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.
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.
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.
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.