Not including this very popular whore…
It’s a common misconception that the selling of the human body for sex is the oldest job in the world – more of that later – but, even so, Hollywood has given prostitutes much more screen time than, say, bread manufacturers, or the people who make lucky horse shoes, or even the clever throbbing brains who design silencers for guns. How do they do that? It’s a gun, but it’s silent – weird. Anyway, with all of these actors playing women/men of the night in mind, we thought we’d list our favourite movie prostitutes of all time. Julia Roberts didn’t make the list for Pretty Woman, which might come as an almighty shock. You can find out why here…
1. Patricia Arquette, True Romance
Arquette’s finest moment comes as an inexperienced call-girl who turns up to a kung-fu film to sex up Christian Slater, because his kindly comic book shop boss thought it would make for a nice birthday gesture. In this instance, the pair fall in love, she comes off the game, then they embark on a wild journey with a suitcase of cocaine. However, in real life, were your employer to send you a birthday prostitute, chances are your story would be considerably different, possibly involving a very tearful next-morning shower, and a silent resignation.
2. Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy
For just $20/night, back in the 1960s you could have scored an evening of massage, ointments and sweaty lunges with a muscular Texan called Joe Buck. Or, at least, that’s according to this movie. Jon Voight plays the young male stud-for-hire – a big man, who insists on swanning around New York dressed like he’s just come to town from lassoing cattle, and awkwardly sharing a tent with a couple of guys up on Brokeback Mountain who kept checking their watches every thirty seconds, practically reciting train timetables. What was their problem?
3. Jamie Lee Curtis, Trading Places
For many teenage boys growing up in the 1980s, Jamie Lee Curtis’ breasts have been branded on the underside of their eyelids, thanks to the moment in Trading Places where gets them out. Both of them. In that split second, all dismissive thoughts of her just being another cash-hungry hooker called Ophelia, trying to snare herself a rich “John” who used to be a city boy but is now a vagrant, vanished. Completely vanished. We didn’t judge her. She was a woman. We were a man. And by the end of the movie, she’s not even selling intercourse for money any more. Yay!
4. Richard Gere, American Gigolo
There’s a message in this film. It’s saying something along the lines of how being a gigolo might look fancy, cool and hilariously sexual at first, but really, once you scratch the surface, and remove the oily thighs and tiny underpants, you’re just setting yourself up to be framed for murder. Come on, think about it. You are. So next time you’re squeezing into a tight pair of trunks intent on wooing a sassy older woman, stop and think for a second. Consider what you’re doing. Is this going to end up with you going to prison for murdering someone you had sex with for money, but didn’t actual kill? It’s a messy business. Don’t be a proz, guys. Don’t be a proz.
5. Kim Basinger, LA Confidential
Yes, Kim Basinger did some pretty wild things in that 9 1/2 Weeks with Mickey Rourke. They did it down a rainy alleyway at one point. And who could ever forget that scene where Mickey blindfolds his woman and raids the fridge, feeding her hot chillies, honey, a couple of mini scotch eggs, some leftover salmon, a steak bake, three swigs of Orangina, some cheese and onion Walkers, and a Rustler’s chicken burger? It was hot stuff. But it was also just a simple, tender expression of frenzied sexual passion from a couple of extremely horny adults. No money exchanged hands. Unlike in LA Confidential, where Basinger plays a kindly call girl mixed up in some very complicated police enquiries. As expected, she ends up with Russell Crowe, but not before having a quick one with Mike from Neighbours.
6. Rebecca De Mornay, Risky Business
While Elisabeth Shue was on around $500/hour in Leaving Las Vegas, Rebecca De Mornay was really feeling the pinch of the 1980s recession in Risky Business, where Tom Cruise was given the opportunity to dart around her body with his cat-like tongue for just $300 – for the WHOLE NIGHT. That equals at least two love makes with the future star of Top Gun. Over the course of the film, the pair – him a student, her a sex-for-money kind of gal – become friends, and eventually go into business, turning Cruise’s home into a brothel for the night. Making him the madam. Afterwards they do it on a train to celebrate. On the house!
7. Catherine Deneuve, Belle du Jour
As probably happens with so many bored housewives, Catherine Deneuve thought she’d spice up her day by going on the game during the afternoons. A sensible idea, you might think. Gets her out of the house. She’ll make new friends. But have you considered that some of those so-called friends might turn out to be weird stalky gangsters who end up shooting her husband and sending him into a coma? No you hadn’t. That’s what happens here. Or, at least, we think so. It’s all in bloody French.
8. River Phoenix, My Own Private Idaho
Ask anyone is the sex trade, and they will probably tell you that sleeping on the job is a bit of a no-no. Unless, they might continue, you’re a gay rent boy who looks exactly like River Phoenix. Then there might be room to make an exception. In this film, Phoenix plays a narcoleptic male trollop, who still seems to do pretty decent business, regardless that he can’t help falling to sleep when the nitty gritty starts. The whisper on the grapevine is that this film was based on Henry IV, Part One, by William Shakespeare. Yeah, didn’t really get that from the play, to be totally honest.
