Did you love 50 Shades starring Dakota Johnson as the young and impressionable Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as the mysterious millionaire Christian Grey who introduces her to the world of BDSM?
Perhaps you were disappointed with the book’s movie adaptation or found the entire story too unrealistic, especially because you’re a real-life kinkster! Rest assured that there are more options than you probably realize. Below are the 12 best movies like 50 Shades of Grey, with something to entertain–and maybe inspire–everyone.
1. Secretary (2002)
English 1h 47m IMDb
Director: Steven Shainberg
Stars: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies
Secretary has long been a favorite of BDSM practitioners and those who simply like seeing depictions of it on screen. In this 2002 movie, a young Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a naif who begins employment as a secretary under a lawyer played by James Spader. The lawyer is tough on his secretary, and what starts as a spanking soon turns into something else entirely.
There’s something so organic about how the two discover and explore their attractions and desires. Unlike 50 Shades of Grey, there are no sex dungeons or expensive toys. Instead, Spader’s character goes the do-it-yourself route like so many people who first discover kink. Both characters look rather unassuming, which serves as a cogent reminder that anyone can be kinky.
Secretary lacks mention of safewords, contracts, and other BDSM safety protocols, which has earned ire from some viewers. However, others find it a realistic portrayal of how one might stumble into BDSM.
2. Fear (1996)
English 1h 37m IMDb
Director: James Foley
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen
Fear stars Reese Witherspoon as the pretty 16-year-old Nicole and Mark Wahlberg as the older and alluring David, your standard bad boy. At first, their attraction is riveting and sexual, even culminating in a mind-blowing orgasm atop a Ferris wheel.
However, just like Christian Grey, David’s feelings turn to obsession, and Nicole quickly realizes that this man is controlling and she wants to get off this ride. Nicole struggles to finally free herself from David, whom her family has never liked.
The sexual tension turns to fear–the name of the movie–as she barricades herself at home in an attempt to keep David out and protect herself and her family.
Wahlberg, who many still knew as “Marky Mark” from his musical days, enraptures the audience with his performance as much as his character initially does Nicole. As the movie turns from what appears to be a standard teen flick to something darker, viewers similarly experience discomfort.
3. 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
English Spanish 1h 57m IMDb
Director: Adrian Lyne
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Margaret Whitton
Another movie featuring sexual obsessions, this time required, is 9 1/2 Weeks. A stock trader (Mickey Rourke) meets a gallery owner (Kim Bassinger), and the pair begin a lust-fueled tryst.
This erotic drama from 1986 falls in line with several of Bassinger’s sexy movies at the time. However, for those only familiar with Rourke’s more recent work, his boyish good looks and charm as a young man might come as a shock.
The trailer features sizzling scenes, including an ice cube running over the contours of Bassinger’s body. Her character expresses shock that a man about whom she knows so little was able to correctly guess that she–and her body–would respond to their sexual explorations. But their affair quickly becomes messy.
4. A Dangerous Method (2011)
English 1h 39m IMDb
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
Fans of kink and period dramas shouldn’t forget this 2011 movie starring Michael Fassbender as the infamous psychologistic Dr. Carl Jung and one of his students, Sabina, played by Keira Knightly. The young woman presents the ideal case study for Jung, who is interested in the relationship between pleasure and pain.
Initially relying on Freudian psychoanalysis and talk therapy, Jung departs from the theories of his previous partner. Spanking and caning play a central role in this movie, and in one scene, Sabina cries out that her abusive father’s beatings excited her as a child.
It doesn’t take long for the relationship to detour from the professional to an erotic one, and rumors swirl about the doctor’s extracurricular activities. Although sometimes depicted as a movie about the rift between Jung and Freud (Viggo Mortensen), fans of 50 Shades will definitely tune in for the spanking.
5. The Story of O (1975)
French English Polish 1h 37m IMDb
Director: Just Jaeckin
Stars: Corinne Cléry, Udo Kier, Anthony Steel
This novel is infamous among kinksters, yet the movie has received much less fanfare due, in part, to it having been banned for years. So you’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of the 1975 French film, let alone seen it.
Corinne Clery plays the eponymous O who is taken to a French chateau by her photographer boyfriend Rene (Udo Kier). It is here that the young woman learns all about S&M and how to be a submissive.
The Story of O depicts bondage, public nudity, exhibitionism, and other deviant sexual desires in an artistic way that’s inherently French. Unfortunately, some of the more tell imagery was initially stripped from English versions of the posters, but watching the movie leaves no room for doubt about what O has actually gotten herself into.
6. The Duke of Burgundy (2014)
English 1h 44m IMDb
Director: Peter Strickland
Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Monica Swinn, Chiara D’Anna
No one could blame viewers for assuming that women are always submissive and men dominants, but that’s far from the case as proven by 2014’s The Duke of Burgundy, a film that focuses on the relationship between Cynthia (domme) and Evelyn (sub).
Fetish gear, corsets, body worship, and foot fetishes, among other BDSM tropes all make an appearance. Lesie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter even called it “kinky as a coiled rope.”
In fact, responses to this movie show just how far society has come since 1975, when The Story of O was released, perhaps because it was screened at various film festivals. Critics laud The Duke of Burgundy for showing how erotic movies can have substance. Phrases such as “masterpiece” and “work of art” have been used to describe the drama.
