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The most awkward on-screen love scenes in movies

Going to the 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?"

Watchmen - Superhero sexy time

Second only to that blue naked guy, the weirdest thing in Watchmen just might be the big sex scene. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) join forces for some dirty superhero action. It's celebratory sex after an evening of crime-fighting (and coming right after an unsuccessful tryst where a nervous Nite Owl couldn't, uh, perform his superhero duties). But really, it's about two people who have to put on superhero costumes and beat bad guys to get in the mood. What's really weird is that Nite Owl and Silk Spectre make love in Nite Owl's "Owlship" vehicle to the strains of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," a song that's more sad than sexy. Critic Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times called the scene "off-putting," and we have to agree.

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.

Requiem for a Dream - Did that really just happen?

The uncomfortable scene in question here occurs at the end of Requiem for a Dream, when each of the main characters are deep in the worst chapter of addiction. We're literally witnessing their rock bottoms. Jennifer Connelly plays Marion, a heroin addict who resorts to selling her body for the drug when she is recruited into doing a "show" for a bunch of demonic, salivating men who jeer and throw money on her and another woman during the performance. It's not so much a love scene as a horrifically graphic act that occurs amid a swirling, brilliantly edited sequence that not only weaves together the awful predicaments that each character has found themselves in, but also imparts their panic and despair onto the audience through the effective, if not jarring use of shock value.

Observe and Report - Stops being funny

Almost any love scene in a comedy could make this list—MacGruber, American Pie, Knocked Up—because love scenes in comedies are specifically played for awkward laughs, but Observe and Report isn't a standard comedy. It's dark, twisted humor from the creator of Eastbound & Down, so when Seth Rogen finally lands his dream girl, Anna Faris, their love scene strays directly into seedy territory. They try to recover the scene with a joke, as the passed-out Faris with whom Rogen is getting it on half wakes up and says "Why are you stopping?" but at that point the date rapey vibe becomes too much. That's a gross exploitation of a terrible situation. Not to mention just watching a sweaty Seth Rogen fumble his way through love-making with any beautiful actress is tough to watch. It even makes you empathize with Katherine Heigl, and that's no easy task.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin - Too much, too fast

The 40-Year-Old Virgin consists almost entirely of one uncomfortable scene after another. It's about a bunch of boorish dudes who work at an electronics store and decide to help their nerdy colleague Andy (Steve Carell) nail down his first intimate experience. They give him a lot of ill-advised advice, and Andy embarks on several disastrous dates, all while slowly falling in sweet love with a single mother and small business owner named Trish (Catherine Keener). 

Andy gradually prepares to take things to a physical level, but his friends push him to pick up the pace. At a club one night, he runs into Beth (Elizabeth Banks), a lady he'd previously practiced flirting with, and she takes him home. She aggressively attempts to seduce Andy, whipping him with his belt and biting him on the lip. Finally, before he can have a bad first time (and cheat on Trish), his friends show up to bail him out. That's good, because the guy has been rocking a distant, traumatized stare since Beth got him into her bedroom.

Showgirls - Is this a love scene or a bull ride?

Showgirls came on the heels of director Paul Verhoeven's manic run of RoboCop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct, so he was probably looking for that same kind of visceral reaction when he took on the world of nude dancers in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, he produced a campy melodrama that would have been more at home on Lifetime if it weren't for the graphic sex, most specifically the now infamous pool scene. In it, Elizabeth Berkley writhes around on top of Kyle MacLachlan like someone just threw a toaster in next to them. If you can wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes in time, you can literally see the confusion on his face as he had to be thinking "What is she doing?! Oh well, at least I know they'll never use this take."

MacGruber - Not ready to give up the ghost

MacGruber began as a recurring Saturday Night Live bit, an obvious parody of the 1985-1992 action show MacGyver. In that show, Richard Dean Anderson starred as a genius who could save the day by making life-saving inventions out of household materials — those being the exact words of the "MacGruber" sketch's theme song. In every installment, MacGruber (Will Forte), alongside assistants Casey (Maya Rudolph) or Vicki (Kristen Wiig), would try to get out of a locked room with a ticking bomb, using only whatever was lying around … and he'd inevitably fail. 

Forte and collaborators John Solomon and Jorma Taccone needed to flesh that out for a full-length movie, and so made MacGruber a parody of over-the-top '80s action movies. Amid all the explosions and lone-wolf theatrics, those films always included a steamy love scene. So does MacGruber. As Mr. Mister's power ballad "Broken Wings" plays, MacGruber begins to make sweet love to his wife, Casey, in her wedding gown. Then things get hilariously weird and dark. The music falls away, and viewers see a bare-buttocked MacGruber grunting away atop his white-lace-covered lady … in a graveyard, while a groundskeeper watches. But wait … Casey died earlier in the movie, and MacGruber re-establishes that fact with a cut back to MacGruber, now standing nude in a graveyard at night, moaning and talking dirty as he does his thing to a ghost that no one else can see.

Kickboxing Academy - Sibling revelry

Kickboxing Academy has a title so hilariously '90s that it couldn't possibly be a real movie. It is, although this 1997 B-movie was also released under the far more boring (if accurate) title Teen Boxer. The plot concerns, of course, kickboxing and the day-to-day activities at a kickboxing academy. (It's right in the title!) Ultimately, the kickboxing kids have to square off against the kickboxing kids from another martial arts school. 

Among those kickboxing kids are a couple of fresh-faced teens named Cindy and Danny, played by Chyler Leigh (years before she starred in Not Another Teen Movie and on Grey's Anatomy) and Christopher Khayman Lee (from multiple Power Rangers series). Fun fact: In real life, Leigh and Lee are brother and sister. Not so fun fact: Their characters are romantically involved. And the cruel director didn't think it was at all weird to shoot and then include multiple scenes in which Cindy and Danny get their smooch on.

