Despite the inherently fantastical nature of much of American cinema, some movies are pretty hard to watch, given their dated nature, which is often manifested in movie heroes who are sexual predators. A lot of old Hollywood fare is awash in racist and sexist missteps, and with a closer look, there's no shortage of rapey romantic heroes. Some of your favorite movie heroes ever might just be sexual predators, if you think about it for a minute.
But this list isn't focused on old movies, because the thing about them is, anyone who watches those pictures with modern sensibilities can tell the behavior of certain characters is totally inappropriate. That isn't always the case with movies released in '90s, '00s, and beyond (and even in, some cases, in decades previous), because such behavior is couched in coded language, hidden by narrative thrills, or masked by comedic hijinx.
Romantic comedies, which are specifically designed to make you swoon, are particularly guilty of hiding sexually impropriate behavior behind jokes and whimsy. Take, for instance, a disturbing trend of normalizing sexual assault in movies. Though this trend happens from time to time outside the rom-com genre, most movies that aren't romantic comedies are upfront about sexual assault, violence, or predators.
Saturday Night Fever strides boldly into squalid morality when Tony Manero (John Travolta) needs some Saturday night beaver. Twice in the film, the working class dance floor stud is involved in car-rape situations. First, he tries to force himself onto Stephanie, who wallops Manero's mozzarella balls and takes off.
Next, it's Annette, a potential romantic partner to Tony. She gets drunk, takes some drugs, and some of Tony's friends suggest they run a train on her. She seems game at first, then says no, so the friends rape her while Tony sits in the front seat drinking and doing nothing to stop it. When the raping is done, Tony sarcastically asks Annette, "Are you proud of yourself now?"
Nice slut shaming, attempted rapist!
Farmer Ted, AKA The Geek, In 'Sixteen Candles'
Sixteen Candles is a beloved film, in part due to Anthony Michael's Hall adorably geeky portrayal of Farmer Ted. Thing is, if you watch the film carefully, you realize Ted is kiiiiiiind of a rapist. Towards the end, popular guy Jake Ryan's (Michael Schoeffling) girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) is so drunk she can barely stand up, and he hands her off to Ted, who has sex with her.
That's date rape, all right. And by the way, Farmer Ted is a freshman, so he's got three more years of raping ahead of him.
Jessica The Babysitter In 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'
Crazy, Stupid, Love is actually a pretty good movie, and not just because of Ryan Gosling's abs. It happens to be a well-plotted, deeply-felt take on Shakespearean comedy. But then, there's the whole thing about Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) the 17-year-old babysitter, handing nudes of herself to Robbie, a middle schooler, in order to help "get him through high school." Nononononono. She's sexually mature and practically an adult, he's barely started puberty.
The act seems cute during the movie, but creepy after the credits finished rolling. Like, she took nude photos of herself and handed them to a child so he could have wank material? Mama is very naughty, and making baby a daddy too early.
Dean Proffitt In 'Overboard'
Annie (Goldie Hawn) treats Dean (Kurt Russell), a local carpenter, with disdain and condescension in Overboard. He gets revenge by taking advantage of her after she develops amnesia. How does he take advantage, you ask? He visits her in the hospital, convinces her he's her husband, and coerces her into caring for his kids and riding his meat missile through the moist skies over Naughtyville. In a supremely messed up version of Stockholm Syndrome, she falls in love with him.
And it's a comedy! A real knee-slapper, too.