When it comes to movies, horror flicks have certainly been keen to exploit the connection between sex and violence. Often, it’s to raise the stakes as it leaves the characters vulnerable, and you’re never more vulnerable than when you’re naked. Other times, it’s more visceral. When the killer blow from the crazy stalker comes, the often totally naked person has literally no protection, which makes the audience squirm in their seats. Few things leave a psyche more disturbed than a sexualized form being torn apart.
Then, there are the horror flicks that overdo the nudity to the degree that the whole movie is more about the flesh than the flesh-rending, or indeed the story itself. Here are some movies that have gone down in history more for the gratuitous nudity than for the horror. In some cases, this was intentional. In others, it was simply a miscalculation on the part of the film makers.
Here’s 15 Horror Movies Watched For Their Skin More Than Their Scares.
15. The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man has been referred to as the Citizen Kane of horror movies, so its inclusion on this list is in no way a slight against its quality or its place in history. Quality direction from Robin Hardy and stand out performances from Edward Woodward as a devout Christian policeman and the ever-creepy Christopher Lee as a paganist make The Wicker Man a truly great film. But while The Wicker Man is genuinely scary, it’s more famous for its depiction of sex and, in particular, for the nudity of Britt Ekland and her body double. In fact, according to Britt Ekland herself, she was furious that the directors used a body double without her knowledge. She claimed the double was out of shape and it harmed her career for people to think she looked that way.
It isn’t just the infamous body double either, there are many scenes of pagan fornication in public that proved shocking for 1970’s audiences. While the movie culminated in the burning of the eponymous Wicker Man with Edward Woodward inside, the movie remains easily as famous for the nude scenes.
14. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Cannibal Holocaust is too sickening for some audiences. In fact, the director, Ruggero Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges as it was believed that he had created a snuff movie. The scenes of brutality were shot with such a visceral quality that people genuinely believed that the ‘found footage’ style of the movie was in fact, a real documentary with actual people being killed on screen. It was only when the director could prove the use of visual effects that charges were dropped.
It’s not just the violence that makes Cannibal Holocaust so memorable over three decades since its release. There’s a huge amount of nudity too. Largely shot on location in the Amazon, the movie features both actors and actresses in the buff as well as many local tribespeople who were used as extras.
Supporters of the movie praise it as a form of modern social commentary. Critics point out the hypocrisy of a movie that exploits the natives of the Amazon, yet criticizes the same exploitation by the western world.
13. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
From the very first scene, My Bloody Valentine is determined to arouse, and then shock, the audience with both violence and nudity. Said scene features two female miners, one of whom performs a strip-tease. While naked, she is impaled with a mining pick, setting the tone for the rest of the movie.
Like many slasher-horror flicks of the ‘70s and ’80s, nudity is used as a way of making a person seem far more vulnerable than usual. It’s also done for purely gratuitous reasons. Sex sells, and if you’re getting an R rating for the gore and violence, you may as well get some nudity on-screen to help the gross.
While My Bloody Valentine is remembered for the nudity as much as for the horror, it is one of the defining moments of the slasher gene. Quentin Tarantino listed it as one of his favourite slasher flicks and it remains a top choice when people list their guilty pleasures.
12. Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)
Lesbian Vampire Killers was an attempt by the British film industry to re-create the tone of the Hammer Horror movies. It missed its mark badly! The so-called Lesbian Vampire trope of vampire movies of the 20th century refers to the powerful female vampires often seducing young virgins and then feasting upon them to remain youthful. Unfortunately, this movie takes any subtlety and throws it out the window and sets out to show as much female nudity as possible, with only a hint of storyline holding the whole thing together.
It’s indicative of the ‘Lads Mag’ culture in the UK at the time, lots of cheap puns and bare breasts, with little to no sophistication. It’s a shame, too, as the lead is none other than James Corden. Having several critically-acclaimed seasons of a hit UK show behind him, he was destined for big things. Fortunately for him, this embarrassing road bump in his career didn’t stop him becoming the host of The Late Late Show.
11. Breeders (1986)
Almost falling into the “It’s so bad it’s good” family of movies, Breeders remains pretty bad. The premise, actually, is quite good: when young women begin to go missing, the police assume a serial criminal is kidnapping and possibly murdering them. In time, they discover that an alien is kidnapping them and using them to procreate. It’s not dissimilar to Species, or even Alien, in that regard.
