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Oppenheimer to Logan: 11 highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time

If you are looking for daring titles that push the boundaries of filmmaking with bold dialogues and uncensored violence, these highest-grossing R-rated movies will make great additions to your watch list.

According to the Motion Picture Association film rating system — which is used in the United States and its territories to rate a movie’s appropriateness for audiences — movies rated R, or Restricted, require those under 17 to have an accompanying parent or adult guardian to view. The films in question might contain adult material ranging from gore, explicit content, nudity to graphic violence.

With limited appeal to families, who make up a large demographic of cinema-goers, it’s difficult to conquer the box office with an R rating. Despite this, certain ground-breaking R-rated films like James Mangold’s 2018 Oscar-nominee Logan and Christopher Nolan’s 2023 masterpiece Oppenheimer, have seen financial success with their exceptional storylines. The latter, which is Nolan’s first film to receive an R-rating in the US since Insomnia in 2002, made box-office history by earning over USD 912 million worldwide throughout its run in theatres, according to Box Office Mojo.

Meanwhile, drawing inspiration from 1980s R-rated movies such as The Howling (1981) and The Thing (1982) is the Jaeden Lieberher starrer It (2017). The highest-grossing horror film of all time amassed around USD 700 million worldwide and broke a record that had been held since the 1970s by The Exorcist.

However, it’s the 2019 hit Joker that steals the show. The box-office debut of Todd Phillips’ crime drama featuring Joaquin Phoenix as one of modern history’s most iconic comic-book supervillains made it the first R-rated film to hit the USD 1 billion mark with a whopping USD 1.074 billion. Its sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, with Lady Gaga joining the cast, awaits release on 4 October 2024.

Unmissable highest-grossing R-rated movies that ruled box offices worldwide

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle

Box-office collection: USD 569,651,467

Synopsis: College senior Anastasia Steele (Johnson) steps in for her sick roommate to interview prominent businessman Christian Grey (Dornan) for their campus paper. Following the interaction, Christian and Ana find themselves strangely drawn to each other. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian’s secrets and explores her hidden desires along the way.

About the movie: The movie is an adaptation of part one of author E. L. James’ erotic trilogy of the same name. Originally titled Master of the Universe, James first posted her hit trilogy as Twilight fanfiction on Fanfiction.net under the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon” in August 2009.

Watch here.

The Hangover Part II (2011)

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Ed Helms, Paul Giamatti, Zach Galifianakis

Box-office collection: USD 586,764,305

Synopsis: Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis), and Doug (Bartha) are travelling to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. While Stu desperately hopes to avoid the mayhem of Doug’s bachelor party, things go awry as soon as the friends meet.

About the movie: This is the highest-grossing R-rated sequel to a comedy movie, surpassing Beverly Hills Cop II (1987).

Watch here.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Directed by: Mel Gibson

Cast: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Luca Lionello

Box-office collection: USD 612,054,428

Synopsis: Judas (Lionello) hands Jesus (Jim Caviezel) over to the Roman Empire’s officials after the Last Supper. To the horror of his mother, Mary (Morgenstern) and disciples, Jesus is condemned to death. As he drags a crucifix to the nearby calvary before being nailed to the cross, he performs a last act of grace on humanity.

About the movie: This biblical drama based on the New Testament, received three Oscar nominations at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005, for Best Makeup, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score.

Logan (2017)

Directed by: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

Box-office collection: USD 619,021,436

Synopsis: In the near future, a weary Logan (Jackman) leads a quiet life while taking care of an ailing Professor X (Stewart) at a remote outpost on the Mexican border. However, his world is turned upside down when he meets a young mutant with similar powers (Keen). Logan must now protect the girl and battle the dark forces that want to capture her.

About the movie: One of the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time, Logan was the 2018 Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Watch here.

Detective Chinatown 3 (2021)

Directed by: Chen Si Cheng

Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Miura Tomokazu, Hirayama Motokazu

Box-office collection: USD 686,257,563

Synopsis: Detectives Tang Ren (Baoqiang) and Qin Feng (Haoran) have to assist friendly rival Noda Hiroshi (Tsumabuki) to solve a case when their client, Masaru Watanabe (Tomokazu) is accused of killing his turf rival Su Chaiwit (Motokazu). The trio have to prove his innocence despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.

