saltburn sex scenes movie sex
Barry Keoghan in Saltburn, Amazon MGM Studios

A new study has found that there is a lot less movie sex today than there was at the turn of the millennium.

The study, conducted by movie data analyst Stephen Follows, shows that the amount of sex and nudity in major live-action films has dropped by almost 40% since 2000.

Follows has analyzed the 250 highest-grossing movies in America every year since 2000, according to The Economist,, and to reach these findings, he coded the sex and nudity levels of a film on a scale from “none” to “severe.”

This is how much things have changed: In the year 2000, Follows found that only less than 20% of the highest-grossing movies contained absolutely no movie sex. Now, that number has increased to almost 50% of movies containing no sexual content.

However, the movie sex scenes that are happening today have become more graphic in nature, The Economist adds, giving examples like the sex scenes in brothels depicted in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar winner Poor Things and the masturbation and oral sex scenes in Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn as examples.

However, it’s worth noting that in Saltburn, the sex scenes are all left up to imagination — the only full frontal nudity we see is from Barry Keoghan in a non-sexual context, in that famous dancing scene to the tune of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dance Floor.

More on the Movie Sex Study

Shock value is a lot harder to achieve today than it was when Sharon Stone flashed her nether regions in Basic Instinct in 1993.

However, the study also showed that as movie sex has gone down, vices such as drugs, violence and profanity have stayed roughly consistent in film since 2000.

Also Read: 10 Movie Sex Scenes Someone Should Have Stopped

Reasons for the amount of sex decreasing in film could have to do with the #MeToo movement, which began in 2018 and has inspired a revolution in the way Hollywood approaches sex both in front of and behind the camera. Now, intimacy coordinators are a staple of film sets, unlike back in 2000.

One recent film that starts with sloppy, wet, explicit sex scene is Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke’s Drive Away Dolls. Though the film nods to the exploitation flicks of decades past, the filmmakers took a modern approach to shooting it, choosing to use an intimacy coordinator.

Not having familiarity with intimacy coordinators, I didn’t know what to expect,” Coen told MovieMaker in our recent cover story. “I thought it might be a resident pain in the ass, but ours was Chelsea Pace, and she was great. An intimacy coordinator, properly understood, is really helpful and useful.”

Coen compared the work of Pace, who is trained as a movement instructor, to that of a stunt coordinator who helps figure out what a shot needs and how the actors need to move to achieve it. 

“She helps demystify and release tension around intimacy issues,” he said.

Intimacy coordinators aside, to Saltburn director Fennell, sex scenes are actually better without the nudity.

“This film is, in many ways, about sex. But I think the thing that’s wonderful is that in almost all of the sex scenes whether they’re solitary or not, we never really see below the collarbone. But they’re so filthy,” Fennell said with a laugh at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival interview last year.

“It’s the thing that we know is happening, what we feel is happening. We don’t need to see it. But I felt like the nudity is about grief or triumph. It’s a sort of different animal instinct.”

For Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino, sex scenes are a joy to film.

“I love to film sex scenes,” Guadagnino said in a conversation with John Waters at the Provincetown International Film Festival last year. “It depends if the people who are working with me doing it are comfortable. So that’s why — I don’t like to shoot them if they’re not comfortable. But at the end of the day, my motto is that shooting a sex scene is as equal as shooting a scene in which someone drinks a cup of tea. I don’t see the difference. It’s acting.”

Main Image: Barry Keoghan in Saltburn, Amazon MGM Studios