Artistic brilliance often comes from the most eccentric minds and so filmmakers tend to get a lot of leeway when it comes to weird behavior. But some go beyond weird into the straight-up creepy and sleazy, and when that happens it gets a little more difficult to overlook without imagining that they have dead hookers locked in a trunk in their basement. Some of these dudes just seem sleazy because their movies can only come from the hidden depths of a depraved mind, while others are sleazy because their personal lives are so odious that it colors everything else they do, but whether it’s their films that make them sleazy or their personal lives, the one thing these filmmakers have in common is that they are eight of the sleaziest of all time.
8 Paul Verhoeven
First of all, the dude is Dutch which automatically raises some red flags on the sleaze-o-meter. After all, they’re not exactly a people known for their sober puritanism. Second, just watch any of the dude’s movies. They’re all ultra-violent or ridiculously sex-drenched and in most cases both. Not that any of that’s a bad thing – I’m just saying, check out his filmography – RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man… Jesus! Basic Instinct and Showgirls alone would be enough to earn anyone a spot on this list. You throw in the rest – featuring loads of carnage, vagina shaped giant insects, three-boobed mutant ladies, and an invisible Kevin Bacon raping ladies – and you have a dude who pretty much bathes in sleaze.
7 Quentin Tarantino
There’s not anything really specifically sleazy about Quentin Tarantino – other than the whole foot fetish thing anyway – it’s just that he seems sort of ambiguously sleazy, doesn’t he? He basically looks like a dude you’d expect to be sneaking out of a jerk-booth in the middle of a night slouched over in a trench coat. But it’s not just that, it’s that all of his films are coated with a thin glaze of perma-sleaze. It’s part of the whole vibe he creates, and, honestly, part of the appeal. He revels in sleaze, takes it and shapes it into something interesting and vaguely prurient. But amateur film criticism aside, just answer me this – if Quentin Tarantino showed up at your doorstep and said he was there to pick up your daughter or your sister, or hell, even your mother, how would you feel? Yeah, I thought so.
6 Russ Meyer
From Russ Meyer’s Wikipedia page – “Russ Meyer’s lifelong unabashed fixation on large breasts featured prominently in all his films and is his best known character trait both as an artist and as a person.” Both as an artist and a person! Again, no judgments here. If a healthy appreciation for big boobs is wrong then we’re all pretty much on a highway to hell, but for that to be your defining trait as a human being pretty much guarantees you a place on the Mt. Rushmore of sleaze, right in between rock monuments of Hugh Hefner’s head and Hugh Hefner’s penis. Basically, Russ Meyer loved boobs so much that he built an entire career around it. He created movie after movie devoted to showing off big boobs. Some have held him up as a satirist and even a feminist because in his movies the women are usually more powerful than the men, and while all of that is up for debate, what isn’t is that Russ Meyer’s primary motivator was boobs, boobs and more boobs.
5 Joe D’Amato
If Sleaze was an official movie genre, Joe D’Amato would be its godfather. He spent a career riding a line between low budget horror flicks and outright porn. His movies were so bad that they often came across as parodies, and while D’Amato himself was said to be an extremely nice man, his movies were the sorts of things that could only come from a mind drowned in sleaze. His infamous Emmanuelle series in the 1970’s featured, among other things, bestiality, gang rape and cannibalism. His movie Anthropophagus features a scene in which the protagonist rips a fetus straight out of a womb and then eats it before devouring it’s own entrails. Jesus Christ!
4 Woody Allen
There’s nothing inherently sleazy about Woody Allen’s movies – other than the fact that they seem to be obsessed with sex, but then again, who isn’t? – but it’s impossible to watch one without thinking somewhere in the back of your mind that the dude banged his stepdaughter – excuse me, his common-law wife’s adopted daughter (I don’t want any commenters yelling at me about that again) – took dirty pictures of her and then married her. His own son won’t even talk to him and infamously referred to Father’s Day as Brother in Law’s Day. Look, any time you hook up with someone who at some point probably called you “Dad,” you’re ending up on a list about sleazy dudes. It’s a rule I have. He’s just lucky he’s not on another kind of list.
3 Dario Argento
Dario Argento is a master of making creepy horror films which delight in the unsettling and disturbing. But that’s not really what makes him sleazy. No, what makes him sleazy is that he cast his own 16 year-old daughter, Asia Argento, in one of his movies and made her get naked, which, uh… yeah, I think that qualifies as sleazy. Naturally, he then cast her in another movie, made her get naked again, only this time he also had her get raped. Look, you can talk about art and the difference between characters and real life and blah blah blah, but no father could stand to see his daughter even pretend to go through something like that. Dario Argento not only was okay with it, he friggin’ made it happen and watched it all from his comfy director’s chair. That’s… that’s… I think I need to take a shower.
2 Roman Polanski
Look, you know you’re gonna end up on a list like this when you’re so sleazy that you can’t even come back to the country without getting arrested for sex crimes. And for as brilliant as Roman Polanski is, that’s the only thing people will remember him for – that he drugged and repeatedly raped a 13 year-old girl during a photo shoot. Yeah. One year earlier, as a 43 year-old man, Polanski started dating actress Natassja Kinski, who was 15. You’d think that Kinski’s own father, actor Klaus Kinski, would have kicked Polanski’s ass, but Klaus was probably too busy banging his own daughter, Pola Kinski, and… I’ll be right back, I have to go burn Hollywood down.
1 Victor Salva
Are we having fun yet!? Well take a deep breath because it’s about to get even more fucked up. Victor Salva is best known for writing and directing the horror film Jeepers Creepers, which makes sense because that’s pretty much what his autobiography would be titled. Somehow, this dude managed to get hired to not only make that film, but also Disney’s Powder even after he had been imprisoned for Grand Sleaze on the set of one of his earlier films. Indeed, it would seem that ol’ Jeepers Creepers banged one of his actors – no big deal until you consider that the actor was a 12 year-old boy. Come on, man. Naturally, because apparently that wasn’t sleazy enough for Salva, he also videotaped it, and… Jesus, I give up. What a world.
(Previously published on July 1, 2013.)
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