As far as ratings go, at least those handed out by the Motion Picture Association, there is almost nothing more extreme than NC-17, which essentially means no one under the age of 18 can purchase a ticket for a multitude of reasons. And while some directors, producers, and studios will re-cut their films to get an R-rating, there are plenty of NC-17 movies that have been left unedited and sent out into the wild as is, which has resulted in limited releases of some of the most notorious movies of all time.
If you have ever been interested in watching an NC-17 movie after hearing all about the Ana De Armas Marilyn Monroe movie, Blonde, here are some titles to check out ahead of the release of one of the most anticipated new 2022 movie releases.
Showgirls (1995) - Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan
Perhaps the most infamous movie on this list, Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 erotic cult classic, Showgirls, follows a young drifter named Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkeley just one year after she last played Jessie Spano in Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas) as she hitchhikes to Las Vegas with dreams of becoming a famous dancer on the Strip. And, though she has some ups and downs on her journey, Nomi finally makes her dreams come true, but at a price…
According to the MPA, Showgirls was given its NC-17 rating due to the amount of nudity and erotic sexuality throughout the movie, as well as graphic language and sexual violence. If you’ve seen the movie (and not the VH1 version with digitized bras), you’re well aware of the film’s graphic nature.
Shame (2011) - Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Released in 2011, Steve McQueen’s psychological drama, Shame, centers on Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender), a successful and dashing executive who is secretly a traumatized sex addict who will do anything and everything to get his kicks in New York City. And, just when he thinks life can’t get any worse, his equally damaged sister (Carey Mulligan) storms into his life, causing more complications.
Upon release, Shame was given an NC-17 rating by the MPA for explicit sexual content as well as some truly troubling scenes. I’ve walked out of several movies before, but this was the first I exited simply because what was happening on the screen was way too real and unnerving to finish.
Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013) - Léa Seydoux
Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 French drama, Blue is the Warmest Color, follows Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a high school student who experiences a sexual awakening after meeting an art school student and aspiring painter named Emma (Léa Seydoux). Over the years, the two form a contentious and highly-emotional relationship that opens their eyes to a whole new world around them.
Though tamer than some of the other titles on this list, Blue is the Warmest Color was given an NC-17 rating because of the explicit sexual content the MPA felt was unsuitable for younger audiences. However, at least one theater allowed teens to watch the movie upon release.
Bad Lieutenant (1992) - Harvey Keitel
Abel Ferrara’s 1992 crime thriller Bad Lieutenant follows a broken NYPD detective (Harvey Keitel) as the stresses of his job, life, and gambling habits get the best of him. From one interaction to the next, the unnamed lieutenant falls deeper down the rabbit hole of depravity, committing some irredeemable crimes of his own along the way.
If there has ever been a movie deserving of an NC-17 rating it would have to be Bad Lieutenant. With an abundance of sexual violence, intense sexual situations, endless drug use, and extreme language throughout, it’s no wonder the MPA came down hard on the movie.
Orgazmo (1997) - Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Joe Young (Trey Parker, who also co-wrote and directed) is just a normal Mormon missionary trying to find enough money to support and marry his longtime girlfriend. But when he stumbles upon a porn set, the once strait-laced and deeply devoted young man becomes the biggest thing going in the adult entertainment industry in Orgazmo.
It should come as no surprise that a movie written by the creators of South Park, and one that centered on the porn industry, would receive an NC-17 rating from the MPA in 1998. It should come as even less of a surprise that the rating was handed down due to the sexual content and dialogue featured throughout.
Bent (1997) - Clive Owen, Ian McKellen
After being discovered and arrested by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany, Max (Clive Owen), a promiscuous and proud gay man, is sent on a perilous journey to the Dachau concentration camp where he is subjected to indescribable horrors while still being able to find love.
Possibly one of the most harrowing movies about the Holocaust, Sean Mathias’ 1997 drama Bent is absolutely heartbreaking and disturbing with its graphic displays of violence. Upon its release, the movie received an NC-17 rating from the MPA due to its graphic sexual nature.
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Matador (1986) - Antonio Banderas
In one of his most disturbing roles, Antonio Banderas plays Angel, a young student who confesses to an attempted rape and a series of murders he may or may not have committed, in Pedro Almodóvar’s 1986 dark comedy, Matador.
Just like some of the other movies featuring the director and actor, Matador pushed the limits with its dark, twisted, and oddly humorous story. Still, the MPA would later give the film an NC-17 rating in 2005 (nearly 20 years after initial release) due to “aberrant sexuality” and violence.
The Dreamers (2003) - Eva Green, Michael Pitt
In the midst of the 1968 Student Riots in Paris, an American student named Matthew (Michael Pitt) finds himself getting caught up in the lives of formerly conjoined twins Théo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), whose relationship is far from normal. When asked to spend a month with the siblings, Mathew falls deeper into their wild and free-flowing lifestyle.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s 2003 erotic drama, The Dreamers, pushes several boundaries and deviates from societal norms to tell a story about young love in the midst of a chaotic time. And with the extreme sexual content and nudity, it’s no surprise the MPA gave the movie an NC-17 rating upon release.
Last Tango In Paris (1972) - Marlon Brando
Another emotionally-charged, erotic, and shocking Bernardo Bertolucci drama, 1972’s Last Tango in Paris follows Paul (Marlon Brando) and Jeanne (Maria Schneider) two strangers who become lovers after both going out for the same apartment in Paris. But what starts out as anonymous affair where no personal details are revealed turns into something more real and painful along the way.
Upon its release in 1972, Last Tango in Paris was given an X rating, but the MPA later reclassified the film as an NC-17 movie upon re-release in 1997, on account of its extreme sexual content.
A Dirty Shame (2004) - Selma Blair, Johnny Knoxville
A John Waters movie receiving an NC-17 rating? You don’t say! The filthy filmmaker’s 2004 comedy, A Dirty Shame, follows Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman) a puritanical resident of the Hatford Road area of Baltimore who experiences a sexual awakening after being hit by a car. Selma Blair, Johnny Knoxville, and Chris Isaak also star.
No shocker here, but A Dirty Shame was given the NC-17 rating by the MPA due to its pervasive sexual content. And if you’ve seen the movie, you are all too aware of just how pervasive and graphic it is.
Pink Flamingos (1972) - Divine
When Connie (Mink Stole) and Raymond Marble (David Lochary) attempt to steal Babs Johnson’s (Divine) title of “the filthiest person alive,” the down and dirty criminal and her family make it their mission in life to prevent the newcomers from accomplishing their mission by any means necessary.
With scenes featuring incest, people eating dog poop, flashers, and an infamously notorious scene involving a chicken, it shouldn’t shock anyone that John Waters’ classic exploitation comedy film, Pink Flamingos, was given an NC-17 rating by the MPA upon re-release in 1997, 25 years after it first shocked audiences around the world. Maybe that’s why Roger Ebert hated the movie.
The Evil Dead (1981) - Bruce Campbell
Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend, and a small group of friends set off for a night away in an isolated cabin, but the night quickly takes a turn for the worse after they discover the Necronomicon, a powerful book that brings the dead back to life.
Sam Raimi’s classic horror film, The Evil Dead, was initially released with an X rating back in 1981 but was later given an NC-17 by the MPA when the movie was re-released back in 1994, on account of its substantial graphic violence and gore.
If you think this list is a little short and missing movies like Happiness and Kids, it should be noted that those movies surrendered their NC-17 ratings upon release.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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