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Once upon a time movies were so subject to censorship that rude words and any hint of sexual activity were impossible to put on screen. Directors could hint, but couldn't show. Go back and watch Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the 1946 version of The Big Sleep where plenty is hinted at but nothing much happens.

Now we have censors in some countries relaxed enough to allow real sex to be shown on screen in non-porn movies for mainstream audiences (see Do they really have sex in movies? for discussion of the example Nine Songs).

So what was the first mainstream (non-porn) movie where something like a real sex scene (simulated or not) was shown?

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Independent of censorship, there were always illegal films. There were already porno films during the silent film area, but I have not the impression you look for them. Could you define some more criteria for your question? –  knut Jan 11 at 21:47
    
@knut I was not intending to include porn but maybe I need to be more specific. –  matt_black Jan 11 at 21:48
    
My answer was a bit faster then your comment. See also my edited answer. –  knut Jan 11 at 22:00
    
somewhat related there is also the case of highly popular & influential porn films that "break out" into mainstream based on attendance eg "deep throat". theres other movies about this movie eg a documentary and a dramatization with amanda seyfried, "lovelace". other cases are major shifts in boundaries of what is portrayed, another major movie cited in this category is "last tango in paris". –  vzn Jan 14 at 17:26
    
also this documentary Starz Inside: sex & the cinema looks at sex in the movies milestones –  vzn Jan 14 at 17:50
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2 Answers

It's likely that the first "mainstream" film (but not Hollywood release) that showed a couple having sex in what appears (and in some instances was) a realistic manner was 1967's I Am Curious (Yellow).

This film was the first film released in American theaters where the performers are shown in intimate and graphic erotic sexual positions and performing sexual acts which was not limited in its release to theaters which specialized in adult pornographic fare. It caused quite a sensation when it was released in the US market (many protests and an arson of a theater) but would likely be viewed as being rather tame by 21st Century standards.

Reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Curious_Yellow

http://www.allmovie.com/movie/v24002

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=396&invol=976

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Remark: This answer was written before the restriction to mainstream (non-porn) films.

This question will get a very subjective answer. Depending of the definition of pornographic films, a film with a sexual act will always be a Porno.

You should define better what a mainstream (non-porn) is. (Some criteria may be: Winner of a (international) film price, more the x people as audience, ?)


The first pornographic film with a sexual act was "À l'écu d'or"

Wikipedia has some more informations in German and Serbian.

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I could possibly specify something like a movie released generally and given a rating of not higher than an R in the USA (by the MPAA) or the equivalent of an 18 or X in the UK (by the BBFC). Both countries have special ratings for porn. –  matt_black Jan 11 at 22:07
    
I like your answer and wouldn't want to lose it. Maybe we should also ask a separate question about the first movie containing sex with no mainstream release restriction. –  matt_black Jan 14 at 17:53
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