Nunsploitation is a subgenre of exploitation film which had its peak in Europe in the 1970s. These films typically involve Christian nuns living in convents during the Middle Ages. The main conflict of the story is usually of a religious or sexual nature, such as religious oppression or sexual suppression due to living in celibacy. The Inquisition is another common theme. These films, although often seen as pure exploitation films, often contain criticism against religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Indeed, some protagonist dialogue voiced feminist consciousness and rejection of their subordinated social role. Many of these films were made in countries where the Catholic Church is influential, such as Italy and Spain. One atypical example of the genre, Killer Nun (Suor Omicidi), was set in then present-day Italy (1978).

Nunsploitation, along with nazisploitation, is a subgenre that ran a parallel course alongside women in prison films in the 1970s and 1980s. As with prison films, they are set in isolated, fortress-like convents where the all-female population turns to lesbianism and perversity. The element of religious guilt allows for lurid depictions of "mortifying the flesh" such as self-flagellation and painful, masochistic rituals. The mother superior is usually a cruel and corrupt warden-like martinet who enforces strict discipline (more opportunities for whippings and medieval-style punishments) and often lusts after her female charges. An equally sadistic and lecherous priest is often included to add an element of masculine menace to the story.

Some segments from the Scandinavian silent film Häxan (1922) may be seen as a precursor for this genre. A recent act of nunsploitation in a film is in Robert Rodriguez' Machete (2010), where Lindsay Lohan portrays a gun-toting nun.[1] An even more recent example is Darren Lynn Bousman's nunsploitation horror movie St. Agatha (2018).[2]

Among other examples of exploitation cinema in Europe over the last sixty years, nunsploitation genre movies are discussed in Mendik and Mathij's recent overview volume on this general trend within regional cinema genres, cultures, and audience consumption. Chris Fujiwara wrote a detailed piece discussing examples of the genre such as Killer Nun (1978), The Nun and the Devil (1973) and Flavia the Heretic (1974), in Hermenaut, a US pop culture journal.

Historical basis

Some films, such as the X-rated The Devils, based on a book by Aldous Huxley and directed by Ken Russell, have some basis in fact. Huxley based his original historical account, The Devils of Loudun, on a reported case of mass hysteria and demonic possession that allegedly took place at a French convent in the seventeenth century. Given that the genre was the product of the sixties and seventies, with an occasional contemporary example like the recent Sacred Flesh (1999), there has been little further resort to possible historical source material, like Aelred of Hexham (1110–1167) and his account of the Nun of Watton, for example. Another example might be the life of sister Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century Italian lesbian nun.

Twenty years ago, Graciela Daichman collected stories about aberrant medieval religious women, but since that time, there has been few other serious historical attempt to explore what factual basis might exist for the literary depictions that often served as the basis for nunsploitation cinema. In 2010, Craig Monson wrote Nuns Behaving Badly, which dealt with the social and sexual lives of religious women in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy, but such work remains rare.[3] However, recent work on the dramaturgy of demonic possession in medieval Europe may be useful to comprehend the social, psychological and behavioural context of such acts.[4]

In Japan

Catholic nun exploitation films have been a subgenre of Japanese exploitation film since at least the early 1970s. Though Christianity was never a dominant religion in Japan, Japan did encounter Christian missionaries. By taking a minority religion as their subject, it has been suggested that these "shockingly perverse and wildly blasphemous" Catholic nun films are "a way of thumbing one's nose at organized religion without attacking the more sacred beliefs of the general society".[5] Some entries in this genre include Norifumi Suzuki's School of the Holy Beast (1974), Masaru Konuma's Cloistered Nun: Runa's Confession (1976), Kōyū Ohara's Sister Lucia's Dishonor (1978), and Wet Rope Confession: Convent Story (1979), Hiroshi Mukai's Nun: Secret (1978), Nobuaki Shirai's Nun Story: Frustration in Black (1980), and Mamoru Watanabe's Rope of Hell: A Nun's Story (1981) and Electric Bible: Sister Hunting (1992).[6] In 1995, big-busted AV idol Mariko Morikawa starred in director Sachi Hamano's Big Tit Monastery (巨乳修道院), another Japanese variation on the nunsploitation genre.[7]

