Top 16 Movies About Prostitutes

For this week's Ranked!, we decided to take a look at the world's oldest profession and rank our favorite movies about prostitutes. We narrowed our list down to the top sixteen. Did your favorite make the cut? Find out below!

16. Angel

15. My Own Private Idaho

14. Loverboy

13. Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo

12. Best Little Whorehouse In Texas

11. American Gigolo

10. Mighty Aphrodite

9. Leaving Las Vegas

8. Midnight Cowboy

7. L.A. Confidential

6. Trading Places

5. Pretty Woman

I have so many personal memories of Pretty Woman so, for me, it's the penultimate hooker with a heart of gold movie. My mom had strict rules about movies when I was growing up. No PG-13 movies till I was 13, no R-rated movies till I was 17. So when I went to visit a childhood friend in Omaha, my friend's mom took us to see Pretty Woman since she knew I wasn't allowed to see it. It was kind of a big deal for me: it was the first R rated movie I saw in a theatre. I'd been sneaking them at my friend's house (HBO! Skinemax! Big TV in the basement! Woo!) for years, but a theatre is officially sanctioned. We loved the film, her mom tried to cover our eyes a few times. Ha!

Fast forward a few years to college when my roommate picked up the VHS for cheap. It became our go-to "I'm depressed, guys suck, where's the chocolate" chick flick in the dorm. I lived in an all-female dorm for two years so the need to watch that film and eat Baby Ruth bars came up pretty often on our floor. It introduced us all to the powerhouse that is Julia Roberts. Yes, she was charming in Mystic Pizza and Steel Magnolias, but in Pretty Woman you saw a kind of goofy looking but oddly pretty woman with a big brassy laugh turn into a bona fide star. And come on, who doesn't love the Rodeo Drive shopping/vengeance sequence?--Archphoenix

4. Night Shift

The '80s were full of comedies that really stand the test of time. Everybody still talks about classics like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Fast Times At Ridgement High, Vacation, Airplane!, and scores of others. But one that seems to have fallen by the wayside that I've always felt deserves a place among the best comedies of the '80s was Night Shift.

I first caught Night Shift on Showtime. I suspect that the listing in the TV Guide caught my attention because of Henry Winkler--Happy Days was still in its waning days in 1982. (It would hang on for another two years despite having literally jumped the shark some time earlier. That's where the phrase came from. Look it up.) I also recognized Shelley Long's name from Cheers (which was just getting started at that point), but what really drew me in was the idea of The Fonz running a prostitution ring. It sounded interesting to say the least.

It turns out that it is borderline hilarious. It was a totally different kind of role for Winkler--nervous, neurotic Chuck Lumley was about as far from the ultra-cool Arthur Fonzarelli as you could get. And Michael Keaton (in his breakout film role) was at his most hilarious as bored morgue employee Bill Blazejowski, a self-professed idea mean who comes up with the plan to run a call girl ring out of the morgue to pull in some extra money. (I'm still brought to tears by his breakdown of the word "prostitution" as he's introducing the plan to the hookers.) And, on top of that, Shelley Long was definitely at her hottest in that '82-'83 timeframe.

At any rate, the chemistry between the three stars was perfect, the story is both funny and (at times) really sweet, and the directing was spot on. This was Winkler's fellow Happy Days alum Ron Howard's first big motion picture directing stint, and it led to a new career behind the camera for someone who had been acting since he was a little kid. As a side note, I'll never forget Eddie Murphy interviewing Ron Howard on Saturday Night Live about Night Shift. Murphy kept calling Howard "little Opie Cunningham" and said he was conflicted that both of the main characters in the movie were white. ("You made a movie about pimps without a brother in it? I don't know whether to hug you or punch you in the face.")

Anyway, whether you're talking best movies about hookers or just best comedies of the '80s, Night Shift is pretty high on my list. If you've never seen it, check it out. You're in for a treat.--Dave

3. True Romance

After a brief "planned" courtship, Alabama Worley nee Whitman married Clarence Worley in a quiet ceremony followed by a whirlwind honey moon complete with murders, pimps and cocaine.

