17 Films That Were Originally Rated NC-17

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Last week Steve McQueen’s Shame received an NC-17 rating that the director and Fox Searchlight has decided not to appeal. That decision almost certainly ensures that the film’s already limited release will be even more limited. We take a look back at 17 films we’re glad successfully appealed or re-edited the film to be taken down to an R rating since the NC-17 rating was created in 1990.

1. American Pie
The Weitz Brothers teen comedy brought raunchy sex-driven comedies back into the forefront in 1999 by breaking all of the rules. The film brought us the classic pie scene, revealed what really happens at band camp and detailed a hyper-realistic account of teenage parties. The MPAA saw all of this as too crude and slapped the film with NC-17, but the film saw the light of day when it re-edited the scenes that had “strong sexuality, crude sexual dialogue, language and drinking, all involving teens.”

2. American Psycho
Based on the amazing novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the film combined elements of a thriller, black comedy and satired yuppie life of the late 1980s. We follow the iconic Patrick Bateman spiral out of control and act on his demonic intuitions as he becomes nothing more than a psycho. The blend of horror and humor was a little much for the MPAA, especially a scene involving prostitutes. The scene in question required 18 seconds be cut from the film and dialogue be tamed down. More scenes were trimmed to hide the strong imagery of violence.

3. Basic Instinct
Let’s face it: the film’s actual prestige or lack there of is over shadowed by the interrogation scene. Keeping Sharon Stone’s iconic moment and the police reaction in mind makes it easy to see why Basic Instinct needed to be trimmed to receive an R rating. However, not that much of the original film was actually changed. Director Paul Verhoeven stated, “Actually, I didn’t have to cut many things, but I replaced things from different angles, made it a little more elliptical, a bit less direct.” Like most films, his original (with 40 more seconds) was subsequently released on DVD.

4. Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance’s film is a realistic depiction of a young couple’s initial attraction to the dissolution of their life together. Everything about the film was kept honest and uncensored, but that caused problems with the MPAA. The raw intensity of the couples’ love life caused Blue Valentine to receive an NC-17, but this caused an uproar from lead actor Ryan Gosling. He claimed the organization was sexist due to a specific scene. This is one of the few films that appealed the rating without trimming any scenes.

5. The Boondock Saints
A true cult classic: it was panned by critics and bombed at the box office, but Saints has lived on and even spawned an unnecessary sequel a decade later. Not surprisingly, it was the overt violence that needed to be toned down in this story about brother vigilantes.

6. Clerks
Without this black and white story about two store clerks, Kevin Smith’s film career wouldn’t exist. It was made for under $28,000 and grossed over $3 million. If Smith didn’t edit out the extensive use of extremely explicit dialogue the comedy would have received less than its already limited release and we wouldn’t have gotten to witness the View Askewniverse. Considering Smith’s knack for foul language, only two other films, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and _Zack and Miri, were originally rated NC-17.

7. The Doors
Of course a biopic about Jim Morrison’s life and his band the Doors would contain nudity and coarse language. It was the time of free love after all. Unfortunately, the MPAA didn’t feel that the historical accuracy of the time period was okay to be seen and required cuts to be made.

8. Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s last film before his death was also one of his most controversial. Reportedly, Warner Bros. was under contract to give the film an R regardless of how risqué the material was. The studios solution was to digitally add figures to obscure certain graphic scenes unbeknownst to Kubrick. This has upset many die hard fans, but it was returned to its original format in subsequent DVD releases. Clockwork Orange, another Kubrick classic, was originally given an X-Rating, but we kept that off the list because it isn’t technically an NC-17 rating.

9. The Godfather: Part III
Sure, it was one of the most disappointing third films in a trilogy, but it did have to follow two of the greatest films in cinematic history. Francis Ford Coppola has often stated that the Godfafther story is two parts and this (originally intented to be called The Death of Michael Corleone) was an epilogue. Regardless of what the film was, the violence and language had grown to be too much for the MPAA and required a high level of edits to be made.

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