While the blockbuster success of films like Logan and Deadpool have left some studios realizing that R-rated movies can, in fact, dominate the box office, there is very little chance that the NC-17 rating will ever enjoy a similar box office renaissance. For years, the “No Children Under 17 Allowed” designation (formerly known as X-rated) has been the kiss of death for any major release looking to turn a profit. Many major movie chains will flat out refuse to show NC-17 films, and the few that will typically aren’t enough to help those movies make more than a few million dollars at best.
As such, most films that receive an NC-17 rating have to be re-edited and resubmitted to the Motion Picture Association of America in the hopes that the MPAA will bestow a much more profitable R-rating on the film. While this process is fairly common, the road to an R-rating is not always an easy one. Due to the somewhat unpredictable rules and regulations the MPAA operates under, some movies have to be drastically altered before a board of mysterious representatives determine that our precious minds can handle them. Others...well, there are some other former NC-17 films that you’d simply never associate with the MPAA’s kiss of death.
These are 15 Movies That Were Originally NC-17.
15 Scary Movie 2
Scary Movie 2 probably doesn’t strike you as the typical NC-17 film. Sure, it’s filled with sex and violence, but compared to some of the other movies that typically earn that dreaded rating, Scary Movie 2 is basically a late-night Looney Tunes short. What could the film have possibly had in it that was so objectionable?
Well, thanks to Scary Movie 2’s unrated DVD, we can tell you that most of the objectionable scenes involved the gratuitous use of sex rather than any outlandish scenes of violence. First up on the chopping block was a prolonged sequence involving a young woman getting ready for...an eventful evening with her phantom lover inside of a haunted house. While there aren’t really any overt instances of nudity in the deleted scenes, the MPAA has always had very strange rules as it concerns sex and films, as you’ll see again throughout this list.
Hey, if the Scary Movie franchise is an NC-17 candidate, then it stands to reason that the film that helped inspire its creation might also have had some battles with the MPAA. Wes Craven’s Scream not only marked a return to form for the legendary director but the renaissance of the Hollywood slasher film as well. Hey, that’s what happens when a $14 million horror movie goes on to gross almost $200 million.
Of course, Wes Craven had an incredibly hard time securing the film's wide release in the first place. For some reason, the MPAA had a real issue with the movie’s iconic opening sequence. Mind you, they weren’t concerned about blood or sex; they were concerned that the scene was just too intense. Craven had no idea how to cut the scene in a way that wouldn’t ruin the opening, so he lied and said it was the only take of the sequence they kept. The MPAA relented, but Craven was forced to cut some more violent deaths from the film’s later scenes.
13 South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
Speaking of directors toying with the MPAA in order to preserve their film, let’s talk about Matt Stone and Trey Parker. As you might imagine, Stone and Parker possess a different view on what constitutes acceptable entertainment. So, when it came time for the MPAA to rate South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, you can bet that they slapped an NC-17 rating on it.
The funny thing is that it’s long been reported that Matt Stone and Trey Parker were well aware that the MPAA would hit them with an NC-17 rating if they used 400 curse words, so they intentionally used 399. It’s even been suggested that the duo sent some intentionally outlandish cuts of the movie to the board in order to finally get approval for the “real” version. However, Stone and Parker believe it eventually got approved because of Paramount’s membership in the MPAA.
12 American Pie
Like Porky's and Animal House before it, American Pie turned raunchy teen humor into big box office dollars. While we can’t speak highly of the sequels or the films that this smash hit “inspired,” there is an oddly timeless appeal to American Pie that can be traced back to the movie’s time capsule soundtrack, unassuming nature, and a couple of still-effective gags.
If you’ve seen the movie, we bet you can guess which gag upset the MPAA the most. Yes, the “iconic” sequence involving Jim and the creative use of an apple pie was originally slightly more vulgar. The MPAA was not onboard with the original version of that sequence, nor were they particularly thrilled about scenes involving body fluids and nearby drinks, self-indulgence in front of a hidden camera, and other assorted raunchy sequences. Ultimately, American Pie’s crew made several cuts to the film and later released the unrated version on DVD.
