It makes sense that "respectable" actors and actresses, at least of the American and British varieties, tend to remain clothed, at least onscreen. A palpable disdain—as if somehow they've been tainted—sometimes follows those who disrobe, even when the nudity isn't gratuitous. Another reason to keep covered: The Internet offers a public forum for the kind of physical scrutiny—positive and negative—that even Hollywood's most perfect don't want. Here, The A.V. Club examines stars who've risen above the "nudity is below me" rule, and offers a taste of the chatter—most from the admirably, sometimes hilariously detailed Celebrity Nudity Database—that probably gives them second thoughts about it. [Note: None of the accompanying clips include nudity, so don't get your hopes up.]
1. Halle Berry
Halle Berry is the perfect example of an actress who's exposed herself for right and wrong reasons: In Monster's Ball, her sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton provides an emotional climax; in Swordfish, she's just kinda sitting there with her boobs out, so Hugh Jackman (and, umm, the rest of us) can get a look. (She famously took a big paycheck for the Swordfish scene.) Choice cndb.com user comment: "Great sex scene with that looser Billy Bob. Some nice shots of her ass and breasts, can't wait to examine further on DVD."
2. Julianne Moore
Multiple Best-Actress nominee Julianne Moore (The Hours, Boogie Nights, Far From Heaven) has done an incredible job of picking roles: The stinkers on her résumé are far outnumbered by truly excellent films. In Robert Altman's Short Cuts, she shares an intense argument with Matthew Modine, and her entirely unsexy shouts are delivered bottomless. Her nudity is clearly intended to convey emotional vulnerability and comfort with her husband, but it may have been enjoyed for other reasons. Choice cndb.com user comment: "great shot of her glowing red pubes, also get some nice shots of her can as she walks around. if u love julianne, their is no other movie u need to see…"
3. Harvey Keitel
Little Harvey Keitel has appeared in several movies, from a straight-up sex scene with Holly Hunter in The Piano to several near-depraved scenes in Bad Lieutenant. In the latter, big Harvey plays an anguished, drug-addicted cop who can't reconcile his lifestyle with his religious leanings, which culminates in a naked, Christ-like pose. Choice cndb.com user comment: "He is very muscular for his age and has sculptured abs and thighs although his penis is not that big. Still, he is a very brave actor."
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh
While the brief flash of Phoebe Cates' breasts ruined VHS copies of Fast Times At Ridgemont High the world over, it's likely that more young boys actually wanted to take Jennifer Jason Leigh in their arms after she exposed her vulnerable body to not one, but two manipulative assholes. While that wasn't Leigh's last nude appearance by a long shot, Fast Times pretty much marked the last shred of her innocence: In both the cable version of Girls Of The White Orchid and Last Exit To Brooklyn, she's nude while getting raped, and in Single White Female, her exposed breasts are attached to a complete psycho. Choice cndb.com user comment: Toplessness has become an established part of Leigh's repertoire, prompting one cndb.com user to yawn about Sister, Sister, "Breasts, same as you've seen in just about every movie she does."
5. Maria Bello
It takes a certain comfort level (and devotion to the role) to appear in a love scene. Not only is Maria Bello comfortable doing it, she'll even discuss her pubic hair afterward—as she did in the doc This Film Is Not Yet Rated, talking about her controversial sex scene in The Cooler. And Bello isn't afraid to get graphic; check out her two unsettling sex scenes with Viggo Mortensen in A History Of Violence. Choice cndb.com user comment: "Lovely Anna from ER bares her breasts in a love scene with Ben Stiller. It's kinda dark and pretty fast, but I'm glad she did it!"
6. Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen established his willingness to bare all for a role early on in his career with a full-frontal scene in 1991's The Indian Runner, but subsequently scaled it back to stylized naughty glimpses in A History Of Violence and Psycho. But don't go thinking that sweet Lord Of The Rings gig made him soft: This year's Eastern Promises features a supremely unsexy scene in which Mortensen fights two thugs in a sauna wearing nothing but his tattoos. Choice cndb.com user comment: "This guy looks like Howie Long and in this movie he gives us a nice look at his dick. It won't bowl you over, but good for him to have the courage to show us!"
