Sometimes We Just Want To Watch People Having Affairs (On Screen)

Most people find cheating to be a rather icky thing to do. No matter how you feel about monogamy, it's pretty awful to lie to your partner and violate their trust by getting involved with someone behind their back. Of course, while most of us would hate to find ourselves in this romantic situation in real life, movies are a much different story.
Even the most loyal among us sometimes like to indulge in films about affairs. Maybe it's getting lost in a fantasy you know you would hate to fulfill in real life, or just the general excitement that comes from the movie's illicit love (or, often, straight-up sex). No matter what your reason for sitting through a film about a not-so-neat affair, there's more than enough movies to satisfy the urge. Hollywood adores some steamy adultery, so don't feel guilty about enjoying this genre.
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So what affair movies are top-notch? These movies range from romances to thrillers, but each one has something in common: They're totally extra (-marital, that is.) Click through to see which ones you should watch when the mood strikes.
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Anna Karenina (2012)

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is one of the best novels ever written. As a result, it's one of the best affair novels ever written. The affair between Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) and Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is all-consuming, destructive, and impossible to look away from. The movie takes a wee bit less time to watch than the 800-page book takes to read.
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Disobedience (2018)

Years after leaving the community and becoming a successful photographer, Ronit Kurshka (Rachel Weisz) returns for her father's funeral. She stays with her childhood friend, Dovid Kuperman (Alessandro Nivolo), who married her other friend, Esti (Rachel McAdams). Esti is the reason Ronit left. As teenagers, they had had an affair. Back together for the first time in years, Esti and Ronit are faced with the fact that their feelings for each other are unchanged.
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Last Night (2010)

Last Night is the story of a marriage tested. Over the course of 36 hours, a husband (Sam Worthington) and wife (Keira Knightley) both encounter the temptation for adultery. Michael goes on a business trip, and Joanna encounters the lost love of her life. The choices they make will have repercussions on their marriage, and on their happiness.
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Brief Encounter (1945)

During one quotidian trip running errands, a married housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) meets a doctor, Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard). The connection is palpable, and Laura finds herself wanting to spend more and more time with Alec. She's pulled farther away from her family, and closer into the web of love. Brief Encounter is widely considered to be one of the most quiet, unsentimental, and profoundly romantic movies of all time.
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A Walk on the Moon (1999)

This film falls squarely into the category of, "Straightlaced Housewife Falls In Love With Free Spirit." But what a good category that is! Diane Lane plays Pearl Katrowitz, a couple living in New York City in 1969. Pearl has been with her husband since they were teenagers; she had her first child at 17. She has a chance to experience the rush of wild youth when a blouse salesman (Viggo Mortenson) comes into her life, and sweeps her away to places like Woodstock.
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The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Years ago, Francesca (Meryl Streep) moved to the United States from Italy after meeting an American soldier at the end of WWII. She's lived her life on a ranch in Iowa. For the first time in years, her family has left her alone in the house for a weekend. And during that short period of time, Francesca meets a photographer named Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), in town to take pictures of the area's famous covered bridges. She had experienced love — but nothing this sublime, transportive, true. Francesca then has to choose between loves. Will it be Robert, or her family? It'll make you sob.
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Body Heat (1981)

The entirety of this movie takes place during a Florida heatwave, so you better believe that the sweat generated between Ned Racine (William Hurt) and Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) during their affair isn't just from sexual energy. Matty wants to leave her husband, Edmund (Richard Crenna), but also wants his money. In order to bypass his prenup, Matty and Ned team up to kill Edward.
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Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

This is a movie about romantic entanglement in just about every direction. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is very suspicious of the handsome Spanish man who invites Vicky and her friend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), to his house for a weekend of "activities." Still, she goes, and falls for Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Eventually Vicky gets married, but still feels Juan Antonio's pull. Her husband never finds out about the weekend Vicky spent with Juan Antonio in Spain.
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The Age of Innocence (1993)

Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is entrenched in upper crust, 1870s Manhattan society he was born into. He's set to marry May Welland (Winona Ryder), his perfect match in every way. Then, a hiccup. May's cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), returns in exile from a failed marriage abroad. Compared his slightly dull but sweet fiancee, Countess Ellen is practically a revolutionary. Newland is smitten. But can he unfurl himself from his tradition?
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Little Children (2006)

Peel back that idyllic New England summer, where children frolic by the pool and parents read paperbacks on the weekends and cook dinner in their extra-large kitchens, and you know what you'll find. Lust, disastrous moral decisions, and lots of affairs. In Little Children, two married parents meet at the pool and embark on an affair. Granted, their marriages are dissatisfying — Sarah's (Kate Winslet) husband has a pornography addiction, and Brad (Patrick Wilson) has cold relations with his wife. But the consequences of their affair, played out at the movie's end, are shocking.
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Eyes Wide Shut

Dr. Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) finds out that his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), is having sexual fantasies about another man. So, he does what any single-mindedly jealous man would: Track him down. His obsession lead him into a secret, cult-y underground sex club.
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Notes on a Scandal (2006)

When the beautiful Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) breezes into her London school, longtime teacher Barbara Covett (Judy Dench) is immediately smitten. With an obsession bordering on the pathologically, Barbara spies on Sheba. That's how she finds out that Sheba has begun an affair with her 15-year-old student. Let the blackmail games begin.
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I Am Love (2009)

They say when you marry someone, you marry that person's family. When Emma (Tilda Swinton) left her native Russia and married into the powerful Ricchi clan, she consigned herself to a life on a sidelines. So, while her husband is busy being distracted by his family fighting for control of the business, Emma carries out an affair with a chef.
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Unfaithful (2002)

Connie's (Diane Lane) perfectly content with her life in Westchester, New York, with a young son and a responsible, if a little distant, husband (Richard Gere). But after meeting, and falling for, a younger French bookseller, Paul (Olivier Martinez), she's reminded of how exciting and thrilling life can be. Unfaithful takes a turn toward the thriller genre after Connie's husband discovers her affair, and takes action.
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In the Mood For Love (2000)

This Hong Kong film is about adultery, but it's not about the adulterers. Rather, it's about their betrayed spouses.

