From raunchy gross outs to surprisingly charming romances, sex comedies have long been a pillar of cinematic laughs. While these movies have gotten a bit more rare in recent years, it doesn’t stop the old ones from existing, and it certainly doesn’t stop our observant eye from noticing when a fresh new one comes out.
Now, some of these movies also have jokes that we can say, uh, have aged interestingly over the years. A lot of these movies will make you laugh aloud one moment and then take a big cringe the next—that’s just the nature of the beast. But any movie that has that down at least has charm or otherwise endearing quality elsewhere that should help to make up for jokes or lines that frankly feel unsavory today.
But that’s part of what makes this specific genre so interesting. The oldest movie included on our list below is The Graduate, which was released back in 1967, and then we also include Animal House, released in 1978. Just in those two examples you can sort of see the evolution, variation, and subversions within the style of movie. And as the years and decades go by, it’s easy to note what changes, both subtle and sweeping, happen within the genre. And, the best part? They’ll all make you laugh, even if you’re not exactly trying to study the nuances of the modern sex comedy.
So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite sex comedies from the last five decades.
EuroTrip is basic enough: it’s a silly, goofy, and quite raunchy comedy that follows a group of friends who wind up on a post-graduation trip through Europe after one of the friends gets dumped in a particularly brutal manner. It’s the only movie on this list to birth its own original pop punk classic in Lustra’s “Scott Doesn’t Know,” (complete with a legendary and very random Matt Damon cameo). If you are looking for pedigree, this movie has got it; it’s directed by Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The League alum Jeff Schaffer.
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Judd Apatow was already an accomplished producer throughout the 90s and 2000s (with movies like Anchorman and a classic show in Freaks and Geeks on his resume), but it was his directorial debut in The 40-Year-Old Virgin that really made him into a household name (and was a breakout vehicle for star Steve Carrell). Virgin is the perfect film to see the evolution of this genre: the movie is chock full of funny, and often quite raunchy sex jokes, but at the end of the day it’s a really sweet and charming story of several adult relationships.
Animal House (1978)
For one of the most formative films of the sex comedy genre, we jump back to 1978 for Animal House, which is also one of the most definitive films of the college comedy genre. Now, some jokes and situations in this movie have certainly not aged well, but as long as you acknowledge those parts are what they are and just enjoy the funny parts—particularly John Belushi’s unbelievable comedic performance—you can really enjoy this movie for the classic it is.
American Pie (1999)
American Pie is a special movie on this list, because while it’s not that much better or different from so many movies that came out around the same time, it is the one that became a huge franchise and is still getting bad, tangentially related spinoff movies made to this day. I digress. The first American Pie is exactly what you’d expect from this list: some horny high school kids who want to lose their virginities before the end of high school, and learn a little bit about themselves (and find some rather raunchy situations) along the way.
Let us point out a few performances here: Seann William Scott as Stifler, one of the greatest obnoxious schmucks, Eugene Levy as main character Jason Biggs’ endearingly awkward father, and John Cho in his breakthrough legendary role of ‘MILF Guy.’ Great pop punk soundtrack, too.
American Pie 2 (2001)
OK, we had to include the sequel. This is basically the first summer after college for the same gang in the original film, and it mostly takes place at a lake house. Basically the same stuff! And this one also has a great soundtrack, and probably even better, because it includes “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch.
Girls Trip (2017)
2017’s Girls Trip showed that the genre still had legs when it became one of the year’s biggest box office smashes and simultaneously made a comedy superstar of Tiffany Haddish. A trip to New Orleans for the Essence Festival brings four friends together for what turns out to be a stream of nonstop laughs.
People who swear by Superbad—myself included—swear by Superbad. This movie is so good! Jonah Hill and Michael Cera were both on the way up, but this movie—written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg—made comedy stars of both of them. Raunchy in the right ways but also with a huge amount of heart, Superbad focuses in on its main duo primarily, but also has time for some really great secondary characters too, including a pair of ridiculous cops played by Rogen and Bill Hader, and another Mount Rushmore character of the genre, McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
Plus One (2019)
Every time you start to think that the sex comedy genre is dying out, you find a little gem hidden away like Plus One. Starring Jack Quaid (The Boys) and Maya Erskine (Pen15) as single friends who agree to be each others’ dates to a series of summer weddings, this movie is dirty and hilarious in all the best ways, particularly feeling right for our modern setting. Don’t sleep on it!
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Another absolute classic. Fast TImes is probably best remembered for Sean Penn’s stoner character, Spicoli, but it’s really just a fun portrait of an ’80s high school story from all sorts of angles; it’s more of an ensemble than focused on any one character. These characters are funny, have ups and downs, and feel real—while still being very funny.
Blockers is ostensibly about a familiar premise: high school students who plan to lose their virginities after prom. But where the movie differs is in its parent characters (John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz) who try to track their kids down and make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a modern story that manages to be funny, smart, and fun all at the same time.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle probably veers closer to a stoner comedy than a sex comedy, but we’re going to include it nonetheless because some of the elements (uh, sex jokes) are present throughout. While John Cho had to settle for simply being Milf Guy in American Pie, he really gets to shine in a duo with Kal Penn in all three Harold and Kumar movies; their chemistry is simply off the charts, and the movie is smartly written to boot. I’d watch these two do anything.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
Wedding Crashers was a huge hit in 2005 and its easy to see why. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn make for a formidable duo of guys who use their gifts of gab to sneak into numerous weddings to party and find (brief) romance, but they find their match when they land at the wedding of a politican’s (Christopher Walken) daughter. Isla Fisher is hilarious as one of his other daughters, and Rachel McAdams comes with her usual on-screen charm. And Bradley Cooper is here as a big asshole! Win all around for everyone.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is produced by Judd Apatow and written by and stars Jason Segel; and, folks, it is…just so good. Funny, sweet, charming… it’s hard to even describe it too much more. A great cast? Russell Brand, Kristen Bell, and Mila Kunis to name some obvious ones, but even small roles from Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Bill Hader are hilarious. If you somehow haven’t seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, change that immediately.