11 Jackass: The Movie
Whether or not you actually consider yourself a fan of the Jackass series, you do have to admit that the show was a revolution. Jackass was an ultra-low budget series about a cast of guys that were willing to participate in some truly shocking stunts. Some were violent, some were gross, some were just downright clever, but they were successful enough to ensure that Jackass was eventually adapted into a film.
Many of the scenes that the MPAA objected to can actually be found on Jackass: The Movie’s unrated DVD. However, there is one sequence that the MPAA refused to give their blessings to which has since been lost to time. During the film’s final skit - a sequence jovially titled “Toy Car Butt X-Ray,” - the Jackass crew planned to actually show a toy car being inserted up Ryan Dunn’s...well, the point here is that everyone eventually agreed that particular scene was a bit over the top, and that the doctor-visit-aftermath of said insertion was enough.
10 The Doors
Oliver Stone’s The Doors tells the story of a young man named Jim Morrison and a little band he sang for back in the ‘60s. Between Stone’s eccentric directing and the drug fuelled adventures of Mr. Morrison, The Doors stands as one of the trippiest and most surreal entrants into the music biopic genre. It’s an utterly bizarre piece of film.
It turns out that it might have been a little too bizarre for the MPAA’s liking. While we know that the MPAA gave an early version of the film an NC-17 rating, there’s some debate regarding what the ratings board found to be so objectionable. Based on reports, however, it seems that the movie’s glorification of drug use and promiscuous sex by way of utterly bizarre imagery was just too much for some of the MPAA’s members to properly process.
9 The Boondock Saints
The Boondock Saints is something of a modern day movie miracle. Troy Duffy’s story about two Irish brothers who decide to murder every evil man in Boston only aired in five theaters for one week back in 2000. The few people who did see it - mostly critics - panned the film for its lack of substance and glorification of violence. Despite all this, the movie went on to achieve cult classic status following its DVD release.
Interestingly, those who saw The Boondock Saints on DVD back in those early days didn’t actually see the theatrical version of the movie. That version was rated NC-17. Most of the differences between the two iterations can be found in two key scenes. The sequence where the two brothers drop down from the ceiling and kill a room of Russian mobsters originally included many more shots of the bullets hitting. The original version of the scene where Rocco kills two former associates was also shown in super slow motion. In the edited version, these two sequences are noticeably trimmed down.
Speaking of unlikely hits, Kevin Smith’s Clerks was never supposed to be anything more than a passion project that Smith and his friends felt like making for the fun of it. However, audiences were hopelessly drawn to the movie’s surprising realism and quick wit. Despite a very limited theatrical run, Clerks became one of the most profitable films of its era. The movie did even better when it was eventually released on VHS.
Believe it or not, the MPAA’s entire problem with the film had to do with its strong language. Yes, they just thought there was too much darn cursing in the movie. The problem with their evaluation was that there really wasn’t anything Kevin Smith could do to trim down the film’s language without just cutting scenes outright. Fortunately, someone at Miramax went to bat for Smith, and the film was released in an unaltered state.
There’s actually a little bit of debate surrounding the so-called “X-Rated” version of Scarface. What we know for a fact is that the MPAA initially assigned Scarface an X-rating (again, the precursor to NC-17). While the organization wasn’t thrilled about the film’s prolific uses of the “F word,” their chief concern was the sequence which featured Tony’s associate being chopped up with a chainsaw. According to film urban legend, there is a version of that sequence which doesn’t cut away when the chainsaw touches skin.
The truth is a little more complicated. Scarface did initially receive an X-rating due largely to the chainsaw scene, and director Brian De Palma did make the changes to the scene the MPAA requested. However, De Palma noted that the alterations were so minor that it was likely that nobody would even notice if he just released the unedited version in theaters - so that’s exactly what he did.
6 Requiem For A Dream
Requiem for a Dream might just be the most depressing movie ever made. While we’ve seen quite a few films about the horrors of drug abuse over the years, few movies dare cross the kind of lines that Requiem for a Dream crosses during the film’s final scenes. In fact, Requiem for a Dream is really less of an anti-drug film and more of a twisted look at how mental illness reshapes the “American Dream.”
While the MPAA was willing to put up with the film’s relentless nature, they were less enthusiastic about the movie’s graphic sex scene. Given the MPAA’s traditionally...err...traditional views on that subject matter, we can certainly see why they balked at one of Requiem’s key sequences. Regardless, Darren Aronofsky refused to change a thing. As such, Artisan Entertainment decided to just release the film without a rating. This severely impacted the movie’s box office performance (it only made $7.4 million), and Artisan decided to release a Rated-R cut of the movie on DVD alongside the unrated original.
