Five Movies That Might Have Been Exponentially Better With R Ratings

Remember the thrill of your first R-rated movie? The Terminator popped my cherry back when I was 15, and I haven’t looked back since. As an American male, what’s not to like? R-rated movies are grittier, bloodier, and booblier than their less graphic counterparts, and the category gives moviemakers a lot more artistic freedom.

This isn’t to say I think family-friendly movies are all shit, but it’s easy to spot flicks that are defined by their rating category (instead of the other way around); releasing a director’s cut somewhere along the line doesn’t always do the trick.

For example, have you seen the trailer for John Carter? How about The Hunger Games? Both of these movies were clearly produced with the teen demographic in mind (hell, Lionsgate allegedly cut down the original Cornucopia scene because it got too “nasty”). But if you’ve read the books, you know one draw of Suzanne Collins’ story is its underlying brutality, particularly since the worst violence is initiated by children; R-level violence would actually be organic to the plot. I’m predicting a lot of last-second cutaways.

And then we have PG-13 movies that were totally satisfying—awesome, even—yet could have explored new territory with the leeway of a slightly higher rating.  I’m not saying this is what the studios should have done, necessarily, but it sure would have been interesting to see an R-rated…

1) Chronicle

First of all, I loved this movie. It’s refreshing to see non–DC/Marvel superheroes once in a while, and director Josh Trank really treads the line in how dark the narrative gets. This is hard to talk about without giving away any spoilers, but wouldn’t it have been cool to see these boys take their growing powers into adulthood? Five years of maturity might have done wonders for character development, and there’d be plenty of opportunities to squeeze in some dark humor along the way.

2) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Jesus, just look at the title, man. One of the things about Harry Potter is that the franchise evolved and matured right alongside its reader/viewership. Think about it: these films came out over a ten-year span, meaning some of these kids spent huge chunks of their childhoods portraying identically-aged children in an alternate universe. And we watched them do it. That’s pretty incredible.

As the books/films progressed, their themes got substantially more sinister—but organically so, culminating with a very satisfying ending to boot. If you need proof of the director’s intentions, look no further than the opening credits (in sequential order).

But when I imagine this final installment with an R rating, I don’t envision some sort of magical gore-fest. Rather, I think this would have allowed for a deeper exploration of death and personal torment (some characters get more screen time than others).

3) Stepford Wives (1975)

This one might be a little perverted, but bear with me. Also, let’s ignore the 2004 version of the film entirely; the original offered a bit of social satire on the day’s traditional gender roles, whereas the remake’s ending…well, it’s sort of like watching a snake eat itself.

In either case, the sexual implications of owning a gorgeous wife-bot don’t get tons of screen time (it’s for the best, probably). But if you updated this story for our current generation and gave a long leash to a director with a twisted sense of humor, I bet he could come up with some biting commentary of his own that wouldn’t be for the faint of heart. And the reason I think this narrative would take a sexual turn is because look around: we live in a culture that’s obsessed with sex, which certainly transcends the realm of gender norms.

Still, if I ever pass an ad for “Tom Six Presents: Stepford Wives,” I’m walking the other way.

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  1. There are some pretty inane arguments in this article… it’s depressing actually, and I guess points to someone keeping the raunchy (unfunny) comedy movie in business.

    Really, “some boobs sprinkled in”? That’s what you’re looking for?
    The rating has nothing to do with the movie. If you know anything about the MPAA it’s that everything is relative. Go watch some 70s-80s “PG” movies and you’ll hear plenty of innuendo and maybe even see a couple of boobs (Airplane, anyone?).
    Plenty of movies shoot for the “R” rating because they know that people will perceive it as being grittier or bloodier while in fact it just means they sprinkled some needless nudity (Roger Corman, anyone?) and F-words (District 9?)

  2. Just thought I’d mention that I love Spiderman 2, but I really felt a little more blood, explosions and much more brutal fights and conversations would have made it even better. Instead it comes off looking very cartoony…which in a lot of ways it is, but I would have preferred it to be slightly less obvious.

  3. I’m surprised you didn’t mention “Terminator: Salvation”. Admittedly, it needed a lot more than an R rating to fix it, but still, having Terminators that actually… oh, I dunno, terminate would’ve been a GIANT step in the right direction.

    Couldn’t agree more with The Wolverine though. Would love to see Wolvie go all Stabity-Freakin-Death uncut on some poor sap who had it coming.

  4. Oh man, I was actually depressed for a day when I heard EX2 was gonna be PG-13. I think the “Hitler’s bunker” video response to the rating summed up my feelings exactly, so I’m not gonna repeat my thoughts here. I’ll just say this, every time an action movie series tries to go PG-13, it fails.

    Mad Max 3
    Robocop 3
    Die Hard 4
    Terminator 4
    Conan the Destroyer
    Alien vs. Predator

    Alas, back in 2003 I pointed out that they make PG-13, then give us the unrated dvd to make more sales. It’s all marketing. Artistic integrity is gone. Guess I’m repeating myself after all, huh?

  5. I disagree with pretty much all of these except for Wolverine. I would have enjoyed a movie starring him and torn free of the constraints of PG-13. But that’s because a lot of the character’s nature is woven in with extreme bouts of violence.

    I don’t think you need an R-rating to deal with “personal torment,” as you claim for Harry Potter.

    What with this and your other movie pitch article, I wonder if you’ve somehow confused being gritty with being good.

  6. Nice list. Wolverine would’ve been better but it is the least feasible. No way they would’ve turned a cash grab with a PG-13 rating into an R-rated movie.

    I don’t know about Harry Potter. It’s dark themes were well-served within its rating and more actual violence wasn’t necessary.

  7. I want to see Dark Knight as R-rated. It would be interesting to see what kind of trury disturbing and twisted things Joker can do if not constrained by movie rating system.

  8. Was killing a guy by stabbing him through the eye with a pencil, all the while acting like it’s a fun magic trick, NOT twisted enough for you?

  9. Terminator: Salvation and Live Free or Die Hard are the most obvious examples of how lame and watered-down a franchise can get when the suits force it to be PG-13.

    I didn’t care much for the first Expendables, but the only thing I generally enjoyed was the over-the-top violence of the climax. With the sequel being PG-13, it’s completely pointless. And with all due respect to Chuck Norris, he turns 72 on March 10. The only thing he’s in danger of breaking is his hip.

    I do think a master filmmaker can work wonders with PG-13, but they’re few and far between: I don’t need an R-rated Dark Knight, because Nolan was able to work wonders within that rating. (Granted, it helps that it was a studio film: Knowing the MPAA, that might have been handed an R if it were an independent.)

    Wolverine would have been a million times better as an R-rated movie, and would the new one they’re working on now, but Fox won’t ever let that happen.

    As for Jurassic Park, check out Carnosaur some time: It’s the Roger Corman version, insanely cheap and cheesy, but it delivers some of the R-rated goods you’re looking for. It would be great to marry that with actual competent filmmaking and production values — like you, I was 15 when Terminator came out, and it remains one of my favorite films — but it’s entertaining in its own way.

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