.
Demolition Man (Virtual insanity)
The 1993 sci-fi satire Demolition Man had an ambitious and bizarre view of what “the future” would be like. Sylvester Stallone plays John Spartan, a cop from the ’90s, cryogenically frozen until 2032, when he’s thawed out to hunt a master criminal (Wesley Snipes). Spartan wakes to a world he finds bizarre and confusing. For example, the only restaurant is Taco Bell, toilet paper has been replaced by shells, and the thing that people do behind closed doors is conducted with virtual reality helmets.
Yes, viewers get a glimpse of future love, but that can only happen after John’s guide, San Angeles (because L.A. and San Diego have merged in the future) police lieutenant Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock) initiates the act in the most overly verbose and technically-worded seduction in movie history. Nothing gets a guy interested like the phrase “general state of neurological arousal.”
As one of the least romantic songs ever made — the theme from The Love Boat — plays, Lenina emerges from her bedroom, dressed in a robe and brandishing two skull-clamping VR helmets. Lenina closes her eyes, starts breathing heavily, and then the experience kicks in for John. Apparently “making love” in the future consists of a series of rapid-fire, split-second, multi-colored images of one’s partner. It’s all so much that John “breaks contact” and rips his helmet off.
Oldboy (Daddy’s girl)
The twisty 2003 action drama Oldboy from writer-director Park Chan-wook won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Amid the labyrinthine and unpredictable plot, there’s a love scene that becomes disturbing in retrospect after all the mysteries have unraveled themselves.
Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) gets arrested one night for public drunkenness and misses his young daughter’s birthday party. After a friend retrieves him from a police station, he’s kidnapped and isolated in a hotel room for 15 years. When he’s finally released, he wanders into a sushi restaurant and strikes up a relationship with its young chef, Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung). He tries to get his life back together, but gives up on finding his daughter when he learns she was adopted by a Swedish couple.
Soon, his captor, Lee Woo-jin, contacts Dae-su with an ultimatum: If he guesses the reason for his imprisonment in five days, Woo-jin will kill himself; if not, he’ll kill Mi-do. Dae-su and Mi-do’s relationship grows increasingly intimate, but then Dae-su figures it all out. He went to high school with Woo-jin, and he saw the guy engage in incest with his sister. Dae-su spread the news, and, he finds out, the sister was so mortified she committed suicide. It would seem that Woo-jin has had his revenge on Dae-su, with the imprisonment … and forcing incest upon him. Remember his long-lost daughter? That’s Mi-do.
Kingpin (He’s a very sick man)
At the 2019 Academy Awards, Peter Farrelly won two Oscars for his work on the race relations drama Green Book. Yes, the guy who made some of the grossest and most outrageous comedies of the ’90s — There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber, and Kingpin — owns more Oscars than Martin Scorsese. He’s also made way more bowling comedies than Scorsese. Well, just the one: Kingpin.
Former bowling champion Roy Munsen (Woody Harrelson) is down on his luck. An attempt to hustle amateur bowlers goes poorly, and he loses his hand in a ball return accident. Two decades later, he’s reduced to selling bowling supplies and spends most of his time drinking. All of this leaves him extremely poor, and he has little choice but to bed down with his landlady (Lin Shaye) so she’ll be more forgiving with his perpetually late rent payments.
That’s the uncomfortable setup – an alcoholic has to prostitute himself to not be homeless. There’s an even more unsettling payoff. Roy stages an attack on the landlady (so as to chase the guy off and earn himself some favor), but she finds out about it, and she forces him to make it up to her in the bedroom. Cut to the landlady, presented as elderly and unattractive, lying in bed smoking a cigarette in post-coital bliss while Roy throws up in the adjoining bathroom.
Munich (An odd break from horrible things)
Love scenes can go in all kinds of movies — not just romantic comedies. Sometimes a super serious drama, or even a fun and action-filled romp can be spiced up with a cinematic roll in the hay, right? In general, most audiences are down for some kind of romantic interlude in a movie just to break the tension. Then again, just because a movie can have a love scene doesn’t mean it should.
Case in point: You know what a movie about Israeli assassins sent to avenge the deaths of athletes who were brutally murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Summer Olympics doesn’t need? A love scene. After spending a very long time hunting down terrorists, Avner (Eric Bana) makes whoopie with his wife (Ayelet Zurer), and the action cuts between scenes of their wild ecstasy and violent images of people being gunned down at an airport. True, director Steven Spielberg was probably just trying to be both artful and cathartic with the scene, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable.
Howard the Duck (Pretty ducking weird)
Howard the Duck is a lot of things. It’s the first movie based on a Marvel Comics-created character since Captain America thrilled kids with a black-and-white serial in 1944. It’s also the first bomb of George Lucas’s career. And it’s the only movie, or at least the only mainstream American comedy, to feature a tender embrace between a female rock star (Lea Thompson) and a man-sized, anthropomorphic duck (voiced by Chip Zein). Really, we don’t need to hear how Thompson just can’t resist Howard’s “intense, animal magnetism.” Of course, since this 1986 flick is one of the lowest-grossing movies in Marvel history, it’s probably safe to say we won’t see any human-duck love scenes in the future.