10 Legitimately Great Erotic Thrillers

The sexy mysteries that still get our pulses racing.

Fifty Shades Freed hit theaters on Friday and was received pretty much as you’d expect – with brutal notices and boffo box office. And hey, people like what they like, and if those movies put money in Dakota Johnson’s pocket and bankability on her CV, more power to them. But the forehead-slapping silliness of the picture is quite a come-down for the erotic thriller, that venerable ‘80s and ‘90s theatrical and straight-to-VHS standby that fell onto fairly hard times once people could just watch porn on their computers. Yet a mighty handful of those movies legitimately got the job done, providing sex, suspense, and a good time for moviegoers in the right mood (or, y’know, in The Mood). So as Quad Cinema’s ace retrospective winds down, we’re spotlighting a few of our favorites.

Dressed to Kill

Brian De Palma may have directed better pictures than this 1980 erotic thriller, but few that so compactly accommodate his ongoing peccadillos and preoccupations: voyeurism, deception, prostitution, kinkiness, surveillance, and general sleaziness. In other words, it’s a lot of fun, with the Hitchcock-quoting director broadly riffing on Psycho, but without the restrictions to content, language, and nudity that seemed to stymie Hitch in the ‘60s. Angie Dickinson is marvelous in what amounts to the Janet Leigh role as a sexually dissatisfied housewife whose little adventure in adultery goes awry; Nancy Allen oozes sex appeal as a high-class call girl in a wrong place/wrong time situation; and Michael Caine conveys a calculating brilliance as the psychiatrist who connects them.