Best R-Rated Movies Since the Year 2000

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An “R” rating for a movie can suggest a variety of possibilities to a filmgoer. It can mean graphic violence, explicit sex scenes, harsh language…. It can also imply artistic freedom that may not have been possible with a softer rating.  

To determine the best R-rated movies of the 21st century, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of early May 2023, weighting all ratings equally. We considered only movies with at least 100,000 audience votes on IMDb, and ruled out documentaries. Directorial credits are from IMDb.

Of the 50 films on our list, 42 have a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critics’ score of 90% or higher, and 19 movies have scored 90% or above from both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes – although audiences have proved to be a tougher crowd, as 38 movies have lower scores from them than from the critics. (Here’s a list of movies with a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Thirty-three motion pictures on our list have been nominated for Academy Awards. Two did especially well at Oscar time – “Slumdog Millionaire,” about a young Mumbai man reflecting on his life after he is accused of cheating on a quiz show, which won eight gold statues in 2009; and the multiverse adventure comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which was the big winner this year, taking home seven Academy Awards. (These are the best R-rated movies of all time.)

Five directors are represented with two movies on this list: Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Ron Howard, Darren Aronofsky, and Martin Scorsese. Richard Linklater tops them all with three: “Before Midnight,” “Before Sunset,” and “Boyhood.”

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