It (2017)

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Sophia Lillis

Box-office collection: USD 700,381,748

Synopsis: The Losers’ Club — consisting of Bill Denbrough (Martell), Eddie Kaspbrak (Grazer), Ben Hanscom (Taylor), Richie Tozier (Wolfhard), Stan Uris (Oleff), Beverly Marsh (Lillis) and Mike Hanlon (Jacobs) — are the outcasts of Derry, Maine. When the shape-shifting monster Pennywise (Skarsgård), who emerges from the sewer every 27 years, comes back to prey on the town’s children, the friends must overcome their fears and fight the bloodthirsty clown.

About the movie: It, also known as It Chapter One, was the first of a two-part adaptation of the 1986 novel of the same name by Stephen King.

Watch here.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Directed by: The Wachowskis

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster

Box-office collection: USD 741,847,937

Synopsis: Zion, the last remaining human city on Earth, falls under siege by the Machine Army. Bound by duty, Neo (Reeves) and Trinity (Moss) choose to return to the Matrix with Morpheus (Fishburne). With 250,000 Sentinels ready to destroy Zion and its growing resistance, will the Matrix succeed in its mission?

About the movie: One of the highest-grossing R-rated science-fiction action movies, The Matrix Reloaded did even better than 1999’s The Matrix, which grossed USD 172.1 million domestically.

Watch here.

Deadpool (2016)

Director: Tim Miller

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, Brianna Hildebrand

Box-office collection: USD 782,612,155

Synopsis: Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a former Special Forces operative, who now works as a mercenary. His world is turned upside down when scientist Ajax (Skrein) disfigures him while transforming him into a superhuman, Deadpool. When he discovers that the rogue experiment left him with accelerated healing powers, Deadpool joins hands with mutant allies like Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Hildebrand) to hunt down Ajax.

Watch here.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Directed by: David Leitch

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, Lewis Tan

Box-office collection: USD 785,896,609

Synopsis: Mutant mercenary Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool (Reynolds), comes across Russell (Dennison) a disgruntled teenager with superpowers. When Russell becomes the target of Cable (Brolin), a genetically enhanced soldier from the future, Deadpool joins forces with Shatterstar (Tan), Domino (Beetz) and other powerful mutants to protect him.

About the movie: Deadpool 2 became the highest-grossing R-rated sequel, topping The Matrix Reloaded. Naturally, fans also have high box-office expectations from Deadpool 3, starring Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, which is scheduled for release on 3 May 2024.

Watch here.

Oppenheimer (2023)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon

Box-office collection: USD 912,739,000

Synopsis: As physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Murphy) gets tapped to head the top-secret Manhattan Project by Lt Gen Leslie Groves Jr. (Damon), the long and fascinating journey to develop the first atomic bomb begins. As his hard work pays off on 16 July 1945 with the world’s first nuclear explosion, Robert has to face the consequences.

About the movie: One of the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time, this science-fiction thriller is based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, which chronicles the career of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Joker (2019)

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen

Box-office collection: USD 1,074,458,282

Synopsis: Isolated and bullied, failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) works as a clown in Gotham City while hoping for better days. Disregarded by society, Fleck hits rock bottom and begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.

Watch here.

(Hero and featured image: Courtesy IMDb)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– What is the highest-grossing R-rated movie?

The Highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time is Todd Phillips’ Joker. It is the first  R-rated film to hit the USD 1 billion mark with a whopping USD 1.074 billion.

– Can 17-year-olds watch R-rated films?

According to the Motion Picture Association film rating system, movies rated R, or Restricted, require those under 17 to have a parent or adult to accompany them. Hence, 17-year-olds and above can watch an R-rated movie.

– What are some of the R-rated movies in India?

Some R-rated movies in India include Gangs of Wasseypur, Omkara, Naked: The Lust, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Dev D, Gulaal and Chandni Bar.

– What is the oldest R-rated movie?

According to sources, the first R-rated movie was The Split, a 1968 noir starring Jim Brown and Gene Hackman. 

– Why is it called R-rated?

Movies that mostly contain adult material ranging from gore, explicit content, and nudity to graphic violence, are termed R-rated. The R stands for ‘restricted’ viewing. 

Oppenheimer to Logan: 11 highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time

A PhD research scholar, Sushmita is a full-time writer and a part time poet. Notepads are Sushmita's one true love -- the unbothered victims drowned in the ink of her pen. An avid fan of K-pop and K-dramas, she mostly writes about Korean culture and entertainment. When not writing, Sushmita is dancing, reading, collecting books, learning about fashion, art, motion pictures, and appreciating BTS.

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