Best R-Rated Movies

Movie Reels

The best R-rated movies are the ones moviegoers see on the weekend they first hit the theater. They're the ones that you rent because you want to be challenged a little bit with just enough violence, sex, and four-letter words. They're the reason teenagers are happy to turn 17, because they can finally watch R-rated movies without parental approval.

What Makes a Movie Rated R

There are certain criteria the Motion Picture Association of America uses to decide which movies should be labeled with an R rating, which ones are just that much worse than a PG-13, but aren't quite as bad as an NC-17. These aren't necessarily rules that they always stick to, as sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what makes a film deserve a certain rating The basic guidelines are:

  • The repeated use of the harsher curse words
  • A graphic scene of hard drug use
  • Strong sexual content
  • Brief nudity
  • Graphic violence

Best R-Rated Movies List


If it's Saturday night and you're looking for a heavier movie to rent or download, you'll find something enjoyable to watch from this list of the best R-rated movies.

  • Almost Famous (2000) - A teenage boy falls in love with the rock music his mother forbids him to listen to and hits the road to go follow his favorite band and write about it for Rolling Stone magazine. The rock band itself seems to hit all the criteria for being rated R.
  • Basic Instinct (1992) - Sharon Stone facing a police cross examination while wearing a skirt and no underwear with her legs apart set the tone for this movie getting its rating.
  • The Birdcage (1996) - Robin Williams and Nathan Lane star as a couple who own a a drag club. The movie revolves around Williams' son bringing his fiancée's conservative parents over to meet them. It's language that earned this the R rating, but it's so funny no one event notices.
  • The Blues Brothers (1980) - John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd bring their Saturday Night Live-created characters to the big screen. There's just a little bit of everything in it to garner the R rating.
  • Caddyshack (1980) - Bill Murray's dialogue alone could have earned the R rating for this golf film, but several couples in bed together are probably what did it in.
  • Fame (1980) - This movie about kids attending a performing arts school earned its R rating because it's a realistic movie about how kids act, and what they say and do.
  • Fargo (1996) - Intriguing Coen brothers film about murder in Fargo, North Dakota, covering a series of crimes that go too far and a pregnant police chief who is investigating. The violence is definitely what earns the R rating.
  • Goodfellas (1990) - This film is about life in the mob, with it being one big family.That family can be extremely paranoid, as you never know who's going to turn on you when. Again, it's the violence that earns the R.
  • The Hangover (2009) - Another film about things that just go too far and get out of control. On a trip to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, a group of friends encounter trouble when they can't remember what happened the night before. It seems just about any movie set in Las Vegas would earn an R.
  • Heathers (1989) - A group of girlfriends from the popular clique, three of whom are named Heather, become friends with a troubled new guy at school. He and the girl not named Heather take control over the others' lives with a series of misguided murders. It's obviously the violence that earns this R.
  • Precious (2009) - Based on the novel Push, the film centers on a teenage girl who suffers through several long-term forms of abuse at the hands of her mother. The R is earned through the uncomfortable nature of the storyline.
  • Risky Business (1983) - A straight-and-narrow Princeton-bound teenager is left alone while his parents are away on a trip, and in a dark moment hires a prostitute. While he enjoys his time with her, he can't seem to get rid of her. It's not Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear that deserves the R here, but the sex between him and Rebecca De Mornay.
  • Sunshine Cleaning (2008) - Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star as two sisters who decide they can fill a gap and earn a living by starting their own business cleaning up after crime scenes. The incidentals earn the R, but this independent movie is really about the relationships.
  • The Wrestler (2008) - Mickey Rourke put himself back on the map with his honest portrayal of a small time wrestler who doesn't know how to do anything but fight. Nudity, language, drug use, and violence combine to earn the R.

Real Life Earns the Ratings

The common factor that brings such different movies to the same list of the best R-rated films is that the movies aren't just about sex and violence. The movies that made the list offer well-crafted storylines and they're about real-life circumstances.

Was this page useful?
Related & Popular
Best R-Rated Movies