Movies that almost got an NC-17 rating: Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Scream, more

“South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.”
Paramount Pictures

  • NC-17 is a rating by the Motion Picture Association that is given to a film it deems unsuitable for audiences under 18.
  • An NC-17 rating may be due to sex, violence, excessive foul language and drug use.
  • Here are 14 movies that were originally rated NC-17 until edits were made.


Drew Barrymore in Scream.
Dimension Movies

Thanks to Drew Barrymore’s shocking opening death scene and the film’s skillful use of the horror genre, this Wes Craven classic became an instant blockbuster when it was released in the winter of 1996.

But if Craven had his way, the film would have been even more violent.

There were tweaks made to avoid an NC-17 rating, which affected Barrymore’s slow-motion death and the final kitchen scene, which involved multiple stabbings.

The ratings board also wanted to cut Billy Loomis’ (Skeat Ulrich) line: “Movies don’t make psychopaths, movies make psychopaths more creative.” But after much back-and-forth, it stayed in the movie.

“American pie”

(L-R) Eugene Levy and Jason Biggs in “American Pie.”
Getty Images

A few years after Scream, this comedy found itself in the crosshairs of the ratings board – not for its nudity or graphic language, but for that pie.

That’s right, the biggest note the movie got was when Jim (Jason Biggs) enjoys pie. The scene had to be changed to show less thrusts.

“American Psycho”

Christian Bale in American Psycho.
Screenshot of American Psycho

Christian Bale’s metamorphosis into Patrick Bateman, the protagonist of Brett Easton Ellis’ memorable novel, brought Bale out of the shadow of the child actor.

But it wasn’t Patrick’s murderous ways that angered the ratings board; it was the threesome scene between him and two prostitutes.

Director Mary Heron had to cut this scene to get an R rating for the film.

“Boondock Saints”

(LR) Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery in Boondock Saints.
Indian Photos/YouTube

This 1999 cult classic, which follows twin brothers who become vigilantes, didn’t need huge changes to avoid becoming NC-17, but it didn’t go unnoticed.

According to director Troy Duffy, the ratings committee wanted less blood and slow motion during the death scenes. He said that the footage was returned for the release of the unrated version of the film.


(LR) Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in “Criminal”.
Miramax, IMDB

The violence and drug use in Quentin Tarantino’s classic made it one of you there was to see when it would hit theaters in 1994. But the ratings board wanted to scale both things back — a particularly graphic scene in which John Travolta’s character Vincent Vega accidentally shoots someone in the face.

“Kill Bill: Volume 1”

Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill: Volume 1.”
The Weinstein Company

Nearly a decade after battling the ratings board for Criminal, Tarantino had to figure out how to get an R rating for his contemporary martial arts revenge film starring Uma Truman.

The film features a huge action sequence in which The Bridge (Thurman) cuts down multiple supporters with a samurai sword. Tarantino gave it a black and white look to tone down all the gore.

“Sausage Party”

Seth Rogen produced Sausage Party.

Part of the appeal of seeing this raunchy animated comedy about supermarket produce come to life is its over-the-top graphic content.

Producer Seth Rogen knew this and purposely went crazy with the visual effects in an orgy scene so that when the ratings board saw it, it wouldn’t all be thrown out. He said that, to his surprise, the board’s only issue with the scene was the inclusion of pubic hair on a pita bread character. An R rating was given after it was removed.

“Basic Instinct”

Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.
“Basic Instinct”/TriStar Pictures

When this erotic thriller debuted in 1992, it pushed the boundaries of how much sex and violence could be shown on screen.

Director Paul Verhoeven had to tone things down to avoid NC-17 — notably an oral sex scene that the ratings board felt went too far.

“The Godfather Part III”

Al Pacino in The Godfather Part III.
Paramount Pictures via YouTube screenshot

Francis Ford Coppola’s beloved mob franchise is full of memorable violence: a big studio wig wakes up in his bed next to a bloody horse’s head, and young Don Corleone (Robert De Niro) hacks an elderly mob boss to pieces.

But one particular moment almost resulted in an NC-17 rating. The scene in which Michael Corleone’s bodyguard (Al Pacino) kills a rival by stabbing him in the neck with the man’s glasses had to be heavily edited to get an R rating.


(L-R) Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in “Casino”.
Universal pictures

Martin Scorsese’s classic gangster film set in Las Vegas is perhaps his most violent film. A big reason for this is the gruesome scene where Joe Pesci’s character puts a rival gangster’s head in a vise.

Scorsese was willing to sacrifice the scene so that other scenes of violence more important to the story could survive the wrath of the ratings board. But to the author’s surprise, when the board finished watching the film, the vice scene survived several cuts.

“Blue Valentine”

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine.
The Weinstein Company

Sometimes an NC-17 rating can be used as an advertisement for the film. For the Harvey Weinstein-backed 2010 drama “Blue Valentine,” which centers on the doomed relationship between a couple played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, the board initially labeled it NC-17 for a scene in which Gosling’s character performs oral sex.

Outrage over the decision led to the R rating being changed, and the indie title received a lot of publicity months before it was released. Williams received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

“Boys Don’t Cry”

(LR) Chloë Sevigny and Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

This powerful true-life drama from 1999 won Hilary Swank an Oscar for her role as Brandon Tina, a woman living as a man and trying to find love in Nebraska.

There was a back-and-forth with the scoreboard in a scene where Brandon makes Lana (played by Chloë Sevigny) climax.

The board claimed that the orgasm was too long. Director Kimberly Peirce reluctantly cut the scene to get an R rating.

“South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut”

Satan in “South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut.”
Of paramount importance

“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have spent their careers pushing the boundaries of what the ratings board will allow.

This was most evident with their 1999 hit film, which sent the board into a fit for its foul language and subplot involving a romantic relationship between Satan and Saddam Hussein. But finally enough tweaks were made to get an R rating.


(L-R) Brian O’Halloran and Geoff Anderson in Clerks.

Kevin Smith’s raunchy 1994 comedy could have been very different had dramatic steps not been taken to prevent the ratings board from stripping the film of its colorful language.

Weinstein’s Miramax, which released the film, hired attorney Alan Dershowitz, best known at the time for being part of OJ Simpson’s defense team, to appeal the rating. It was a success.

In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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