50 Highest-Grossing R-Rated Films of All Time

Films that once would be considered box office poison with an R rating, like superhero movies, are now financially viable.Newsweek
50. "National Lampoon’s Animal House" (1978). Box office: $141.6 million.Universal Pictures

Remember the thrill of seeing an R-rated movie for the first time as a kid? The thrill of your parents finally letting you to watch one, or, even better, them not knowing you’re watching it. Of course, for most of us, once the film is over, you’re left wondering, “Why was that rated R?”

For those who aren’t aware, a film with an R rating means that no one under 17 is allowed to purchase or see a particular film unless accompanied by an adult. Films with an R rating have long been considered difficult to be financially successful because of the limited audience available. Since they are deemed for “adults,” and much of the moviegoing audience is under the age of 17, an R rating is less desirable for movie studios.

But that perception is changing. Films that once would be considered box office poison with an R rating, like superhero movies, are now financially viable. It’s as if the adult moviegoing audience was just waiting for an R-rated fun film like Deadpool to come its way.

Now for a little history: Did you know that the rating system of today has only been around since the mid-1960s? True story. In the early days of films, starting in 1930, films had to follow the Hays Code, created by the president of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, William H. Hays. The Hays Code was a set of moral guidelines adhered to by most major studios. The code forbade profanity, nudity, use of drugs, homosexuality, white slavery, scenes of actual childbirth, etc. By the 1960s, filmmakers started openly challenging the code, which moved then-president of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) Jack Valenti to create the rating system we still use today. Starting on November 1, 1968, films would be rated for certain audiences (general, adult and restricted to only adults). It’s grown to be separated by certain audiences. Today, we use G for general audiences, PG for parental guidance suggested, PG-13 for parental guidance for children under 13 strongly suggested, R for restricting anyone under 17 and NC-17: no one under 17 permitted whatsoever. The MPAA rating system is voluntary, but because distributors release films largely based on the rating system, not submitting your film for rating is considered financial suicide.

The first R-rated film was Brian De Palma’s Greetings, released in 1968 (and Robert De Niro’s first movie). Since then, there have been thousands more, thrilling (and sometimes shocking) restricted audiences (and accompanied minors) for decades. Here are the most successful, based on BoxOfficeMojo.com’s listing of the highest-grossing R-rated films of all time.

49. "Lethal Weapon 3" (1992). Box office: $144.7 million.Warner Brothers
48. "American Pie 2" (2001). Box office: $145.1 million.Universal Studios
47. "True Lies" (1994). Box office: $146.2 million.Fox
46. "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989). Box office: $147.2.Warner Bros.
45. "Gran Torino" (2008). Box office: $148.0 million. Warner Bros.
44. "Knocked Up" (2007). Box office: $148.7 million.Universal Studios
43. "American Hustle" (2013). Box office: $150.11 million.Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Productions LLC
42. "Neighbors" (2014). Box office: $150.15 million.Universal Pictures
41. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003). Box office: $150.37 million.IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3 Productions
40. "We’re the Millers" (2013). Box office: $150.39 million.Michael Tackett / Warner Bros.
39. "Rambo: First Blood Part II" (1985). Box office: $150.4 million.Columbia Pictures / Getty Images
38. "Sex and the City" (2008). Box office: $152.6 million.Warner Bros.

Remember the thrill of seeing an R-rated movie for the first time as a kid? The thrill of your parents finally letting you to watch one, or, even better, them not knowing you’re watching it. Of course, for most of us, once the film is over, you’re left wondering, “Why was that rated R?”

For those who aren’t aware, a film with an R rating means that no one under 17 is allowed to purchase or see a particular film unless accompanied by an adult. Films with an R rating have long been considered difficult to be financially successful because of the limited audience available. Since they are deemed for “adults,” and much of the moviegoing audience is under the age of 17, an R rating is less desirable for movie studios.

But that perception is changing. Films that once would be considered box office poison with an R rating, like superhero movies, are now financially viable. It’s as if the adult moviegoing audience was just waiting for an R-rated fun film like Deadpool to come its way.

Now for a little history: Did you know that the rating system of today has only been around since the mid-1960s? True story. In the early days of films, starting in 1930, films had to follow the Hays Code, created by the president of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, William H. Hays. The Hays Code was a set of moral guidelines adhered to by most major studios. The code forbade profanity, nudity, use of drugs, homosexuality, white slavery, scenes of actual childbirth, etc. By the 1960s, filmmakers started openly challenging the code, which moved then-president of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) Jack Valenti to create the rating system we still use today. Starting on November 1, 1968, films would be rated for certain audiences (general, adult and restricted to only adults). It’s grown to be separated by certain audiences. Today, we use G for general audiences, PG for parental guidance suggested, PG-13 for parental guidance for children under 13 strongly suggested, R for restricting anyone under 17 and NC-17: no one under 17 permitted whatsoever. The MPAA rating system is voluntary, but because distributors release films largely based on the rating system, not submitting your film for rating is considered financial suicide.

The first R-rated film was Brian De Palma’s Greetings, released in 1968 (and Robert De Niro’s first movie). Since then, there have been thousands more, thrilling (and sometimes shocking) restricted audiences (and accompanied minors) for decades. Here are the most successful, based on BoxOfficeMojo.com’s listing of the highest-grossing R-rated films of all time.