Special Report

R-rated Movies That Scored Perfectly on Rotten Tomatoes

Since 1968, when the Motion Picture Association of America instituted a film rating system to give parents a tool for determining what to allow their children to watch, over half of the films they’ve judged have received an R (restricted) rating. Movies that contain strong elements considered adult material, including sexuality and nudity, persistent violence and gore, drug or alcohol use, and profanity are often rated R.

While some explicit films depict sex or violence gratuitously, the best R-rated movies make use of the creative liberty the rating permits to relay more nuanced themes or situations than might be found in those deemed to be G, PG, or PG-13. Many of these have received critical acclaim and even gone on to win Oscars. (These are considered the best R-rated films of all time.)

One sure sign that a movie – R-rated or otherwise – is superlative is a 100% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, measuring the collective opinion of a wide range of critics. Reviewing Tomatometer ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, 24/7 Tempo discovered 20 films that had a Tomatometer score of 100% and a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of at least 60% as of April 2023. Listed here, the movies are ordered based on release date. Documentaries were not considered. Cast and director credits are from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon.

Click here for a list of 20 R-rated movies with a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes

With the notable exception of “The Terminator,” most of these films are not blockbusters, and they’re not necessarily Best Picture winners. Instead, the majority are rather niche films with a cult following, or smaller budget indie pictures that struck a chord with audiences and critics due to their in-depth exploration of humanity.

Multiple ‘70s-era exploitation films made the cut, as did war movies, coming-of-age stories, and crime films. A few comedies and action adventures have received perfect scores, as have some award-winning independent films that debuted at festivals, including Allison Anders’ “Things Behind the Sun,” which explores the effects of rape on both the perpetrators and survivors, and Richard Linklater’s European romance “Before Sunrise.” (Linklater’s film is featured on our list of movies so good they should have won an Oscar, but didn’t.)

19. The Sadist (1963)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (5 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 68% (1,207 votes)
> Starring: Joan Howard, Arch Hall Jr., Helen Hovey
> Directed by: James Landis

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18. The Last Picture Show (1971)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (58 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (14,197 votes)
> Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd
> Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

17. Heat (1972)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (9 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 62% (2,681 votes)
> Starring: Joe Dallesandro, Sylvia Miles, Andrea Feldman
> Directed by: Paul Morrissey

16. The Big Bird Cage (1972)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (5 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 63% (2,411 votes)
> Starring: Pam Grier, Anitra Ford, Candice Roman
> Directed by: Jack Hill

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15. Cockfighter (1974)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (6 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (809 votes)
> Starring: Warren Oates, Richard B. Shull, Harry Dean Stanton
> Directed by: Monte Hellman

14. Smithereens (1982)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (11 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 59% (559 votes)
> Starring: Susan Berman, Brad Rijn, Richard Hell
> Directed by: Susan Seidelman

13. The Terminator (1984)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (65 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (776,923 votes)
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
> Directed by: James Cameron

12. Hamburger Hill (1987)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (12 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 72% (33,083 votes)
> Starring: Anthony Barrile, Michael Boatman, Don Cheadle
> Directed by: John Irvin

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11. Swimming to Cambodia (1987)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (10 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (1,581 votes)
> Starring: Spalding Gray
> Directed by: Jonathan Demme

10. Deadly Pursuit (1988)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (14 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 64% (6,108 votes)
> Starring: Sidney Poitier, Tom Berenger, Kirstie Alley
> Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode

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9. South Central (1992)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (6 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 83% (6,135 votes)
> Starring: Glenn Plummer, Byron Minns, Lexie Bigham
> Directed by: Stephen Milburn Anderson

8. Passion Fish (1992)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (25 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (2,874 votes)
> Starring: Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, Angela Bassett
> Directed by: John Sayles

7. The Music of Chance (1993)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (14 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (844 votes)
> Starring: James Spader, Mandy Patinkin, M. Emmet Walsh
> Directed by: Philip Haas

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6. Three Colors: Red (1994)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (62 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (25,000 votes)
> Starring: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder
> Directed by: Krzysztof Kieślowski

5. Before Sunrise (1995)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (46 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (73,661 votes)
> Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Andrea Eckert
> Directed by: Richard Linklater

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4. Bаstard Out of Carolina (1996)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (9 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 83% (5,301 votes)
> Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ron Eldard, Glenne Headly
> Directed by: Anjelica Huston

3. Things Behind the Sun (2001)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (12 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 78% (1,069 votes)
> Starring: Kim Dickens, Gabriel Mann, Aria Alpert Adjani
> Directed by: Allison Anders

2. Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (11 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 80% (2,757 votes)
> Starring: Michael Blieden, Stephanie Courtney, Matt Price
> Directed by: Bob Odenkirk

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1. The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down (2006)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (5 reviews)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 73% (500 votes)
> Starring: Cricket Leigh, Kat Turner, John McGarr
> Directed by: Paul Sapiano

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