Something funny happened to Michael Douglas back in the late '80s—he became the cinematic epitome of male insecurity in America. For a seven year stretch, from 1987 and 1994, Douglas starred in three enormously successful movies: Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and Disclosure, a set he's referred to as his Sex Trilogy. Together they offer a peek into the subconscious of the heterosexual white American man, a kind of dossier you might label "Things Men Worried About Re: Women in the Late '80s-Early '90s."
Behind the frazzled figure of Douglas in each movie lurks a dangerously crazy woman who threatens to destroy our man's life as he knows it. Glenn Close, Sharon Stone, and Demi Moore take turns tormenting Douglas, but they aren't the only problems. Each film is like a slice of exposed brain tissue, and the synapses are all raw and inflamed because of powerful women, confusing sexuality, people of color, real estate to covet, and promotions thwarted—just to name a few.
To Douglas' credit, he emerged from this murky period to do things like hunt lions in The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), and, more recently, breathe life into an unforgettable depiction of Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra (2013). However, that doesn't alter the content of the Sex Trilogy. Opening the dossier in 2014, as Complex deputy editor Ross Scarano and contributing writer La Donna Pietra did, gives way to some ugly and edifying findings. It also makes you wonder where the sex in American movies has gone. Time for a deep dive.