Emmanuelle appeared as the nom de plume of Marayat Rollet-Andriane, a French-Thai actress born in the 1930s in Bangkok. Her 1957 book The Joys of a Woman detailed the sexual exploits of Emmanuelle, the "bored housewife" of a French diplomat. Rollet-Andriane's book caused a sensation in France and was banned.
The producer of another Arsan/Rollet-Andriane film Laure, Ovidio Assonitis, claimed that all books published under the nom-de-plume Emmanuelle Arsan were written by her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane rather than by Marayat .
The first Emmanuelle film was the 1974 French theatrical feature Emmanuelle starring Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel (1952–2012) in the title role. She came to be the actress best identified with the role. This film pushed the boundaries of what was then acceptable on screen, with sex scenes, skinny-dipping, masturbation, the "Mile High Club", rape, and a scene in which a dancer lights a cigarette and puffs it with her vagina. This film was created and directed by French director Just Jaeckin.
Unlike many films that tried to avoid an X-rating, the first Emmanuelle film embraced it, and became a success with a viewing audience estimated at 300 million. It remains one of France's most successful films, and played in the Arc de Triomphe theatre for over eleven years. In France and the US the film was uncut, but British censors balked at masturbation and explicit sex. Heavy cuts were made to the film including the complete removal of the opium den rape and the infamous 'cigarette' sequence in the club.
Several sequels starring Kristel followed, beginning with Emmanuelle 2 known as Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman in its U.S. release, and also Emmanuelle l’antivierge in some European press materials, including the soundtrack LP and CD. Kristel sold her interest for $150,000, missing on a share of the film's $26m domestic gross. She was paid $6,000 for her role but negotiated a $100,000 contract for the sequel, Emmanuelle 2.
Kristel stepped away from the role in the 1980s, yielding to younger actresses, but returned for the seventh feature film. In 1992 and 1993, Kristel reprised the role of an older Emmanuelle for a series of made-for-cable films with titles such as Emmanuelle's Love and Emmanuelle's Perfume, which featured Marcela Walerstein as a younger version of Kristel's character. Kristel did not take part in any love scenes for this series, which also co-starred George Lazenby, also in a non-sexual role. Kristel also appeared in films throughout her career that capitalized on or parodied her Emmanuelle image, such as the American sex comedy Private Lessons.
A number of unofficial productions in Italy, Japan and the United States cashed in on the Emmanuelle craze, changing the spelling of the title. In a number of cases, the character's name was spelled "Emanuelle" suggesting these films were not authorized. Among the best known were Italian "Black Emanuelle" films starring Laura Gemser, who became the second most popular actress to play Emanuelle in the 1970s. The 1978 spoof Carry On Emmannuelle (with double "N") starred Kenneth Williams as the French ambassador to London. Having lost his libido by landing on a church spire during a parachute jump, he discovers his sex-starved wife, Emmannuelle Prevert, has seduced a string of VIPs. It starred Suzanne Danielle in the title role.
After the last official Emmanuelle theatrical feature film, Emmanuelle au 7ème ciel (the seventh film for which Kristel returns as the main character), ASP took Arsan's character to made-for-cable instead. These included a science fiction series in the 1990s called Emmanuelle in Space starring American actress Krista Allen in one of her first roles. Following spinoffs included TV series Emmanuelle 2000 starring Holly Sampson, TV and video series Emmanuelle Private Collection starring Natasja Vermeer
At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Alain Siritzky said he was looking for a new Emmanuelle, with production on the first film scheduled to begin in September. It was announced at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival that Allie Haze (performing under the alias Brittany Joy) had been chosen. The direct-to-video series that starred Allie Haze was titled Emmanuelle Through Time.
The film played to packed houses in Paris, running for years. Emmanuelle was also an international hit and has played to 300 million. French distribution company Studio Canal has acquired home video rights for a number of Emmanuelle movies and has released remastered DVDs of the films. Taking video and DVD into account revenue is estimated close to 650 million.
The sexual explicitness in Emmanuelle films varies from arty softcore to full hardcore, although no penetration or oral sex made it to public versions. Many question the place of hardcore scenes in Emmanuelle and ASP never attempted to mix the two genres after experimenting in the late 1980s.
- Emmanuelle 4 (1984), starring Kristel and new Emmanuelle Mia Nygren, had hardcore scenes shot, but they were never used. These scenes, which did not involve the main actors, were included in television versions and turned up as extras on European DVD editions of Emmanuelle 4 and in a version called "Emmanuelle 4X" on a VHS in France in the 1980s.
