Since 1968, when the Motion Picture Association of America instituted a film rating system to give parents a tool for determining what to allow their children to watch, over half of the films they’ve judged have received an R (restricted) rating. Movies that contain strong elements considered adult material, including sexuality and nudity, persistent violence and gore, drug or alcohol use, and profanity are often rated R.
While some explicit films depict sex or violence gratuitously, the best R-rated movies make use of the creative liberty the rating permits to relay more nuanced themes or situations than might be found in those deemed to be G, PG, or PG-13. Many of these have received critical acclaim and even gone on to win Oscars. (These are considered the best R-rated films of all time.)
One sure sign that a movie – R-rated or otherwise – is superlative is a 100% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, measuring the collective opinion of a wide range of critics. Reviewing Tomatometer ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, 24/7 Tempo discovered 20 films that had a Tomatometer score of 100% and a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of at least 60% as of April 2023. Listed here, the movies are ordered based on release date. Documentaries were not considered. Cast and director credits are from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon.
With the notable exception of “The Terminator,” most of these films are not blockbusters, and they’re not necessarily Best Picture winners. Instead, the majority are rather niche films with a cult following, or smaller budget indie pictures that struck a chord with audiences and critics due to their in-depth exploration of humanity.
Multiple ‘70s-era exploitation films made the cut, as did war movies, coming-of-age stories, and crime films. A few comedies and action adventures have received perfect scores, as have some award-winning independent films that debuted at festivals, including Allison Anders’ “Things Behind the Sun,” which explores the effects of rape on both the perpetrators and survivors, and Richard Linklater’s European romance “Before Sunrise.” (Linklater’s film is featured on our list of movies so good they should have won an Oscar, but didn’t.)
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