Why are filmed depictions of sex between men still important, valuable, worth writing about, worth celebrating?
In short, because the meaning itself of sex between men is still in flux, in contention, still fought over.
We still, still have to fight to declare that gay sex is good and beyond that, that we have the right to define what sex can mean, does mean, will mean. I believe we have a social and political obligation to do all that and I take those obligations seriously.
That seriousness is why I react so negatively to anti-sex art films like Stranger By the Lake and the careless praise of it by gay critics. (We still have to fight among ourselves, too, but at least that’s more fun!)
At least one of the arenas in which we fight for our own meanings is by making movies, watching movies, sharing movies, writing about movies.
Rather than offer a list of my favorite LGBTQ+ movies from the 2010s (which I would never do on this blog anyway for reasons explained here) I thought it would be more fun to list films from the past decade with the hottest man-on-man sex. Or man-on-man-on-man sex, as the case may be.
The Queer Review’s somewhat disappointing because predictable decade-ending consensus list inspired this one indirectly. On it, among the more valuable individual contributors’ lists, I found my way to Mikko Makela’s partially improvised A Moment in the Reeds (Finland, 2017), which includes not one but three great sex scenes. All of them frame the actors mostly above the waist but are still remarkably hot, perhaps because the gay actors were attracted to one another.
When the camera catches other parts of the naked male bodies, one white and one brown but both tinted and contoured by moonlight from the windows, they are mostly soft-focused and indistinct. This stylistic choice turns out to be an appropriately intimate one and not chaste at all. I savored the gasps of desire as the two men kissed more than I enjoyed a lot of the porn I downloaded this year. And I downloaded a lot of porn.
(I hope you’re living in a region where the A Moment in the Reeds can be streamed. I’m not. Thank the goddess for torrents.)
Finally, I haven’t made a distinction between real gay-male sex and simulated. In fact, I passed on one well-known short, I Want Your Love, directed by Travis Mathews (Interior. Leather Bar., Discreet, In Their Room, I Want Your Love feature), because I just didn’t find it hot (too coastal; too talky) and I disliked the foreshortened shooting style. You can make up your own mind here.
I rarely numerically rank films on my lists since, for one thing, I change my mind so often after a repeat viewing. But this time I decided differently. Films are listed in reverse order of perceived hotness. I was unable to come up with 10 scenes that wowed me but I haven’t seen everything. Please leave some viewing suggestions in the comments.
Before you suggest either God’s Own Country or Freier Fall, know that I rejected the latter’s just-after-a-run sex scene (after giving it another watch a few days ago) because it still seems like a rape to me. As for the former, I’ve queued it up for a second watch. I wasn’t overly impressed the first time, despite its similarities to two other films that did make the list.
No doubt this post will be an ongoing list like this one.
9 Eloi and Biel
Directed by Noel Alejandro
25min, Spain, 2013
I wrote somewhat dismissively of this short from Spain. There’s no backstory for me to care much about this couple or the scenario other than their sexual rapport. Most porn provides more context. But. It got me hard so what else can I say? Both of these young dudes have really nice, brown cocks. A big gallery of screengrabs can be found here.
8 Pit Stop
Directed by Yen Tan
1h 20min, USA, 2013
The two gay men in this sensitive feature take a long time to get together but when they do it’s hot. Their first encounter is simple kissing and side-by-side, prone, mutual masturbation. But I watched it twice the first time around. The scene shows a couple of those desperate moments when you want to eat your partner alive. Tan’s characters are close in type to Matthews’ but older, and hotter somehow.
Watch Pit Stop on Amazon Prime US.
7 A Moment in the Reeds
Directed by Mikko Makela
1h 48min, Finland, 2017
It took about 40 minutes for me to pay close attention to the slow-as-fuck way these two dudes — one a smooth, white, native Fin and one a hairy, bearded, Syrian immigrant — figured out they were gay for each other. There’s the fulsome unfolding of mundane experiences and then there’s banal and repetitious routine. Director Makela, or rather the film’s partially improvised dialogue, comes really close to the latter, at least in the film’s first half. I was on the verge several times of either checking out or fast-forwarding. Writing this now, I couldn’t tell you much of what the two talked about. Discussions about hammers and nails, I guess. Further, Dad was a distraction.
But during a beer-loosened conversation on a country porch at night, Leevi, the native Fin, stares into the dark, wide eyes of Tareq, half of his face and half of his curly ‘stache in shadow. Finally, they see each other. Finally they kiss. And it’s worth the wait.
Watch A Moment in the Reeds on Amazon Prime US.
Directed by Barry Jenkins
1h 51min, USA, 2016
I once had a long and sexy chat on Scruff with an Argentine punk guitarist about how intimate and underrated handjobs are. We eventually met and tried out some ideas we’d come up with, before, during, and after we watched El Tercero, listed below.
That experience only proved I love getting hjs more than bjs. Maybe because almost anyone can give a decent one with enough lube and because the act is easy to combine with kissing. My preferences necessarily show in this list, I guess, and perhaps most beautifully in Barry Jenkins’ thrilling Oscar-winner. When 16-year-old Kevin tugs Chiron out of the closet and onto the sand, you can feel and hear the earth move.
