The Dalai Lama has admitted to hitting a parrot and
Big studios might balk at releasing an NC-17 film–as in the case of 50 Shades of Grey, out this weekend, which has somehow turned a book that’s wall-to-wall explicit, raunchy banging into an R-rated movie (same as The Breakfast Club!)–but indies are a bit more ballsy with it. The budgets are smaller, the artistic license is greater, and the ratings can be higher. Here are 13 movies that took the plunge and went adults-only, with varying levels of success.
With a $20.3 million gross, this is the highest-grossing NC-17 movie ever (domestically). Not so great when you consider its production budget was $45 million, though.
Killer Joe (2011)
Released when the world was just beginning to learn the phrase “McConaissance,” this crime thriller stars Matthew McConaughey as a sadistic cop who moonlights as a hitman.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Blue director Abdellatif Kechiche experienced some pushback against his famously sexy lesbian romance from its leads Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, who commented on the “horrible” experience of making the film, specifically the 10-minute-long sex scene.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Technically this film is rated X, not NC-17, but it was made over two decades before the latter rating existed, so I’ll cut it some slack. If the NC-17 rating had been a thing back then, Midnight Cowboy would have gotten it. It remains the only X–or NC-17, for that matter–movie to win best picture.
Henry & June (1990)
This drama, loosely based on the autobiographical Henry & June by French erotica writer Anaïs Nin, was the first film to receive the NC-17 rating.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Derek Cianfrance’s drama about the changing relationship of a married couple was controversially slapped with an NC-17 rating for a brief, and not even all that controversial, scene of cunnilingus.
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
This was one of the films that made the MPAA finally get their act together and create a rating to replace X, which in the previous decades had been co-opted by the porn industry. Given the choice between applying to the MPAA as an X-rated film or going unrated, which was a risky box office proposition, The Cook went for the latter. Six months later, Henry & June was released under the brand spanking new NC-17 rating.
The second movie in Steve McQueen’s “The World’s An Awful Place and I Want to Go Crawl In a Hole and Die” trilogy (see also: Hunger, 12 Years a Slave).
The second feature film of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Orgazmo was panned by critics but has enjoyed a healthy cult following.
Bad Education (2004) and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar has not one but two films among the top ten highest-grossing NC-17 films ever made.
Lust, Caution (2007)
Lust was Ang Lee’s first film after the cultural phenomenon that was Brokeback Mountain, but it didn’t get a whole lot of attention here in the states; of its $67 million worldwide gross, only $4.6 million came from America. That’s a shame–it truly is an underrated masterpiece.
This is the David Cronenberg movie about people who get off on car accidents, not the 2006 Oscar winner for Best Picture.