History of Sex in Cinema:
The Greatest and Most Influential
Sexual Films and Scenes



The History of Sex in Cinema
Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description

Benedetta (2021, Fr.)

Legendary Dutch co-writer/director Paul Verhoeven's unrated, provocative biographical drama was loosely adapted from Judith C. Brown's 1986 non-fiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy. Known for his trademark movies with sexually-charged subject matter including Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995), Verhoeven didn't disappoint with this tale of misplaced and forbidden romantic desire exhibiting graphic nudity, sex and the use of a Virgin Mary sex toy-dildo.

The French-language drama also investigated other themes including Catholic Church power politics, male hypocrisy, and religious punishment. Verhoeven's explicit movie was regarded as promoting homosexuality, and as a blasphemous attack on the Catholic faith. Catholic groups protested the film's New York Film Festival premiere in September of 2021, and others complained about its calculated release in Belfast on Good Friday weekend in 2022.

It told about the title character - Benedetta Carlini (Belgian actress Virginie Efira) - a 17th century nun in a Northern Italian Tuscany-area convent in the town of Pescia. The question the film raised about the visionary nun was whether she was actually religiously-blessed with divine miracles, or was she a fraudulent faker that was possessed with insanity?

The film's uncensored poster was illustrated with the white-garbed title character facing forward, with her gown revealing a partial view of her right breast's nipple.

This unrated biopic was reminiscent of many other sensationalized tales of corruption, Sapphic sex, torture and self-abuse in the 'nunsploitation' subgenre. The Golden Age of Nunsploitation was in the 1970s. Earlier and later examples (as a sampling) include:

  • the silent documentary Häxan (1922, Swe./Den.)
  • Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic Black Narcissus (1947, UK)
  • Ken Russell's The Devils (1971)
  • The Transgressor (1974, Jp.) (aka Convent of the Sacred Beast)
  • Jesus Franco's Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977, Germ.)
  • Walerian Borowczyk's Behind Convent Walls (1978, It.)
  • Killer Nun (1979, It.)
  • Pedro Almodóvar's Dark Habits (1983, Sp.)
  • Convent of Sinners (1986, It.)

In the plot set in the early 1600s, Benedetta joined a group of cloistered sisters when she was sold to a Catholic nunnery (the Theatine Convent of the Mother of God) as a young 9 year-old child. From a very early age, Benedetta had already experienced conversing with the Virgin Mary. During a time of pestilence and scourge of the Plague affecting Europe, she was given up or discarded by her father Giuliano Carlini (David Clavel) at the convent as a new "bride" for Jesus, in exchange for 100 gold coins and a lifetime supply of wine and fresh oranges.

In one wild sequence during prayer before going to bed, Benedetta's lips affectionately touched the exposed left breast's nipple of a dislodged, life-sized Virgin Mary statue that fell onto her, but that miraculously didn't injure her. She interpreted it as a "sexualized" miracle and that the Madonna, her spiritual mother, desired her.

Benedetta was constantly watched by the convent's vigilant, cynical, bitchy, ruthless and materialistic head Abbesse Sister Felicita (Charlotte Rampling).

In her 20s, Benedetta began to experience a long series of shocking, nightly hysterical fits, and hallucinatory, supernatural religious visions of Jesus Christ. She considered herself the wife of Jesus during one wild, erotic dream when a bloodied, naked Jesus (Jonathan Couzinié) with a crown of thorns appeared and told her: "You're my wife." During one nocturnal visit, she was miraculously saved by Jesus from CGI cobras.

The tormented Benedetta also experienced vocal changes (including speaking with the voice of a male demon), visionary threats of violence, and nightly orgasmic pain (she uttered Jesus' name after her first painful orgasm).

Benedetta was assigned to share her living space with a new novitiate nun to help calm her bouts of agonizing suffering. Sharing her cell was Bartolomea Crivelli (Daphné Patakia), a young, worldly and earthy peasant girl who had been abused (and raped multiple times) by her violent father and other family members.

Although the cause was disputed, Benedetta was manifesting supernatural signs of stigmata on her hands, wrists and forehead, but were they self-inflicted?

In her private quarters after being promoted to the position of the Abbess, Benedetta soon began a tentative but growing forbidden lesbian love-affair with the not-so-innocent Bartolomea, that was initiated by flirtations between the two during bowel evacuations in side-by-side communal toilets. Some of the other scenes between the two nuns included Benedetta forcing Bartolomea, as punishment, to plunge her hand into a pot of boiling water.

