Jennifer Aniston turned heads when she played stripper Sarah “Rose” O’Reilly in 2013 comedy We’re the Millers – mostly because it was so unexpected. But as our friends in the advertising industry say, “sex sells.” And what better way to garner extra interest in a movie than by getting a big-name star to disrobe and shake her wares on screen – especially if said big-name star is usually seen in more wholesome roles.
Sometimes they’re single moms struggling to make ends meet. Other times they’re dancers with big dreams caught in limbo at the local strip club. Once in a blue moon, they’re actually vampires. Here’s a look at ten movie strippers forever etched into our memory. Honorable omissions include Jenna Jameson’s stripper-turned-zombie Kat in 2008 horror-comedy Zombie Strippers and Jessica Biel’s memorable performance in 2009 drama Powder Blue.
10. Sarah “Rose” O’Reilly – We’re the Millers (2013)
Released in 2013, We’re the Millers is an oddball RV road trip movie about a ragtag crew that tries to pass itself off as a typical American family in order to smuggle “enough weed to kill Willie Nelson” across the Mexican border. Despite the interesting premise, and the trailers showing off a super-hot Jennifer Aniston – who looks unreal for 44, by the way – the end result was decidedly underwhelming. Still, seeing Rachel Green from Friends working a strippers’ pole is not something you’ll soon forget. In the movie, Aniston plays “stripper with a heart” (is there any other kind?) Sarah “Rose” O’Reilly, who is hired by her neighbor, David Clark (played by Jason Sudeikis), to masquerade as his wife. Aniston described portraying a stripper as “a lot of fun” but admitted that stripping on screen was “daunting.” She looked like a natural to us.
9. Eve Lydon – Crank: High Voltage (2009)
In 2009 action sequel Crank: High Voltage, Amy Smart reprises her role as Eve, the love interest of buzzing hero Chev Chelios (played by Jason Statham). Since the first film – and Chelios’ supposed demise – Eve has become a stripper. Naturally, while he’s on the trail of Triad gangster Johnny Vang (portrayed by Art Hsu), the indestructible Chelios soon finds himself in a strip joint – and Eve just so happens to be plying her trade there. So Chelios does what any red-blooded, electrically charged action hero would do: he takes on a police squad, grabs Eve and another stripper, and escapes in a patrol car. On top of a jaw-dropping strip scene, Eve tops her Crank public sex display with a stirring performance at the Hollywood Racetrack.
8. Cherry Darling – Planet Terror (2007)
Played by Rose McGowan in Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 dark action horror Planet Terror, Cherry Darling is certainly one of the deadlier strippers on our list. Cherry is a frustrated go-go dancer who decides it’s time for a career change. As if to reaffirm her decision, Cherry loses her right leg to a bunch of zombies after her ex-boyfriend, El Wray (played by Freddy Rodriguez), crashes his truck on the highway trying to avoid one of them. At first, El Wray fits Cherry with a makeshift wooden leg he breaks off a hospital table, but later in the film he replaces this prosthesis with a customized machine gun and grenade launcher – which makes Cherry one hell of a memorable movie stripper. Apparently, McGowan had more trouble with the hygiene of the strip club setting than with the act of stripping itself. “I made them Windex the pole,” she said. “That’s a lot of bacteria adding up over the course of an evening.”
7. Alexandra “Alex” Owens – Flashdance (1983)
Jennifer Beals paved the way for movie strippers for years to come when she played Alex Owens in classic 1983 romantic drama Flashdance (directed by Adrian Lyne). As the world’s most unlikely welder, Alex works by day in “a man’s world” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But by night, “she dances through the universe that is her dream.” Until her dream comes true, however, she’s employed as an exotic dancer at a local bar. Still, eventually Alex’s ambitions become a reality, and she makes the graduation from stripper to professional dancer. Beals, who was just 18 when she landed the role, put off her first semester at Yale to star in the film. She credits the movie with having helped people to “follow their dreams” – and, she might have added, for inspiring young girls everywhere to stretch out and ruin perfectly good sweatshirts.
6. Nancy Callahan – Sin City (2005)
Jessica Alba plays stripper Nancy Callahan in Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s stylish 2005 neo-noir crime flick Sin City. Based on Miller’s acclaimed comic series of the same name, this is a film about base corruption in the most corrupt of places, Basin City. Nancy is probably the stripper on our list in the least advanced state of undress. Still, her lasso-swinging, chaps-wearing hip swivels are more than enough to make her one of the premier attractions at Kadie’3s Bar, where her vivid glow must surely help make her a favorite with the monochrome lowlife patrons around her. According to Alba, she was willing to do nudity if it was called for, but in the end she “felt like dancing around with a lasso and chaps was going to be sexy enough.” She added, “I think being nude for me would have been distracting. I really couldn’t be bottomless in front of my dad. He would really… I don’t know. He’d disown me or something. He’d freak out.”
