When Denis Villeneuve’s much-hyped, long-in-the-making, and already critically beloved “Blade Runner 2049” hits theaters this Friday, it will be joining some unexpected company: a slew of other R-rated features that are already dominating the box office. This past weekend’s big winners may have initially made waves because of the oddly crowded nature of their ticket returns — each of the top three, including horror holdover “It,” the Tom Cruise actioner “American Made,” and comic book sequel “Kingsman: The Secret Circle,” made just over $17M — but its their adult-skewing ratings that tell the more compelling story.
As The Washington Post notes, it’s not just that this past weekend’s box office was dominated by R-rated films, it’s that 2017 as a whole has already played home to a staggering number of R-rated performers, from critical darlings to horror outings and everything in between, with more on the way. One of last year’s biggest box offices stories was the success of “Deadpool,” the lone R-rated offering to break the top ten for the year, and yet 2017 has already spawned two of them, including both “It” and “Logan.”
And there are still more where those came from, as other R-rated films like “Get Out,” “Girls Trip,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” “Baby Driver,” “Annabelle: Creation,” “John Wick: Chapter 2,” “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and “Alien: Covenant” have all performed reasonably well enough to merit them a place in the domestic box office’s top 30 for the year (so far).
When “Deadpool” became a smash hit, the immediate question was how it would impact other comic book movies and if it would spawn more genre pictures willing to go dark without worrying about losing younger viewers. Yet, its most obvious successor, the Hugh Jackman-starring “Logan,” was already in the works by the time “Deadpool” was making its stand. “Kingsman,” while also a comic book (well, a graphic novel) adaptation, is following in the footsteps of its 2014 original, which was also rated R.
“Deadpool” may not have been the exact groundbreaker it was first identified as (or hoped to be); instead, it was the canary in the coal mine, signaling that audiences weren’t just ready, but actually hungry for more R-rated films. And it’s not just comic book films that audiences sparking to, as 2017 has provided a wide array of them, and they’re performing in kind. Turns out, the question shouldn’t have been “what other comic book movies will benefit from this success?” but “what other movies will?”
Fans of intense horror should be heartened by the news that one genre that has long-embraced the possibility of the R is back in the came. These movies are often lower budget efforts that don’t need to worry about being rejected internationally (China is notoriously restrictive, and can tank the box office intake of major tentpoles looking to make a pretty penny overseas, one reason why so many of their ilk don’t go for the R).
Next up: “Blade Runner 2049,” which seems poised to not only capitalize on this major uptick in R-rated films, but in a box office that also appears to be rewarding even sequels, retreads, and spinoffs that opt for material suited to said rating. It’s not just original material that is succeeding once it embraces the rating — though films like “Get Out,” “Girls Trip,” and “Baby Driver” handily illuminate that side of the spectrum — but even franchise material. A long-in-the-works sequel like “Blade Runner 2049” might sound like the kind of material Hollywood loves to rush out in search of still more money, but when saddled with an R-rating, it’s clear that the out-there sci-fi feature wasn’t engineered for everyone. That’s more intriguing.
Other risky R-rated features bound for imminent release include Sean Baker’s lauded “Tangerine” followup “The Florida Project,” Angela Robinson’s delightfully kinky biopic “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ twisted “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” George Clooney’s off-kilter “Suburbicon,” and the presumably brutal “Saw” followup “Jigsaw.” Even action movies are getting in on it, as both “The Snowman” and “The Foreigner” will hit theaters later this month with R ratings. By the end of the month, every new wide release will come with an R-rating, as every currently listed release on the calendar for October 27 (including “Jigsaw,” “Suburbicon,” and Sundance hit “Novitiate”) bears it.
It’s a strange twist for a month usually dedicated to R-rated offerings meant to (literally) scare up some giddy teens looking for some Halloween-tinged thrills and chills. Instead, this October spells out something very different: not just the return of the R-rated feature, but the R-rated feature actually engineered for grownups. For adult audiences only, to be sure.