Sex. People have it! It feels good and is totally natural! Yet, for some reason, Hollywood still has a "protect our innocent eyeballs" attitude when it comes to graphic intimacy in film—hence this list of NC-17 movies.
Most of the time, on-screen sex is deemed acceptable. Hell, it even shows up in the occasional PG-13 film. But when the sex is way too hot to handle? That's when not even an R rating will suffice.
Here are some notable movies in which the sex was so mind-boggling, the entire film was slapped with a NC-17 rating.
This 1992 crime drama literally stars Harvey Keitel as—you guessed it—a bad lieutenant. Keitel spends his time having sex, doing drugs, masturbating, and being pretty awful. The movie obviously has quite a few provocative scenes (including a threesome), which—along with drug use and violence—earned it an NC-17 rating.
Fun fact: Bad Lieutenant was re-cut to earn an R rating just so Blockbuster could offer it up for rent.
'The Canterbury Tales'
1972's The Canterbury Tales is pretty much iconic, thanks to its slapstick humor and plentiful sex scenes. And that's without mentioning all the nudity.
Interestingly, the movie was originally rated X for its extreme sex. Who knew Chaucer could be so controversial?
Remember when The Dreamers came out and skulking off to see it in theaters with your friends was the thing to do? The 2003 romantic drama put Eva Green on the map, and featured lots of sex—some of it sexy sex, and some of it downright weird, considering the film is about a brother and sister's intimate relationship with their mutual friend. Either way, sex earned it an NC-17 rating, which is normally considered a death sentence at the office, but made this particular film all the more tempting.
'Eyes Wide Shut'
This movie ended up being released with an R rating, but only after being edited down. Meaning that, yes, it was originally slapped with NC-17 thanks to plentiful and graphic sex. (FYI, the Blu-ray release of the film features the unedited original version, if you want to check it out.)
Like Eyes Wide Shut, Blue Valentine was originally rated NC-17, but it appealed and got its rating down to an R. The scene in question involves Ryan Gosling's character giving Michelle Williams' character oral sex.
Gosling was less than thrilled about the NC-17 rating: "There's plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it's a man receiving it from a woman—and they're R-rated. Ours is reversed and somehow it's perceived as pornographic," he said in an interview. "Black Swan has an oral scene between two women and that's an R rating, but ours is between a husband and his wife and that's NC-17?"
If you've lived this long without seeing the infamous pool sex scene in Showgirls, you should probably stop everything and catch up on this monumentally iconic pop cultural moment. That particular scene is just one of the many reasons Showgirls was given an NC-17 rating, and it's...a lot. Let's just say you'll never look at Jessie Spano in Saved by the Bell the same way.
Ang Lee's erotic thriller is one of the top-grossing NC-17 movies ever, and features explicit sex that Lee was hell-bent on keeping in the film. "[In] America I think they are too loose on violence. I think that, culturally, they make an NC-17 rating equivalent to a porno movie and bad taste. I think that needs to be worked on," Lee explained.
'Henry & June'
Henry & June tells the famous story of Anaïs Nin's relationship with Henry Miller and his wife June—both of whom Nin explored sexual and romantic relationships with. To quote the film's LOL-worthy and very '90s trailer: "They lived an adventure more erotic than any fantasy."
Interestingly, the movie was almost slapped with a X rating, but was deemed NC-17 to subvert the association with pornography that X-rated films typically have.
The reasoning behind Shame's NC-17 rating should be pretty obvious: It's about a man (played by Michael Fassbender) who has a sex/masturbation addiction. As you might expect, the movie features explicit scenes of intimacy, as well as Fassbender completely naked. (Yay for male full frontal nudity in film—the playing field most certainly needs to be evened.)
'In the Realm of the Senses'
In the Realm of the Senses tells the story of Japanese geisha Sada Abe. She's said to have killed her lover and cut off his penis and testicles...and carried them around with her in her kimono. The film features unsimulated sex (meaning, the actors actually did it), and was initially banned in the United States.
'Blue Is the Warmest Color'
This coming-of-age story chronicles a lesbian relationship, and features graphic sex scenes that earned it an NC-17 rating—despite the fact that the actresses used molds of genitalia instead of the real thing. "We had fake pussies on," actress Léa Seydoux said of filming the scenes. "You have something to protect and tape it under. I don't make love on screen. We can fake these things, you can't fake feelings, but you can fake body language."
'Y Tu Mamá También'
Y Tu Mamá También helped make Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal Hollywood celebrities. It's best known for its extremely steamy love scenes, including a threesome with Luna, Bernal, and the woman they're traveling with. The movie was originally rated NC-17, but was released...without a rating at all.
Not to be confused with the 2004 Oscar-winner of the same name,'s Crash follows a couple who engage in an extramarital affair with each other after surviving a car crash and go on to fetishize car crashes and sleep together only in cars. The graphic nature of the film, including its depictions of sex, earned it an NC-17 rating.
This adult romance film follows a young married couple who venture into the waters of a non-monogamous relationship. It's basically full-on porn (it had to be edited down to get an NC-17 rating from the MPAA).