7. Diane Lane
For all the talk of the scorching sex scenes in 2002's Unfaithful, the film offered little nudity from star Diane Lane. Her performance as a woman simultaneously wracked with guilt yet exhilarated by her adultery captured the complexity of the situation… but without toplessness, which she's done in a variety of other films—including one with Eric Roberts. Choice cndb.com user comment: "She is 15 in [Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains], so her breasts aren't that big, but it is still worth a look."
8. William H. Macy
William H. Macy waited until pretty late in his career to start getting his ass out for the camera, and much was made of his love scene with Mario Bello in The Cooler. It's funny to see how much greater a reaction an older guy's butt can get than a younger one's: Maybe Cooler was just a lucky precursor to Tell Me You Love Me. Macy also showed his tush in the kinda-awesome, kinda-terrible Edmond, which features the unforgettable prison-sex come-on, "Get on my body." Choice cndb.com user comment: "About 40 minutes in, he goes down on Bello's landing strip, but the camera cuts away before we can evaluate his technique."
9. Helen Mirren
Esteemed British actress Helen Mirren, currently best known as the Oscar-winning star of 2006's The Queen, is a patron saint of film nudity; her full disclosure began in her youth with her earliest films, like 1969's Age Of Consent and 1972's Savage Messiah, but it carried through to mid-period work (Caligula, Excalibur) and more recent films, like Peter Greenaway's stunning style-fest The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. In her late 50s—and mere months after being knighted—she returned to form by going topless in 2003's Calendar Girls, as the leader of a group of older British women fund-raising by appearing in a nudie calendar. Her frequent exposure throughout her career led to a rapturous discussion between male characters on the recent British sitcom Coupling; as one lech put it, her appearance in a movie was like "a guarantee" that it would need to be watched with the curtains closed: "Because she's just so naked, isn't she! It's like she's just got to get her clothes off; it's like her breasts are afraid of the dark!" Choice cndb user comment: "We get a brief glimpse of her 58 year old breasts in full view. They are of course saggy but her breasts has always been saggy anyway and I don't know about you but I think she is pretty hot for an old broad."
10. Richard Gere
In American Gigolo, Richard Gere plays a narcissistic man who makes his living by being attractive and sexually desirable, so gosh darn it, for the sake of realism alone, the film has a solemn obligation to expose as much of his buff body as possible. From unclothed upside-down push-ups to scantily clad encounters with clients, American Gigolo fully exposes Gere's unique, umm, talents. Choice cndb.com user comment: "This is not the gratest frontal scene, but Richard Gere is the most sexy man in this world, so I give this 3 points. You can see him naked after walking out of the bed, when he is moving hes sexy leg, then you can see he's penis, but still it should be an Full Frontal like in an European movie, just my thoughts."
11. Jennifer Connelly
Ironically enough, Jennifer Connelly has probably fueled more adolescent fantasies with her clothes on than off. There's precisely nothing to remember about the lame John Hughes comedy Career Opportunities besides Connelly riding on a coin-operated department-store horse, and her va-voom appearance in the squeaky-clean The Rocketeer owed more to her old-school movie-star glamour than anything remotely explicit. Aside from Dennis Hopper's 1990 neo-noir The Hot Spot, which featured Connelly in all her youthful splendor, the actress undercuts her most explicit scenes by couching them in the most depressing context imaginable. In Waking The Dead, a lovemaking session with Billy Crudup is tempered by the knowledge that her activist character has died in a politically motivated car bombing. And in Requiem For A Dream, her sexual humiliation is part of a montage of tortures visited upon the film's trio of desperate junkies. Choice cndb.com user comment: If you look past all that misery, one user notes, you can "still see her beautiful bush."
12. Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maggie Gyllenhaal's unconventional beauty and cool self-confidence has made her a thinking man's sex symbol, and while the indie crowd that reveres her would probably never admit it, her obvious comfort with her own nudity has had plenty to do with her appeal. Her full-frontal scenes in the S&M romance-comedy Secretary made her a breakout star, and the brief flash of nipple was one of the more joyous moments in the otherwise dreary Happy Endings. She's also adept at getting naked in uncomfortable situations, like her brutal interrogation scene in Strip Search, or pretty much any scene in the uniformly depressing Sherrybaby. Choice cndb.com user comment: "Early on in the film she is bent over while getting it from behind. Butt and breasts viewed. Later, when trying to get a job she removes her top and offers to suck the guy's d*** for that job. Hot stuff."
13. Ewan McGregor
Probably the most proudly nude mainstream male actor working today, Ewan McGregor hasn't let his leading-man success in action and romance films keep him from dropping trou in a handful of titillating arthouse flicks. From extended full-frontal shots and explicit sex in The Pillow Book, Young Adam, and Velvet Goldmine to casual dangling in Nightwatch and Trainspotting, McGregor's list of nude scenes is as long as his, um, arm. Though McGregor has said he's given up getting naked onscreen, the upcoming thriller The List—which finds him playing a bored accountant searching for excitement in a New York sex club—might prove too great a temptation for the nudity-prone actor. Choice cndb.com user comment: "This is a Ewan festival! His thick flaccid penis is on display in several scenes throughout the movie, including one where it visibly grows against the belly of his co-star as they are hugging."
14. Kate Winslet
When Hollywood needed an actress to get topless in a movie about the Marquis de Sade, Kate Winslet seemed an obvious choice—after all, Quills wasn't meant to be sexy, and if her exposed bosom wasn't even enough to get Titanic an R rating, clearly people weren't getting too excited. Perhaps she did herself a favor by flooding the market with nudity: Between 1996 and 2001, Winslet made eight movies and was naked in six of them, with everything from boob-revealing intimacy (Hideous Kinky) to full-on body shots (Holy Smoke) to explicit sex scenes (Jude, Iris). Her rep has never suffered, though, mostly because the movies she makes tend to be good—so after a five-year break from nakedness, she bared all once again in Little Children. Choice cndb.com user comment: "Do not expect a great exposure, though Kate's breasts are on good show."
15. Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei is a curious case: For years, she never appeared nude in movies, even calling in a body double for Slums Of Beverly Hills, which is ironic, given that her character's frank, unembarrassed sexuality was meant to contrast sharply with the shame-addled heroine. Tomei made a brief exception for the Charles Bukowski adaptation Factotum, but that was a dripping faucet compared to the floodgates of nudity she opened up for Sidney Lumet's new thriller Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. It's as if Tomei resolved, "Well, if one frame is enough to travel all over the Internet, what difference does 3,000 or so make?" Yet Tomei makes it count in other ways, too, playing a femme fatale whose indiscretions make her the lynchpin of a crime scheme gone wrong. Choice cndb.com user comment: She's got "BigWoody"'s vote for the best nude scene of 2007, which is almost as prestigious an honor as that Oscar she won for My Cousin Vinny.
16. Colin Farrell
Colin Farrell has made his career turning in solid performances in lackluster films, but he made his reputation as a sex symbol, a reputation that was reinforced when the Hollywood press shrilly announced that his full-frontal nude scene was cut from 2004's A Home At The End Of The World because audiences found it "too distracting." Hyperbole aside, Farrell has stripped down for several other nude scenes that range from expressive (with Selma Hayek in Ask The Dust) to completely unnecessary (Alexander). Choice cndb.com user comment: "He spreads his legs nice and slow to show off a low hanging sack of 2 impressive, BIG BALLS."
