There’s just something about nuns. For most, I’m guessing it’s the idea of forbidden fruit, although the majority of real-life cloistered females aren’t nearly as hot as their counterparts in nunsploitation films (and not nearly as sapphic). For others, it might be the opportunity to thumb their collective noses at organized religion while still managing to get their rocks off. But whatever the reasons for cultivating a nun fetish, you’ll be glad to know that I’ve put together a list of good movies from this very specific sub-genre of cinema. Lovers of weird movies will not be disappointed.
Modern-day examples of nunsploitation films do exist, but their undisputed heyday came in the 1970s. Depicting women of faith engaging in occult activities, lesbian romps, or displays of gun-wielding vengeance, these works of art are still causing controversy and titillation to this day. Just be warned: watching nunsploitation movies may prove a hard “habit” to break.
- Alucarda (1978) – Made in Mexico, Alucarda stars Tina Romero as a teenage orphan who’s lived her entire life in a convent. When fellow orphan Justine (Susana Kamini) arrives at the normally peaceful convent, the two start getting into trouble, falling for one another, and inadvisably poking around a nearby gypsy camp. As you might imagine, they unwittingly let loose a demonic force (thanks, gypsies) and get possessed for their efforts. The events that follow are filled with orgies, lesbianism, Satanism, and good old-fashioned murder. Religious groups had a fit when the film was released, but fans of nunsploitation cinema were in heaven.
- Machete (2010) – The bulk of this Robert Rodriguez film has to do with the (frequently bloody) battle over immigration, but there’s a climactic scene that qualifies it for the nunsploitation sub-genre in my book. While Robert De Niro dresses up like a day laborer and Michelle Rodriguez shows off her eye-patch and buff body, Linday Lohan makes an appearance in full nun regalia and wielding an arsenal of weapons. Seeking vengeance for the death of her incestuous father, she wastes no time in gunning down fanatical militiamen and corrupt politicians. Prior to donning the habit, her character was hanging out in crack houses and filming raunchy webcam content (even coaxing her big-breasted mother into participating).
- Satánico Pandemonium (1975) – Quentin Tarantino must have been a big fan of this nunsploitation film, as he named the vampiric Salma Hayek character in From Dusk till Dawn after her. Boasting the tagline “From bride of Christ to slave of Satan,” the film follows Sister Maria (Cecilia Pezet), a young nun who works tirelessly to help the needy. But Maria has needs of her own, and these perverse fantasies are satisfied in dreams and vision sent by none other than Satan. As she slowly succumbs to the pleasures of the flesh, Sister Maria realizes that she’s been chosen to destroy her fellow nuns and lead them all on the path to hell.
- To the Devil a Daughter (1976) – One of the last horror films from Hammer before their long period of dormancy, this tale of terror revolves around an occult author (Richard Widmark) who is tasked with keeping a young nun (Nastassja Kinski) safe from sinister cultists. Christopher Lee is the Satanic villain, and other co-stars include Honor Blackman and Denholm Elliott. The 16-year-old Kinski bares it all, and it’s got every bit of the lurid charm you’d expect from a Hammer production.
- School of the Holy Beast (1974) – Director Norifumi Suzuki delivers this beautifully-shot Japanese movie about a woman (Yumi Takigawa) who becomes a nun in order to solve the mystery surrounding her mother‘s death. She gets more than she bargained for, uncovering lecherous and even blasphemous clergy and nuns with a penchant for whipping one another. A fine examples of the Pink films so popular in Japan.
- Sacred Flesh (1999) – Set in medieval times (no, not the theme restaurant), Sacred Flesh strings together a number of vignettes in order to depict the seedy goings-on at a convent. Nuns engage in lesbian sex, threesomes with priests, and even bondage involving a very large crucifix. Meanwhile, the Mother Superior debates sexuality and faith with a less-than-saintly version of Mary Magdalene.
- Dark Waters (1994) – Also known by the title Dead Waters, this atmospheric nunsploitation film is also a damn fine horror flick. After her father passes away, a young woman named Elizabeth (Louise Salter) wants to know why he would fund a convent on an isolated island. She also wants to know why her mother died shortly after giving birth to her on the very same island. Despite all the warning signs that something is terribly wrongs, she heads to her destination and finds dark and unnatural secrets waiting in the depths of the island’s catacombs. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will be especially pleased by the dark tone and creepy characters conjured up by Italian director Mariano Baino.
- The Devils (1971) – Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States) helmed this controversial and frequently banned film that’s still difficult to track down in its unedited form. Drawing from numerous sources, the film tells the real-life story of Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), a priest in 17th century France who falls prey to political intrigue and the depraved sexual obsessions of a deformed nun (Vanessa Redgrave). The walls of a city are blown apart, a king guns down peasant dressed as birds, nuns engage in an orgy with a statue of Christ, men are tortured, and a charred femur–which only hours before belonged to a living man–is used as a masturbation tool. Is it any wonder than more conservative-minded countries edited the hell out of this one?
- Killer Nun (1978) – Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita) stars as Sister Gertrude, a young nun who goes bonkers and starts shooting up heroin and morphine following her rushed recovery from delicate neurosurgery. She also goes on a rampage through the geriatric hospital where’s she’s staying, terrifying a number of the elderly patients and possibly killing one. But is she truly guilty of the murder, or is someone trying to frame the buxom, strung-out nun? Set in modern times and featuring nuns engaging in sexual activities, this Italian film was originally banned in Great Britain and considered one of the infamous video nasties.
- The Nun and the Devil (1973) – Also known by the titles Sisters of Satan and The Nuns of Archangel, this Italian nun movie takes place in 16th century Naples and is based on a true story. Horny nuns frolic about enjoying all manner of sin with both male visitors and one another. Meanwhile, Sister Julia (Anne Heywood) schemes to replace a dying Mother Superior. But the Catholic church can be such a bummer, and soon they’re making the nuns pay for their actions with numerous sequences of beautiful and erotically-charged torture.
- Sister Emanuelle (1977) – Part of Italy’s successful Black Emanuelle series, this film stars Laura Gemser as an investigative reporter who journeys around the globe getting into all manner of erotic adventures. This time around, she’s renounced her torrid past and become a nun in a convent. But the real star of this show is Monika (Monica Zanchi), the wild daughter of a nobleman who participates in group sex, bangs the lucky locals, and even seduces and later blackmails a fellow nun. Excuse me while I pop over to Mapquest to try and find the nearest convent.
There are other nunsploitation films to be sure, but I recommend seeing the above selections before all others. And when you’ve got your fill of such debauchery, be sure to peruse all the other fine articles from Odd Films.