Chemistry on-screen is almost as hard to define as it is in real life, but you know it when you see it. In some movies, you can almost see the steam rising off the screen when two actors are making love, and in others, it looks like neither of them want to be there.
Unfortunately, being a couple in real life is no guarantee that your on-screen romance will feel passionate to viewers. Some real-life couples steam up the screen, while others are trying too hard, and their chemistry falls flat. Sexual orientation doesn’t guarantee or doom on-screen chemistry, either. We’ve seen plenty of straight actors playing gay in movie scenes exploding with passion and chemistry (think Brokeback Mountain), and gay actors playing straight who had the steamiest bedroom eyes ever — for instance, Rupert Everett is gay in real life, but has had delightful chemistry with many of his female leads.
Some movies intentionally make romantic or sex scenes awkward (like 500 Days of Summer), but those haven’t made the list. We’re focusing on movies where the scene was supposed to be hot and spicy, but felt forced or flat.
Read on for 16 steamy movie scenes where the actors and actresses had no chemistry.
16. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan – 50 Shades of Grey (2015)
People who are into BDSM in real life have lots of problems with the movie 50 Shades of Grey and the book it was based on, including the fact that the writers don’t seem to know much about ethical, consensual kink, and instead wrote a sexy story that makes it sound like BDSM is all about psychological and physical abuse.
In what is supposed to be a movie made up of a series of steamy love scenes, Jamie Dornan’s character, Christian Grey, is actually a pretty boring lover. He throws Dakota Johnson, playing Anastasia, on the bed not once but twice and substitutes violence for dominance. Anastasia is supposed to be unsure about Christian’s sexual appetites, but Johnson gives off a bizarre mishmash of both fear and boredom in many of the scenes that should be getting folks all riled up. There’s just not a lot going on here.
15. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez – Gigli (2003)
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were engaged during the filming of Gigli, and one wonders if the lack of chemistry on-screen might have mirrored a lack of chemistry in person, since the couple split up less than two years after making the movie together. The concept of them having a conversation about sex while J-Lo does yoga, glistening with sweat, is inspired, but it just falls flat. Part of the problem is Ben’s stupid smirk throughout, but J-Lo’s comparison of a penis to a “sea slug” doesn’t help amp up the sexiness factor.
14. Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
While Attack of the Clones is not nearly as steamy overall as many of the other movies on this list, Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker is supposed to be so over the moon with desire for Princess Amidala that he will risk the disapproval of everyone important in both their lives. The scene that sees them flirting together in the fields of Naboo should be sexy, but they’re more like a couple of toddlers rolling around in the grass.
Later, Amidala wears a flowing gown that bares her back and shoulder while they talk on a balcony (about sand…for some reason). Anakin’s tentative caress of her bare skin should be tantalizing, but the look Amidala gives him looks more like annoyance. The kiss that follows is awkward, and their chemistry doesn’t get any better for the rest of their on-screen relationship.
13. Willem Dafoe and Madonna – Body of Evidence (1993)
As much as we love actor Willem Dafoe, he could not redeem this terrible stinker of a movie that racked up a 6 percent “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie appeared to be trying to cash in on the appeal of other similar films of the era like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct that combined violence and sex, but the explicit sex scenes Body of Evidence could not redeem the ridiculous premise: that Madonna’s body is so hot that it’s a weapon that killed a man.
There’s a memorable steamy scene between Dafoe and Madonna in a parking garage, but it feels more awkward than sexy. Two decades later, Dafoe still looked uncomfortable talking about his sex scene with Madonna while being interviewed for Sway in the Morning.
12. Demi Moore and Robert Redford – Indecent Proposal (1993)
Robert Redford is craggy but handsome (and older) billionaire John Gage in Indecent Proposal. Demi Moore is lovelier than ever as Diana Murphy, and so appealing that Redford’s Gage is willing to pay a million dollars for one night with another man’s wife. Diana is feisty, and it’s just that feisty spirit that the billionaire likes, telling her he “bought” her not because he can’t get another woman, but because she said she couldn’t be bought. Gage is suave and does a little mind trip on Murphy, trying to convince her that she won’t be doing anything she doesn’t want to do.
The chemistry of these two sexy actors should be through the roof, but despite Redford’s passionate kisses, their steamy scene falls flat. It’s possible that the chemistry issue in this movie is a matter of writing or directing, because Moore’s chemistry with her on-screen husband, played by Woody Harrelson, isn’t any better.