Theatrical adaptions

Toronto-based stage artist Jamieson Child, direct 2015 the Stage musical Kill Sister, Kill: A Dark New Musical, as homage to the Exploitation genre.[8]

Examples of nunsploitation films

See also


  1. ^ Krystal Clark (July 19, 2010). "Lindsay Lohan Is a Gun Toting Nun in Machete Photo". Screen Crave.
  2. ^ "St. Agatha (2018) – Review | Nun Horror Movie". Heaven of Horror. February 4, 2019. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Craig Monson: Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art and Arson in the Convents of Italy: University of Chicago Press: 2010.
  4. ^ Brian Levack: The Devil Within: Exorcism and Possession in the Christian West: New Haven: Yale University Press: 2013.
  5. ^ Thomas Weisser; Yuko Mihara Weisser (1998). Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: The Sex Films. Miami: Vital Books: Asian Cult Cinema Publications. p. 497. ISBN 1-889288-52-7.
  6. ^ Weisser.
  7. ^ 巨乳修道院. Japanese Film Database (in Japanese). Retrieved June 3, 2007.
  8. ^ Nunsploitation Heads to NYC In “Kill Sister, Kill”.


  • Graciela Daichman: Wayward Nuns in Medieval Literature: Syracuse: Syracuse University Press: 1986: ISBN 0-8156-2379-8.
  • Chris Fujiwara: "Convent Erotica" Hermenaut 12.
  • Brian Levack: The Devil Within: Exorcism and Possession in the Christian West: New Haven: Yale University Press: 2013.
  • Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik: Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema Since 1945: London: Wallflower: 2004: ISBN 1-903364-93-0.
  • Craig Monson: Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art and Arson in the Convents of Italy: Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2010.
  • Anticristo: The Bible of Naughty Nun Sinema and Culture: Guildford: FAB: 2000: ISBN 1-903254-03-5.
Convent of Sinners

Convent of Sinners (Italian: La monaca nel peccato/ The Sinful Nun), is a 1986 Italian nunsplotation erotic film directed by Joe D'Amato (as Dario Donati). D'Amato directed, photographed and edited the film. The Rene Rivet screenplay was based on the novel "La Religeuse" by Denis Diderot.

Devils of Monza

Devils of Monza (Italian: La monaca di Monza, also known as Sacrilege) is a 1987 Italian historical erotic-drama film directed by Luciano Odorisio. It is loosely based on real life events of Marianna de Leyva, better known as "The Nun of Monza", whose story was made famous by the Alessandro Manzoni's novel The Betrothed.

Flavia the Heretic

Flavia the Heretic (Italian: Flavia, la monaca musulmana, originally released in the UK as Rebel Nun) is a French co-produced Italian nunsploitation film directed by Gianfranco Mingozzi and released in 1974.

Hollywood Zap!

Hollywood Zap! is a 1986 comedy film written and directed by Canadian filmmaker David Cohen (no relation to David X. Cohen) and distributed by Troma Entertainment, a company known for its low-budget exploitation films. The film features a large number of unusual character actors, including Chuck Mitchell and Tony Cox. Scatological humor and extreme ludicrous plot turns punctuate a film that has drawn thematic comparisons to the artistic works of John Waters.

In 2001, the film was featured at the 1st annual Video Game Festival to examine gaming's impact on media and culture. Described as being "historically significant", the film was Sponsored by Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard, the official international electronic scoreboard for video games.

Images in a Convent

Images in a Convent (Italian: Immagini di un convento) is a 1979 sexploitation film by Italian cult filmmaker Joe D'Amato starring Paola Senatore, Marina Hedman and Donald O'Brien.

The film belongs to the 'nunsploitation' subgenre. It contains strong scenes of graphic violence relating to demonic possession and is among few films containing original hardcore pornography that already passed Italian censorship in 1979 and were projected in some Italian cinemas. It includes explicit lesbianic depictions of digital penetration and cunnilingus.

Killer Nun

Killer Nun (also known as Suor Omicidi, or Deadly Habits) is a 1979 Italian nunsploitation film directed and co-written by Giulio Berruti and co-written by Alberto Tarallo.

