Initially, an 18+ rating didn’t seem like such a bad idea. There is a large demographic of movie goers who want that raw, explicit form of cinema, and there were movie subjects that needed that cried out for that very same nature. So came the birth of NC-17.
It also didn’t help that one of the first big NC-17 rated movie to be advertised commercially was one of the most controversial and pornographic movies, Showgirls.
For some odd reason, some people are claiming that this is now some sort of hidden masterpiece?
With a reputation as one of the worst films ever created, a recipient of 8 Razzie awards, and a career-killer for anyone who featured in this movie, Showgirls ended up tarnishing NC-17 for a long time.
It became the highest-grossing NC-17 film in the US, but not without this rating becoming instantly synonymous with explicit and mostly degrading films. This film dethroned any chance at this rating being pushed positively by anyone.
Studios wouldn’t want to produce these films in fear of being associated with the type of movie it was. Directors who wanted to make movies with this rating would see their promotion budget disappear, TV channels refuse to air them, theatres refuse to play them, and retail chains refused to sell them.
So in order to keep the film box office relevant they would often shave off explicit content to aim for a R rating instead.
We saw this in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street which underwent massive changes to force it down to an R (which somehow it got away with, nice one Marty)
We also saw this in Quentin Taratino’s Kill Bill which was deemed too bloody and violent for audiences. To combat this, parts of the film were shown in Black and White and chunks of bloody action was cut.
Now clearly, the directors did not want to have scenes cut and disrupt their original vision but studios insisted due to the massive difference in success of R and NC-17.
To put it in perspective – Showgirls, the highest grossing NC-17 film earned 32 million dollars worldwide.
The highest grossing R film, Joker made 1.074 billion
So now the rating only had two uses: Either the movie had no choice but to stick with an NC-17 rating or directors took advantage of the empty market and purposely created their film to get an NC-17 for free publicity.
Apart from that the rating serves no purpose. Its label is forever tarnished and its box office results are less than passable and a great shame at that. Some films could’ve majorly benefited from it but felt it was too risky to go ahead with it.