We’ve been excited about For A Good Time, Call… since its Sundance premiere, and not just because it (like fellow Sundance film Bachelorette, on demand now and in theaters next month) indicates that the post-Bridesmaids female-heavy R-rated comedy surge is actually going to happen. More than that, For A Good Time is, quite simply, a very funny and exquisitely likable sex comedy, and there’s a shortage of those any way you slice it. There’s no shortage of sex comedies, of course — since the early ‘80s heyday of Porky’s and Hardbodies and their ilk, they’ve been all but ubiquitous. But have you ever tried going back and watching those iconic titles? Good heavens. They do not hold up well.
But a select few do. After the jump, we’ve assembled ten of our all-time favorite sex comedies (which we’re defining as movies where sex is the primary preoccupation/subject matter); add your own in the comments.
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
The oldest film on our list, by a very long shot — Preston Sturges made this uproarious screwball comedy clear back in the early 1940s, and we’re still not sure how the hell he got away with it. Here’s why: it’s about a small-town girl who gets knocked up by a soldier she doesn’t know on his last night before shipping out. This was, you could safely say, not the kind of taboo story that regularly got past the ultra-conservative Hays Office (which regulated movie content in those pre-MPAA days). “The amazing thing about The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” wrote Joe Bob Briggs in his wonderful book Profoundly Erotic, “is not so much that it’s one of the greatest screwball comedies ever filmed (it is), but that it even exists”; Briggs goes on to note that when the great critic James Agee saw it, “he was so astounded that he said, ‘The Hays Office… has been raped in its sleep.’” But it could all be a matter of tone — Miracle is so cheery and good-natured, and so ripe with the dizzy small-town comedy that Sturges did better than anyone, that it was tough to get too worked up over its prurient content.
“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.” And succeeding, at that — the passage of time seems to have softened our memories of The Graduate, transforming it into merely a coming-of-age story, and while it is certainly that, it also concerns coming of age while having a lot of sex with one of your parents’ friends. Its most famous line and iconic poster image bring that theme home — and Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson’s initial hotel tryst remains one of the funniest set pieces in any sex comedy, period.
National Lampoon’s Animal House
To be fair, John Landis’ smash 1978 is concerned with much of the college experience — frats, parties, drugs, and drinking (lots and lots of drinking). But like most red-blooded college kids, the students of Faber are primarily concerned with the opposite sex: Otter and his affairs, Bluto and his peeping, Katy and her professor, and Pinto’s underage date, whom he brings home in a shopping cart. Sexist? Sure. Tasteless? You betcha. Funny? Undoubtedly.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Fast Times has always stood high above its early-eighties high school sex comedy brethren — mostly, we suspect, because of its high-class pedigree. It was penned by Cameron Crowe (his first produced screenplay) and directed by Amy Heckerling (later to helm European Vacation and Clueless), and it seems fair to assume that having a woman in the director’s chair helped put across a more nuanced view of the fairer sex than was the norm in these kinds of affairs; the female characters are less conquests than participants, particularly with regards to the picture’s sexually curious and good-natured protagonist (nicely played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the unexpected consequences of the act are dealt with candidly and honestly. But it’s no feminist tract or After School Special — it’s filled with funny and sexy sequences, particularly a scene with Phoebe Cates in (and out of) a red bikini that wore out the tracking heads of VCRs across the land.
When Joel’s parents leave him alone in their suburban home while they’re out of town, he does what any sensible teenage boy would do: he turns it into a whorehouse. That’s the delicious premise of Paul Brickman’s 1983 hit, which put Tom Cruise into Ray-Bans, slid him across a hardwood floor to the sounds of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and made him a star. Brickman effortlessly hop-scotches tones, veering from humor to eroticism (see: El Train Sequence) to melancholy without skipping a beat.
Say what you will about the countless copycats and inferior sequels (particularly this year’s loathsome, desperate American Reunion) that it begat, but the original American Pie was a charming, funny throwback to the ‘80s “let’s all get laid” movies — but refreshingly free (mostly, anyway) of those pictures’ fear and even distaste for the female of the species. Sure, some of the gags go nowhere, but its major comic set pieces (the famous webcam sequence, the title scene, the uproarious payoff to the Alyson Hannigan character) still get big, hearty laughs.
The Girl Next Door
There was every reason to think that a comedy about a teenage guy who falls for the girl next door, only to find out she’s a former porn star, would be sleazy, smutty, and stupid. But this 2004 comedy from director Luke Greenfield is surprisingly sweet and likable, thanks in no small part to the considerable chemistry and good cheer between stars Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert. Timothy Olyphant turns in a wickedly funny performance as the villain of the piece, Hirsch is an engaging lead, and Cuthbert is so sexy here, she threatens to melt the lens.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Judd Apatow made his directorial debut, and recalibrated modern-era screen comedy, with this 2004 comedy. He did so with what became his standard operating procedure: take a broad, sitcom-y premise (in this case, casting Steve Carell as a shy 40-year-old electronics store employee who’s never made it happen with a lady), but build the comedy out of character and situation rather than easy, contrived laughs, and then throw in a dash of genuine emotion and believable romance (in this case, with the always wonderful Catherine Keener). Add in generous helpings of Rudd, Rogen, and Mann, and viola: one of the most heartfelt yet hilarious movies of recent years.
The Apatow Formula wasn’t the sole property of its creator; he encouraged his actors (whose improvisations punched up his screenplays considerably) to write their own scripts, which he in turn produced. That’s how Superbad made it to the screen: Apatow regular Seth Rogen had been working on the script (with his buddy Evan Goldberg) since they were teenagers themselves, and had originally written the role of, ha ha, “Seth” for himself. But he was too old to play the role by the time it was finally made, so he handed it over to Jonah Hill, with Michael Cera playing Evan. The duo got big laughs as high school losers who only want to get the girls of their dreams (played by Emma Stone and Martha MacIsaac) drunk enough to consider having sex with them. It sounds crass, and maybe it is (a little), but — possibly due to its conception by actual teenagers — the film gets at the true desperation of teenage horniness with an honesty and humor that most teen sex comedies miss by a mile.
Meet Monica Velour
Probably the most obscure title on our list, this 2010 indie tells the story of a high school outcast obsessed with ephemera of the past — including vintage porn, which takes him on a road trip to see his favorite actress of the ‘70s (the title character, beautifully played by a gruff Kim Cattrall) at a strip club. They begin a peculiar and tender friendship, and while some of the laughs are easy (“Swear to God, you screw a few hundred guys and the world turns against you”), there’s also an charming innocence to its dirtiness.
Those are our favorites — what are yours? Let us know in the comments!