The Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, which started streaming on Netflix this week after causing a sensation at the Venice Film Festival, is the first film in several years to receive an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. While Ana de Armas earned glowing notices for her work in Blonde (the movie’s reviews, meanwhile, are less kind), the film’s NC-17 designation for “some sexual content” came as a surprise, and it remains to be seen how that rating will affect its performance with Netflix viewers.
But because Blonde skipped theaters—it’s the first major studio release to go straight to streaming while carrying the MPAA’s most stringent rating—it managed to avoid the fate of many other films, which have been kneecapped by an NC-17 that scares off moviegoers and theater owners.
The MPAA’s decisions to hand down NC-17 ratings (and to assign X ratings to some mainstream films in the years before NC-17 was created) are often accompanied by controversy. Most recently, de Armas spoke out forcefully after the Blonde judgment. Here, then, are 20 of the most notable (notorious?) films to run afoul of Hollywood’s ratings gatekeepers over the years, along with a look at how some filmmakers were forced to alter their projects to ensure a wider release, and other titles that simply refused, or chose not to, change things up.