It’s the execution that lets it down however. While very, very ‘80s, the effects look cheap and the production values for the most basic scenes look like a college production at best. There’s a few gross moments, but few that are shot with enough skill to be genuinely scary. There’s lots of nudity throughout the movie, and none of it even comes close to being integral to the story. The scene towards the end where numerous women are bathing in what looks like the same slime they used in Ghostbusters is supposed to be sexy, but falls far short.
10.The Demoniacs (1974)
The Demoniacs tells the story of two young women who are raped and killed by a group of shipwrecked sailors. They return to life after making a deal with the devil and seek a bloody retribution. It’s a classic revenge story, with a demonic twist. It’s also jam packed with nudity, which unfortunately distracts from the story instead of enhancing it.
In terms of horror tropes, The Demoniacs has everything. It’s got revenge, brutality, the devil – it even has a clown! A clown, people! The scariest thing there is! This movie went all out to be a scary piece of cinema. Unfortunately, the plot begins to lose cohesion halfway though. The shipwreckers use rape as a weapon, but also use a brothel, somewhat confusing the message of the movie. Between that and that damned clown, the plot falls apart and all the audience is left with is an awful lot of nudity.
9. Carrie (1976)
Probably one of the more famous entries on this list and one that was a success in its era, as well as a cult classic in the years since, Carrie is an excellent example of the genre. The quiet and shy girl, dominated by her overbearing and abusive mother, represses her feelings until they emerge as devastating telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers. Director Brian DePalma never quite matched this movie despite putting out several other hits for many years after. The same can be said of Sissy Spacek, who captured the three sides of Carrie: the wallflower, the prom queen, and the demonic killer, so perfectly. It’s a shame she never had such a well-written role again.
But, for all the strength in the direction and the performances, it’s still the nudity that gets talked about. A hit on VHS home video, Carrie was a chance for teenage boys to see breasts well over a decade before the internet made life easier for them.
8. Nude For Satan (1974)
It’s right there in the title: Nude For Satan has, you guessed it, plenty of nudity. Generally speaking, if a movie title has the word “nude” in it, it’s an attention grab but rarely contains nudity. This is the exception to the rule.
The plot is generic 1970s horror: a man stops by a remote castle looking for medical help for his companion, a woman he saved from a car crash, but comes across beings which resemble dark reflections of him and his companion. If not for the nudity, which begins in the very first scene, the movie would be almost instantly forgettable. There actually exists an unrated cut, which is somehow far more explicit.
While the lack of plot isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, it can work if the movie is well shot. With a few tweaks, Nude For Satan could have been a high point for Italian cinema in the ‘70s. As it is, it’s just a hell of a lot of bare breasts.
7. American Psycho (2000)
Generally not considered a horror, American Psycho meets all the requirements of a horror movie and could therefore be regarded as one. It’s also a socio-political commentary, a black comedy, and a deeply chilling movie you really don’t want to watch with your folks. Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman is absolutely terrifying. His obsession with physical perfection not only extends to himself and his insanely hardened abs, but towards his victims also.
The sex scenes do tend to overshadow the rest of the movie. They are incredibly graphic in the novel the movie is based on, and lose little in translation. They are deeply uncomfortable to watch and are framed, deliberately, to look like pornography, making them feel even more cheap and depraved. Bale brings an animalistic quality to the movie that makes both the sex and the violence seem equally unpleasant.
Between the depraved sex scenes and the chainsaw and torture scenes, American Psycho is a full-tilt horror movie. Even if it doesn’t seem like one at times. Despite all this, many people remember the nudity over the rest.
6. Friday The 13th (2009)
Considering the arc of the Friday the 13th movies are essentially the definitive slasher flicks, you’d be forgiven for expecting more nudity in them. The franchise is very light on the nudity side, especially compared to the other horror movies of their time.
Then came the 2009 remake. Begging for an audience looking for nostalgia from the original film series, but also trying to cater to 15-year-old boys, the movie made the most of showing the female form at every opportunity. There’s one notable sex scene that is remembered above all others for its terrible verbal exchange which we won’t repeat here. Rest assured, it’s one of the worst written scenes in cinema history and that’s saying a lot.
Given that most people forget the remake even happened besides the infamous sex scene, it’s only worth mentioning as an example of a remake that really didn’t need to happen and one with more nudity than it, or the audience, needed.
5. Embrace Of The Vampire (1995)
Back in the days before Miley Cyrus was going to great lengths to shake off her child-star image, Alyssa Milano was doing the same thing by being as outrageous as possible. Instead of twerking, she opted to make Embrace Of The Vampire. Loaded with nudity, it ws her attempt to shake off her good girl image whilst also showing she could handle roles with a little more bite.