11. Sharon Stone and William Baldwin – Sliver (1993)
Sharon Stone was riding high on the success of her sexy but dangerous seductress in Basic Instinct when Sliver was made. Sharon Stone’s character lives in an apartment building where several suspicious deaths have occurred, and she’s torn between two men, played by William Baldwin and Tom Berenger. There’s an early scene in a gym where Baldwin’s character flirts with and gropes Stone while she’s working out. She looked more annoyed than intrigued (though what woman wouldn’t be annoyed at being groped while she’s trying to tone her tush?).
Stone and Baldwin are rumored to have not liked each other much, and the antagonistic relationship the two shared unfortunately translated into several steamy scenes that fall flat. Stone writhes and moans a lot, but she and Baldwin just don’t convince as a deeply-erotic couple.
10. Drew Barrymore and Tom Skerritt – Poison Ivy (1992)
Poison Ivy is another of those 1990s movies that tried and failed to hop on the erotic thriller bandwagon. Drew Barrymore plays a teenage seductress named Ivy who befriends a girl named Sylvie. It quickly becomes evident that Ivy is a little screwed up, as she seduces Sylvie’s father and tries to take over as the female head of the family.
Tom Skerritt, playing a middle-aged man in lust with a teenager, does the best he can with the role, and Barrymore is as gorgeous as ever. The first time Skerritt goes astray with Ivy, there’s a sexy scene where his hand slides up her stocking-covered thigh, and that should feel sexy, but Barrymore ruins it with her over-the-top bad porn acting, throwing back her head and making unconvincing sexy noises. A later scene of lovemaking on top of a car should also be hot, but again, Barrymore’s ham-handed attempts at acting lustful just look ridiculous. Despite the couple’s lack of chemistry, the movie was successful enough to spawn two sequels, so go figure.
9. Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds – Striptease (1996)
Poor Demi Moore. She is one of the sexiest actresses in Hollywood, and yet she’s forced her way onto our list twice now. In Striptease, Moore is a poor single mother in a brutal custody fight who decides to try exotic dancing to raise some quick money. Unfortunately, a sleazy politician played by Burt Reynolds takes a fancy to her, putting her in dangerous situations.
The movie is a comedy, and a shiny Reynolds covered in Vaseline is supposed to be funny rather than sexy, but in all of the scenes between Reynolds and Moore, there’s just nothing going on. On the plus side, there’s lots to like about Moore’s erotic dancing in this film, both in a towel alone at home and in scripted routines on the stage. Moore’s body is a knockout in this film, and the scene where she tears off a man’s button-down shirt to show her sparkly bikini underneath is both fun and sexy, thereby making up for the lack of chemistry she shared with Reynolds.
8. Radha Mitchell and Ally Sheedy – High Art (1998)
We’ve loved Ally Sheedy since her Brat Pack days, and who didn’t love Radha Mitchell in Pitch Black? Put them together in a tale of steamy lesbian love, and what could possibly go wrong? A lot, apparently.
Mitchell plays Sydney, a woman who lives with her boyfriend and thinks she has her life all planned out when she runs into neighbor Lucy, a retired artist played by Sheedy. Their first love scene together is partly written to be awkward, since it’s Sydney’s first time with another woman, but the way Sheedy pins Mitchell down and mashes her mouth against her face is far from sexy. And who gets into bed with someone for the first time with that many articles of clothing on? The iconic cover and poster shot of Sheedy’s head atop Mitchell’s comes from another un-sexy scene, one in which Mitchell just seems annoyed by Sheedy’s clumsy attentions.
7. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman – Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
This is one of those instances where being a real-life couple didn’t guarantee sexual chemistry on the screen. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, who were married at the time Eyes Wide Shut was filmed, play a long-married couple who are a little bored and decide to spice up their sex lives, ending up at an epic masked sex cult party.
Cruise is doing his best to look like he’s passionately in lust with Kidman as he kisses her neck in an early scene, but she usually just looks mildly amused or bored. But surely, the sex ritual scene has to be steamy, right? Some of those scenes of masked participants dancing together, some clothed and some nude, are sort of erotic in a cool, distant way, but there’s little to no passion or really steamy chemistry anywhere to be found in the movie.
6. Elizabeth Berkley and everyone else – Showgirls (1995)
Considering that it’s easily the most sexed-up wide-release movie of 1995, Showgirls was remarkably lacking in onscreen steam. In part, this is due to Elizabeth Berkley’s terrible, terrible overacting as a young woman trying to make her way as a showgirl without losing her pride or giving in to the seamy side of the business. Berkley’s over-the-top delivery of nearly every line helped win this movie a sad 19 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s not the film’s only shortcoming.