Directed by Andrew Haigh
1h 37min, USA, 2011
Haigh’s detailed dialogue and sensitive direction set a high-water mark for talky, relationship dramas, whether gay or straight, that has yet to be surpassed. (You’re welcome to rewatch Linklater’s Before trilogy all you want; I could barely make it through them the first time.) Unlike any example from the mumblecore movement, the sex is intimate, too, as well as meaningful and hot. Did anyone even have sex in mumblecore movies? I have a difficult time imagining it.
4 Refugee’s Welcome
Directed by Bruce LaBruce
22min, USA, 2017
Like A Moment in the Reeds, Bruce LaBruce’s short, his best work in years, also features hot sex between a native-born white European and a Syrian refugee.
I wrote about it here.
3 120 battements par minute
Directed by Robin Campillo
2h 23min, France, 2017
This is not my favorite film written and directed by Campillo — that would be Les revenants — but this is the closest any fiction-feature has come to dramatizing the emergent dialectic of folks learning how to live while dying — how to fuck, fight, argue, how to become experts about one’s own death, and dance until the wee hours after storming a government conference or a pharmaceutical company’s corporate campus.
Further, I’m not as big a fan as most are of this AIDS-activist-era accounting of a relationship begun in an ACT Up Paris meeting but the sex scenes between the couple are among this decade’s hottest, riskiest, and most poignant. Nathan jacks off Sean in his hospital bed and demonstrates that love and compassion were in the air even more than death was. That’s an impulse we can be proud of.
Watch BPM on Amazon Prime US.
2 El Tercero
Written and directed by Rodrigo Guerrero
1h 10min, Argentina, 2014
Perhaps if the older/younger, three-way, gay-male sex hadn’t been so hot, this formalist film from Córdoba Argentina might not have been so exciting a revelation for me. As it is, El Tercero explodes the very American bias of always opposing thought and feeling, mind and body, or even, sex and study.
In a review of Catherine Breillat’s Romance, Jonathan Rosenbaum writes about how the American tendency to oppose thought against feeling, images against words, causes a mind/body split when encountering art, particularly art that explores and describes sex in a non-porn context.
But El Tercero is a film in which a whole lot of sexual images, peppered with stylized slang and jargon mediated by technological communication conduits, gets followed by a whole lot of words around a dinner table, followed by a whole lot of sex, some of it shot sideways, and finally ends up in a reconfiguring of relationships caused by images, words, and sex/action, all of it color-blocked, staged, and framed carefully and self-consciously. The static camera and long takes provide a welcome antidote to the in-the-face shakycam style that Andrew Haigh made popular in Weekend (but which might well have originated in certain sections of Rose Troche’s Go Fish) and which less original directors can’t help but borrow.
This South-American Latino fusion of modes is another kind of creative act, with three components rather than two. Rosenbaum describes the French/European perspective on a film like Romance as representing “a kind of musical counterpoint, a dance performed by the two [thought and feeling], and, at least to my taste, a sensuality of thought — an idea at odds with the American notion that thought is an alternative to feeling and action.”
I’ve been trying to figure out why so many exciting and beautiful Latin American gay films get left out of these gatekeepers’ lists, if not from torrent feeds. So perhaps El Tercero’s absence from any alphabet-soup best-of film list results from a Euro-gringo lack of understanding of this more complex sensuality of thought. It continues to baffle and infuriate me why anyone would champion the clear anti-sex art-fagginess of Stranger By the Lake. I refuse to recall that film’s sex scenes at all.
1 O Porteiro do Dia
English title: Daytime Doorman
Directed by Fábio Leal
25 min, Brasil, 2016
Sex between men of different social, economic, national, and racial classes, as well as generations, became a kind of mini-theme of this list without my thinking about it much beforehand. Gay-male porn indulges and also presents these superficial contrasts as hot. When I’m not binging on BiLatinMen, my own tastes run that way, too. Border crossings get some of us hard. Perhaps that’s why the samey, mostly white, muscular bodies of Sean Cody bore the fuck out of me.
Leal’s Daytime Doorman resembles Etienne Kallos’ earlier Doorman, in which a working-class Latino gets involved with a snarky, white, circuit-gay. Brazilian Leal keeps the class conflict but replaces the latter short’s lugubriousness with sexual abandon and wide-ranging affection. The extended sex scenes last several minutes and there’s no guilt, shame, or recriminations. Although the tensions in the relationship eventually break it up, there’s no revenge reel. In fact, there’s some hope in the film’s epilogue. I took a bunch of screenshots and posted them here.
I’ve been unable to discover anywhere to stream Daytime Doorman or find out if it’s available on a DVD compilation. That’s a shame.
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Some lists discovered after searching for “Best gay male sex scenes in movies”:
- 15 Greatest Queer Sex Scenes in Film History
- The 10 Best Gay Sex Scenes in Recent Movies
- The 30 Sexiest Gay Scenes In Film
- 22 NSFW Gay Sex Scenes That Always Get The Blood Flowing