Embrace Of The Vampire was what Twilight would have been if it had been made in the ‘90s. The boring young girl falls for the dangerous vampire. But here the vampire isn’t the glittery Robert Pattinson, but the middle-aged former pop star Martin Kemp. The production values are almost non-existent, with only Kemp’s then-undiagnosed brain tumour giving him an undead look. (He had a lifesaving operation shortly afterward)
Embrace Of The Vampire has, like others on this list, an uncut version which is even more explicit. It borders on the obscene in places, but remains something of a talking point among fans of the genre. There was a remake in 2013, but it was largely ignored.
4. Don’t Look Now (1973)
Based on the Daphne Du Maurier story, Don’t look Now has an impressive cast, including Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, and is a fine addition to the horror genre. Which makes it a shame that people tend to remember the nude scenes over the story and performances.
The plot revolves around John and Laura Baxter who are on vacation in Venice shortly after the death of their daughter who drowned. They meet a psychic who says she can sense their daughter’s presence. The couple dismiss her, but John begins to experience visions of his daughter too, leading up to the main story of the movie.
Don’t Look Now is a forgotten classic of the ‘70s. While it has a generic plot, it does manage to make the most of it and does contain some amazing scenes. The most famous scene, and sadly the one that makes it more famous for the nudity over its other attributes, is both explicit and clever. The sex scene between the leads is intercut between them making love and also undressing. Steven Soderberg did the same thing with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out Of Sight, albeit with more implied and less actually seen.
3. Piranha 3D (2010) and Piranha 3DD (2012)
Piranha 3D, the first entry is an unashamed B-movie and makes the most of its fun and frankly quite silly premise. Prehistoric piranhas have hidden away in an underground lake, resorting to cannibalism to survive. An earthquake sets them free and after a few grizzly encounters, they happen across hundreds of scantily-clad teenagers enjoying spring break. It has numerous nods to Jaws, not least of which is a Richard Dreyfuss cameo. It also adds numerous horror tropes and makes you feel instantly comfortable and at ease with the expectations of the genre.
While the first movie has a lot of fun moments – even the gore is tongue in cheek in many places – it does actually have something of a plot. You care about the characters enough that their deaths have some meaning to you, albeit not so much that you end up traumatised or anything. Elizabeth Shue seems unaware she’s in a B movie, and puts in a solid performance. Oddly, it kind of works and adds something special to the movie as she serves as an emotional anchor for the audience.
The sequel takes all the fun moments and flushes them down the toilet. It goes for more nudity, more gore, less fun. Shue wisely didn’t return for this one.
2. Species (1995)
Species was the ‘90s equivalent to Alien. The themes of awkward sexuality, alien/human offspring, even the creature was designed by HR Geiger. Sadly, it didn’t match Alien in terms of its originality, cultural impact, or overall quality.
Instead of the face-rape that was the Alien facehugger, Species gives us a femme fatale in for form of the impossibly-perfect looking Natasha Henstridge who happens to be able to turn into an unstoppable killing machine at will, is superhumanly strong, can avoid electronic detection, and learns at a geometric rate. Her biological imperative forces her to seek out a mate, so she goes to Los Angeles to find a willing male in order to produce an army to conquer the planet.
She finds it inexplicably hard to mate in LA, but eventually does so with Alfred Molina before brutally killing him. It’s too ‘90s for its own good, but not terrible. The entire series (she gets cloned because mankind demanded sequels) goes downhill and eventually straight-to-dvd, and is defined by its nudity. It’s a shame, as it’s one sci-fi franchise that aimed for the stars, and didn’t make it out of the valley.
1. Antichrist (2009)
Antichrist is typical of Lars Von Trier, in that it features heavy use of scenes that would be off-limits to almost any other director. It’s experimental, graphic, and in many scenes, uncomfortable. The violence almost looks too real, as does the sex albeit not to quite the degree seen in Nymphomaniac which is the cinematic equivalent of having a prostate exam in public. The sex scenes themselves some of which featured body doubles having unsimulated sex, somehow avoiding being classed as pornography. There’s something truly unsettling about seeing the act of sex being interrupted in such a brutal and unflinching manner. It’s just this side of obscene, but it’s a very fine line.
While Antichrist has some genuinely horrific moments, like many of Lars Von Trier’s movies it is remembered as much for the nudity as for anything else. Lars Von Trier is an exceptionally gifted filmmaker, but his films are, sadly, often remembered for their notoriety and their graphic content more than for their artistic merit. But maybe that’s the point.