It takes a lot of trust to film a sex scene, it’s an experience widely lauded by actors to be one of the most awkward. In both the real world and the fake, sexuality has the ability to provoke reactions out of just about anyone. Directors have a powerful opportunity to choose which scenes stand out amongst all the rest, but some of them just make us feel really, really awkward.
In honor of that feeling, here is our list of the 10 Most Painfully Awkward Sex Scenes in Movies.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
Steve Carell is no stranger when it comes to the world of awkward, making a name for himself as Michael Scott from The Office, the most awkward character on television. His ability to make you squirm and feel bad for him all at the same time translates beautifully onto the big screen in this train wreck of a sex scene from 2005’s The 40 Year Old Virgin. Perhaps because of how excited he is at the prospect of knocking boots, a young Carell neglects to mention to his date that he is insanely ticklish, and she finds out the hard way, culminating in an encounter that scars his character for life, leaving him a virgin until the age of 40. Needless to say, she isn’t too happy about her broken nose and goes on to berate him, crushing his self-esteem in the process. Reminding us all how embarrassing it can be to hook up with someone for the first time, The 40 Year Old Virgin is a warning to us all about the importance of communication.
Not even perfect lighting can disguise the lack of chemistry between Malin Ackerman and Patrick Wilson in this sex scene from 2009’s Watchmen. As Leonard Cohen’s powerful “Hallelujah” echoes overhead, it becomes painfully obvious how mismatched the actors’ performances are as they flounder about the control room, completely misaligned. Wilson seems genuinely shocked, while Ackerman plays up the other end of the spectrum. Over-acted and over-polished, this is a sequence that doesn’t know it’s awkward. Opening in more theatres around the world than any other R rated movie at the time, it’s safe to say that lots of people suffered through this spectacle. The silver lining here is that the characters were able to make it a safe distance from the ground before triggering an explosion – someone would have gotten hurt otherwise.
Filmed after their very public real-life breakup, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake turn up the awkward for this offering from 2011’s Bad Teacher. After spending months seducing the hunky new teacher away from a rival at school, Diaz’s character ‘Elizabeth Halsey’ finally gets her chance in bed with Timberlake’s ‘Scott Delacorte.’ The tryst quickly goes downhill as Diaz realizes this might not be the night of her dreams. During the awkward frenzy, she alternates between confusion an boredom, rolling her eyes all the while. To make matters worse – Scott’s girlfriend hears the whole thing, leading her to believe the affair was a lot sexier than it actually was. Thankfully for Diaz and the audience, it’s over almost as quickly as it began, but not before Scott places one last kiss on her forehead, much to her disgust. This scene is proof: beautiful people don’t always have beautiful sex.
Assuming the film would automatically be released with a rating of NC-17 due to its subject matter, director Jorma Taccone didn’t hold back when it came to this scene from the Saturday Night Live spinoff, MacGruber (pronunciation…debatable). Starting off innocently enough, the sequence gets progressively weirder with every passing second. When the music abruptly stops, the scene becomes stripped of its modesty and reveals the painfully awkward reality of what’s going on. As hilarious as it is unpleasant, the dialogue is purposefully horrible and SNL alumni Will Forte and Kristin Wiig deliver it flawlessly. Filmed on Wiig’s birthday, her body language may come across as an artistic choice, but is actually only meant to avoid the real-life sweat cascading off the face of her co-star. Happy birthday, Kristin.
One of the most traumatic things that can happen as a kid is to walk in on your parents gettin’ down; 2008’s Stepbrothers takes that scenario just a little bit further. During Christmas dinner, John C. Reilly and Kathryn Hahn sneak away for a quickie – relocating to the living room, they begin their secret meeting. Things quickly spiral out of control when the couple fall through a door into the dining room, and find themselves front and center during the family’s Christmas celebration. Twice. Between Hahn’s rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and Reilly’s makeshift alibis, their behavior hardly registers as suspicious. In fact, Hahn’s husband even requests that his wife grab him a beer while she’s up. The audience sits in a state of perpetual anxiety with the thought that the lovers could be caught at any second, making this scene equally compelling and horrifying.
