From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In the United Kingdom, the X certificate was issued between 1951 - replacing the H certificate, which stood for horrific - and 1982 by the British Board of Film Censors. It was introduced as a result of the Wheare Report on film censorship. From 1951 to 1970, it meant "Suitable for those aged 16 and over", and from 1970 to 1982 it was redefined as meaning "Suitable for those aged 18 and over." The X certificate was replaced in 1982 by the 18 certificate. See History of British film certificates.
Films that were first rated X and then re-rated in the United States
Last Tango in Paris was given an X rating by the MPAA upon initial release in 1972. After revisions were made to the MPAA ratings code, it was classified as an NC-17, in 1997. MGM released an R-rated cut in 1981.
Notable X-rated films in the US
- The 1968 film Greetings, directed by Brian De Palma, and starring Robert De Niro in his first film role, was the first film to receive an "X" rating in the United States. It has since been re-rated "R".
- Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the only X-rated film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. At the time the X-rating did not have the stigma it later took on. Midnight Cowboy has also been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Due to a degree of relaxation in attitudes regarding sex in film, the (unchanged) film has since been re-rated "R" in the 1970s.
- I Drink Your Blood (1970) was the first film to receive an X-rating based on violence alone as well as for some nudity. It took a lot of editing to get it back down to an "R." At the invitation of the film's producer Jerry Gross, this work was done by projectionists across the United States.
- Clockwork Orange (1971) originally received an "X" rating for its nudity and graphic violent sex scenes. Today, many critics recognize it as one of Stanley Kubrick's most important films. The uncut version of the film has been released on DVD with an "R" rating.
- Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat, released in 1972, was the first animated film to receive an "X" rating in the US, promoted with the tagline "He's X Rated and Animated!" The material in the film itself wasn't pornographic, and the film was later released unrated on VHS and DVD.
- In 1973, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein became the first 3-D movie to be officially rated "X" for its extreme violence and sexuality.
- 1974's The Street Fighter, starring Sonny Chiba, was the first film to receive an "X" rating for violence in the US.
- 1900 (1976) was originally rated "X" and had over an hour of footage cut for an R-rating before its US release in 1977. The uncut version was released on VHS in 1993 with an "NC-17" rating. In 2006, Paramount Pictures surrendered the NC-17 rating for the uncut version and released it on DVD.
- Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) was given an X-rating. Several of the most violent/graphic moments were edited out to get an "R" rating. Uncut version is now available on all US DVD releases.
- 1980's "Friday the 13th" and its sequels (except the 4th installment) were all cut for violence to get an "R" rating. Uncut editions can be found only in certain countries, while all known US releases currently contain the theatrical cuts.
- My Bloody Valentine (1981) infamously had 9 minutes cut for an "R" because of the gore.
- Scarface (1983) was given an "X" rating 3 times (original, 2nd, and 3rd cuts) for extreme violence and graphic language. Director Brian De Palma pulled in a panel of experts, including real narcotics officers, stating that the film was an accurate portrayal of the real-life drugworld and should be widely seen. This convinced the 20 members of the ratings board to give the 3rd cut an "R" rating by a vote of 18 to 2. However, De Palma surmised that if the 3rd cut was judged an "R" then the original cut should have been rated "R" as well. He asked the studio if he could release the original cut, but was told that he couldn't. However, since the studio executives really didn't know the differences between the three submitted cuts, DePalma released the unedited and intended version of the film to theaters anyway.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), was intended for an "R", but given an "X" for graphic violence, prompting the filmmakers to release it as "Unrated."
- RoboCop (1987) was originally given an "X" rating by the MPAA for scenes of "excessive violence." To satisfy the requirements of the ratings board, director Paul Verhoeven trimmed blood and gore from the most violent scenes for an "R" rating. The unrated version is available on the Criterion laserdisc and DVD releases (both now out of print) and the RoboCop Trilogy boxset.
- Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) was originally rated "X" for its brutal, gory violence. 5 minutes of the film was cut for an "R" rating. The unrated version is now available alongside the R-rated version on DVD.
- In 1990, the ultraviolent cult thriller King of New York received an "X" rating for graphic violence and crude language. It was edited and appealed to "R". Shortly after it was released, the "NC-17" rating was introduced.
- Total Recall (1990) was given an "X" rating for excessive violence. Some violence was trimmed and different camera angles were used in some of the more over-the-top scenes for an "R" rating.
- In the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature film Grindhouse, there is a fake trailer before the first movie segment (Planet Terror) that advertises a movie starring Danny Trejo called Machete. Being true to the intended nature of the double feature film (demonstrating an experience of American Grindhouse movie theaters) the trailer shows many graphic and violent scenes. After the trailer ends, there is a quick screen stating that the film is rated X. While it was not considered a movie at the time and the X rating was meant as a joke, Robert Rodriguez expressed interest in making the trailer into a movie. It is currently in Pre-Production.