Forget the body doubles, merkins and modesty socks. There are plenty of high-profile movie stars so committed to a project, punchline, or character that they’ll happily stand before the cameras wearing only their birthday suit. Over the decades, full-frontal nudity has become increasingly normalized in mainstream movies. It’s no longer the exclusive domain of NC-17-rated indies or art house movies by provocative European directors.
As our selection of 10 actors who were fully nude in a movie illustrates, major celebrities are now far less reluctant to put their privates on display, baring all in everything from R-rated comedies to award-winning dramas. Hell, given the awards pedigree of the films on this list, it might even up their odds of gaining industry accolades. Their willingness to drop their pants is often a sign of a fearless commitment, and can be employed to signify a character’s state of mind, challenge social taboos, and foster greater acceptance of the human body in its various guises.
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Michael Fassbender bared body and soul for his role as Brandon Sullivan, a New York executive in the grip of sexual addiction. Released in 2011, Shame’s opening moments frankly convey Brandon’s compulsive routine of sexual activity. We’re presented with a succession of post-coital moments in which Fassbender awakes after another one-night stand, wandering naked around his empty apartment in a series of unflinching long-takes. Shame takes a cold, hard look at one man’s isolating and self-destructive urges. And as Fassbender commented of the film’s frequent nudity to The Guardian,
Barry Keoghan (Saltburn)
This 2023 psychological thriller stars Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, an Oxford scholarship student eager to assimilate into the university’s wealthy milieu. After befriending the handsome Felix Catton, he’s invited to spend the summer at his family’s manor of Saltburn. But could there be a darker motive for Oliver’s infatuation with Felix?
Well – *spoiler alert* – yes. The film’s audacious coda finds Keoghan dancing starkers through his newly inherited home of Saltburn as “Murder on the Dancefloor” plays – a wickedly bravura moment filmed in one eyebrow-raising long-take. Explaining the significance of his character’s nude revelry, Keoghan explained to EW:
Emma Thompson (Good Luck To You, Leo Grande)
Joining the growing ranks of actors who were fully nude for a movie, Emma Thompson bared all as former teacher Nancy Stokes in the 2022 comedy-drama, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. Having never experienced pleasurable sex and ashamed of her body, Nancy hires the handsome Leo Grande to action a kinky itinerary on which the missionary position is just a stopover on the way to Climaxistan.
After enjoying her first orgasm, the film’s final moments see Nancy disrobe in front of the hotel mirror. Candidly appraising her reflection – her lumps, bumps, and lolling breasts – a permissive smile graces her face. It’s a powerful moment, indicating that Nancy’s finally gained a degree of compassionate self-acceptance.
Jennifer Lawrence (No Hard Feelings)
Although Jennifer Lawrence first bared all in Red Sparrow, it’s her iconic performance in 2023’s No Hard Feelings that had people choking on their popcorn. Lawrence plays 32-year-old Uber driver Maddie Barker. Threatened with bankruptcy after her car is repossessed, she finds work wooing the socially awkward son of two rich parents in exchange for a Buick Regal.
J-Law’s nude beach scene is the highlight of this R-rated comedy. As Maddie tries to seduce Percy by taking him skinny-dipping, their clothes are stolen by a group of obnoxious teens. Without thinking, Maddie storms out of the water, whooping their asses as the Hall & Oates’ song “Maneater” plays. Lawrence – who turned down a body double – approaches the scene with gutsy aplomb, hilariously conveying Maddie’s brash, devil-may-care character.
Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin)
Known briefly as “Scarlett Johansson’s nude movie,” the actress was breaking into Marvel territory when she accepted a distinctively different role in Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 masterpiece. She’s barely recognizable as a female-presenting extraterrestrial, who stalks the Scottish highlands to kidnap and harvest unsuspecting male prey.
Johansson’s big reveal comes three-quarters of the way through the film. Lit only by the red glow of an electric heater, and observing her limbs in a vertical mirror, flickers of cognition animate her otherwise impassive face to suggest a burgeoning consciousness. Gradually identifying with this human form, the otherworldly being interrogates the curve of her neck, the mechanics of a knee, and the undulations of bone beneath skin.
