12 Saucy Burlesque Movie Scenes

The Lady of Burlesque (1943)

The Film: Based on vaudeville performer Gypsy Rose Lee’s novel, 'The G-String Murders', Burlesque is credited with coining the term ‘grindhouse’.

Barbara Stanywick plays Dixie (renamed from Gypsy, geddit?), a performer working at a burlesque theatre when two strippers are killed.

The Scene Set-Up: Dixie rips through a giant paper heart, takes centre stage, and sings her signature number ‘The G-String’. The audience eats out of the palm of her shimmering hand.

The Sauce: Bare minimum. This is 1943, y’know.

Burlesque Undressed (2010)

The Film: T his new documentary brings burlesque kicking and screaming into the modern age. It's out this week.

British born performer Immodesty Blaize is the star, an international performer famed for her extravagant displays. She says she was inspired by the film Gypsy as well as Grace Jones.

The Scene Set-Up: In the biggest, brashest number, Ms Blaize comes out on stage in a vibrant, intricate red get-up that must have taken an eternity to put on. She wriggles her way slowly out of it to uproarious applause.

The Sauce: Here? Anything goes.

Gypsy (1993)

The Film: Bette Midler stars as the titular gypsy. No, not a heather-peddling Romanian. It’s Gypsy Rose Lee again. This one’s a TV movie based on the Broadway musical with songs by Stephen Sondheim.

The Scene Set-Up: Bagging herself a job at a rundown burlesque house, Gypsy finds herself shunted on stage when another stripper is arrest for shoplifting.

The performance starts off jerky and awkward, but Gypsy quickly finds her inner vixen to a chorus of applause...

The Sauce: It’s made for TV, what does that tell ya?

Showgirls (1995)

The Film: Is there a difference between burlesque and plain old stripping? We consulted the professionals and they agreed (begrudgingly) that Showgirls did count. The scenes in the lapdancing club aren't burlesque, the scenes in Vegas are. So it’s here.

The fact that Ms Berkley keeps her top on for more than two minutes in this scene is an argument on the side of burlesque.

The Scene Set-Up: Berkley’s nervous novice Nomi flaps onto the stage wearing a very little, very shiny gold dress. She then dances like a bit of a weirdo, throwing her hands up in the air a lot and snarling at the camera.

The Sauce: Lots of nudity. Pretty much none of it sexy. Snore.

Make it Happen (2008)

The Film: T een dance flick made on a piecemeal budget, directed by music video director Darren Grant, and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (remember that name) as wannabe dancer Lauryn. It’s good, clean fluff.

The Scene Set-Up: Having just started her job as book-keeper for a club called Ruby’s (she gets the job in 10 seconds), Lauryn watches as dancer Carmen executes a very saucy routine.

Using a wicked cool adaptable microphone as a prop, Carmen sets the fire on stage.

The Sauce: Carmen frolics in a Very Tiny Skirt™. But not much else. C’mon, this is for teenage girls, you dogs.

Gilda (1946)

The Film: You may recognise this Rita Hayworth classic from The Shawshank Redemption ; it’s watched by prisoners in one scene.

The Scene Set-Up: Bit of a classy one this, but nonetheless inspired by the burlesque pics that were hot property in the late 1800s.

Taking centre stage, Rita Hayworth’s Gilda sings ‘Put the Blame on Mame’. No, sadly that’s not her real voice.

The Sauce: Rita lifts up her hair to lay bare her slender neck (racy!), then seductively peels her black silk gloves off. Someone call an ambulance, we got fainters over here!

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

The Film: Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu all return for another round as the bewinged avengers.

The Scene Set-Up: Before they were famous popstars, the Pussycat Dolls backed up the Angels in this sexy routine set to the theme tune of Pink Panther.

The Sauce: Decked out in tiny pants, stockings and leather gloves, the girls remove the latter with their teeth and then, um, whip each other into a frenzy.

Diaz loses her top, then rolls around in bubbles. All to get a key off some goon. Gosh, these girls are dedicated.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

The Film: Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 smash musical romance set in the legendary French cabaret, the Moulin Rouge.

The Scene Set-Up: Nicole Kidman makes a killer entrance on a swing above the audience of the MR, singing ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’.

She then segues into Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’, crowd surfing to trumpeting... trumpets before joining Jim Broadbent behind a mask of dancer petticoats to change into a feathery white delight.

The Sauce: Lots of flirting and double entendre, but Ms Kidman keeps it filth-free. The most we get is peeled-off gloves and an off-camera costume change. Tease.

The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)

The Film: Biographical tale directed by Mary Harron (of American Psycho ) following naive ‘50s pin-up Bettie Page, who inadvertently became a bondage model and a burlesque dancer (in the awesomely title movie 'Striporama')

The Scene Set-Up: Tapping into similar themes as the more obviously performative stage burlesque, Bettie Page dons treacherous heels, long black leather gloves, a leather corset... and a whip.

She’s already learnt the three maxims of modelling (clothes, pose and expression), now she has to do it all with aggression.

The Sauce: The leather says it all.

Nine (2009)

The Film: Based on the Tony Award attracting 1982 stage musical, Nine is the last script Anthony Minghella ever contributed to.

The Scene Set-Up: As Daniel Day-Lewis' mistress, Penelope Cruz puts on a no-holds-barred seductive regime. Gyrating in a basque, stockings and high heels, she enacts a racy burlesque show.

Ms Cruz apparently suffered for her art, taking several knocks. “When something like that happens, you just have to keep going and forget about any physical pain,” she says.

The Sauce: We direct you to the picture to the left. Sauce enough for you?

Shortbus (2006)

The Film: Taking advantage of the newly-relaxed censorship rules introduced by 9 Songs , this is a sexually explicit exploration of the love lives of New York’s bed-hoppers.

The Scene Set-Up: James and Jamie are having a naughty ménage à trois with Ceth. While at sex-club-bar Shortbus, the two Js come to loggerheads over James’s inability to have an opinion about anything...

The Sauce: Probably the least saucy thing this film has to offer. Crunched in-between (literally) a hushed argument, the burlesque here adds visual candy to the scene while underlining the problems in the lads’ relationship.

The Monster Club (1980)

The Film: British horror starring Vincent Price based on the anthology works of R Chetwynd-Hayes.

Price plays a vampire who introduces a writer to an underground club with some rather interesting entertainment...

The Scene Set-Up: It all looks pretty standard. A female dancer in a black cape starts to the shed the layers on stage.

Then she is black-lit by a red light, strips off her bra and panties and... shimmies out of her flesh, leaving a dancing skeleton in the spotlight.

The Sauce: Hmmm, a whole other kind of revealing. Not exactly saucy, but pretty clever, we have to admit. Check it out.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.