The 6 Biggest NC-17 And R-Rated Controversies in Film History

Photo: MPAA, The Weinstein Company

Before any film is released, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gives it a G, PG, PG-13, R, and in some extreme cases, X or NC-17 rating.Now, in one of the most controversial decisions ever to come out of the MPAA ratings system, a new documentary chronicling the effects of bullying on young kids, aptly titled “Bully,” was given an R-rating by the MPAA for “some language.” 

After launching an appeal (so that bullied kids of all ages are able to see the film) against the rating and losing, the documentary’s distributors, The Weinstein Company, released a statement that they are considering a “leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future.” 

But this isn’t the first time the MPAA has had backlash from filmmakers for their rating system. 

The documentary about bullying in schools was given an R rating due to violent language.

During the appeal process by The Weinstein Company, 'Bully' director Lee Hirsch and one of the kids from the film, Alex Libby, implored the MPAA to change the rating from an R to PG-13.

They made the claim that kids should be allowed to watch the film because it'll promote less violence if they see the effects bullying has on a child's emotions.

Weinstein and Hirsch lost the appeal. By one vote.

The dark relationship drama starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams was originally given the dreaded NC-17 rating because of scenes of oral sex onscreen between the couple.

When the rating news came out, the cast, crew and production company were outraged. Gosling even accused the MPAA of sexism.

'How is it possible that these movies that torture women in a sexual context can have an R rating but a husband and wife making love is inappropriate?' The actor said.

Ultimately, the MPAA agreed and with a unanimous vote, they changed the rating to an R. Williams ended up getting an Oscar nomination for the role.

Another MPAA vs. Weinstein debacle.

The Best Picture Oscar winner was slammed with an R rating for a scene that involved Colin Firth's King George IV saying the f-word at least 10 times in an angry attempt to use cursing as a means to curing his stuttering.

Apparently the cut-off for dropping the f-bomb for a PG-13 film is one. This is apparently to protect kids from over-exposure to the negative word.

Have the MPAA officials ever walked the halls of a public school?

Weinstein didn't dispute this rating too much. Instead the company set a terrible precedent of releasing an edited, PG-13 version of the film a few months after it won Best Picture.

In 2007, two polar-opposite films were released.

'Once' told the sweet story of two musicians who fall in love while performing together.

The other, 'Hostel 2,' features the term 'torture porn' at its highest degree of gross.

Somehow both films were slapped with an R rating despite the fact that the most offensive part of 'Once' was the language, while 'Hostel 2' has scenes of decapitation, cannibalism and death by scythe.

The MPAA is usually known for being too restrictive when dishing out ratings.

Cue a gigantic exception.

When 'South Park' creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone made a pornography parody called 'Orgazmo' in 1997, the film was given the NC-17 rating for featuring a dildo but no real male genitalia.

Sounds like their style right? Here's the double-standard:

Three years later, when Scary Movie was set for release, it earned an R rating even though it showed an erect penis (prosthetic) attacking a character in the head as well as an image of ejaculation.

Normally films that get the NC-17 insult have the opportunity to edit their films down a rating but because Parker and Stone financed 'Orgazmo' themselves, they couldn't afford the edits. So NC-17 it stayed.

Despite a strange title, 'Sweet Sweetback' was considered a very important film in African American cinema.

That didn't stop the MPAA from giving it the scary X rating (the NC-17 of the time).

The film was apparently given the 'X' because the title character has sex with prostitutes while he only 12 years old.

Director Melvin Van Peebles was outraged but instead of appealing to the board, he used the rating to his advantage. He drew up advertisements for the movie that said, 'Rated X by an all-white jury.

'Sweet Sweetback' then became synonymous with the 'blaxploitation' film movement.

For some reason, the MPAA decided to pull a fast switch on fimmakers of 'The Wild Bunch.'

When the star-studded Western film was originally released in 1969, it was given a well-deserved R rating for hard violence. But when director Sam Peckinpah wanted to release his director's cut, MPAA gave the new version an X rating.

Why did the new cut get the hard decision? Peckinpah added 10 minutes to the theatrical version.

But here's the kicker: there was no violence in those 10 measly minutes.

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