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It's not just the plot of a movie that stirs our passions. The right mix of charm, allure, and flesh can lead us to get busy on an action flick of our own. Who doesn't remember Brad Pitt's bad-boy role in Thelma and Louise? Pitt's turn as the lean hitchhiker who made out with Thelma (Geena Davis) and then made off with all of Louise's (Susan Sarandon) cash certainly made an impression.
But most men will agree that what turns us on isn't usually appealing to them. For example, men usually hate chick flicks. So to find out what puts him in the mood, we went straight to the source. There's something for every man in this list of movies, from action-packed to foreign fantasies. So put on something special and settle in for a night of romance.1. For the cowboy in your life: Unforgiven.
My husband and I have watched Clint Eastwood play gunslinger William Munny countless times, and it's become a surefire strategy for love. Why? "Westerns give me a sense of freedom even though I know in the old days things weren't actually all that wonderful," he says. He admires Eastwood's independent spirit, even though he acknowledges that being a sharp-shooting killer is a weird kind of freedom. And most important, he says, "riding off on a quest is a classic metaphor for romance."2. For the nostalgic type (and most other men too): Marilyn Monroe.
Especially The Seven Year Itch, says Chris, an accountant. With his wife and son off on vacation, publisher Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) fantasizes (1955-style) about his curvaceous new neighbor (Marilyn Monroe). "It's every man's fantasy, even though poor Richard never gets the gumption to do it with Marilyn," says Chris.3. Romancing a literary type? Go with Bogart.
English professor Jonah Raskin prefers To Have and to Have Not, featuring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who reportedly fell in love during filming. He loves the steamy dialogue between the romantic leads. "It's one long seduction," says Jonah.
But Gerry Haslam (also an English professor) prefers Casablanca. "The contained passion is more powerful than an overt expression, and more recognizable, since so many of us hold back our deepest emotions," says Gerry. "Bogart demonstrates the depth and honesty of his love by not taking advantage of it. Casablanca is a symbolic corollary to many, many relationships."4. For the Monty Python fan: A Fish Called Wanda.
Loyalists to Michael Palin found this film (also starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline) particularly thrilling and romantic. Michael, a computer programmer, says, "The movie serves as the best compromise between men's desire for action and hot sex, and women's desire for sappy love stories about people in much more misery than themselves." Ouch!5. Another romantic trick -- The Stunt Man.
Mark, a happily married California mortgage broker, sums it up this way: "A guy (Steve Railsback) is running from the law. He falls into the stunt man job accidentally, and sticks around because he falls for the leading lady (Barbara Hershey). Barbara is definitely part of the attraction. In the last scene, she looks very voluptuous walking through mud." Need we say more?
Toe-tapping tunes and exciting adventures make this traveler's tale a turn-on for another Michael, this one a guitarist and writer. Three bad-boy convicts (George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson) break out of jail to collect some irresistible but dangerous loot. Taking inspiration from Homer's Odyssey, the movie's seductive repartee between Clark Gable-esque Clooney and Holly Hunter always puts Michael in a mushy mood.7. For that 60-something lover: Swimming Pool.
This sexily charged murder mystery is a hit with men of all ages, but especially the older set. "It certainly turns my mind in a sexual direction," says Roger, a software developer. "I think Charlotte Rampling is a very attractive woman, sexually and otherwise, and there is a nude scene which I find rather touching. That Rampling is about my age (she turned 60 this year) also adds to the attraction. After all, it's easier to fantasize about a chance encounter with Charlotte than with some young thing who spends her spare time with Tom Cruise."8. For the science-fiction geek: Ladyhawke.
For Elmer, a biologist, nothing beats this fantastical love story, complete with evil sorcerers and knights in armor, and starring Michelle Pfieffer. "A lone, brooding wanderer on a handsome black horse fiercely protects his hawk during by day. And by night, he (Rutger Hauer) turns into a wolf, having no memory of the day. The hawk, in turn, transforms into a beautiful woman at night (Pfieffer)," says Elmer. "The only time they can touch each other is that fleeting moment between sunrise and sunset. I've watched it three or four times and get a little choked up each time."9. A foreign affair? Go with a Sonia Braga film like Gabriela.
Based on Jorge Amado's novel, this erotic adventure tale set in beautiful Parati, Brazil sizzles. It's the story of a passionate love affair between a middle-aged bar owner (Marcello Mastroianni) and a seductive young woman (Sonia Braga). Cary, a realtor, likes this movie and Sonia's performances in general. "She has an actual body as opposed to one our culture has imposed upon her. She exposes most of it throughout the movie, and is completely at ease with herself. She is sexy because she knows she is, not because she fits some stereotype of what a 'babe' is supposed to look like."10. For the graphically inclined, The Dreamers.
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, Matthew (Michael Pitt), an American college student, sets off for 1968 Paris for some more book learning. There, he meets twins Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green) and some NC-17 sex scenes ensue. Which is why graphic artist Rick liked it. Because "unapologetic sexuality" definitely gets him thinking about a little post-movie romance.
So there you have it. Put away the Tom Hanks films and try something new. You'll thank us when you're living out your own tale of romance, after the movie.
Originally published on LHJ.com, July 2005.