The film was originally banned in Britain as a 'video nasty' and released with cuts in 1993, but was finally released uncut on DVD in the UK during 2006, after changes in British censorship policy.

Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun

Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (German: Die Liebesbriefe einer portugesischen Nonne) is a 1977 West German-Swiss movie directed by Jesús Franco and produced by Erwin Dietrich, loosely based on the Letters of a Portuguese Nun attributed to Mariana Alcoforado. It starred Susan Hemingway and William Berger. Franco co-wrote the screenplay with producer Dietrich.It tells the story of Maria, a girl in Inquisition-era Portugal, whom a priest sees cavorting with a boy. He orders her to become a nun as penance. In the convent Maria gets subjected to all sorts of torture and humiliation at the hands of the priest and the mother superior.

The movie is part of a genre known as "nunsploitation".

Nude Nuns with Big Guns

Nude Nuns with Big Guns is a 2010 nunsploitation thriller film directed by Joseph Guzman and starring Asun Ortega, David Castro, and Perry D'Marco.

The film was the subject of one of the largest copyright lawsuits in California. The two lawsuits are the first time that two different companies claiming the intellectual-property rights of the same movie are each suing the same alleged 5,865 BitTorrent downloaders.

Sacred Flesh

Sacred Flesh is a 1999 British nunsploitation horror film. It is set in an indeterminate past, and consists of a series of loosely connected vignettes that depict pseudo-lesbian sexuality and some sado-masochistic activity.

Satánico pandemonium

Satánico Pandemonium ("Satanic Pandemonium") is a Mexican cult nunsploitation horror film directed by Gilberto Martínez Solares and written by Jorge Barragán, Adolfo Martínez Solares and Gilberto Martínez Solares. It stars Cecilia Pezet, Enrique Rocha and Delia Magaña.

School of the Holy Beast

School of the Holy Beast a.k.a. Convent of the Sacred Beast (聖獣学園, Seijū gakuen) is a film in the nunsploitation subgenre of Pinky violence made by Toei Company in 1974.

Story of a Cloistered Nun

Story of a Cloistered Nun (Italian: Storia di una monaca di clausura, also known as Unholy Convent and Diary of a Cloistered Nun) is a 1973 Italian nunsploitation film directed by Domenico Paolella.

Suor Emanuelle

Suor Emanuelle (Sister Emanuelle) is a 1977 exploitation film. It can be classified under both the nunsploitation and sexploitation exploitation film subgenres. It is part of the long running Black Emanuelle series of films starring Laura Gemser.

The Last House on the Beach

The Last House on the Beach (Italian: La settima donna, also known as Terror and The Seventh Woman) is a 1978 Italian rape and revenge-thriller film directed by Franco Prosperi.

The American title refers to Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left, and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas stated how "combining the nunsploitation subgenre with rape-revenge, the film deviates plot-wise from The Last House on the Left substantially, but arrives at a similar ethical conclusion".It was argued that the final scene of the movie inspired the final scene in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.

The Nun (2005 film)

The Nun (Spanish: La Monja) is an English-language 2005 Spanish horror film directed by Luis De La Madrid.

The Nun and the Devil

The Nun and the Devil, or Le Monache di Sant'Arcangelo in the original Italian, is an erotic 1973 -Italian nunsploitation film directed by

Domenico Paolella. It is also known as: Sisters of Satan (UK) and The Nuns of Saint Archangel (US). The action is set in the 16th century at the convent of Sant Arcangelo, near Naples, then under Spanish rule. The success of the film resulted in another period drama/nunsploitation film by Paolella released the same year, Story of a Cloistered Nun, an Italian/French/West German co-production starring Eleonora Giorgi.

The opening credits state that the movie is "Based on authentic 16th Century records and a story by Stendhal"--possibly Stendhal's L'Abbesse de Castro (1832) is meant.

The Other Hell

The Other Hell (Italian: L'altro inferno) is a 1981 Italian horror film written and directed by Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso and starring Franca Stoppi and Carlo De Mejo.

The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine

The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (Italian: Le scomunicate di San Valentino/ translation: The Excommunication of St. Valentine) is a 1974 Italian nunsploitation film written and directed by Sergio Grieco and starring Françoise Prévost and Jenny Tamburi.

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