Under the Skin is an unforgettable viewing experience. You can stream it now when you sign-up for an HBO Max subscription.
Gary Cole (Blockers)
When three young women plan to lose their virginity on prom night, their overprotective parents do everything to stop them. But it’s the adults that get into the most trouble in Blockers, the 2018 comedy from Kay Cannon.
With Ron (Gary Cole) withholding the adolescents’ whereabouts, Mitchell breaks into his house to find the texts confirming their location. But to do so he has to evade Ron and his wife as they play a sex game blindfolded. Cannon amusingly parodies the velociraptor scene from Jurassic Park as Ron stalks through the kitchen towards a cowering Mitchell, before he lurches into shot and flashes audiences worldwide an eyeful of his… meat and two veg.
It’s a hilariously orchestrated scene, that, thanks to Gary Cole’s game performance, helps level the playing field between male and female nudity onscreen: promoting what Fandom catchily dubbed #Ballsforboobs.
Daniel Craig (Love Is The Devil)
Daniel Craig made waves exiting the Atlantic like a chiselled Adonis in Casino Royale. But he’d already bared it all in the 1998 biopic Love is the Devil, in which Craig portrays George Dyer, the lover and muse of painter Francis Bacon whose volatile relationship ends in tragedy.
During a scene of strained intimacy, there’s a prolonged shot of Craig’s 007. Taking a soak in the tub, Dyer anxiously asks if he’s still invited to Bacon’s Paris exhibition. “Of course you’re coming. You are the exhibition” the artist retorts. Then the film cuts to an aerial shot of Craig – and there’s no mound of bubbles to obscure his manhood. It’s a moment that foregrounds the film’s queer gaze, echoing the artist’s infatuation towards his troubled muse.
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power Of The Dog)
Director Jane Campion is known for her poetic treatment of the male nude. And for this acclaimed, 2021 drama, she turned her camera towards Benedict Cumberbatch as the gruff Montana cowboy Phil Burbank. The Power of the Dog is still one of the best movies on Netflix, garnering 11 Oscar nominations.
Brimming with toxic masculinity, Burbank relentlessly torments his brother’s wife and her teenage son. But, away from the ranch, Phil embraces moments of sensual pleasure. Ensconced in nature, we watch him find peace with himself and his desires as he cakes his entire body in mud before plunging headlong into the water. Subsequently, he retires to a glade, where he can indulge in the remembered touch of Bronco Henry – his former mentor and, it’s implied, lover – without any shame.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary)
Making her reputation for being one of those actors who went fully nude in a movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal broke into the Hollywood limelight with her acclaimed performance in 2003’s kinky rom-com Secretary.
As Lee Holloway, her character finds personal transformation through a BDSM relationship with boss Edward Grey. And the ultimate expression of her fidelity is when she sits stock still for three whole days until he eventually returns.
Taken with her obedience, her dom partner tends to Lee with complete devotion. Gyllenhaal’s subsequent nudity in these final scenes reflects her character’s awakened physical and emotional openness. As the camera pans out from her face, she narrates how he traced every inch of her body while she divulged the history of each of her self-harm scars. It’s a moment of awestruck intimacy, as Lee experiences being seen and accepted in both body and soul.
Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat)
It’s one of the most daring scenes in cinema history: Kazakh reporter Borat and his producer Azamat engaging in a balls-out brawl that erupts out of their San Diego hotel room and into a packed mortgage conference. This 2006 black comedy has no shortage of provocations, but what makes this scene work so well is Sacha Baron Cohen’s willingness to push things to their extremes. It’s a wildly chaotic two minutes as Borat ruts against his producer’s ample behind while throttling him, before the 250lb Azamat tries to asphyxiate Borat between his butt cheeks. It’s shockingly funny as personal boundaries and rules of public decorum are blithely transgressed, and the chaotic scene ends when the naked duo are apprehended by hotel security.