Erotic films started to appear virtually with the invention of motion pictures. They were shown in brothels, private clubs and homes. Filmmakers found that there was great profit in their production.
Softcore films began to be shown in 1896. Le Coucher de la Mariée, a French film, featured Louise Willy doing a striptease and was directed by Eugène Pirou and filmed by Albert Kirchner. The Coochie-Coochie Dance, an American film, had the belly dancer Fatima gyrating. The Kiss, an American film, showed May Irwin and John Rice performing the very first kiss on film and was directed by William Heise for the Edison Studios. Beginning in 1906, the Austrian films Das Sandbad, Baden Verboten, Das Eitle Stubenmädchen, Beim Fotografen and dozens of other movies exhibited nude women in various scenarios. They were created by Johann Schwarzer and his Saturn-Film Studios.
Hardcore films are rumored to have been first shown about 1900. South American brothels are said to have displayed them about that time, though none survive. A L’Ecu d’Or ou laBonne Auberge (c. 1908), a French film, depicts a soldier and two servant girls having oral sex and intercourse at an inn. El Sátirio (c. 1908), an Argentinian film, has a woman and the devil performing 69 and intercourse in the countryside. Am Abend (c. 1910), a German film, displays a woman masturbating in her bedroom, then a man joining her for fellatio and intercourse. A Free Ride (c. 1915), an American film, has a man and two women engaging in mutual masturbation, fellatio and intercourse in the woods.
The early erotic films are fascinating to watch. They display, in a crude version, the same cinematic techniques used in later erotic films. Well-worth viewing.