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From Fatal Attraction to Basic Instinct, here’s our pick of the best 90s erotic thrillers

Michael Douglas and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987)  (Rex Features)
Michael Douglas and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987) (Rex Features)

MUBI’s September line-up has just landed, and the streaming site is running a special spotlight on erotic thrillers, releasing Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s Bound, Brian De Palma’s Passion, and Adrian Lyne’s Unfaithful on the 8th of the month.

The line-up fits the changing season: as summer slips away and autumn beckons, it’s time once again to snuggle down in front of the TV with an enthralling and moody film. And what’s better than a tantalizing erotic thriller?

Here’s our pick of some of the Nineties’ best offerings of the genre.

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Adrian Lyne’s 1987 psychological thriller divided reviewers but became the second highest-grossing film in North America in 1987 and was nominated for six Oscars. Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a successful lawyer from Manhattan, who has a brief but passionate affair with Alex Forrest, a publishing editor. But she quickly shows herself to be an obsessive lunatic (thus the criticisms) pursuing Dan as he tries harder and harder to rid himself of her.

Basic Instinct (1992)

Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct is arguably one of the most famous erotic thrillers of all time. It stars Sharon Stone stars as Catherine Tramell, a wealthy author who is suspected of murder when her lover is killed in the same way as a murder described in one of her novels. Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) investigates the case, but starts falling for Catherine amid her mind games.

Sliver (1993)

In this erotic thriller Sharon Stone stars as successful book editor Carly Norris. She moves into a gorgeous new apartment in Manhattan, but later finds out that the previous tenant, who looked just like her, died falling from the balcony. She decides to stay at the apartment all the same, and starts having an affair with Zeke Hawkins (William Baldwin). Things get darker when another tenant dies. Admittedly, the film is nowhere near as good a thriller as Basic Instinct, but few are. And there’s certainly enough suspense and steaminess to keep you hooked until the end.

The Last Seduction (1994)

This neo-noir style thriller from John Dahl (who went on to direct episodes of The Affair, Billions, Yellowstone and Yellowstone) tells the story of the seductive Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino) who ends up running off with a million dollars from a drug deal. Hiding in a small town near Buffalo, New York she starts having an affair with Mike (Peter Berg), but her husband (Bill Pullman) is not far behind her.

“Last Seduction is bitterly funny and deliciously clever – the razor-sharp dialogue is loaded with one-liners,” said the BBC in 2020. “With its manipulative femme fatale, it touches on similar themes to the big-budget Basic Instinct – but many believe it does it much better.”

A Perfect Murder (1998)

This fantastic remake of Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emily, a young and beautiful translator who is married to wealthy Wall Street financier, Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas), but she’s having an affair with artist David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen). Jealous Steven plots the murder of his wife, which, as in Hitchcock’s original, does not go to plan. “Patrick Smith Kelly’s script tweaks the plot a little but keeps it taut and gripping,” said The Guardian’s 1999 review. “It’s smooth and a little mechanical – you may not feel very involved, but you’ll be entertained.”

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This erotic mystery from Stanley Kubrick tells the story of husband and wife Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) and Alice (Nicole Kidman) whose sexual fantasies start to have real-life consequences. Bill ends up being drawn into an underground sex cult after Alice admits she has been feeling unfulfilled by their love life. Although the clandestine party makes for a thrilling watch, it’s the private moments between Bill and Alice at home that are truly provocative.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Sure, it’s a couple of years past the Nineties, but we still think it merits being on this list. David Lynch’s surrealist neo-noir starring Naomi Watts and Laura Harring has become a cult classic, praised by viewers and critics alike: one critic went so far as to call it a “delirious masterpiece” and it topped the BBC’s list of 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century. Watts stars as Betty Elms, an aspiring actress in Los Angeles who befriends Rita (Harring), a woman who has been in a car accident on Mulholland Drive and is suffering from amnesia. The story, which becomes stranger by the minute, follows what happens as the duo try and work out Rita’s real identity.