Journalist Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and secretary Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung) are next-door neighbors with equally dull lives, and equally distant spouses. After both admit that their respective spouses are cheating on them, the neighbors form a deep, intimate friendship, while refusing to give in the same lustful temptation that their spouses did. Still, they imagine what could have been.
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Take This Waltz (2011)

On paper, Margot (Michelle Williams) and her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen), have the perfect life. After five years of marriage, they still love each other, and get along splendidly. But Margot questions her happiness when she meets a charming, freewheeling rickshaw driver named Daniel (Luke Kirby), who's everything Lou is not. In this story of a woman on the fault line between two relationships, no choice is the right one.
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Same Time, Next Year (1978)

Each year, George (Alan Alda) and Doris (Ellen Burstyn) reunite at a small California inn to have a one-night affair. The ritual began in 1951, and they haven't missed a meeting, despite marriage and children. Over the years, they develop an intimacy that runs like a current through their personal hardships, and sustains them.
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The Descendants (2011)

After Matt King's (George Clooney) wife falls into a coma after a tragic accident, Matt is left to raise their two daughters — and deal with the repercussions of secrets that come tumbling from her past.
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Betrayal (1983)

The movie opens in a pub, where ex-lovers Jerry (Jeremy Irons) and Emma (Patricia Hodge) hash out the events of their seven-year-long affair. A literary agent, Jerry was the best friend of Emma's husband, a well-to-do English publisher.

Told in nine segments in reverse chronological order, the film's a careful portrait of the choices we make and the repercussions they have.
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American Beauty (1999)

For years, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) thought adhering to the capitalist American dream would bring happiness. When he finds he's still empty on the inside, Lester decides to reinvent himself as a responsibility-shirking teenager. Along the way, Lester's pulled into a heavy flirtation with Angela (Mena Suvari), his daughter's seductive best friend. The affair doesn't go places, but Lester's imagination does, including the iconic scene of Angela floating in rose petals.
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Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

In this steamy Mexican film, a pair of 20-something best friends take a road trip with a mysterious older woman. Along the way, the boys' loyalties to their girlfriends are tested through the trip's ever-increasing sexual tension. Then, it's revealed that both boys have slept with each other's girlfriends — so all bets for fidelity are off.
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Indecent Proposal (1993)

Beware turning your marriage into a money-making scheme. After a financial crisis hits David Murphy (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Diana (Demi Moore), hard, they turn to Vegas to win big gambling. When, surprise surprise, gambling falls through, the couple is offered one last ray of financial hope through a mysterious billionaire (Robert Redford). He'll give the couple $1 million dollars — if he can spend a night with Diana.
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The English Patient (1996)

During the final days of WWII in Italy, a French-Canadian nurse sits with a severely burned patient. Through his intense bandages, the patient begins to weave a story of the great affair, adventure, and tragedy he had while a cartographer in Africa recently. Key takeaway from the gorgeous and ornate film: best wait for the discreetness of a city to start an affair, because it's easy to get caught in a desert.
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Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Jake Gyllenhaal and the late great Heath Ledger play ranchers drawn together during long nights on the range. Their love is passionate and bristling with implications. The main characters’ long, brooding glances, palpable chemistry, and societal entrapment make this a truly unforgettable love story. Equally interesting is the film’s portrayal of the repercussions of infidelity, and the specific cracks and fissures that erupt in each man’s marriage.
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Match Point (2005)
Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson play adulterers in this Woody Allen thriller. Though their romance is peppered with steamy kisses in the rain, ultimately, the film ends...well, not so well for everyone involved.
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Swimfan (2002)
At the height of the early-'00s teen melodrama, there was Swimfan, a movie as sexy as it is scary. In the film, reformed bad boy turned swimming superstar Ben (Jesse Bradford) cheats on his lovely girlfriend Amy (Shiri Appleby) with the seductive new girl Madison (Erika Christensen). Turns out, Madison is a bucket of crazy, and attempts to ruin Ben's life (and end it) after he decides to end their affair. At least they'll always have sex in the high school pool...?
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Closer (2005)
If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking. Such is the premise of Mike Nichols' affair drama, which entangles two couples into one another's lives with devastating consequences. Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts give performances that are as excellent as they are heartbreaking.
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Fatal Attraction (1987)
Some hot affairs fizzle out. Others end with your daughter's pet bunny in a pot on the stove. (Ugh, nightmares for days.) While you might not fantasize about this affair, you'll be hooked, and likely terrified, by Glenn Close's portrayal of the obsessed Alex.
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Chloe (2003)
This movie, a remake of the 2003 French film Nathalie, features Amanda Seyfried in a role far darker than some of the rom-com heroines she's played. Here, she's a manipulative call girl named Chloe, whom suspicious wife Catherine (Julianne Moore) hires to tempt her husband (Liam Neeson) to see if he has been unfaithful. Things get more complicated when Catherine is seduced herself.
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