R rated films have been struggling at the box office. Despite making up the majority of films released each year, they bring in far less than films with the more family-friendly PG-13 rating: Between 1995 and 2023, R-rated movies grossed a total of just under $65 billion in the U.S. and Canada, compared to the nearly $120 billion that PG-13 films brought in.
Because of the restricted audience that is able to watch movies rated R at the theater, the lower box office numbers make sense. However, despite the smaller potential viewership, some R-rated movies have still managed to become huge commercial successes. (Though they were not all huge successes, these are the best R-rated movies of all time.)
To determine the R-rated movies that broke the box office, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on box office performance from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. R-rated films were ranked based on lifetime Worldwide ticket sales, adjusted for inflation. Global box office data was adjusted for inflation using historical ticket prices from the National Association of Theatre Owners. Supplemental data on IMDb user rating and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score are current as of April 2023. Cast and director credits are from IMDb.
All the films on this list grossed more than $579 million, adjusted for inflation, at the global box office, with six grossing over $1 billion – including a single movie (“The Exorcist”) that brought in over $2 billion. Action films, including the superhero sub-genre, make up a large part of the R-rated movies that broke the box office, while drama, horror, and comedy are also represented.
The films span five decades, from the early 1970s, with hits including “The Godfather” and “Blazing Saddles,” to the 2010s, with more recent films including “Logan” and “Joker.” The ‘90s were a particularly successful era for R-rated blockbusters, and the list subsequently contains more films from that decade than from any other. (R-rated and otherwise, these are the most successful movies of the ‘90s.)
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