It is understood in Hollywood that R-rated movies are a risk. Generally, they’re not family friendly and often contain elements of violence or gore that may turn the average moviegoer away.
Occasionally, an R-rated film knocks it out of the park.
We highlight some of the most profitable R-rated films in history, proving that they can provide the same financial rewards as more milder films. For clarity, we will be ranking them according to their worldwide gross and our numbers are not updated for inflation.
This epic movie starring Russell Crowe became an immediate hit when it was released almost 20 years ago. In total, it made $457,683,805 around the world, immediately making it one of the highest-grossing R-rated films. Overall, it was the fourth highest-grossing film of 2000.
Fans everywhere are still interested in the Ridley Scott-directed film. For years, there has been speculation about a sequel and somehow bringing Crowe back to the iconic role. Would you like to see Maximus again?
The Matrix (1999)
This year, The Matrix turned 20 – and solidified itself as one of the most innovative films ever made. The Wachowskis introduced us to a brand new type of sci-fi that contained action, simulated reality, and questioned our very existence.
Overall, The Matrix made $463 million – not bad for an R-rated movie in 1999! The film spawned two sequels, which were not as well received. Still, they made a fortune – which you will read about a little later on…
The Hangover (2009)
The Hangover entered cinemas in 2009 and immediately became a classic American buddy road trip movie of the generation. It stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis as three friends who lose the groom during a bachelor party in Las Vegas.
The R-rated film made a surprise $465 million. After its release, director Todd Phillips explained how he had always envisaged The Hangover as a trilogy – which is definitely not the money talking… While the sequels were not well received by critics one of them appears on this list.
Another example of how R-rated epic period films can be a financial success, 2004’s Troy made an impressive $484 million at the worldwide box office. Brad Pitt leads an ensemble including Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom.
It appears that audiences like hard hitting and gritty films about Greek mythology! The film is based on Homer’s Iliad and its build up to the Trojan War. Overall, Troy was the 8th-highest grossing film of that year. Did you see it?
The Intouchables (2011)
One of the rare films on our list that isn’t a product of Hollywood, The Intouchables became a smash hit when it was released. The story of the billionaire quadriplegic and his unlikely friend and carer hit emotional strings around the world.
Overall, the film made $484 million at the box office. Despite some questionable reviews from the UK, The Intouchables was critically acclaimed and led to an American remake starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Spielberg’s epic war film is particularly known for its gruesome opening scene. The 27-minute scene depicts the Omaha Beach assault during the Normandy landings. Starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, the R-rated film made $485 million around the world.
Today, Saving Private Ryan is considered as one of the most influential war films. The film won numerous awards, and earned Spielberg his second Oscar win for Best Director. It was the second-highest grossing film of 1998.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
This R-rated action film starring Arnie is considered the best Terminator film in the entire franchise. Released seven years after its predecessor, Terminator 2 was the highest grossing film of 1991 and of Schwarzenegger’s career.
At the time, the film was celebrated for its use of special effects. In total, the film made $515 million at the box office. A direct sequel (Terminator: Dark Fate) is in the works, set to disregard all previous sequels.
The Revenant (2015)
The film that finally awarded Leonado Di Caprio his Oscar! 2015’s The Revenant is a semi-biographical, epic, western film that pushed the star to brand new places as an actor. We all remember the lengths Di Caprio went to, and it showed. The graphic film made $532 billion at the box office.
Since its release (and his Oscar win), Di Caprio has been quiet on Hollywood’s stage. He is set to return to the film scene with Tarantino’s upcoming Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
American Sniper (2014)
Another R-rated war film to capture the hearts and minds of audiences, American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle. It is based on the memoir of ‘the most lethal sniper in the US Military history.
The film depicts how Kyle became the deadliest marksman in military history with 255 confirmed kills in Iraq. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film made $547 million. The film received mostly positive reviews, despite a questionable portrayal of war in Iraq.
One of the few comedies on our list, Ted was Seth MacFarlane’s film directorial debut. It stars Mark Wahlberg as John, who as a young boy wished how his teddy bear would turn to life. An R-rated approach to the story added plenty of drugs, bad language, and vulgar scenes. Naturally, hilarity ensued.
Ted made $556 million at the worldwide box office and warranted a sequel, Ted 2, in 2015. Overall, the sequel was not as critically or financially successful as its predecessor.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
The book that everyone was reading in 2012 became the film that everyone saw in 2015. Fifty Shades of Grey was a worldwide phenomenon and its film adaptation promised to be just as steamy as its literary source.
The film (the first of the planned trilogy) starred Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. While the first film made $570 million at the box office, its sequels didn’t maintain the momentum. Generally, the film received negative reviews.
The Hangover 2 (2011)
Where do you go from Vegas? In 2011, we saw the return of Phil, Stu, and Alan as they journey to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Upon its release, The Hangover 2 immediately became the highest R-rated comedy in history.
Even though it can be widely seen as a cash-grab from film studios, production on the sequel started two months before the FIRST Hangover movie was released. A third installment in the franchise was made in 2013 (and doesn’t appear on this list!).
Widely considered one of the best superhero films ever made, Logan proved that comic book films can go R-rated and still earn big bucks. The film marks Hugh Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine and his exit from the X-Men Universe.
Fans of X-Men had been following the character for 17 years over nine films. Finally, fans could enjoy a graphic and intense version of the character true to the comics. All in all the film earned $615 million at the box office and was a critical success.
The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
The Passion Of The Christ is a biblical drama film that covered the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life on Earth. It is based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Directed by Mel Gibson, it remains one of his most successful films to date.
The Passion Of The Christ made $622 million and is the highest grossing R-rated movie in America. The film made more than $360 million of its money in the States.
It surprised audiences when it entered theaters in 2017. Even though the film was rife with production problems, the remake – based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name – was a massive success. It stars Bill Skarsgard as the terrifying clown, Pennywise.
Overall, the film made more than $700 million at the global box office. It was praised by critics for its style and performances. A sequel is currently in the works and will be hitting cinemas in September, 2019.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Four years after its predecessor, The Matrix Reloaded finally hit cinemas making a whopping $738 million. It is the second installment in a trilogy that concluded with The Matrix Revolutions, which followed just a few months later.
Even though it was a financial success, it failed to make the same impact as The Matrix and was critically divisive. Therefore, the third installment is nowhere to be seen on this list. Today, the first film is generally considered the best in the trilogy.
It’s hard to imagine now, but Deadpool was considered a huge risk for 20th Century Fox. Until its release in 2016, there had never been a successful R-rated superhero hero. It was only after test footage ‘leaked’ online that they decided to go ahead and make it.
Well, the gamble paid off! Audiences were quick to show their enjoyment at a violent and graphic superhero film. Deadpool made $783 million at the box office and was the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. Until…
Deadpool 2 (2018)
That’s right! The only film that dethroned Deadpool from the top spot was its direct sequel just two years later. Overall, Deadpool 2 made $785 million at the global box office. Even though it only beat the previous record by $2 million, it was enough to show the studio that the films are still in demand.
Since its release 18 months ago, the character of Deadpool has since been bought by Disney. Famously, the studio only makes PG-13 films, so it’s unsure how their involvement will affect the merc with a mouth. Do you think he will change much?