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R-Rated Movies That Went Too Far

R-rated films are supposed to push your buttons. With the freedom to deliver a truckload of language, blood, nudity, and drug use, you can provide all kinds of provocative material. Sometimes, this results in movies like "Deadpool" or "The Matrix," where the ribald or violent material pleases moviegoers across the planet. Other R-rated titles are in the vein of "Sorry to Bother You" or "Revenge" and use the flexibility of an R-rating to tell boundary-pushing stories that speak to real-world injustices.

In some instances, though, certain R-rated movies use the creative freedom of this MPAA rating for less savory purposes. These are the films that go too far and use an R-rating for material that doesn't serve a purpose beyond a lackluster conception of what it means to be "edgy." Instead of utilizing adult topics for thoughtful storytelling, these movies get too transgressive and soar well beyond the barometer of good taste. As Uncle Ben once said, "With great power comes great responsibility," and the R-rated films below didn't use the power of their MPAA rating in a responsible manner.

The Hangover Part II was offensive on multiple levels

Released in 2011, "The Hangover Part II" drew some heavy criticism for going way too far in its attempts to be "funny." For example, many people were outraged when the character of Stu (Ed Helms) learns that he slept with a transgender woman. The depiction of this revelation as being "disgusting" was correctly labeled by many as an example of bro comedies using blatant transphobia as a substitute for actual comedy.

Garnering even more media attention at the time was a photo in the end credits. This image parodies an actual photo taken in the Vietnam War by photographer Eddie Adams of a South Vietnamese general executing a prisoner. This graphic image was a reflection of the horror at heart of the conflict ... and now, it was being repurposed for "The Hangover Part II" as a cheap gag. The moment was dubbed by critics like Roger Ebert as "a desecration of one of ... the most famous photos to come out of the Vietnam War." Here, a movie that was all about shock value crossed over from providing adult-skewing gags into outright disrespect.

Revenge of the Nerds is incredibly toxic

Once upon a time, "Revenge of the Nerds" was seen as a film championing the downtrodden, a comedic form of voyeurism wherein the oppressed could live out their greatest fantasies. Flash-forward a couple of decades, and "Revenge of the Nerds" is now seen as trivializing rape culture. This is most apparent in an infamous sequence where the character of Lewis (Robert Carradine) pretends to be the jock Stan (Ted McGinley) so he can sleep with the quarterback's girlfriend, Betty (Julia Montgomery).

It's meant to be a cheer-worthy sequence in the movie itself, but it registers to any reasonable viewer as merely an endorsement of rape. Director Jeff Kanew himself has recently expressed regret over ever including the scene in the film. "I've heard [criticism] a lot this year because of the #MeToo movement — that's considered a form of rape because it's sex under false pretenses," Kanew told GQ in 2019. "At the time, it was considered sort of a switch. ... It's not excusable. If it were my daughter, I probably wouldn't like it." The R-rated events of "Revenge of the Nerds" were intended to be seen as conventional escapism but it's more apparent than ever that the movie is more insidious than humorous.

The Hunt was a target for many

Every generation gets their own take on the classic story "The Most Dangerous Game," and this generation's incarnation came with "The Hunt." This Craig Zobel film concerned a group of people who wake up and find out they're being hunted for sport, like any version of this tale does. The twist this time, though, was the story got filtered through the modern-day political zeitgeist, with the hunters being left-leaning "elites," while the victims were coded as conservatives. On paper, it's easy to see how the project received a green-light as something that, in the vein of "Team America: World Police," could generate political discourse while drumming up ticket sales from moviegoers who wanted to be part of the conversation and the dark humor. 

However, the marketing for "The Hunt" inspired a wave of unforeseen controversy, largely from right-leaning news organizations, and it even garnered an implied response from President Donald Trump, who accused Hollywood of merely trying to stir up violence. The cause of all the brouhaha was that many saw "The Hunt" as endorsing violence against conservatives, though this seemed to ignore how the conservative characters were the heroes of the movie. Still, the uproar over "The Hunt" had a sizeable impact and inspired the film to get delayed a whole six months. So, when it came time for this generation's "Most Dangerous Game," perhaps the filmmakers tried to push a few too many buttons.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 was an R-rated horror flick that went way too far

Released in 2007, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" is the kind of schlocky horror B-movie that audiences tend to watch because it has tasteless material. Graphic violence, especially, is the forte of this subgenre. However, this particular horror sequel used its trashy sensibilities not to depict over-the-top violence but to continue a long tradition of using sexual assault in a throwaway manner. Specifically, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" centers much of its plot on the prospect of deformed mutants capturing human women for the purposes of forced breeding.