- Emmanuelle 5 (1986), directed by Walerian Borowczyk, was released in two versions: one with softcore love scenes, and a French home video version that extended several scenes with hardcore sex directed by Borowczyk (apparently Borowczyk said that he had not directed them). The scenes are the Love Express and dance studio segments, embellished with penetration, ejaculation and a woman urinating. This VHS version omits several minutes of footage seen in the public version (including dialogue and plot).
- Emmanuelle 6 (1988) also had two hardcore scenes (one short without ejaculation, but with fellatio and penetration, between a man and a woman whom Emmanuelle watches in a horse box, and the second longer, with fellatio, penetration and ejaculation, starring the same couple entering the place where Emmanuelle is being held prisoner at the end of the movie), directed by erotic horror specialist Jean Rollin. However, they were not used in the theater version, but were included on a hardcore VHS version in France.
Emmanuelle series (France)
- Emmanuelle (1974)
- Emmanuelle 2 (1975)
- Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977)
- Emmanuelle 4 (1984)
- Emmanuelle 5 (1986)
- Emmanuelle 6 (1988)
- Emmanuelle 7 (1993)
Emmanuelle made-for-TV films (France)
- Emmanuelle Forever (1993)
- Emmanuelle's Love (1993)
- Emmanuelle's Magic (1993)
- Emmanuelle's Revenge (1993)
- Emmanuelle's Perfume (1993)
- Emmanuelle in Venice (1993)
- Emmanuelle's Secret (1993)
Emmanuelle in Space series (USA)
- Emmanuelle: First Contact, also known as Queen of the Galaxy (1994)
- Emmanuelle 2: A World of Desire (1994)
- Emmanuelle 3: A Lesson in Love (1994)
- Emmanuelle 4: Concealed Fantasy (1994)
- Emmanuelle 5: A Time to Dream (1994)
- Emmanuelle 6: One Final Fling (1994)
- Emmanuelle 7: The Meaning of Love (1994)
Emmanuelle 2000 series (USA)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Being Emmanuelle (2000)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle and the Art of Love (2000)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle in Paradise (2000)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Jewel of Emmanuelle (2000)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Intimate Encounters (2000)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle's Sensual Pleasure (2000)
- Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle Pie (2002)
Emmanuelle TV film (USA)
- Emmanuelle in Rio (2003)
Emmanuelle Private Collection series (USA)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: Sex Goddess (2004)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: Emmanuelle vs. Dracula (2004)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: Sex Talk (2004)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: The Sex Lives of Ghosts (2004)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: Sexual Spells (2004)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: The Art of Ecstasy (2006)
- Emmanuelle Private Collection: Jesse's Secret Desires (2006)
Emmanuelle Through Time series (USA)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Emmanuelle's Skin City (2011)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Emmanuelle's Sexy Bite (2011)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Sex, Chocolate & Emmanuelle (2011)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Rod Steele 0014 & Naked Agent 0069 (2011)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Emmanuelle's Supernatural Sexual Activity (2011)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Emmanuelle's Sex Tales (2011)
- Emmanuelle Through Time: Emmanuelle's Forbidden Pleasures (2011)
- Emmanuelle: A Hard Look, a documentary on the series (2000)
- Pretty Cool, a retitled, cut version of Emmanuelle Pie (2002)
- Emmanuelle Tango, a planned theatrical release which did not enter production (2006)
- Emmanuelle in Wonderland, a retitled, cut version of Sex Tales (theatrical release, 2012)
A great number of movies, particularly in the sexploitation genre and sometimes retroactively, included the name 'Emmanuelle' or its variants in their titles (at least in some of their releases) for exploitative reasons, although none of them had been legally or artistically related to the original series or its title character.
The Spanish-Italian "Black Emanuelle" films created a following on their own right.
- Black Emanuelle (1975)
- Black Emanuelle 2 (1976)
- Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976)
- Emanuelle in America (1977)
- Emanuelle Around the World (1977)
- Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)
- Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978)
- Violence in a Women's Prison (1982)
- Emanuelle Escapes from Hell (1983)
Such films also include:
- Io, Emmanuelle (A Man for Emmanuelle) (1969), directed by Cesare Canevari.
