The 10 Best NC-17 Movies of All Time

5. In The Realm of The Senses (1976)

In the Realm of the Senses

One of the most important and controversial figures of the underrated Japanese New Wave, Nagisa Oshima, much like Bernardo Bertolucci, made films about politics and sex. His most notorious film is ”In The Realm of The Senses”, a movie based on the sensational event of Sada Abe, who is remembered for erotically asphyxiating her lover, cutting off his private parts and taking them with her.

The undeveloped footage was shipped to France for post-production due to the strict censorship in Japan at that time. The sexual scenes were all blurred when it was released in Japan. Oshima was criticized for using explicit sex to draw attention to the film, but the director explained that “the explicitness is an integral part of the movie’s design.” Now, it’s regarded as a masterpiece of Japanese erotic cinema.


4. Lust, Caution (2007)

lust caution

Taiwanese-American filmmaker Ang Lee is famous for breaking the barriers of East-West culture and for making strong emotionally-charged movies. After winning the Oscar for Best Director for his classic tearjerker “Brokeback Mountain”, he returned to his homeland and made an erotic thriller set in the Japan occupation era.

In its uncut form, “Lust, Caution” features three long scenes of graphic sex with full-frontal nudity. The 10 minutes of sex scenes were considered by Lee to be critical to the story and reportedly took 100 hours to shoot.

To make these scenes look real, Lee reportedly demand the two actors to do it for real. He was absolutely right about these sex scenes as they are not only necessary, but also crucial for audiences to understand the love between the two lead characters.

It’s interesting that most of the sex scenes were cut when the film was released in China, but this didn’t stop Lee from winning back-to-back Golden Bear awards at the Berlin Film Festival.


3. The Dreamers (2003)

The Dreamers

Italian movie maestro Bernardo Bertolucci is famous for making beautiful and controversial films. Most of his films are either politically radical or sexually explicit. “The Dreamers” has both; it was set during the the 1968 Paris student riots, and the plot is basically about three young cinephiles talking about cinema, politics, and lovemaking.

This film is full of nude scenes, and sometimes it’s just that. But who could resist the sight of a naked Eva Green poked as Venus? It was one of the sexist scenes in cinema history.

“The Dreamers” totally captures a generation of confusing dreamers, and it was hailed as a masterpiece by young movie buffs all around the world.


2. Blue is The Warmest Color (2013)


When ”Blue is The Warmest Color” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, it stirred up controversy as it has a 10-minute graphic lesbian sex scene. Just like with “Lust, Caution”, these sex scenes are absolutely necessary as lesbian sexuality is a central theme of this coming-of-age tale.

The plot mainly deals with Adele’s exploration of love and sexuality during her relationship with another woman. However, it is the straight male perspective from director Abdellatif Kechiche that was questioned and criticized, as his approach toward female sexuality was described as “problematic”.

Nevertheless, this film was beautifully shot and acted, and is definitely one of the best lesbian coming-of-age movies ever made.


1. Shame (2011)


Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender have only made three films together, and every one of them is a masterpiece of modern cinema. Their second effort, “Shame”, is an honest depiction of a sex addict’s downward path to self-destruction.

The movie received an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for some explicit sexual content. Fox Searchlight did not appeal the rating or make demanded cuts for the less restrictive R rating. Their president, Steve Gilula, said, “I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner.”

Gilula was right. “Shame” is an uncompromising human drama that explores the consequences of sexual addiction in depth. Fassbender’s performance is powerful, brilliant, and heartbreaking, and it’s a must-see film.