9. Kathleen Turner, Crimes of Passion
Like so many people working in the fashion industry, Kathleen Turner’s China Blue would wander the streets at night, blonde wig on, dressed like a hooker. Only, the clever twist here is that she wasn’t being subversive and ironic, she really was moonlighting as a nighttime prozzie! The soundtrack comes courtesy of Rick Wakeman and his magic synthesizer, and the film features a very harrowing death at the hands of a marital aid. On watching the film, any aspirations to grow up and become an escort pretty much vanished. For the most part.
10. Warren Beatty, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
In real life, Warren Beatty used to be legendary for his sexual hunger. He was even considered so vain, that he probably thought that famous song about being vain was about him. And here, he plays to type as a sexy young hooker making an old rich woman fall in love with him, even though he couldn’t give two monkey nuts about her feelings. Silly old crow. Cue lots of weeping, soul searching, and one very smug male prostitute lording it up in Italy.
11. Jane Fonda, Klute
Something about Jane Fonda’s voice could never quite sell her as a woman of the night. A street crawler. A floozy. It was an ill-fitting combination – that strong, educated vocal, and those small, clingy, prostitute outfits. It would provide a similar mind-freeze if Jordan opened her mouth to speak, and Gordon Brown’s rich Scottish textured voice came oozing out. Even so, Fonda still snagged an Oscar for her role as a wild sexual whirlwind helping Donald Sutherland track down a harlot killer. Hence The Academy was convinced. And they’d probably know.
12. Charlize Theron, Monster
Of course, on the flipside to movies like American Gigolo, where the creatures of the night don’t do any killing, here’s proof that some prostitutes can eventually develop a taste for blood. They graduate up from love bites, to frenchies, to gropes, to h-jays, to bee-joes, to the full shag. And then… to murder. It’s the story of a hideously withered old hooker called Aileen Wuornos, who decided to bring her paid-for sexual encounters to an almighty crescendo by getting stabby-stabby and shooty-shooty with her clients. It scooped a very surprising Oscar for Charlize Theron, who up until that point had only played parts that involved slowly walking towards a camera mouthing something about how beautiful she is.
13. Monica Bellucci, Malena
For those who didn’t realise, sex for money is an international trade. It’s not just an English-speaking fad. Some people even argue that it’s the oldest profession in the book, but those people are wrong. Everyone with a brain knows that much-needed recruitment consultants and celebrity journalists came first. Nitpicking aside, this is a sad tale that focusses on the downside of being a beautiful hooker, as Monica Bellucci becomes so lacking in funds that she has no choice but to entertain Nazi servicemen during the War, believing her husband to be dead. Only he isn’t! He’s totally alive. Cue rather awkward post-War conversations about what Monica got up to while he was away.
14. Paul Newman, Sweet Bird of Youth
Like so many sex workers, Paul Newman’s Chance Wayne just wanted to make it in showbusiness, then marry the love of his life. Instead he ended up working as a pool boy, which everyone knows is a euphemism for crack whore, and at one point he even gets really badly beaten up, just to hammer the point home that getting paid to do it with rich woman comes at a cost. Even if you look almost exactly like Paul Newman.
15. Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
As a rule of thumb, you’re going to get a lot of propositions from drunk guys if you go on the game – it’s the crazy fumes coming off that booze that’s making them feel all lightheaded and horny. And if they so happen to be drinking themselves to death in Las Vegas, you can bet your pretty little micro skirt and boob tube that they’ve got a pocketful of bread, sister. Something Elisabeth Shue – once spotted discussing log cabins with Tom Cruise in Cocktail – came to know pretty well, when she played a put-upon prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas, opposite Nicolas Cage, famous for being in The Rock, Con Air, and his part as “man in red sports car” in Never On Tuesday. Unfortunately, for those looking for an Ocean’s Eleven style Las Vegas romp, don’t bother – the only romps here seem to end with people crying.
16. Rob Schneider, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo
Of course, most of the movies so far have merely highlighted the downside of prostitution. But what about the good stuff? The laughs? The great jokes? The ridiculous amounts of slapstick opportunity? Not missing a trick, the celebrated American actor, Rob Schneider – famous for his near-continuous Billy Crystal impression – thought he’d latch on to the fun you could have if you were a man on the game. Here, his particular gigolo learns that sometimes women aren’t just demanding sex panthers, they are also real people. Real people, standing there with real insecurities, asking you to mock them. If they could just learn to laugh etc…
17. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Last Exit to Brooklyn
If a family member or a friend has expressed an interest in street walking, a wise move would be to sit them down in front of Last Exit to Brooklyn. They would learn two important life lessons. One would be to never sit down to watch Last Exit to Brooklyn ever again. And the other would be to throw away those fanciful notions of picking up Richard Gere and having one heck of a time teaching those po-faced shop assistants a thing or two about how to talk to a working prostitute, who is busily smearing her filthy hands all over their Versace dresses, being all hookerish. Here, Jennifer Jason Leigh puts in a great performance that we shall never see again. Ever.
18. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Basketball Diaries
Something we haven’t really touched on yet is the correlation between drug use and prostitution. One is often used to feed the other. It’s rare that you’ll find someone using drugs to feed their prostitution habit – although it does happen – but regularly, it’s the other way around. Such as in this film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a young man hooked on the dreaded horse, so much so that he’s taken to servicing slobbering elderly men in a nearby lavvy. He is saved by basketball… or something. We can’t really remember. Not the best film ever, that Basketball Diaries. He was better in Titanic, where he plays a non-prostitute having sex in cars for free.
19. Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8
In modern tabloid-terms this is the story of Sophie Anderton – a cheerful young model who unwittingly finds herself basically being a call girl. The film came out in 1960, years before Pretty Woman made it great to be a hooker, so what starts with Liz Taylor swanning around town getting her groove on left, right and centre, ends with her dying in a terrible driving accident, involving a car, some unforeseen road works, and a broken whorish heart. The lesson here is not to be a prostitute. Or to pay more attention when your driving. One of the two.
20. Heather Graham, From Hell
To avoid becoming typecast after her role as a porn actress in Boogie Nights, Heather Graham took a part as a sassy prostitute in From Hell – a story about Johnny Depp channeling the voice of Ian Beale, whilst simultaneously attempting to decipher who Jack the Ripper might be. Graham plays Mary Kelly, a flame haired young street walker, who looks like she’s going to be on the Ripper‘s menu, but evades him at the last minute, when another girl gets it instead. Much to Johnny Depps utter relief and elation. Unfortunately, in real life, Mary Kelly wasn’t quite so lucky. So, a mixed message there.
Some fantastic movies missed out…
Were a decade ever yin/yanged, it was the 1980s. One part bleak, the other part loud, colourful, and a little bit transvestite. Depressed, unemployed miners wandered the streets in fluorescent shorts and crop tops, their exhausted wives secretly dried their evening tears on big yellow leg-warmers. Absolutely everyone had AIDS. Some might say that it was the decade that veered away from good taste, but you can ignore them, it’s just the pipe smoking women who are struggling to leave the 1970s art house alone. They’re idiots. We happen to adore 1980s cinema, and in our quest for a top four, some enormous names clunked onto the cutting room floor – ET, Purple Rain, Ghostbusters, Platoon, Back To The Future, Goonies, Scanners, Fletch, The Thing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… the list is actually endless…
1. Breakdance: The Movie
Over in America, this was called Breakin’ – but that was probably a bit too slang for British tastes. In a decade awash with great underdog stories – The Karate Kid, Rocky IV, Teen Wolf – this was the most vibrant and moving. It’s the tale of a frustrated young jazz dancer making friends with some hardened breakdancers/bodypoppers, who like to earn their stripes by taking down suckers in street dancing battles. The final sequence features three toned go-getters teaching some crusty old people what being young is all about. The tears flowed like champagne that day.
The 1980s celebrated extreme violence, and movies don’t come much more gruesome than Robocop – the story of a good police officer getting shot to smithereens, before being resurrected in machine form. He’s a bit like a kinder version of Darth Vader, only in Detroit, and a policeman. In amongst the gore lurks a tale about the human spirit, and how it can never really die. This made Robocop not only a stomach turner, but something of a tear jerker too.
3. The Breakfast Club
By far the best of the John Hughes films, for a while this was the coolest film of all time – thanks mainly to Judd Nelson’s startling portrayal of a school rebel. He even trailblazed diamond earrings on sixth formers. Yes, he was that mega-wicked. Joining him was the spoilt little princess (Molly Ringwald), the geek (Anthony Michael Hall), the total douche (Emilio Estevez) and Little Miss Weirdo (Ally Sheedy). As with most films about teenagers, this one demands that we all just love one another, both emotionally, and probably a bit sexually too. Dynamic stuff.
4. 9 1/2 Weeks
At the height of their looks, Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger made for one very sexy couple. This was their ode to love making and milky desires in the middle of the night. It’s also one of about a million sex dramas made in the 1980s – notably including the brilliant Fatal Attraction, which very nearly made the list. In this, Rourke plays a mysterious stranger, who makes Basinger all giddy by smearing food on her, but doesn’t appear to be good husband-material. This, of course, drives her to the edge of insanity, which wouldn’t have pleased facial haired feminists one bit. A smashing film.