- Swap Meat at the Love Market (Emanuelle Meets the Wife Swappers,Liebesmarkt,1973), directed by Hubert Frank.
- Amore libero - Free Love (The Real Emanuelle, 1973), directed by Pier Ludovico Pavoni.
- Tender and Perverse Emanuelle, 1973, directed by Jess Franco.
- Lust and Desire (I desideri di Emanuelle, Le désir et la volupté , 1973), directed by Lucien Duval.
- Emanuelle's Revenge (1975), directed by Joe D'Amato.
- Hot Acts of Love (Le calde labbra di Emanuelle, Body Games, L'amour aux trousses, 1975) directed by Jean-Marie Pallardy
- Tokyo Emmanuelle (1975), directed by Akira Katō
- La Marge (1976) (also released as Emmanuelle 77), directed by Walerian Borowczyk.
- Laure (1976) (also released as Forever Emmanuelle), directed by Emmanuelle Arsan.
- Néa (1976) (also released as A Young Emmanuelle), directed by Nelly Kaplan.
- Annie (Teenage Emanuelle, La fine dell'innocenza, 1976, directed by Massimo Dallamano
- Emmanuelle on Taboo Island (La Spiaggia del desiderio, 1976), directed by Enzo D'Ambrosio & Humberto Morales.
- Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle (Velluto nero,Emanuelle in Egypt 1976), directed by Brunello Rondi.
- Emmanuelle in Tokyo, Wild Emmanuelle, 1976) directed by Akira Kato.
- Emanuelle:Black and White (Black Emanuelle, White Emmanuelle, Passion Plantation, 1976), directed by Mario Pinzauti.
- Yellow Emanuelle (Il Mondo dei sensi di Emy Wong 1977), directed by Bitto Albertini.
- Sister Emanuelle (1977), directed by Giuseppe Vari.
- Vanessa (1977), directed by Hubert Frank.
- Hong Kong Emmanuelle (1977) directed by Wah Man.
- Blonde Emanuelle 3-D (Disco Dolls in Hot Skin, 1977), directed by Stephen Gibson
- Felicity (1978), directed by John D. Lamond.
- Fury (La mujer de la tierra caliente, Musta Emanuelle - kuuman maan nainen, 1978) directed by José María Forqué
- Emanuelle Tropical (1978) directed by J. Marreco
- Emanuelle and Lolita (1978), directed by Henri Sala
- Emanuelle and the Erotic Nights (Emanuelle e le porno notti nel mondo n. 2, 1978), directed Bruno Mattei/Joe D'Amato.
- Emanuelle y Carol (1978), directed by Ignacio F. Iquino.
- Carry on Emmanuelle (1978) directed by Gerald Thomas.
- Emanuelle in the Country (L'Infermiera di campagna, 1978), directed by Mario Bianchi.
- Emanuelle: Queen of Sados (I mavri Emmanouella, Emanuelle's Daughter 1979), directed by Elia Milonakos.
- Emmanuelle & Joanna (Il mondo porno di due sorelle,1979), directed by Franco Rossetti.
- Kasımpaşalı Emmanuel (1979), directed by Sırrı Gültekin
- Emanuele 3: An Erotic Journal of a Lady From Thailand (Le journal érotique d'une Thailandaise, 1980), directed by Jean-Marie Pallardy.
- Emanuelle Goes To Cannes, 1980, directed by Jean-Marie Pallardy.
- Divine Emanuelle (Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps, Love Camp 1981), directed by Christian Anders.
- Emmanuelle in Soho (1981), directed by David Hughes
- Inconfessable Orgies of Emmanuelle (1982), directed by Jess Franco.
- Kung Fu Emanuelle (1982) directed by John Liu.
- Emanuelle: Queen of the Desert (La Belva dalle calda pelle, 1982), directed by Bruno Fontana.
- Violence in a Women's Prison/Emanuelle Reports from a Women's Prison (Violenza in un carcere femminile, 1982), directed by Bruno Mattei.
- Emanuelle Escapes from Hell (Emanuelle fuga dall'inferno, 1983), directed by Bruno Mattei.
- Voglia di guardare (Skandalöse Emanuelle - Die Lust am Zuschauen, 1986), directed by Joe D'Amato.
- Lady Emanuelle (Tradita a morte, 1989, directed by Pasquale Fanetti
- Emmanuelle in Hong Kong (Heung Gong ngaai maan nau ji sau sing pui yuk, 2003, directed by Dick Lau)