Why Midsommar Was Almost Rated NC-17

Florence Pugh as Dani in Midsommar
(Image credit: (A24))

Midsommar is blooming with memorable (and disturbing) imagery that audiences likely won’t pick away from their brains anytime soon. From its gory images and perverse sex scene to the drug trips and full-frontal nudity, it hit just about hits every mark of an R-rated flick. At first, the Motion Picture Association of America found an R to be too tame of a rating for Midsommar, as director Ari Aster has just revealed. In his words:

Yes, we had an NC-17 for 6 weeks. Lots of back-and-forth with them.

Ari Aster revealed his sophomore horror effort veered on an NC-17 rating during a recent fan Q&A on Reddit. This shouldn’t be a surprise to those who’ve seen the film. Midsommar features Jack Reynor’s character running around completely naked in broad daylight in the third act of the film just after taking part in ritualistic sex.

As fans discussed in the forum, the movie may have showed Christian with an erection during the full-frontal nudity scene. This detail certainly goes a step up from other R-rated film depictions of male nudity. Jack Reynor recently explained his interest in doing the nude scene. Here’s what he said:

I was advocating for as much full frontal as possible. I felt like it was really important. When I read the script, I saw an opportunity to take a character who exhibits a lot of archetypal male characteristics — like male toxicity — who has all of the stuff stripped away from him through the course of the film and then ultimately finds himself in this situation which is kind of the ultimate humiliation…It was always intentional to have the full frontal. That was what Ari wanted to do. But I was really saying, ‘We got to do as much of this as possible.’

Indie studio A24 did show off its official certificate of rating with the world one week before Midsommar hit theaters with the words “finally reached an agreement with the MPAA” indicating that it was perhaps a battle to get it. A movie with an NC-17 label hasn’t been marketable at the box office and hurts the success of a movie more often than it helps it.

The highest-grossing NC-17 film is 1995’s Showgirls, which made $20 million after a $45 million production budget. Midsommar opened alongside some huge competition, Spider-Man: Far From Home, but has managed to make $14 million so far after its first week in theaters.

The horror film is officially rated R for its “disturbing ritualistic violence, grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language.” It’s unclear whether the back and forth resulted in any cuts to the film before it hit theaters or an agreement with the MPAA, but as it is, it’s easy to see that it was on the borderline.

Midsommar has had plenty of other controversial talk surrounding it, such as critics dropping f-bombs in reaction to screening it and then receiving rave reviews. The film is a unique experience to witness and the cast even revealed they sat in silence for 10 minutes after seeing it for the first time. Midsommar is also the kind of movie that begs to be discussed. Ari Aster and lead Florence Pugh even disagree about the ending!

For those curious about what other corners of WTF Midsommar can go, Ari Aster is now reportedly working on an extended cut that is 30 minutes longer than the original film, which has a run time of 2 hours and 28 minutes. Maybe it will include some previously cut NC-17 scenes?

You can check out our interview with Ari Aster on the ReelBlend podcast and catch Midsommar in theaters now!

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.