The two - who both had shaved armpits and perfectly groomed pubic hair - also found physical carnal pleasure in lengthy love scenes, highlighted with groping of breasts through a curtain, grinding, fingering, oral sex, masturbation, and penetration with Bartolomea's carved wooden dildo-statuette with its head shaped like the Virgin Mary (hidden inside a Bible).

Bartolomea Crivelli (Daphné Patakia)
Benedetta Carlini (Belgian actress Virginie Efira)

Ultimately, Benedetta was faced with Sister Felicita's allegations of fakery and sexual promiscuity. She was to be investigated for accusations of sexual indiscretions, blasphemy, insanity and demon possession by Florence's corrupt and sinister Le Nonce (Lambert Wilson) - a Nuncio emissary who represented the Pope. (The hypocritical Nonce had impregnated his own servant girl Giulia (Alexia Chadard) who demonstrated by squeezing how her breast was lactating.)

During a formal papal inquiry and interrogation (a kangaroo court) about improper sexual relations, when the Nuncio accused Benedetta of possessing a "whore's touch" - Benedetta replied by asking how he could identify that type of sensation. A sexual torture session strapped Bartolomea spread-eagled on a table, where she was doused with water, and then a metal torture device was inserted between her legs (off-screen) as she screamed. She was forced to testify that Benedetta engaged in "frottage" (mutual masturbation) with her while possessed by the spirit of a male demon known as Splenditello. She also revealed the wooden statue that Benedetta had kept hidden from the Nuncio, that was used for mutual sexual pleasure. Shortly later, Bartolomea was expelled from the convent.

Benedetta was demoted as Abbesse and expelled from the Abbey, imprisoned and tortured to confess, and then sentenced to be burned at the stake by the Catholic male hierarchy. During the chaos, she was rescued from death by Bartolomea, while the incensed mob killed the Nuncio, and Sister Felicita immolated herself.

During Benedetta's rescue, Bartolomea noticed broken shards of pottery at her lover's feet - and realized that Benedetta had manipulatively cut herself (creating stigmatic wounds), in order to stir up the mob and lead to her deliverance. The scourge of disease in Pescia appeared to be curtailed by the death of plague-infected Felicita.

The two fled far from the town of Pescia, and appeared full-frontally nude with each other in an abandoned cave or wooden stable. There, Bartolomea asked for the scheming Benedetta to confess her hypocrisy and admit that she had self-inflicted her recent stigmata wounds.

Their angry confrontation led to an embittered break-up and disillusionment. Benedetta returned to the convent's abbey by herself, where she lived until her death at the age of 70 - according to a title card.

The Film's Controversial Virgin Mary Sex Toy

Sapphic Sex Between Blonde Benedetta and Brunette Bartolomea

Metal Sexual Torture Device Used on Bartolomea to Divulge Information

Rescued Benedetta and Bartolomea Naked in the Countryside

A Savannah Haunting (2021)

In the independent film's opening, a title card (from writer/director William Mark McCullough with his directorial debut feature film) described that the horror film was inspired by real supernatural experiences that happened in "my family's home in Savannah, Georgia." The film was shot in the actual house where "my family" endured the haunting. Following the prologue were real interviews with those who experienced the haunting in their Savannah, GA house - from the producer and the director's sister. William added his thoughts during the closing credits. According to the director and his sister, they both lived in the house as children when it was haunted by ghosts, and also later as adults.

The film's first frightening images, seen as a flashbacked memory, were of a child at night, as she was drowning and vainly crying out for her mother.

The Rancourts - Eric and Rachel

Their 'Haunted House'

In the opening of the Gothic horror-thriller's plot, the family of construction worker Eric Rancourt (Dean J. West) and his troubled wife Rachel (Gena Shaw), with their skeptical teenaged daughter April (Anna Harriette Pittman) and younger son Andrew (Nico Tirozzi), moved from "sunny California" to a cheaply-acquired, large house in a moss-draped, forested area outside of Savannah.

The alleged reason for the move was to have a "fresh start," but for Rachel, it meant escaping the tragic memory of their young daughter Alice's (Jaelyn Buffkin) tragic drowning ("We lost our little girl"), although Rachel appeared to be the only one grieving. April remained fearful and upset about the move, loss of her friends, and her new school, while Eric was often absent from home with his new job responsibilities..