The Graduate (1967)
The oldest movie on our list is The Graduate, which has always felt like it was way ahead of its time. In fact, this movie basically could exist today (if you just updated some of the era-defining moments, like the classic ‘plastics’ remark). Dustin Hoffman’s leading turn is sort of a remarkable coming-of-age and fish-out-of-water situation, and Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson is a performance for the ages. Mike Nichols directed the hell out of this one, and the soundtrack, by Simon & Garfunkel, is perfect.
The Girl Next Door (2004)
The Girl Next Door is basically a rip-off of Risky Business, which is the next movie on our list. But they’re both fun, so we’re including them both. This one is about a kid (Emile Hirsch) who finds out that his next door neighbor (Elisha Cuthbert) is actually a former actress in pornographic movies. All good! They start dating, and her boss (an incredible Timothy Olyphant) starts causing some big trouble. A fun and sometimes surprising movie.
Risky Business (1983)
Risky Business is best known for it’s Bob Seger-scored scene of a pantsless dancing Tom Cruise, but it’s actually basically a thriller (with a great synthy soundtrack) where Cruise gets involved with a call girl and into trouble with her boss (Joe Pantoliano). A fun movie even if it doesn’t quite have all the laughs you may expect.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks came together under the direction of Kevin Smith for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, a movie that tells you its mission statement right there in the title. It’s a really fun movie that in addition to the Rogen and Banks characters in the title, also features a fun Craig Robinson supporting role and a really raunchy turn from Smiths’ old pal Jason Mewes (the Jay to his Silent Bob). It fits the theme here: profane and raunchy, but sweet at its core.
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
The best part of these teen movies is always the party, right? Well, Can’t Hardly Wait—yes, named for the awesome Replacements song—is basically a movie that takes place 99% of the time at the big party. Filled with fun scenes and, of course, kids looking to flirt and more, Can’t Hardly Wait is a super fun movie that isn’t super raunchy but nonetheless captures everything you want in this genre.
Directed by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart is one of the best teen movies in years, and almost feels like a companion film to Superbad. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play high schoolers who, at the end of their student run, feel like they’ve wasted their time getting good grades and not living it up—and go to lengths to change that. The movie is a blast and also features fun turns from Wilde’s ex, Jason Sudeikis, and Jessica Williams.
After Hours (1985)
Talk about a vibe. After Hours is a rare foray into comedy—if we can call it that—from a little director named Martin Scorsese. The movie is about a kind of pompous guy (Griffin Dunne) who heads downtown looking to get lucky, and finds himself instead in an almost nightmare like series of events that come one after another, with a constant darkly comic fog over it all.
What more do we need to say about Bridesmaids? Another Judd Apatow entry on the list, it’s become a modern classic for good reason—it’s just raunchy, hilarious fun. It’s smartly-written and smoothly plotted, but it’s the great cast—including Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne, and Jon Hamm, among others—that makes it really work.
There’s Something About Mary (1998)
The Farrelly Brothers had a lot of hits and a lot of misses; There’s Something About Mary, starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, and Matt Dillon, is unquestionably a hit. It’s absolutely gross at points—keeping with the theme of many comedies on this list—but is super compelling and carried by its stellar cast.
Easy A (2010)
Maybe not all that raunchy, but one of Emma Stone’s best early roles finds her as a high school student who finds a reputation that eventually precedes her: she tells people that she hooked up with her classmates in exchange to help their reputations. It’s a super sharp movie, and it’s clear to see why Stone would become one of our most beloved movie stars.
Knocked Up (2007)
Knocked Up is certainly a sex comedy, but we also could call it an after sex comedy. Arguably Seth Rogen’s breakout (and his first leading role), this movie balances the mature (making the very adult decisions that come along with an unplanned pregnancy) and the immature (being a twenty-something guy used to sitting around and smoking weed with friends) in a marvelous way. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters are so great that they even spawned their own spinoff a few years later, This is 40.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Wet Hot American Summer is one of the truest cult classic comedy films out there, and as a genre spoof of camp/sex/teen comedies, it’s basically unparallelled—and perfect. There are numerous storylines at play here, and they’re all so fun and funny. You’re best knowing not much going into this one if you haven’t seen it. But know that the cast is full of pre-fame versions of many awesome people, including Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, and Paul Rudd.
Yet another Judd Apatow pick! Amy Schumer wrote and starred in Trainwreck, which found her cast as a magazine writer who doesn’t usually go for relationships or commitment…until she meets a doctor (Bill Hader) who’s best friend happens to be LeBron James (hilariously playing himself).
Not Another Teen movie (2001)
If you’re a fan of the sort of movies we’ve been highlighting on this list, you’re naturally going to want to check out Not Another Teen movie, which did the perfect spoof thing by both expertly lampooning some of the most memorable teen movies of the ’90s and still operating itself as a fun movie of the genre. Plus, 19-year-old Chris Evans is the lead actor. It’s great stuff.
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