The movie's emphasis on this element is made apparent in an opening scene, one depicting an unnamed woman trapped in the mutants' base solely so she can breed children. Before she can establish even the barest personality, she's slaughtered after birthing a stillborn baby. Critics like Scott Tobias took "The Hills Have Eyes 2" to task for resorting to such a shallow depiction of sexual assault, as well as for not giving any of the women in the film even basic character development. It's an especially galling detail given that grindhouse movies like Abel Ferrer's "Ms. 45" have garnered praise for using grimy exploitation cinema to thoughtfully explore the perspective of a sexual assault survivor, which makes the treatment of sexual assault in "The Hills Have Eyes 2" all the more appalling.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno was too explicit for general audiences

Like many raunchy romantic comedies, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" is actually a sweet movie when you get right down to it — one about lifelong best friends who may actually have romantic feelings for one another. However, the fact that it had the word "porno" in its title meant the film already went way too far for many moviegoers. This was especially true in the movie's marketing, which kicked off with a poster that proved so suggestive that it ended up getting banned from being shown in movie theaters.

Afterwards, the feature encountered further trouble running TV ads and public billboards with its full title, resulting in it being given the generic moniker of "Zack and Miri" on many promotional materials. Sometimes, a movie that stirs up this much controversy can ride all the publicity to sizeable box office success. Unfortunately, none of these marketing troubles inspired much interest from moviegoers. Released at the very end of October 2008, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" ended up sinking without a trace at the box office. The Kevin Smith comedy, despite featuring raunchy scenes like Justin Long as an adult film star listing off the titles of movies he's appeared in, is ultimately a film that wants to tug at your heartstrings. Too bad its marketing garnered a reputation for being all the wrong kinds of boundary-pushing.

Natural Born Killers slayed in unintended ways

Few films of the 1990s were as controversial as "Natural Born Killers," the tale of murderous lovers Mickey and Mallory, played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. Intended by writer/director Oliver Stone as a condemnation of the heavy presence of violence in the media, the general response to the movie is still divided today over whether or not the film achieved its intended goals. Critic Janet Maslin, for instance, observed that the movie seems to be more in love with graphic violence than critical of it. "While 'Natural Born Killers' affects occasional disgust at the lurid world of Mickey and Mallory, it more often seems enamored of their exhilarating freedom," Maslin observed.

Critics who interpreted the film as being more of a love letter to this kind of behavior saw "Natural Born Killers" as a lot of ultra-violent noise without much of a purpose. Similarly, much has been written about how the film's treatment of indigenous cultures is almost as stomach-churning as its most gruesome instance of violence. With this 1994 film, Stone meant to make something that inspired a reaction in people. He succeeded ... but unfortunately, it inspired a whole lot of critiques that Stone had made something as indulgent as the elements of society he intended to lambast.

Postal pushed all the possible R-rated buttons

The 2007 Uwe Boll movie "Postal" opens with a sequence depicting Flight 11 just moments before it hit the North Tower, beginning the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In this version of the event, the two hijackers piloting the plane decide, just before they reach their destination, to abort the mission ... only for the passengers to break into the cockpit and inadvertently cause the plane to crash into the tower.

A sequence like this was always meant to establish the tasteless — and, if the general critical reception is any indicator, humorless — aesthetic of the movie ahead. But the film's opening gag was way too provocative, to the point that one of its actors believe it cost the film its commercial potential. In the book "My Year of Flops" by Nathan Rabin, performer Dave Foley remarked, "I think that crashing a plane into the Twin Towers at the start of the film hurt it," adding the scene was the equivalent of "[shooting] yourself in the foot entirely." "Postal," like its video game source material, wanted to shock and offend, but it went above and beyond the call of duty in its opening sequence, which took things from vulgar comedy to just plain vulgar.

Boat Trip sank due to a heavy amount of homophobia

The history of American comedies is, unfortunately, absolutely littered with homophobic humor. And one of the very worst offenders is 2002's "Boat Trip." A Cuba Gooding Jr./Horatio Sanz vehicle, the story concerns two men who enlist in a singles cruise, only to discover it's exclusively for gay men. They then pose as gay while trying to get closer to women who work on the boat. One can predict just where the plot goes from here and, worse still, what kind of jokes are utilized.