Soon after they arrived, Rachel became involved in the home's decorating and renovations, but also began to hear voices and strange noises emanating within the house. She discovered a box with a large female toy doll, and immediately took it outside to discard it, but shortly later it reappeared in the house - and the same cycle would again repeat itself. Andrew continued to bring the doll back into the home as his new imaginary playmate-companion, although he was ordered not to. Rachel was also experiencing nightmares of a young girl ("Alice") emerging from a southern plantation mansion's front door and screaming, and other similar images of the girl with her brother in the flaming mansion.

Feeling nervous and scared, Rachel set up weekly visits to psychiatrist Dr. Livingston (Bill Winkler). She explained that they actually had twins - Andrew and a daughter named Alice. At 7 years of age, Alice died and "everything changed after she died," according to Rachel. She blamed herself for negligence that led to Alice's drowning.

Two young, local black residents James (Moses Jones), one of Eric's co-workers, and his wife Vanessa (Brittney Level), were invited over to the Rancourt home for dinner. Vanessa described that her heritage was from Africa at a time of the slave trade, and how her grandmother, Josephine Williams (Simbi Kali) was obsessed with ancient voodoo magic. She was a "priestess" with the "shine" who could "see into the spirit world." She also delved into the occult, and the South's past slave history in the area. During the visit at the dinner table, Andrew experienced a nose-bleed. Vanessa felt that the home was haunted with negative energy, and warned Eric as they left: "Stay out of the basement. There is a darkness there, I can feel it." She also told James as they drove away: "I don't want to come back here."

Another of Rachel's nightmares was of two children sitting in an ancient southern mansion's home that caught on fire. She also woke up in a fright when she heard a young girl's voice warn: "Rachel, wake up. Bad things happen when you sleep."

Both Eric and April were confronted by an overly-friendly neighbor - teenaged, blonde, voluptuous Southern belle Lilath (Tommi Rose). Lilath first approached toward April as she sat next to her home's pool, and seductively removed April's shirt, whispered in her ear, and kissed her on the lips. Later, the two entered into a sudden and passionate lesbian-tinged love affair, including April's breast-fondling of Lilath. They also met together numerous times, sometimes slept together, and one day explored the woods behind the house and a cemetery (where family members and the slaves were buried). Lilath reacted: "It makes me wet....I've always wanted to f--k in a cemetery," and inappropriately tried to force herself upon April.

April with Lilath (Tommi Rose)

The day after dinner with Eric and Rachel, Vanessa warned Eric about what her grandmother had told her about their new home - it was built over the foundation of an old white, southern plantation mansion that burned to the ground during the Civil War. Slaves that had worked at that plantation told stories of "unspeakable things" that occurred to them in the mansion's basement. The slaves revolted, locked the slave owners in the basement, and then burned down the house. She warned the Rancourts: "There are very evil forces at work in your home. You and your family are not safe." Her premonition came true - one night, Andrew had to be rescued from drowning in the pool.

Rachel began to feel uneasy in the house: "Things don't feel right in this house...it doesn't feel safe." It was theorized by the still-grieving wife Rachel that the various phenomena that she felt were the result of haunting by her dead daughter Alice: ("I think I'm being haunted by Alice"). She kept imagining the burnt, reappearing doll as her daughter. Her therapist suggested that Rachel set up a room that was similar to Alice's previous bedroom - as "a memorial to her life."

Meanwhile, Vanessa's grandmother Josephine visited with Rachel and was adamant: "I fear for your safety and your family's safety." She described the sordid history of the property - "a dangerous other-worldly history." She mentioned voodoo, magic and demons. In the past, the same property (land and home) was the site of a slave-owning Southern plantation. The slaves told about rumors of what was under the mansion - "The abyss, Gehenna, perdition, the pit" - in other words, Hell. She went further: "There are breeches in the walls of Hell. One of them lies beneath this house." The entryway was located in the basement, allowing vengeful demons to infiltrate and take over. Just before the Rancourts moved in, another family had lived in the partially-refinished house for a short while, but vacated before any harm was done to them.

Demonic forces possessed the owners 150 years ago, and caused them to torture and kill their slaves: "The fallen ones drove them to commit unspeakable horrors against their slaves down in that basement. That white family thought it would appease them. It didn't work. Never does....They'll change you too unless you get out while you still can....Whatever you do, stay out of that basement." Rachel ordered Josephine out of the house, to never return again and scare her children.

