Masturbation Scenes in Mainstream Movies

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While sex scenes in movies are a dime a dozen, masturbation turns up less frequently, and more often with either embarrassing or hilarious results.

While this is a debatable point, I would argue that with the exception of goofball comedies, masturbation scenes in movies are often more authentic than the partner sex scenes. It makes you wonder why some actors can do masturbation so much better than partner sex.

The list below is an incomplete compilation of some of the best, worst, and most famous masturbation scenes in mainstream movies (compiled with assistance from readers and the television sex culture pioneers at Sextv). 

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Masturbation is just one of the many sexual places Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando visit in this classic buttery film.

Portnoy's Complaint (1972)

A reader correctly reprimanded me for leaving out the "classic" liver masturbation scene in this adaptation of Philip Roth's novel. Many see a tip of the hat to this scene in the apple pie scene from American Pie (see next page).

Amarcord (1973)

The sexual frustrations of boyhood are played out humorously in a group masturbation scene where the boys shout out the names of their desired fantasy girlfriends.

The Exorcist (1973)

Due to a serious fear of horror movies I missed this sacrilegious scene which one viewer describes as "about as direct a link between religiously perceived shame, and the evil and horror of 'pollution' from masturbation as they (er) come."

Sleeper (1973)

Woody Allen's solo turn in the orgasmatron may be one of the earliest filmed visions of future solo sex tech. It's certainly one of the funniest.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)

A reader pointed me to Margot Kidder's bathtub flashback masturbation scene in this sci-fi film that has a bizarre movie poster which also seems to feature someone masturbating. The film was never released on DVD, but there's a great summary with stills on The Betamax Rundown.

The Sentinel (1977)

The distinction between masturbating for oneself alone and masturbation as performance is somewhat blurred in this film submitted by a sharp-eyed reader. A horror film (which, according to its IMDB description features performances from practically every known actor in Hollywood at the time) also features a scene where "Beverly D'Angelo is on a couch masturbating in front of Christina Raines." 

Midnight Express (1978)

Thanks to a reader for recommending this scene which may not be in all editions but apparently definitely is in the UK cut of the film. The main character is visited by his girlfriend in prison and, suspecting that he won't be out for a while, asks her to bare her breasts while he masturbates under the desk. Our reader's concise synopsis: "She cries, he comes."

Being There (1979)

Apparently many actors refused the role played so brilliantly by Shirley Maclaine because of this lengthy and sincere masturbation scene.

The Blue Lagoon (1980)

A reader recommends the "classic scenes of kids growing up and discovering each other" where in separate scenes they see each other and then argue about what they've seen.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

It's impossible not to cringe with some recognition during the pirate costume, Phoebe Cates inspired and ended bathroom masturbation scene.

The Right Stuff (1983)

From a reader: Two astronauts are required to provide semen samples to a very stuffy nurse, and masturbate while singing patriotically.

Risky Business (1983)

It may have been my own sexual orientation questioning at the age of 13, but I didn't remember the Tom Cruise bed masturbation scene recommended by a reader. I'll have to go back and check it out.

9 1/2 Weeks (1986)

A reader writes “she is watching something on a large screen, and hikes up her skirt. The audience sees her from a side view, so you just see her hip and her hands moving above and inside it. The orgasm looked pretty realistic. I thought it was tastefully done if such a thing can be said!”

Matador (1986)

The opening scene uses unexpected masturbation to set the tone of the entire film about sex and death.

She's Gotta Have It (1986)

One of our readers, a librarian, added this film to his library's collection and describes it as the most complained about movie they have. He attributes this largely to the sexual content, in particular, the masturbation scene.

Leolo (1992)

A boyhood masturbation scene involving liver (and a less successful one involving chicken) won’t be crowd pleasers among vegetarians or vegans.

Single White Female (1992)

An intentionally creepy scene where the SWF is getting off and is interrupted by her unwitting and disturbed victim to be.

Body of Evidence (1993)

A reader calls Madonna's masturbation scene "impressive". It may be the only thing impressive about Madonna's acting.

Sliver (1993)

A reader recommends Sharon Stone's bathtub masturbation scene, noting "After this movie, she decided to stop doing nude scenes. Good for her, bad for us."

Spanking the Monkey (1994)

In some ways, a movie all about masturbation (and other things) and the frustration a lack of privacy (both physical and psychological) can create.

Threesome (1994)

A reader recommends the masturbation scene with "Lara Flynn Boyle masturbating to the word "concupiscence."

The Doom Generation (1995)

The first of three Greg Araki films in our list, this voyeuristic scene is described as "believable, disturbing, and well lit" by one of our eagle-eyed readers.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996)

A reader points to the "heated phone conversation" between Janeane Garofalo and Ben Chaplin that turns into a masturbation scene.

Nowhere (1997)

A familiar scene of a son masturbating in the shower while mom (Beverley D'Angelo) bangs on the bathroom door.

Happiness (1998)

A reader writes in to remind us about this one featuring at least two masturbation scenes (one of which closes the film) with "admittedly some rough subject matter."

Pleasantville (1998)

This beautiful masturbation scene should be required viewing for anyone who wonders about the power of sex.

Psycho (1998)

A reader directs us to this Gus Van Sant shot-for-shot remake which apparently is not a note-for-note remake, "there's a sound effect that was not in the 1960 original by Alfred Hitchcock: The Norman Bates character in the original is seen spying on a girl through a peephole in the wall in his office. We see this in the remake, too, but we also get some (very juicy) sounds of a man quickly masturbating himself."

