X-rated (also known as X certificate or X classification) is a film rating indicating strong adult content, typically sexual content and nudity, but also including violence and profanity.
In Australia, X-rated is a legal term. The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), a government institution, issues ratings for all movies and television shows sold or aired. Movies showing explicit, non-simulated sex are rated "X". "X" rated movies are not permitted to be sold in most States, but possession of such movies is legal in the Australian Capital Territory; the constitution forbids restraint in goods and trade between the States, so they are available in all States by mail-order. An attempt to change the classification ratings such that some of the material in the "X" category would be banned and the remainder would be available under the new category "NVE" (an abbreviation for Non-Violent Erotica), failed in the Senate partly due to the belief of some Senators that the new categories were less restrictive than the old.
The proposed category of NVE held tighter restrictions of content in sexually explicit films. Although the new rating was rejected, all States and Territories agreed in a review of the OFLC's guidelines to introduce the new, tighter content restrictions in the "X" category. The new guidelines make unambiguous statements relating to fetish and violence in this category. "Fetishes such as body piercing, application of substances such as candle wax, 'golden showers', bondage, spanking and fisting are not permitted" and "No depiction of violence...is allowed in the category. If such content is in a film, particularly violence in a plot development context (i.e. separate from sexually explicit scenes), it is often edited out prior to submission to the OFLC to avoid being "Refused Classification" (effectively banning the film).
Films may be shown in theaters in France only after classification by an administrative commission of the ministry of Culture. In 1975
, the X classification
(officially: "pornographic or violence-inciting movies") was created for pornographic movies, or movies with successions of scenes of graphic violence. The commission has some leeway in classification, it may for instance take into account the artistic qualities of a movie not to count it pornographic.
Movies with a X rating may only be shown in specific theaters (which hardly exist nowadays in France); they bear special taxes and tax rates, including a 33% tax on revenue.
In 2000, some conservative associations sued the government for granting the movie Baise-moi, which contained graphic, realistic scenes of sex and violence, a non-X classification. The Conseil d'État at litigation ruled that the movie should have been rated X. The decision was highly controversial and some suggested changing the law.
In the United Kingdom, replacing the H certificate
, the X certificate
was issued between 1951
by the British Board of Film Censors
. It was introduced as a result of the Wheare Report
on film censorship. From 1951 to 1970, it meant "Suitable for those aged 16 and over", and from 1970 to 1982 it was redefined as meaning "Suitable for those aged 18 and over." The X certificate was replaced in 1982 by the 18 certificate
. See History of British film certificates
In the United States, the X-rating originally referred to a non-trademarked rating that indicated a film contained content unsuitable for minors such as extreme violence or explicit sex and thus was for adults only.
When the MPAA film rating system began on November 1, 1968 in the U.S., the X-rating was given to a film by the MPAA if submitted to them or, due to its non-trademarked status, it could be self-applied to a film by a distributor who knew beforehand that their film contained content unsuitable for minors. In the late 1960s to mid 1980s, several mainstream films were released with an X-rating such as Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange, and Last Tango in Paris.
Because the X-rating was not trademarked, anybody could apply it to their films, including pornographers, which many began to do in the 1970s. As pornography began to become chic and more legally tolerated, pornographers placed an X-rating on their films to emphasize the adult nature of them. Some even started using multiple X's (i.e. XX, XXX, etc.) to give the impression that their film contained more graphic sexual content than the simple X-rating. In some cases, the X ratings were applied by reviewers or film scholars, e.g. William Rotsler, who wrote "The XXX-rating means hard-core, the XX-rating is for simulation, and an X-rating is for comparatively cool films." Nothing beyond the simple X-rating has ever been officially recognized by the MPAA.
Because of the heavy use of the X-rating by pornographers, it became associated largely with pornographic films and thus non-pornographic films given a X-rating would have fewer theaters willing to book them and fewer avenues for advertising. This led to a number of films being released unrated sometimes with a warning that the film contained content for adults only. In response, the MPAA eventually agreed in 1990 to a new NC-17 rating that would be trademarked and could only be applied by the MPAA itself.
Notable X-rated films in the United States
- The 1968 film Greetings, directed by Brian De Palma, and starring Robert De Niro in his first film role, was the first film to receive an "X" rating in the United States. It has since been re-rated "R".
- Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the only X-rated film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. At the time the X-rating did not have the stigma it later took on. Midnight Cowboy has also been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Due to a degree of relaxation in attitudes regarding sex in film, the (unchanged) film was re-rated "R" in the 1970s.
- I Drink Your Blood (1970) was the first film to receive an X-rating based on violence alone as well as for some nudity. It took a lot of editing to get it back down to an "R." At the invitation of the film's producer Jerry Gross, this work was done by projectionists across the United States.
- A Clockwork Orange (1971) originally received an "X" rating for its sexual content. Today, many critics recognize it as one of Stanley Kubrick's most important films. The uncut version of the film has been released on DVD with an "R" rating.
- Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat, released in 1972, was the first animated film to receive an "X" rating in the US, promoted with the tagline "He's X Rated and Animated!" The material in the film itself wasn't pornographic, and the film was later released unrated on VHS and DVD.
- In 1973, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein became the first 3-D movie to be officially rated "X" for its extreme violence and sexuality.
- 1974's The Street Fighter, starring Sonny Chiba, was the first film to receive an "X" rating for violence in the US.
- 1900 (1976) was originally rated "X" and had over an hour of footage cut for an R-rating before its US release in 1977. The uncut version was released on VHS in 1993 with an "NC-17" rating. In 2006, Paramount Pictures surrendered the NC-17 rating for the uncut version and released it on DVD.
- Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) was given an X-rating. Several of the most violent/graphic moments were edited out to get an "R" rating.
- 1980's "Friday the 13th" and its sequels (except the 4th installment) were all cut for violence to get an "R" rating. Uncut editions of the first film can be found only in certain countries, while all known US releases currently contain the theatrical cut.
- My Bloody Valentine (1981) infamously had 9 minutes cut for an "R" because of the gore.
- Scarface (1983) was given an "X" rating 3 times (original, 2nd, and 3rd cuts) for extreme violence and graphic language. Director Brian De Palma pulled in a panel of experts, including real narcotics officers, stating that the film was an accurate portrayal of the real-life drug underworld and should be widely seen. This convinced the 20 members of the ratings board to give the 3rd cut an "R" rating by a vote of 18 to 2. DePalma later asked the studio if he could release the original director's cut, but was told that he couldn't. However, since the studio executives really didn't know the differences between the three submitted cuts, DePalma released the director's cut to theaters anyway with an unapproved "R". The director's cut is the only version we see today on DVD.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), was intended for an "R", but given an "X" for graphic violence, prompting the filmmakers to release it as "Unrated."
- RoboCop (1987) was originally given an "X" rating by the MPAA for scenes of "excessive violence." To satisfy the requirements of the ratings board, director Paul Verhoeven trimmed blood and gore from the most violent scenes for an "R" rating. The unrated version is now available on DVD.
- Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) was originally rated "X" for its brutal, gory violence. 5 minutes of the film was cut for an "R" rating. The unrated version is now available alongside the R-rated version on DVD.
- In 1990, the ultraviolent cult thriller King of New York received an "X" rating for graphic violence and crude language. It was edited and appealed to "R". Shortly after it was released, the "NC-17" rating was introduced.
- Total Recall (1990) was given an "X" rating for excessive violence. Some violence was trimmed and different camera angles were used in some of the more over-the-top scenes for an "R" rating.