McConaughey Slapped with NC-17: 8 Great Movies That Were Too

NC-17 is in! Michael Fassbender recently – and repeatedly – went full-frontal in Shame, which perhaps wasn’t all that surprising, as his resume up to that point was largely comprised of edgier art-house fare, with the occasional mainstream project mixed in. But now, with the news that onetime Sexiest Man Alive and full-time PG-13 star Matthew McConaughey’s new movie is not only a non-rom-com but has been slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating (thanks to a scene reportedly involving oral sex and fried chicken) – well, that changes everything. Who’s next? Tom Cruise?! Oh, wait, he already starred in Eyes Wide Shut, whose uncut version was rated NC-17. Here are some other great movies with not-so-great ratings.


Unrated: heavy sexual themes including depictions of pedophilia


Todd Solondz doesn’t much care for commercial success – never less so than with his dramedy Happiness (not to be confused with his “comedy” Fear, Anxiety & Depression), which follows the unhappiness of a large family. Think of it as the anti-Parenthood, which is to say, insanely depraved and really good. Just ask Roger Ebert, who, rather surprisingly – given his status as the most renowned movie critic in the U.S. at the time – gave the movie a perfect four stars and a spot on his year-end top 10 list.

The Dreamers

NC-17 (later edited for R rating): explicit sexual content


If Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers depicted explicit violence the way it depicted explicit sex, it probably would’ve earned a PG-13 rating stateside. But European films, much like the U.S. ratings board, are cut from a different cloth (graphic violence is actually worse to them than graphic sex; buncha crazies!), and a few scenes were deemed too hot for American audiences, thus preventing loads of people from seeing the Italian auteur’s fascinating drama. At least in theaters.

Bad Education

NC-17 (later edited for R rating): explicit sexual content


One of Pedro Almodovar’s best – and in a way most personal – films, Bad Education is an almost Hitchcockian tale of one man’s childhood catching up with him in ways he could’ve never expected. But with all the gender drama and priesthood bashing, the film just never had a chance at an R rating.

A Clockwork Orange 

X (later edited for R rating): strong sexual content including rape and violence, graphic nudity, disturbing images, and brief strong language


By today’s standards … well, it’s still pretty shocking. But when Clockwork originally hit theaters in 1971, it was met with complete and utter outrage, especially in England, where the film is set and was banned for decades (“Don’t you bloody blaspheme ‘Singin’ in the Rain’!”). It was also met, justifiably, with complete and utter praise and four Oscar nominations, and Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was eventually placed on almost every “Best Movies of All Time” list in existence.

Last Tango in Paris 

X (later edited for R rating): explicit sexual content


Perhaps unfairly, the aforementioned Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris is often remembered for its graphic depiction of sex – particularly the “butter” sequence – and the behind-the-scenes controversies it begat, but the film was ultimately acclaimed by critics, and Marlon Brando and Bertolucci were each nominated for Oscars. Oh, the ‘70s.

Requiem for a Dream

Unrated (later edited for R rating): intense depiction of drug addiction and graphic sexuality


Much of Darren Aronofsky’s breakout movie is an R-rated cautionary-tale masterpiece, but there are a few scenes that anyone – including yours truly – who saw the harrowing film will never be able to remove from their brains: two gruesome medical-procedure sequences and one of the girl-on-girl-sex variety. Those were deal-breakers for the MPAA, earning Requiem, at least initially, the non-rating.

Midnight Cowboy

X (later edited for R rating): strong sexual content, nudity, some drug use and brief violence


The Dustin Hoffman-starring, Jon Voight-introducing drama stands as the only X-rated (so rated because psychologists thought it potentially hazardous to impressionable “youngsters”) film to ever win Best Picture. ‘Nuff said. Oh, and: “I’m walkin’ here.”

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Unrated: strong sexual content involving teens, drug use and language


The undercurrents of political unrest are obviously cool with the MPAA. The almost nonstop sex, though? Notsa much. That’s fine – it’s pretty clear that Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful love(-making)-letter to, uh, coming of age wasn’t intended for mass consumption (unlike Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a few years later!). At least we know Academy members saw it and loved it. Perverts!

Beyond R (Movies Rated X, NC-17, etc.)