The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)

Natasha Lyonne (the only actor who is in four movies on this list) tries out her cousin’s vibrator. (Many thanks to the well-informed reader who pointed out my original halving of Lyonne's contribution to the list!)

There's Something About Mary (1998)

Ben Stiller’s masturbation scene is a perfect example of how far you can go in a movie if you just don’t talk about what’s really on people’s minds (or in their hair).

American Beauty (1999)

Another frequently spoofed fantasy/masturbation scene complete with cheerleading, rose petals, and a very hot shower.

American Pie (1999)

Probably the most frequently referenced modern teen movie about four guys trying to lose their virginity, featuring a masturbation scene with apple pie, the eponymous dessert of the film.

Better Than Chocolate (1999)

A reader writes: “There is a slightly comical, somewhat enlightening, and seamlessly choreographed masturbation scene” involving a mother who stumbles across a box of sex toys.

But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)

They had to cut a masturbation scene to get an R rating, but what’s left in is still brilliant and the film overall is great.

Coming Soon (1999)

A surprisingly realistic performance of hot tub masturbation in this teen comedy about sex from a young women’s perspective.

American Pie 2 (2001)

A reader nominates Jim’s “gluing himself to himself and a porn VHS tape” as a classic masturbation scene, “not a sexy moment, just plain funny”.

Life as a House (2001)

A reader recommends this "excellent movie with or without the masturbation" but for this list points to the Hayden Christensen masturbation in a closet scene, and Hayden's use of some "very risky techniques" as well worth a look.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Does anyone do spooky, disturbing, confusing and sexy like David Lynch? Naomi Watts masturbation scene is only one of the many real and implied sexual hot points in this film.

Y tu Mama Tambien (2001)

A reader writes: there's a scene when the two main characters (boys) are young, lying on adjacent diving boards over a swimming pool, suggesting sexy ideas to each other while they masturbate. The scene ends with an underwater shot of a cloudy splash into the water.

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) 

From a reader: a semi-sexual encounter between Josh Harnett and Shannyn Sossamon, they can't even touch each other so they use flowers to caress each other, and she ends up masturbating in a sexy and beautiful kind of way.

Auto-Focus (2002)

Greg Kinnear (playing Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes “fame”) and Willem Dafoe totally commit to this masturbation scene.

Secretary (2002)

If there were an Academy Award for best masturbation portrayal, Maggie Gyllenhaal deserves a lifetime achievement statue for her masturbatory turn in a bathroom stall.

Unfaithful (2002)

I've come across several glowing reviews of Diane Lane's faithfulness to herself in this scene which is buried in a somewhat sex phobic morality tale.

In the Cut (2003)

Much was made at the time of Meg Ryan's turn in this dark erotic thriller, mostly because of her history of playing "America's Sweetheart" who, apparently, isn't supposed to be sexual. She's plenty sexual in this film, and thanks to a reader who wrote in to give her a shout out for her masturbation scene.

Spun! (2003) 

A reader shares: “you cannot have a complete list without including John Leguizamo's scene from "Spun"! The guy totally commits to the scene...naked but for a sock…it's the craziest masturbation scene I've seen in a long time."

Kinsey (2004)

The painful wedding night sex scene between Liam Neeson and Laura Linney so overshadowed the Kinsey solo sex scene that I had completely forgotten it, until a reader wrote in suggesting it could have been more graphic.

40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

Masturbation the way Betty Dodson recommends, complete with mood music, candlelight, and laughs.

Jarhead (2005)

A reader spotted the Jake Gyllenhaal masturbating looking at his girlfriend's picture scene; "you only see his shoulders and hear him breathe, but it's very well done."

Nine Songs (2005)

From a reader: Both male and female masturbation, and authentic. This was the first explicitly sexual movie to be approved for showing in Ireland, for some reason... The music is the best part!

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

A furtive high school masturbation scene starring Owen Kline. One warning, if you watch it, it may forever change the way you look at and handle books at your local library.​

Babel (2006)

A brief masturbation scene featuring a young Moroccan boy who had been spying on his sister.

Shortbus (2006)

Of the autofellatio masturbation scene in this film, one reader writes "You can almost hear all the guys in the cinema thinking 'Oh so that’s how it's done?'"

Smiley Face (2007)

One of the most under-appreciated performances and films of 2007, Anna Faris is phenomenal in this hilarious stoner movie by Greg Araki. There’s nothing erotic about Danny Masterson’s masturbatory turn with a skull. Okay, maybe there’s something a little erotic about it.

Black Swan (2010)

The term "psycho-sexual thriller" sounds ridiculous, but it's a pretty apt description of Natalie Portman's masturbation scene...if you add the word "frightening" also.

Shame (2011)

How could a film all about sex addiction and sexual compulsion not feature more than a few masturbation scenes? If the sex addiction adherents are right, and porn is the "crack" for a sex addict, then surely masturbation must be the pipe.

Hope Springs (2012)

I had heard mediocre reviews of the representation of sex therapy in this film about a couple who are trying to rekindle their relationship, but a reader had good things to say about Meryl Streep's hotel masturbation scene "where for the first time in a long time she pleasures herself and realizes what she has missed."

Don Jon (2013)

A reader highly recommends this film about a man who seems to prefer masturbating to porn more than any other kind of sex. Originally rated NC-17 (not for the explicitness of masturbation but because of the porn the character is watching) director and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to tone down the explicitness in favor of an R rating.