Splice - Boy meets girl/animal genetic experiment entity

The 2009 science-fiction/horror movie Splice raises a lot of questions about the moral implications and personal ramifications of science, particularly the rapidly evolving discipline of genetic engineering. While working at a scientific facility called Nucleic Exchange Research and Development (or N.E.R.D.), genetic engineers Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) secretly develop a viable creature, mixing human DNA with genetic materials from animals. 

The being that results grows from child to young woman very quickly, and Elsa names her Dren (N.E.R.D. backward). Clive, meanwhile, clearly finds Dren (Delphine Chanéac) beautiful, although she's more animal than human with her giant eyes, long tail, and feet that look like hands. It's obvious the movie is going to build to some kind of intimate act between Clive and Dren, but it doesn't make it any less weird when it happens. And it does happen, in a barn where Dren has been locked up, no less. It's like he's getting down with his coworker and his pet all at once.

Last Tango in Paris - Disturbing and nonconsensual

Most movie love scenes feature actors awkwardly playing pretend, but in 1972's Last Tango in Paris, what audiences witnessed was more of a filmed assault. This sex-laden drama boasts an infamous scene where Marlon Brando's character uses a stick of butter as lubricant before having his way with Maria Schneider's character. As you might've guessed, Schneider didn't sign up for this. Sure, the scene was in the script, but the addition of butter was a last-minute idea suggested by Brando to director Bernardo Bertolucci, who thought it was a nice touch to add to the character's degradation. In 2007, Schneider said that filming the scene made her feel "humiliated" and "a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci."

The Spectacular Now - Way too realistic

With Miles Teller at his Miles Teller-est and Shailene Woodley at her perfect everygirl-ness, The Spectacular Now is generally regarded as about as sincere as a teen love story gets. The problem was that the filmmakers took that sincerity right into the bedroom for the pair's first time—and never before has four minutes of cinema felt like such an eternity. The giggling, the nervousness, the physicality of the scene—everything is so innocent and real that it makes you feel like you shouldn't be witnessing such a personal moment. Don't get us wrong, it's a totally sweet and endearing film, and you'll probably cry and laugh at this movie. But ask yourself this: if you could go back and watch your first time, would you?

Breaking Dawn: Part I - Too tough to film

One of the benefits of a book over a movie is that the responsibility of bringing magical scenes to life is placed on the reader. Authors can describe things with as much detail as they like, but even if they just convey a feeling or a sensibility, it's mission accomplished. A filmmaker, on the other hand, has to actually show things in a realistic way, and the actors have to convincingly portray a scene that just might not be realistic for their characters or, you know, reality.

For Breaking Dawn: Part I, the filmmakers ran into trouble with the long-awaited moment of sexual congress between the so-in-love-it-hurts Bella (human girl) and Edward (vampire boy). Kristen Stewart, as Bella, realized it was a foolhardy mission. As laid out in Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn novel, the sex scene "had to be transcendent and otherworldly, inhuman, better sex than you can possibly ever imagine," causing an understandably frustrated Stewart to ask, "How do we live up to that?" As a result, the actress describes filming the scene with Robert Pattinson as "agony," even though he was her real-life boyfriend at the time.

Fifty Shades of Grey - Hilariously bad in every way

Few films have received the level of critical derision and simultaneous fan acclaim suffered by Fifty Shades of Grey. That's because the only people who like the movie are also fans of the laughable novels. Their publisher put sentences like "Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves" into print, and asked people to pay money for it. So, it's no surprise that the film's director created the same corny, heavy-handed, implausible romance that sees Anastasia, the mousy virgin, transformed into a kinky submissive at the hands of Christian, a man who would definitely be considered a creepy predator if he weren't a billionaire.

Each love scene escalates further into ridiculousness to the point where the climax of the film occurs when Anastasia freaks out after Christian spanks her too hard. This happens in his "play room," which looks like it was teleported from the Tower of London and features hooks, whips, chains, and all other manner of medieval-looking torture devices that Anastasia seemingly has no issue with. But seriously, Christian, take it easy on the spanking, would ya?

Avatar - Love is blue

James Cameron's CGI world of Avatar was so different, so alien, that even the act of physical intimacy was something to behold. Of course, that doesn't take into consideration whether or not it was something anyone actually wanted to behold. Here's the main thing: on the planet Pandora, making love is basically just plug and play. Thanks to his Na'vi avatar, human Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) can get busy with actual Na'vi female Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Of course, that means connecting the tendrils on the ends of their braids to fully experience one another in the most intimate of ways. And let's not forget, this all goes down in a purple jellyfish forest.

That's not the worst part about all this. No, the worst part is that audiences were so enamored with the planet of Pandora and all the Na'vi's ponytail-linking love that many people actually reported feeling depressed that they couldn't live in the world of Avatar in real life. 

Gigli - "It's turkey time. Gobble gobble."

Just in case that line of dialogue up there—which is a direct quote of the pillow talk from this movie—wasn't a strong enough indicator of how awful Gigli is, here's another piece of info to solidify that framework: Martin Brest, the director, never made another film after Gigli. Now, onto the dreadful love scenes. According to IMDb, the studio forced Brest to turn what originally was a mob movie into a rom-com to "cash in on the relationship between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez." So, our only explanation for the resulting love scenes has to be that they were a vindictive parting shot by a director already set on leaving the business. We imagine his direction was something like, "Show the world exactly what it's like in Bennifer's real bedroom." Then he probably went back to his trailer and drank until he passed out while Ben Affleck delivered a nauseatingly realistic depiction of the faces he makes in the throes of passion. Only your partners, the bedroom ceiling, and maybe Matt Damon should have ever seen that, Ben. Yuck.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.