10/19/2012 10:34 am ET

'The Sessions': The Year's Best Sex Scenes

Sex scenes in movies—the non-pornographic ones, that is—tend to exist in a few rigidly defined categories: they can be erotic (the scene in "Boogie Nights" when Julianne Moore coaches Mark Wahlberg through his first shoot), comically grotesque (Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig’s excruciating beer-and-cunnilingus date in "Greenberg") or deliberately repellant (the bone-chilling coupling of Selma Blair and Robert Wisdom in "Storytelling"). Sometimes these categories can overlap—Awkward and sexy! Disturbing and hot!—but rarely will a movie step outside their bounds entirely and try something new. Then there is that very rare sex scene—say, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in their Venice hotel room in Nicolas Roeg’s "Don’t Look Now"—that does it all: turns us on, moves us emotionally, advances the story, reveals something about the characters, and showcases the filmmaker’s art.

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