Strictly speaking, the Motion Picture Association of America (better known as the MPAA) is not a censorship body. They have never restricted someone from making a movie, no matter how profane, or violent, or sexual it might be. If you want to produce the raunchiest, bloodiest, sexiest film in history, have at it. (And if you do, you will probably find a very receptive audience.)
The MPAA’s job, at least as relevant to ratings, is to watch submitted movies and assign them an optional rating that can then be used as a guide for parents and other moviegoers to get a sense of what sort of film they are paying to see. It’s fine in theory, but in practice the system has a major flaw: Many theaters and retailers won’t show or stock titles with adults-only ratings. In the past, that rating was the “X,” but eventually the X’s reputation became so corroded by its association with pornography that it became useless. No “serious” movie could be released with an X because the moviegoing public associated all X-rated movies with porn.
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In 1990, the MPAA replaced the X with the NC-17, which was designed to offer serious filmmakers the chance to make legitimate movies on adult subjects without the taint of porn. Unfortunately, after a brief boom in NC-17 titles, the same thing happened all over again. Distributors, theaters, and video stores all refused to carry NC-17. Which became a sort of de facto form of censorship; you couldn’t make an NC-17 rated movie because for the most part you couldn’t sell or show one in order to recoup your investment.
So where does that leave us? With two ratings, the X and the NC-17, that have been fatally compromised almost their entire history. As a result, a lot of the movies that have gotten those ratings were lost causes to begin with (when they weren’t actual porn). Below are 10 such examples — and before you even ask, no Showgirls is not on the list. That’s because Showgirls isn’t bad — or at very least it’s a whole lot more interesting than any of the ten films below.
The Worst X and NC-17 Rated Movies
These movies were rated X and NC-17 — but not even adults should endure them.
The Best X-Rated Movies in History
These movies prove that the X rating was about much more than smut.