The Best On-Screen Orgasms, Or, Why Hollywood Has A Problem Faking It

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In the August issue of Esquire – which is available now, if you're interested – David Thomson discusses the unseen on screen, and how the orgasm has become cinema's greatest unfilmable.

"It's not exactly that I'm an orgasm detective," says Thomson, "but I am interested in those activities that are hard to film, and harder to believe, but which seem to be vital to our faith in what it is to be alive."

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Here, we look at the films behind some of the best on-screen orgasms, from the earnest and authentic to the down-right ludicrous.
 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
If it’s true that an orgasm has to be believable, then the same must be true of a fake one, too. Kristen Bell, playing the titular character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, does her best (worst) fake orgasm to try and irritate her ex-boyfriend, who is bedding Mila Kunis's character next door.

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Unfortunately, she’s with Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), who describes the whole thing as “a ghastly performance. If I wanted to see you act badly, I would have watched your TV show.”

When Harry Met Sally
David Thomson: "If Deep Throat was designer porn, this was the mass-market version of the orgasm and evidence that the topic could be talked about at smart parties and at the deli. Everyone knows Sally's act, as delivered by Meg Ryan, the pretend orgasm, and the glorious onlooker's remark 'I'll have what she's having'."

Friends With Benefits
While most people would have preferred Justin Timberlake to get on with his third album rather than play himself in several identikit films, 2011's Friends With Benefits – a film revolving Justin Timberlake's character having non-committal sex with Mila Kunis's character – was probably hard to turn down.

While it borders on ridiculous in places (Timberlake's character goes to work at GQ despite the fact he probably prefers reading Esquire), the seven-minute hookup scene features Kunis emplyong her best method acting while JT starts singing Third Eye Blind between the sheets.

9 Songs
Part of 9 Songs' charm was that despite its facade as a steamy porn flick, at it heart it was a love story about a fleeting relationship between two people across a very large pond (i.e. the ocean).

It was controversial because, unconventionally, the sex scenes between actors Kieran O'Brian and Margo Stilley aren't simulated at all, giving new definition to the term 'method acting'.

Knocked Up

Naturally, a film called Knocked Up – about a woman getting knocked up – has to, by the very logic of human reproduction, start with an orgasm. But this scene from Seth Rogen's modern take on the rom-com saw the man in the relationship faking it, as Rogen's character Ben pretended he was enjoying himself while his terrifying partner yelled at him. And don't pretend you haven't shared the same pregnancy-logic as him, when he airs his concerns about poking the child in the side.

Lovelace is released on August 23rd. You can watch a clip of it here.