17. Charlotte Rampling
Though well into her 50s, Charlotte Rampling has remained willing to lose her clothes for directors with artistic intentions. (François Ozon and Laurent Cantet, for example.) In recent years, Rampling's screen nudity has been a way of showing that age hasn't diminished her characters' sexuality, but when she was younger, in films like Zardoz and The Night Porter, Rampling tended to appear nude in movies that showed the human body as something raw, to be commoditized or exploited. Choice cndb.com user comment: "[Swimming Pool] is supposed to be a mystery movie, but the biggest mystery is why anyone would imagine we want to see Charlotte Rampling full frontal at 58."
18. Angelina Jolie
Jolie worked her way up from eye-candy roles in quasi-exploitation fare like Cyborg 2 to indie films, Oscar bait, and ultimately action blockbusters—before retreating back to indie films and Oscar bait. Jolie hasn't shied away from her sexpot image—her participation in Beowulf is practically predicated on the idea that people will want to see her naked, even in CGI form—but in most of her recent work, the nudity is all about naturalism, not titillation. Choice cndb.com user comment: "[Beyond Borders] is so BORING. Anyway you see her areola briefly in a love scene with Clive Owen."
19. Kevin Bacon
Almost every contemporary American actor and actress is but a degree or two away from Kevin Bacon's lean backside, which has been on display in so many movies (Friday The 13th, Murder In The First, Hollow Man, Where The Truth Lies) that most cinephiles could pick it out in a lineup. Such is the lot of a character actor: When you're tapped to appear in as many movies as Bacon, you're called upon to do almost anything. But Bacon's shower scene in Wild Things is what earned him a place on this list, given that such instances of male full-frontal nudity in American movies are as rare as Northern spotted owl cameos. Size alone doesn't fully account for the gasps over this sizzling piece of Bacon; they were just another example of how the calculatedly provocative Wild Things, with its generous mélange of lipstick lesbians and three-ways, reacts against the puritanical nature of American culture. Choice cndb.com user comment: "It even looked engorged to me, or half-mast as they say."
20. Helena Bonham Carter
For as much time as Helena Bonham Carter has spent playing dress-up in elegant period films, she's spent just as much time unlacing those corsets and exposing her pale, pale skin. Carter came of age as an actress in the Merchant-Ivory era, when filmmakers attempted to treat literary adaptations either with restrained maturity or with punk abandon. Carter has swung both ways, but even in the staid films, she's been a punky presence, and her nude scenes have been a kind of flip-off to the establishment. Choice cndb.com user comment: "[In The Wings Of The Dove], Helena takes off all her cloth's and has sex."
21. Samantha Morton
Known for playing fragile, childlike women who find untapped reserves of strength in the face of adversity, Samantha Morton has preferred to use her nude scenes as an expression of her characters' vulnerabilities. She's been naked on film playing a murder victim and a suicide, and even her sex scenes are more matter-of-fact than erotic. She's more into finding a common humanity than putting on a titillating show. Choice cndb.com user comment: "Near the end of [Code 46], there is a sex scene where Tim Robbins take off Samantha Morton's red skirt and reveal for about 5 seconds her shaved vagina in close up. The problem is that we don't see her face in the same shot, which could probably be a body double. But since Samantha Morton already did plenty of nudity before (including full frontal), it is possible that it's really her shaved vagina."
22. Naomi Watts
After years of bit parts in American films, Australian actress Naomi Watts broke through in the early '00s with performances in Mulholland Dr. and 21 Grams that were hailed by many critics as "brave," meaning "She got naked a lot." Watts is rare among contemporary award-caliber actresses in her willingness to do nude scenes meant to be arousing, not punishing or naturalistic, though as she's gained more clout in the business, she's moved toward making herself—and her nude scenes—plainer. Choice cndb.com user comment: "In spite of dozens of precarious positions, Naomi does not even give us an up the skirt panty shot, just her long slip and a brief short one. I guess the director realized [King Kong] was starting to drag and gave us a brief left and then right conical nipples poking through a sheer dress near the end."