In 2020, the highest-grossing movie in the U.S. — the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence action comedy “Bad Boys for Life” — was rated R. Since 1968, when the Motion Picture Association instituted its film rating system, over half the movies they’ve considered have been assigned an R (“restricted”) rating for containing adult material such as persistent profanity, graphic and realistic violence, nudity, or drug use.
While it’s not surprising that “Bad Boys for Life,” which was full of profanity and violence, received an R rating, it’s uncommon for an R-rated film to make so much money. The rating affects viewership — and box office numbers — by limiting access: Children under 17 are barred from viewing R-rated movies in theaters unless they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian. PG and PG-13 movies, which merely call for parental guidance, gross twice as much on average.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the 50 R-rated movies with the biggest box office. Dramas, action films, and comedies are equally represented in the mix, with a few sci-fi and romance films also present. Audience appetites for R-rated fare is obviously growing: Of the 50 movies on our list, only 12 are from the 20th century; the rest were released in 2000 or later.
To identify the R-rated movies with the biggest box office, 24/7 Tempo reviewed 3,891 R-rated movies with box office data from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services. Production budgets also came from The Numbers. Principle cast and genre for each movie come from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon.
Only six horror films made the cut, including “Get Out” and “The Exorcist,” considered two of the best horror movies of all time.
Some performers show up repeatedly in these films. Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, and Laurence Fishburn each star in three of the films, while five of the films star Bradley Cooper, one of the most bankable actors of the 21st century.