When it comes to graphic nudity, there are some films that seem to get away with much more than others. But if you’re looking for specific answers as to why, things start to get murky. That’s because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has historically been very unclear and inconsistent when it comes to ratings. Violence and heterosexual sex? Totally fine. Homosexual acts or oral sex on a woman? Not so fine.
MPAA rants aside, there are still clearly some films that don’t hit the associations’s dreaded, automatic NC-17 stipulations, but seem to push the R-rating to the brink anyway. Here are seven R-rated films that push the R-rating to its breaking point when it comes to graphic nudity and sex.
1. Basic Instinct (1992)
We might as well get this one out of the way. For over two decades now, director Paul Verhoeven’s neo-noir erotic thriller Basic Instinct has been a lightning rod of controversy due in large part to the fact that it’s rated R and not NC-17 despite its strong sexual content. The film’s most infamous scene in which Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs while being interviewed by police has been pinpointed as one of the most-paused scenes in cinema history and is also notable for being something Stone was not aware would end up in the final cut.
But the film’s most sexually explicit scene actually occurs later when Stone and Michael Douglas’s character have sex for the first time — a scene that seems to go on and on, leading many viewers to wonder how it could have made it into an R-rated film. According to Verhoeven, the reason for this is because the sex scene lends itself to a dramatic purpose. “Because it was a thriller, the idea that Sharon Stone could kill him during sex was always an element of protection,” Verhoeven told Rolling Stone.