It’s almost unheard of these days to see a movie with an NC-17 rating. The adults-only designation was created by the Motion Picture Association of America in an attempt to replace the earlier X rating in the fall of 1990. The NC-17 came about after several decades of X being associated in the public consciousness with smut. As a result, the X was no longer useful for its intended purpose: To delineate movies that were inappropriate for children.

Eventually, the NC-17 became just as tainted as the X, and within a few years, it was just as rare for the Hollywood studios to relate an NC-17-rated movie as it was for them release an X-rated one. But before both of those ratings got ruined by forces out of their control there were significant works released under their auspices. Although X and NC-17 movies are commonly believed to contain graphic sexuality, some of the best films with those ratings are not sex films at all. Some are gruesomely violent, or contain disturbingly adult themes, language, or content. But that doesn’t mean they are obscene either.

For proof, take a look at the movies below, all released with either an X or an NC-17 rating (or, in at least one instance, both) that were truly works of art. They may have been a work sof art for adults, but they were art nonetheless.

The Best X-Rated Movies in History

These movies prove that the X rating was about much more than smut.

The Best NC-17 Rated Movies Ever

The NC-17 rating has been all but abandoned these days, but once upon a time it was home to some of the most challenging films in history.
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