On her own, Rachel began to prepare a separate upstairs bedroom for Alice, and unpacked some of Alice's things. Lilath's father William (William Mark McCullough, the director), first seen as a local ultra-racist stranger who helped Rachel with car trouble, arrived at the front door, falsely claiming he was hired by Eric to help dry-wall and paint the spare bedroom. There were continued hauntings of Rachel by her deceased daughter, visualized as the daughter of the plantation and slave-owning family from the past. In the middle of the night, Rachel entered the finished room and seated in a rocking chair, she sang lullabys-songs to the partially-burnt toy doll draped across her lap - in her eyes, she imagined the doll to be her deceased daughter Alice. Later, she thought she was saving Alice from drowning in a park's pond after seeing Alice pushed into the water by Andrew, but it was all in her mind.

The sexy beauty Lilath was also temptingly topless to Eric in a scene at the home's swimming pool - the film's sexiest and most gratuitous sequence. When the other family members were away for the day, Lilath came onto Eric: "I've been waitin' for you to be alone so I could introduce myself." Although he objected to her presence, she kissed him. And then she quizzically asked: "Are you really not going to f--k me?", but he remained resolute and ordered her to leave: ("This is wrong, please just go").

Shortly later, Lilath reminded Eric of their encounter by sending a text message and picture of them kissing in the pool, and harrassed him with a phone call that threatened blackmail.

Worried about the Rancourts, Vanessa visited with Eric and again warned him of "sinister" and "dangerous" forces in the basement. She revealed that the previous owners of the house left before finishing renovations, due to the loss of their daughter in a pool drowning.

Unexpectedly, Rachel told Dr. Livingston that she no longer needed therapy session appointments, since she was now calmed after finishing the redecorated room for Alice. Actually, she had become completely possessed by the forces in the home. In the middle of the night, Eric found Rachel standing over Andrew's bed with a knife in her hand.

Worried about his wife, Eric visited with Dr. Livingston, and to his utter surprise learned about Rachel's completely false claim that they had twins - Andrew and a daughter named Alice. Eric was bewildered: "Who the f--k is Alice?" When Eric returned home, he found his completely insane wife Rachel rocking the toy "Alice" doll. Once the demons-ghosts were able to take over and corrupt Rachel's mind after the family remained in the house far too long, she had become homicidal and crazed.

Eric entered a visionary portal to the 1800s, when the property was a Southern plantation home. William, the mansion's owner in the 19th century, who was dressed in Southern finery, greeted all the other 'ghosts', and congratulated his daughter Lilath for her hard work in protecting the home from carpetbaggers and interlopers. Eric was regarded by William as an outsider and trespasser, and despised as a "nigger-lover" for inviting James and Vanessa to dinner. They had been vengefully seeking to destroy the Rancourt family.

After being confronted, Eric continued to explore, and entered a trap-door in the spare bedroom's closet that led to the 'basement' - a dark, brick-walled torture chamber. There, he encountered a zombified, threatening Lilath covered in blood and Alice locked in a wooden box. She spoke: "Mommy's so fragile, you shouldn't do bad things behind her back."

Bloodied, Zombified Lilath

'Alice' - Rachel's Non-Existent Daughter

Burnt-faced 'Alice' Doll

Eric fled back into the house, where he was confronted in the hallway by the re-animated 'Alice' doll, before William threw a rope around Eric's neck to restrain him and prepare for a lynching ("It's time to pay for what you've done"). Eric was dragged across the bedroom's floor and back down into the 'basement.' The next image was of Rachel with Lilath - wearing 'Alice's' night-garment.

Flash-forward to a year later - the catatonic, and homicidal maniac Rachel was incarcerated in a psychiatric prison-ward, and was suspected of hiding the murdered bodies of her family members in the 'basement.' In the end, Rachel (through ghostly possession) had killed Eric, April, and Andrew.

The Doll That Represented Dead Daughter Alice for Rachel

Rachel's Haunted Nightmares of Alice - The Ghost of Her Dead Daughter?

View of Young Girl in the House as Rachel Passed By

Another of Rachel's Nightmares

The Creepy Toy Doll - A Symbol of The Dead "Alice"?

Old Picture of the Doll in the Plantation Mansion

Portrait of Alice Found by Rachel

Vanessa's Grandmother Josephine - With Fears About the Haunted House

Lilath Confronting and Kissing Eric at Swimming Pool

Rachel Rocking Burnt 'Alice' Doll in Her Lap

Eric's Discovery of The Completely-Insane Rachel With the Doll

Lilath and Her Father William as Demonic "Ghosts"

Lilath (Dressed as 'Alice') with Rachel

Catatonic, Crazed and Instititionalized Rachel

Sex in Cinematic History
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985-1 | 1985-2 | 1986-1 | 1986-2 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022

Index to All Decades, Years and Features

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