From 1934 to 1968, most Hollywood films abided by the Hays Code, a system of self-censorship with scrupulous moral standards promulgated by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. The Hays Code was discarded in 1968, and what had by then been renamed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced a new rating system, separating films into four categories based on perceived appropriateness for various age groups. (Today there are five categories, defined slightly differently.)
The original R (for “restricted”) rating limited viewers to those over 16 unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian (today’s R raises the age to 17), and it freed filmmakers from the restraints of censorship. A school of emerging directors seized the moment, channeling new modes of expression and changing the face of cinema in the process.
To identify the R-rated movie with the biggest box office, 24/7 Tempo reviewed 3,891 R-rated movies with box office data from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services. Production budgets also came from The Numbers. Principle cast and genre for each movie come from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon.
Some performers showed up repeatedly on the list of finalists. Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise and Laurence Fishburn each star in three of the films, while five of the films starring Bradley Cooper made it.
The highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time is “The Passion of the Christ,” released in 2004. Here are some details:
- Domestic Box Office: $370.8 million
- Production budget: $25 million (#691 out of 4,678 movies)
- Starring: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern, Christo Jivkov
- Genre: Drama