Even viewers who didn’t especially like the film have commented on its gorgeous visuals, making the movie worth a watch whether you love queer stories, BDSM, artsy movies, or all three!
7. After (2019)
English 1h 45m IMDb
Director: Jenny Gage
Stars: Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Khadijha Red Thunder
It’s only appropriate that a movie based on a book that originally started as Twilight fanfiction would similarly inspire copycats. After doesn’t specifically depict BDSM, but the movie’s sexual tension and general ambiance mirror 50 Shades remarkably. Plus, the movie is based on a novel by Anna Todd.
In After, Tesa embarks on her college career, only to have her life upended by the mysterious Hardin. The sexual chemistry between the young couple is almost palpable, and Hardin appears to be the key that unlocks all of the young woman’s desires.
As is the case with so many movies of this nature, the moral of the story is no flame can be so bright without burning those nearby, and Tesa soon realizes her sexy new partner has a dark secret.
Like Christian and Anastasia, the couple needs multiple movies to resolve their plotline. It’s like 50 Shades for a younger generation.
8. Basic Instinct (1922)
English 2h 7m IMDb
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza
Another classic, this sexy thriller from 1992 pairs Sharon Stone with Michael Douglas. She’s a dangerous yet irresistible author-turned criminal, and he’s an investigator hot on her trail yet trying to avoid falling under her spell.
The power play and loss of control are more symbolic than outright BDSM, but the sexual energy is almost beyond belief. Real kinksters understand that power exchange starts in the brain, anyway.
Unlike some movies on this list, Basic Instinct is a mainstream Hollywood movie with the budget to go along with it. Basic Instinct stands the test of time and is one of the few movies to consider the sexual and controlling behavior of a woman. That alone almost makes it worth a watch–or a rematch if it’s been some time.
9. In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
Japanese 1h 49m IMDb
Director: Nagisa Ôshima
Stars: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima
So many movies about sexual obsession and control feature cookie-cutter American actors, which is why In the Realm of the Senses stands out from every other option on this list.
Furthermore, this movie depicts unstimulated sexual activities, which is almost unheard of outside of porn. These unique qualities are no doubt attributed to the film’s Japanese director and French production.
The movie centers around a hotel owner, Kichizo Ishida, and maid Sada Abe who begin a tumultuous love affair. You only have to look as far as the trailer, which spends much of its time showing Sada in impassioned throes to get a feel for this movie. This is also one of the few films where the woman obsesses over a man.
However, In the Realm of the Senses is also controversial because it is an erotic take on the true story of real-life Geisha Sada who ultimately took her lover’s life and desecrated her body. If that impacts the viewer’s experience, this movie may not be for them.
10. Belle de Jour (1967)
French Spanish 1h 40m IMDb
Director: Luis Buñuel
Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli
No list of movies like 50 Shades of Grey would be complete with Belle de Jour, a movie that cements France’s obsession with kinky sex. Catherine Deneuve plays Séverine Serizy, a bored housewife who decides to spend time as a prostitute.
Cue nudity, bondage, whipping, and obsession. However, while the main character attempts to understand her devious desires, one of her patrons threatens her safety.
This movie remains a solid production more than fifty years after its release and has even been added to the Criterion Collection for its use of erotic surrealism and gorgeous wardrobe choices, among other facets. Shots of Deneuve as Séverine remain classics to this day. If you only watch one movie on this list, make it Belle de Jour.
11. The Night Porter (1974)
English German Latin 1h 58m IMDb
Any controversy stirred by 50 Shades can’t hold a candle to this 1974 film that tells the story of a former SS officer (Dirk Bogarde) and prisoner (Charlotte Rampling) of the Nazis who meet again in another life.
The pair recognize each other almost instantly and fall back into an intense and sadistic relationship. However, the man betrays his former comrades when he refuses to turn his lover over to his superiors to protect their identities.
Although a work of entertainment and art, The Night Porter gives viewers a glimpse into how S&M can be therapeutic or destructively codependent, a sensitive topic that is often avoided because creators do not know how to handle it with care.
12. Venus in Fur (2013)
French German 1h 36m IMDb
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
We end with yet another film produced in France. Just what is it with the French and their sex?! Roman Polanski directed this 2013 film, which follows Emmanuelle Seigner who plays an actress, Vanda, and her attempt to convince sexist filmmaker Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) that she’s the perfect fit for his new play. Of course, her attempts include seduction–or at least the illusion of it.
Polanski’s attention to detail in this movie will keep you riveted to the screen while Paris is a sensual backdrop for the plot that manages to be more fun than you might expect. In fact, some people describe it as a dark comedy.
Venus in Fur is also notable because neither of the stars has Hollywood perfect looks. Instead, they each possess quirks that make them seem like real people and highlight their acting abilities.
Just don’t confuse it with the earlier Venus in Furs, which is something else entirely.
The best movies like 50 Shades of Grey on this list show that people have long been preoccupied with obsessive love and kink, well before E. L. James came on the scene! The sheer variety proves that there’s plenty of content no matter your favorite flavor or movie or kink, so don’t be afraid to dive right in.