The Steamiest, Most Scandalous Books to Heat Up the Big Screen
Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James
One. Two. Three times E.L. James created best-selling erotic romance novels that proved a large portion of the world wants (or wants to fantasize about) sex involving subs, doms and a red room. The first in her trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, was turned into a 2015 film starring Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, a naïve college student who gets tied up (literally) in a sexually charged affair with seductively damaged CEO Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Fifty Shades Darker, which explores how Christian's past infiltrates their relationship … and their bed … and an elevator … is in theaters now.
Buy It! Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James, $29.54; amazon.com
Watch It! Fifty Shades of Grey movie, $9.99; amazon.com
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Once banned in the U.K. for its overt sexual content, Lawrence's novel remains a classic because it poetically presents the question: Can love exist without its physical expression? Not for Lady Chatterley. Married to a well-to-do paralyzed man, she discovers love and a new sense of self in the arms of the gamekeeper. The sensational 1928 novel has made several appearances on the big and small screens since 1955, including a 1993 BBC Television serial starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean, and a 2015 TV movie starring Game of Thrones's Richard Madden as the gamekeeper.
Buy It! Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, $5.39; amazon.com
Watch It! Lady Chatterly 1993 movie, $16.11; amazon.com
Damage by Josephine Hart
There are few affairs as illicit as this one. Dr. Stephen Fleming is an older, married politician. Anna Barton is younger — and Fleming's son's fiancée. Their sexual attraction leads to obsession and a series of steamy trysts until their secret is ultimately exposed. Both the book and the 1992 film starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche reveal that sometimes passion can burn so hot it decimates everything it touches.
Buy It! Damage by Josephine Hart, $14.99; amazon.com
Watch It! Damage movie, $17.99; amazon.com
Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill
A book that's so much sexier (and scarier) than Fifty Shades could ever be. Why? It's real. This highly erotic memoir recounts the author's affair with a man who eventually controls her body and mind completely. Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke added even more heat when they starred in the notorious 1986 adaption, which reportedly almost received an X rating for the sexual games that played out on screen — including one that involved a blindfold and a fridge full of food.
Buy It! Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill, $10.40; amazon.com
Watch It! 9 1/2 Weeks movie, $3.99; amazon.com
Henry and June: From 'A Journal of Love' — The Unexpurgated Diaries of Anais Nin by Anais Nin
Another chapter from a real woman's life (in this case a year of Nin's life in Paris). The author recounts meeting writer Henry Miller and his wife, June, resulting in an intense emotional and physical affair that entangles three hearts and leaves no room for Nin's husband. The 1990 film, starring Maria de Medeiros, Fred Ward and Uma Thurman as Nin, Henry and June, was the first movie to receive an NC-17 rating, thanks to a shot of an explicit illustrated postcard involving a Japanese woman and a squid.
Buy It! Henry and June: From 'A Journal of Love' — The Unexpurgated Diaries of Anais Nin by Anais Nin, $10.71; amazon.com
Watch It! Henry & June movie, $9.49; amazon.com
Bad Behavior: Stories by Mary Gaitskill
This is a series of tales about people at their baddest: drug addicts, the sex obsessed, and prostitutes. But when Gaitskill wrote Bad Behavior: Stories, she did so with a level of insight that proves there can be beauty in obsession ... and wit in even the most perverse of places. The collection inspired the 2000 film Secretary, featuring the less-than-qualified secretary Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who begins a hot and twisted affair with her boss, E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Who wouldn't get turned on watching Gyllenhaal crawl on the floor with stationery in her mouth?
Buy It! Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, $9.51; amazon.com
Watch It! Secretary movie, $3.99; amazon.com
20th Century Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler
This 1926 novella follows Doctor Fridolin over the course of two days after his wife tells him she's fantasized about someone else. The darkly seductive story, which delves into Fridolin's thoughts, dreams and desire for sexual revenge, was modernized and brought to life in 1999 as Eyes Wide Shut, a psychological thriller starring then husband and wife Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as the troubled couple. The film included a much buzzed about orgy scene that had to be altered in order to earn an R rating.
Buy It! 20th Century Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler, $4.75; amazon.com
Watch It! Eyes Wide Shut movie, $3.99; amazon.com
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Considered one of the most controversial novels of European literature, Les Liaisons Dangereuses explores what happens when two bored, French aristocrats decide to play games of seduction. Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil are so good you almost want them to win — until the rules change. This beloved and devilish novel inspired a score of movies — including 1988's Dangerous Liaisons, starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Just as intriguing is Valmont, which released the next year and stars a young and naughty Colin Firth. If he isn't charming enough to whip up your petticoat, we don't know what is.
Buy It! Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, $10.32; amazon.com
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Rather than explicit sex, this acclaimed novel is about illicit obssession. Humbert Humbert is an aging scholar who marries his landlady in order to be near her prepubescent daughter, Lolita. His is a tale of obsession, delusion and, eventually, heartbreak. Stanley Kubrick's 1962 adaption, starring James Mason and Sue Lyon, is both darkly funny and eerie. If black-and-white film isn't your thing, a 1997 version featuring Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain brings the heat in full color.
Buy It! Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, $9.75; amazon.com
Histoire d'O by Pauline Réage
Written by a French author in the 1950s, the book centers around the story of O, a beautiful photographer whose sole desire is to be owned by her lover, René. The story, which was turned into a 1975 film starring Corinne Cléry and Udo Kier, became all the more interesting in 1994, when the author (whose real name is Anne Desclos) revealed that her erotic novel was based on letters she wrote to her lover of three decades — the editor and critic Jean Paulhan.
Buy It! Histoire d'O by Pauline Réage, $12.07; amazon.com
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Peyton Place lays bare what really goes on behind closed doors and among the shadows of a seemingly respectable New England town. In truth, the townspeople are filled with vice, violence and great passions. The goings-on of Peyton Place are so surprisingly salacious that the book inspired a (cleaned up) 1957 film starring Lana Turner and Lee Phillips. The novel also led to the first prime-time soap opera (hello, sex and drama!).
Buy It! Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, $11.68; amazon.com
Watch It! Peyton Place movie, $3.99; amazon.com