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If you had to select the most famous nude scene of all time, which would you choose? You’d probably want to know what the parameters are? Does “most famous” mean that the most people saw it? Or does it mean that it ended up having the biggest impact on the film industry, or on pop culture, as a whole?
The team behind the new documentary Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies seem like the right people to make the call on this distinction. Director Danny Wolf and executive producer Jim McBride (best known as Mr. Skin) have assembled this new film exploring the rich history of nude scenes – both male and female – in cinema. When we asked them what they consider to be the most famous nude scene of all time, McBride singled out three that have to be in contention:
I think Danny and I are both in agreement about Phoebe Cates in Fast Times is probably our favorite. I’ve always said myself, it’s my favorite nude scene of all time. You know, her beauty, her popularity to young guys like me when that came out. The cars moving in stereo, the slow motion, the water spraying on her, the fact that it was in one of the great movies of all time -- [it] always will go down as my favorite nude scene. … I [also] tell people a lot, too, when they ask me what’s the most famous nude scene of all time? You touched on Titanic with Kate Winslet, because so many people saw it. The movie was rated PG. I think that’s probably a movie that almost… more people saw that than almost any nude scene of all time.
I think, and we have it in the movie, that famous Sharon Stone Basic Instinct [scene]. To me, that’s the most famous nude scene of all time, because everyone remembers it. It’s been parodied. You mention Basic Instinct, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Of course that had to be in our documentary. That’s one of the all-time greats.
So, Jim McBride picks three scenes, but lands on Sharon Stone’s nude scene in Basic Instinct as the winner for “most famous” nude scene of all time. Maybe you are asking “which” nude scene in that movie. There are lots. It has to mean the interrogation-room scene, where Stone knocks some tough detectives off of their game with the uncrossing of her legs.
But the point that McBride makes about Titanic can’t be ignored. That movie held the spot for the highest-grossing film of all time for a long time. And was knocked out of that spot by James Cameron’s Avatar. Ironic. Still, a lot of people saw Kate Winslet disrobe so Jack could sketch her. You could make a case for it to be pretty damn famous.