5. Cassidy – The Wrestler (2008)
Marisa Tomei turned in an Academy Award-nominated performance as aging stripper Cassidy in Darren Aronofsky’s powerful 2008 drama The Wrestler. In the film, Cassidy makes friends with downcast antihero and washed-up wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (played with purpose by Mickey Rourke), who just can’t seem to retire. And if the rumors are true and Tomei’s 1992 Oscar win for My Cousin Vinny was actually an error, she more than made up for it with The Wrestler. According to Tomei, who researched the role by trawling strip clubs around L.A., she could never be a stripper. It’s not the nudity that would bother her; it’s the “super-social” aspect and the mingling with customers. Referring to Cassidy’s nipple rings – which were her own idea – Tomei said, “They pinched them on and used eyelash glue. My breasts got a lot of attention that day.”
4. Alice Ayres – Closer (2004)
Natalie Portman turned heads when she abandoned her good girl image to play complicated stripper Alice Ayres in Mike Nichols’ 2004 drama Closer (directed by Mike Nichols). Co-starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen, the movie is a dark romantic tale about relationships – involving four people who are truly awful at being in relationships. The film has been described as a modern interpretation of Mozart opera Così fan tutte. Portman snagged an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for her risqué portrayal of Alice, a young woman who is innocent, calculating, seductive and mysterious, all at the same time. Ever the pro, Portman spent time scouting out strip clubs and talking to strippers to prepare for the role. “Going to strip clubs was really helpful,” she said. “The women were amazing. I talked to some of them for a long time”
3. Nomi Malone – Showgirls (1995)
In the end, we can’t decide if Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 trashy, camp drama Showgirls is a good movie that’s intentionally awful, or simply an awful movie that’s, well, unintentionally awful. Either way, that ambiguity has seen it riding the waves of cult popularity ever since. Elizabeth Berkley stars as Nomi Malone, a showgirl wannabe who hitches to Las Vegas and ends up killing time as a stripper at “Cheetah’s Topless Club” until she gets her big break. Berkley threw herself into the role, working on her dance moves “18 hours a day, seven days a week for six months.” We can’t fault her dedication, though Showgirls is still not the dance masterclass she may have envisaged. Gina Gershon’s performance as bisexual head showgirl Cristal Connors is also worth a mention. And the legend of Nomi and Cristal lives on in Showgirls! The Musical!, which debuted off-Broadway in 2013.
2. Erin Grant – Striptease (1996)
Demi Moore was paid a record $12.5 million to bare almost all as stripper Erin Grant in 1996 comedy drama Striptease. Despite being widely panned by critics and claiming six Golden Raspberry Awards, the film went on to make over $113 million at the box office – thanks in no small part to its title, subject matter and star. Erin Grant is a divorced mother fighting her ex-husband Darrell (played by Robert Patrick) for custody of the couple’s daughter, Angela (portrayed by Moore’s real-life daughter Rumer Willis). To pay for her mounting legal bills, Erin turns to stripping at Miami’s “Eager Beaver,” inadvertently crossing paths with nutty, obsessive U.S. Congressman David Dilbeck (played by Burt Reynolds) and becoming caught up in a nefarious political plot while she’s at it. Newsweek writer David Ansen summed it up in the eloquent first sentence of his review: “Most people will want to check out Striptease to see Demi Moore take off her clothes.”
1. Santánico Pandemónium – From Dusk till Dawn (1996)
Beautiful, exotic, and perhaps even magical, Salma Hayek’s performance as stripper Santánico Pandemónium in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 1996 horror From Dusk till Dawn has everything you could want – until, that is, she turns into a vampire and sparks all kinds of hell, particularly for two bank robbers and their captives. According to Hayek, stripping for the role didn’t worry her nearly as much as her live snake co-star did. In fact, the snake had her so petrified that Tarantino wanted to ditch it, although Rodriguez was adamant. “Three months before we shot the scene, I would freak out if I saw a snake. I’d start screaming and crying,” Hayek said. The actress went on to play muse-turned-stripper Serendipity in Kevin Smith’s 1999 religious comedy Dogma, though this time she was considerably less terrifying.