The entire enterprise uses the freedom of an R-rated comedy to make tired jokes about straight men being terrified of the very presence of gay people and how "gross" the thought of two dudes kissing is. Critics savaged the film for its rampant homophobia, though many writers also slammed the movie for being too tedious to even be fascinatingly bigoted. Rita Kempley of The Washington Post, for example, remarked that the tired and familiar attempts at comedy were just as insulting as the rampant gay panic material, adding that, "It's time many of the movie's more offensive gags ... went back into the closet." 

Two decades after its release, "Boat Trip" has only gotten worse with age and now serves as an appalling reminder of what passed for mainstream comedy as late as the 2000s.

Movie 43 is just a lame attempt at being vulgar

The anthology comedy "Movie 43" provides more stars than there are in the heavens across its various individual segments. It also provides more vulgarity than a bunch of middle school boys who just chugged eight Red Bulls after a night of scouring 4Chan. Whereas wall-to-wall crudeness in other comedies can help unearth some kind of deeper truth about humanity or simply provide two hours of escapism, "Movie 43" is now widely regarded as one of the worst comedies to ever hit theater screens. The participation of movie stars ranging from Hugh Jackman to Richard Gere to Emma Stone couldn't help elevate a film with a sense of comedy so immature that it would be an insult to sophomores to call it sophomoric. 

The only conversation drummed up by this box office dud was a handful of horrific moments that showed the film's desperation to wring yuks from moviegoers. "Movie 43" employed yellowface, incest, and a closing sequence largely focused on physical abuse being hurled at a character played by Elizabeth Banks. Without any sharp writing or clever uses of gross-out humor at its disposal, "Movie 43" just embraced the idea of overloading the viewer on "shocking" material. However, it also forgot that comedies actually need jokes in addition to all that shock value. Though the movie pushed the boundaries of what the R-rating would allow, "Movie 43" was hollow vulgarity to its very core.

The Interview blew up ... but not in the way it intended

R-rated comedies can sometimes draw flack for getting too racy with certain jokes, but "The Interview" inspired a whole other level of vitriol. The film about two goofballs getting pressed into assassinating Kim Jong-un drew negative responses from North Korea, especially a scene depicting the leader's gruesome death. In fact, the film was so controversial that it inspired a hack, apparently stemming from North Korea, that leaked countless pieces of sensitive information, ranging from private emails to copies of unreleased movies, all stemming from distributor Sony Picture. Things got even crazier when the hackers eventually graduated to threatening extreme violence against movie theaters that screened "The Interview."

The consequences of the film's provocative humor were swift. By mid-December, the movie's theatrical release was largely canned, but that wasn't the end of "The Interview." On the contrary, the movie continued to inspire widespread discussion on how to respond when violent threats are made against artists. In the years since its release, "Interview" actor and co-director Seth Rogen has been upfront on what a grueling experience it all was. "Truthfully, after 'The Interview,' [co-director Evan Goldberg and I] were a little traumatized, I think," Rogen said to CinemaBlend. Like many of Rogen's comedies, "The Interview" was something that could provoke laughs but was also meant to push buttons. However, nobody could've expected the outsized and unprecedented response its material received.

Apocalypse Now engaged in unforgivable animal cruelty

In his voyage up the river to find Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz, Martin Sheen's Captain Willard sees a wide array of horrific and unforgettable sights that lay the horrors of the Vietnam War bare. Unfortunately, viewers are also exposed to a terrible sight late in the film ... and not something brought to life through makeup effects or editing trickery. 

For a climactic scene involving a ritual performed by an Ifugao tribe, a water buffalo is killed on-screen. This was apparently a real-life practice that was already underway before cameras started rolling, with director Francis Ford Coppola filming the ritual as it occurred. While intended to be a visual parallel to Willard's plan to assassinate Kurtz with a machete, the sight of an animal killed on-screen is jarring enough to render that thematic undercurrent irrelevant.

Decades after the film's release, Coppola has stood by the scene, reaffirming that he was merely documenting reality itself. "I did not direct it or anything, that was the way they do it," Coppola said to USA Today. To prove his point, Coppola made sure to emphasize that he refused to have an extra water buffalo around to kill in case extra takes were needed. "I'm not going to kill an animal for a movie," Coppola reaffirmed. "I'm not going to kill anything for any reason." Despite Coppola's statements, this scene of animal cruelty stands out in "Apocalypse Now" as horrifying for all the wrong reasons.