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From ‘Showgirls’ to ‘Orgazmo,’ Here Are The Top Grossing NC-17 Rated Films of All Time

From 'Showgirls' to 'Orgazmo,' Here Are The Top Grossing NC-17 Rated Films of All Time

In honor of NC-17 rated “Blue Is The Warmest Color” — which is continuing to find strong numbers as it expands across the U.S. ($379,278 and counting) —  Indiewire is taking a look back at the history of the controversial rating, which has been in effect for over 23 years now.

The rating was inaugurated by the Motion Picture Association of America
(MPAA) in September 1990 with the release of Philip Kaufman’s “Henry
& June” (which, to this day, is the second highest grossing film
released with the rating). Initially standing for “No Children Under 17
Admitted,” the MPAA changed its meaning to “No One 17 and Under
Admitted” in the late 1990s despite the acronym now no longer making

READ MORE: IFC Center Will Admit High Schoolers to NC-17 Rated ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’

Thirty films have been released with an NC-17 since, the vast
majority of them receiving the rating due to sexual content. Of them,
only 14 have grossed over $1 million, and only two – “Henry & June”
and “Showgirls,” the latter of which is far and away the highest
grossing NC-17 film – taking in over $10 million.

Beyond, most obviously, “Showgirls,” most of the films rated
NC-17 are actually exceptional examples of challenging independent and
world cinema. From Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education” and “Tie Me Up! Tie
Me Down!” to Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution,” Todd Haynes’ “Poison,” Steve McQueen’s “Shame” and David
Cronenberg’s “Crash,” “Blue is the Warmest Color” should proudly stand alongside its NC-17
predecessors. And hopefully, it manages to continue to find some respectable box
office in the process, helping relieve distributors’ fears of releasing
films with the rating (which, as many of us learned through “Blue,” is merely a “recommendation”).

In the meantime, take a look at the 20 top grossing NC-17 films
of all-time (a list “Blue” should easily be on by next weekend):

1. Showgirls (MGM, 1995) – $20,350,754
2. Henry & June (Universal, 1990) – $11,567,449
3. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (Miramax, 1990) – $7,724,701
4. Bad Education (Sony Pictures Classics, 2004) – $5,211,842
5. Lust, Caution (Focus, 2007) – $4,604,982   
6. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Miramax, 1990) –   $4,087,361  
7. Shame (Fox Searchlight, 2011) –  $3,909,002
8. The Dreamers  (Fox Searchlight, 2004) –   $2,532,228    2004
9.  Crash  (Fine Line, 1996) –  $2,038,450 
10. Bad Lieutenant  (Aries, 1992) –    $2,000,022  
11. Killer Joe  (LD, 2012) –   $1,987,762 
12. Wide Sargasso Sea (New Line, 1993) –  $1,614,784 
13. A Dirty Shame (Fine Line, 2004) –   $1,339,668   
14. Whore  (Trimark, 1991) –  $1,008,404 
15. Poison   (Zeitgeist, 1991) –   $787,280    1991
16. Young Adam  (Sony Pictures Classics, 2004) –  $767,373
17. Mysterious Skin  (Tartan, 2005)  –  $713,240  
18. Inside Deep Throat  (Universal, 2005) –  $691,880  
19. Dice Rules  (7Art, 1991)  –  $637,327   
20. Orgazmo  (October, 1998)   $602,302

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