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly how it happened. Alabama, an extremely cute call girl, makes us fall in love with her repeatedly throughout True Romance. First, when she confesses that she was hired to give Clarence a good time for his birthday, second when she is floored by the romantic gesture of Clarence murdering her pimp. But for me the scene that seals the deal as you can imagine is when she withstands the brutal beating from Virgil played by James Gandolfini. I kept expecting her to give up the cocaine and Clarence but she never did. Not for one minute. The end of that scene, covered in blood, shooting the living daylights out of Virgil is one of the most powerful cinematic scenes I can remember. It is Patricia Arquette's sweet, innocent portrayal that won me over and made me cheer her on as she came back and killed Virgil, going from a scared, quiet little girl to violent force to be reckoned with.

I still had moments of distrust of her character in the end but she doesn't disappoint us. Saving Clarence and riding off into the sunset with the money to a beautiful life. A little cliche? Absolutely, but I think I would rather have that ending then the original.

Besides, how could you not love a girl who tastes like a peach?--A Vapid Blonde

2. Risky Business

"Are you ready for me, Ralph?"

I always had trouble believing Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) needed a prostitute. He was a high school kid! He was a decent enough looking guy. His dad had a Porsche! But I guess being a member of Future Enterprisers and having Balki and Booger as your best friends is just too much for a guy to overcome. This is a guy whose idea of a good time involves dancing around in his underwear to Bob Seger tunes, after all.

When Joel's parents go out of town, Miles/Booger calls a prostitute on Joel's behalf. When she shows up later that evening, she is a he and Joel panics but does give him cab fare. He gives Joel Lana's number, "what every white boy off the lake wants." Despite the previous evening's disastrous outcome, Joel decides to "What the fuck" it the next night and give Lana a call.

I was thirteen when Risky Business came out and probably didn't catch it until a year later on HBO. Like Joel, I was smitten the first time I saw Rebecca De Mornay's Lana. And the window scene? Ouch. It ranks right up there with the Phoebe Cates pool scene from Fast Times At Ridgemont High for pivotal cinematic nude scenes in my adolescence.--Chris

1. Taxi Driver

The name 'Iris' brings blue hair and pie baking and fancy eyeglass chains to my mind, not long legs and red hotpants and a demeanor of warm sass. That's probably why, when Travis Bickle asks for the young prostitute's name in Taxi Driver, her first answer is that her name is Easy. "That's easy to remember, right?" When Travis presses her for her real name, she finally awkwardly admits that her real name is Iris. This is just about the only time--other than when her repulsive pimp Sport touts the amazing sex that can be had with a twelve-year-old--that the audience is truly cognizant of her age, because Jodie Foster (barely thirteen at the time of filming) plays her as self-possessed and to-the-bone as any actress twice her age could have. In fact, the role was offered to several much older actresses (Carrie Fisher and Bo Derek among them), who turned it down.

One real genius point of this film is that Foster, by her own admission, learned the actual craft of acting at DeNiro's hand while preparing for for her scenes. Prior to Taxi Driver, she'd been stuck in front of a camera and just told to be herself, which she says that she found "not a very intelligent thing to do". DeNiro taught her how to compose a character and fully inhabit that person, something she was unaware of altogether in her nine years of working before Taxi Driver. Foster is unselfconcious and cool as Iris, more collected than she has a right to be. When it's time, she hits the exact pitch of tenderness necessary in all the right spots: When she tells Sport that she doesn't like what she does and when she begs for a john not to be shot, she is very real and very unguarded.

Julia Roberts's Pretty Woman performance tends to stick out in most people's mind as the most sympathetic movie portrayal of a whore. In my mind, Julia Roberts's Vivian isn't even in the same league as Jodie Foster's Iris, much less playing on the same field. That Travis Bickle spent his fifteen minutes--in all senses of the phrase--to save her, allowing us to rest easy about Iris's fate, is just icing on the cake.--Jett Superior


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