5 Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Truth be told, just about every Friday the 13th film has had to go through some cuts before the MPAA would give it anything less than an NC-17 or X rating. That’s really no surprise, given that the Friday the 13th series really raised the bar in terms of how much sex and violence the emerging slasher genre contained. Even still, the story of Friday the 13th Part VII’s road to an R-rating is particularly noteworthy.
Director John Carl Buechler made several public statements regarding how hard the MPAA was cracking down on him. According to reports, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 scenes had to be either edited down or completely reshot in order for the film to receive an R-rating. Highlights of the cuts include a scene where Jason repeatedly slams a camper inside a sleeping bag against a tree (this scene was later added to Jason X) and the MPAA’s order that Jason’s face be obscured by shadows whenever possible because the film's make-up was just too effective.
4 Predator 2
Predator 2 is a strange film. It’s one of those sequels that most people forget exists until someone brings it up. Still, while most people agree that the original film is better, Predator 2 has attracted quite a bit of a cult following over the years. Some viewers just find its blend of horror, sci-fi, and urban crime drama to be utterly compelling.
Regardless of your thoughts on the film, Predator 2 isn’t exactly the first movie that jumps to mind when you think of movies that might have gotten hit with an NC-17 rating. It’s a violent film, but it’s certainly no more violent than other movies of that era. However, the original cut of Predator 2 was apparently far more intense. In fact, director Stephen Hopkins noted that he had to recut the movie about 20 times before the MPAA would give it their blessing. Because of the extreme amount of recuts the original film demanded, fans have long sought out any clips from the “lost” unrated version of the movie.
3 The Godfather Part III
The Godfather Part III is not a great film. We don’t say that because it fails to live up to the standards of the original, we say that because it is - at best - a pretty run of the mill crime drama that is really only notable because of its famous name.
It’s also not the kind of movie you associate with the NC-17 rating. Yet, the original cut of The Godfather Part III did receive that very rating. Remarkably, there seems to have only been one scene - a sequence involving the murder of a mobster - that the MPAA objected to. Francis Ford Coppola eventually changed the graphic death to a simple neck snapping, and the movie was allowed to secure an R-rating. What’s strange about this story is that the original scene in question doesn’t even sound especially brutal. Again, we’re guessing that the film’s famous name had something to do with it being held to a different standard.
The legacy of Robocop is a somewhat depressing example of what happens when the Hollywood money machine gets set to franchise mode. Director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film is an incredibly relevant look at the perils of consumerism and technological obsession. However, that message was widely overlooked at the time of the film’s release, which resulted in Robocop being diluted so badly that it was actually adapted into a kid’s cartoon show at one point.
As relentlessly violent as the theatrical version of the movie is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the version that Paul Verhoeven submitted to the MPAA. However, the most notable altered scene is the sequence in which an OCP executive is murdered by a prototype security robot. In the original version, this murder is presented in a way more over-the-top manner, as to emphasize the dark comedy aspect of it. In the theatrical cut, the slightly toned-down take on this scene actually results in a loss of much of the intended humor. Verhoeven regrets agreeing to the cut for that reason.
1 Kill Bill Vol. 1
While American directors and the MPAA don’t usually get along, Quentin Tarantino has enjoyed an especially heated history with the ratings board. In fact, it’s hard not to find a Tarantino movie that didn’t receive an NC-17 rating at some point. Still, the influence of the MPAA was never more apparent than it was in the theatrical release of Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
While the MPAA shared quite a few notes with Mr. Tarantino regarding the audacious levels of violence featured in his revenge film epic, the most significant note involved the MPAA’s refusal to approve The Bride’s climactic battle with The Crazy 88s. Due to the severity of the changes that the MPAA requested regarding this sequence, Tarantino instead elected to just present the battle in black-and-white as to skirt around certain rules involving copious amounts of bloodshed. The funny part thing about the change is that it might actually make the final scene even better due to the throwback style the black-and-white filter lends to the fight.
What other movies originally sported an NC-17 rating? Let us know in the comments.