There is a lot of flesh on display in this movie, and, by all rights, it should be a steamy sight to behold. Berkley gives a lap dance to Gina Gershon’s character and later makes out with her. Gershon is sexy as hell, but the two of them have zero heat between them. Berkley’s chemistry with Kyle McLachlan doesn’t work in any of their scenes eitehr, including one in a swimming pool that should be hard to screw up. The only person Berkley has a tiny bit of chemistry with is James, a bouncer from the dance club who choreographs a dance for her. Their short scene does verge on a brief shining moment of steam, perhaps because Berkley wisely shuts her mouth and just does the sexy dance.
5. Al Pacino in every gay scene – Cruising (1980)
Cruising was extremely controversial when it was released, having been panned by critics and protested by gay rights groups who felt the movie promoted negative stereotypes of gay men. Al Pacino was brave to take on the role of an undercover cop infiltrating the underground gay scene to catch a serial killer (especially in a thankfully long-past era where playing gay could still ruin an actor’s career).
But sadly, while there’s a lot of bare, sweaty flesh and lustful looks, Pacino’s wide-eyed stare through most of the club and one-on-one pick up scenes makes him look terrified, not sexy. The scene in the leather bar where he gets high on amyl-nitrate sniffed from a glove and does a frenetic little dance with another man trying to pick him up is more likely to make viewers laugh at his dorky moves than find it attractive.
4. Lara Flynn Boyle, Josh Charles and Stephen Baldwin – Threesome (1994)
In Threesome, Lara Flynn Boyle’s character, Alex, is mistaken for a boy by the administration and put in a college dorm room with Eddy, played by Josh Charles, and Stuart, played by Stephen Baldwin. Before the administration can sort out the housing problem, the three find that they are becoming good friends. Alex has a crush on Eddy, but Eddy is a closeted gay man with a crush on Stuart, who has a crush on Alex. Complicated stuff.
It’s hard to believe that Eddy has a crush on Stuart, since he’s the epitome of a big dumb jock, while Eddy is a quiet intellectual. Still, the three of them have more chemistry in the scenes where they joke and flirt with each other than in the big climactic scene where they actually all get naked together in one bed. It should be a hot little sequence, but it’s just awkward.
3. Amy Adams and Henry Cavill – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The steamiest scene Batman v Superman has to offer comes when Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill, gets into the bathtub with Amy Adams’ naked Lois Lane. The shot of her hands clutching his bare back verges on steamy, but overall, the two actors lack chemistry with each other in this sequence – much like they did when they first met back in Man of Steel. You never really get the sense that these two are head over heels in love with each other.
Amy Adams in an interview says that kissing scenes are “awkward” and that, as actors, they are too wrapped up in technical aspects of the shot to find it all that sexy. She does, however, add that “Henry always smells good.”
2. Charisma Carpenter and Bryce Draper – Bound (2015)
This terrible movie from 2015 shouldn’t be confused with the the gorgeous and sexy film of the same name from 1996 (starring Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly, who have white hot chemistry in the film). The producers of this particular stinker were obviously hoping to catch viewers who were excited about 50 Shades of Grey with this BDSM-themed movie starring Charisma Carpenter (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) and Bryce Draper, a B-movie actor better known for his modeling career.
Carpenter plays a 40-something business woman being wooed by a younger man with a kinky secret. Sadly, though Carpenter tries her best, Draper’s acting is wooden throughout every sex scene, and he thinks shouting “I am your master!” counts as BDSM. (Read: it doesn’t.)
1. Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart – Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (2011)
Twilight fans were holding their breath waiting for Bella and Edward to finally get it on in Breaking Dawn: Part 1. Too bad the steamy love scene they had been waiting for was as awkward as could be. Though actors Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were dating throughout filming, the pressure of fulfilling expectations got to both of them during the filming of the sex scene, and both have said in interviews that it was a nerve-wracking experience. Stewart referred to it as “agony“ in several interviews, saying they were trying to portray the most “transcendent and otherworldly” sex imaginable. It’s safe to say that that didn’t happen.
Their agony shows in their not-so-steamy love scene that had to be cut in order to not net the film an R-rating.
What other movies sported steamy love scenes that were anything but? Let us know in the comments.
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