Team America World Police
Despite being offered a sequel, because of the painstaking effort involved in making the 2004 comedy hit Team America: World Police, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker vowed to never work with puppets again, but not before creating one of the most surprising and memorable sex scenes of all time. Stone and Parker set out to choreograph a display so over-the-top that it would distract the Motion Picture Association of America, the body responsible for assigning movies their ratings, from the other content in the film. Requiring nine edits, a version of the original scene was included in the theatrical release, with the full and uncut scene available in the Unrated version at the insistence of Matt Stone. Perhaps assuming that all puppet movies are kid-friendly, Team America was mistakenly touted as a movie for all ages in some parts of Europe, presumably before anyone there actually watched it.
A coming-of-age story focused around getting it on, American Pie illuminates the insecurities and misconceptions young people deal with when it comes to sex. When one of his so-called “experienced” friends equates the opposite sex to apple pie, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) is determined to do some kitchen research. It doesn’t take long for the scene to get majorly awkward – the music alone is enough to make audiences want to jump out of their skin. Jim is caught with his pants down, literally and figuratively, when his Dad returns to their suburban home to find him straddling the decimated dessert. This scene cemented American Pie as one of the raunchiest comedies of the 90’s, a designation that still holds up today.
A Night at the Roxbury
Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell literally and metaphorically get down to business in this entry from 1998’s A Night at the Roxbury. Notorious for their ability to make audiences feel painfully awkward, these two don’t disappoint. After gaining major exposure on Saturday Night Live, the hilarious life of brothers Steve and Doug Butabi were expanded into an endlessly-quotable full-length feature film. Part of the viewers pain comes from Shannon’s character so obviously using her sexuality to manipulate Ferrell, yet he hardly protests as she tricks him into merging their family companies and proposing all in one fell swoop. The other part comes from Shannon’s penchant for furniture. Closely mirroring a real life fetish called “object sexuality” in which people become attracted to inanimate objects, she lists off all of her favourite housewares, leaving us to wonder if Ferrell actually needs to be there at all. One thing we do know for sure: she really likes Ikea.
What do car washes and futuristic hanky panky have in common? They’re both touch-less, a concept that Sylvester Stallone fumbles with in 1993’s Demolition Man. After Sandra Bullock drops some science about the link between violence and arousal, she propositions Sly, which seems to confuse him more than anything. Since “fluid transfers” are banned, the characters get down with the use of what can only be described as “sex helmets.” Making faces like he’s trying to solve a difficult math equation, Stallone delivers one hell of an awkward performance despite his humble beginnings in adult films. Bullock does her best to keep the sequence believable, but the startling edits and quick cuts seem out of place. Between the Love Boat theme and the Tim “The Toolman” Taylor-esque grunts emanating from Stallone, there are enough unsettling elements to get under almost anyone’s skin, making this scene an all-around painful experience for everyone.
The Meaning of Life
Possibly the least sexy depiction of sex on our list is this educational opportunity, courtesy of the 1983 Monty Python classic The Meaning of Life. The idea of showing up at school naked is nightmare-inducing for many, but just another day on the job for John Cleese, who plays an eccentric teacher. Hellbent on teaching his pupils about the birds and the bees, he and his wife perform a demonstration for the group of students who couldn’t care less. Alternating between bickering with his spouse and disciplining the onlookers, Cleese throws out words like “intercourse” and “coitus” making this scene feel like what it is – a really, REALLY awkward biology class. Monty Python are known for being tongue-in-cheek, but this skit is definitely one of their most outlandish, however scientifically accurate it may be.
Did we miss any love scenes that make you feel painfully awkward (even without your parents present)? Let us know about them in the comments below, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this one!