Since R-rated movies only reach audiences above a certain age, it’s sometimes difficult for them to earn as much bank at the box office as projects that are rated PG-13 or lower. However, there are a select few R-rated films that have managed to defy that trend, going on to become big commercial hits.
Case in point? In 2017, the gritty X-Men installment, Logan, made a record-breaking debut in theaters, just as the raunchy Deadpool did in 2016. Per Box Office Mojo. both have since landed among the ranks of other hugely successful R-rated projects. Below, check out the 12 highest-grossing R-rated films of all time, ranked in order of lifetime gross.
12. Saving Private Ryan
The 1998 Steven Spielberg-directed epic war film starring Tom Hanks, earned universal critical acclaim. Of the 11 Academy Award nominations it received, it won five including Best Director, although it lost out on Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love.
In addition to being overwhelmingly positively received, the movie earned $216.5 million domestically. Saving Private Ryan remained the highest-earning war drama of all time until 2014’s American Sniper overcame it. The movie has since been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 directorial debut starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis earned $218.8 million domestically, making it the highest-grossing comedy of the year in the U.S., as well as the highest-grossing film of the year in any genre for Universal Studios.
The movie spurred a sequel, Ted 2, which hit theaters in 2015.
Hugh Jackman delivered his last performance as Wolverine in 2017’s Logan, which proved to be a hit among both critics and audiences. The gritty, darker X-Men flick not only scored a strong 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, it also performed well at the box office. Case in point: the film has earned $224.4 million domestically so far and stands to make even more, as Fox is re-releasing a black-and-white version of the flick in May 2017.
9. The Exorcist
The 1973 supernatural flick, adapted from William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, is largely considered one of the most influential horror films of all time. In addition to grossing $232.9 million, the movie earned 10 Academy Award nominations, including a nod for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (winning the latter).
It’s still often listed as one of the scariest films of all time and has spurred several (less well-received) sequels.
8. Beverly Hills Cop
The 1984 action comedy starring Eddie Murphy grossed $234.7 million at the domestic box office, making it the highest-earning movie of the year. The film also earned critical acclaim, nabbing nods at the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical) and at the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay.
Its success helped soldify Murphy’s place on Hollywood’s A-list, turning the comedian into a bonafide movie star. It also launched a franchise, including two sequels.
7. The Hangover Part II
Like its predecessor, the 2011 follow-up scored big at the box office, earning a $254.4 million domestic gross that makes it the second-highest ranking comedy on this list. Unlike the original though, the movie was critically lambasted, with reviewers calling it a cruder and more predictable copy of the first Hangover.
Despite the negative reviews, the movie performed well enough that the studio churned out a third installment. The Hangover Part III was considered a box office disappointment in comparison to the first two films, only earning $112.2 million domestically.
6. The Hangover
The Hangover franchise didn’t exactly earn critical praise by the end, but the original 2009 comedy starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha, was both a huge critical and commercial success. It earned a total domestic gross of $277.3 million and won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
The movie also helped turn Cooper, Helms, and Galifanakis into household names and spurred two more sequels. It’s the highest-earning R-rated comedy in the United States.
5. The Matrix Reloaded
The 2003 sequel to The Matrix, written and directed by the Wachowskis, grossed $281. 5 million domestically despite being less liked than the original. This installment was the highest-grossing of the Matrix trilogy.
The final film of the franchise, The Matrix Revolution, was released six months later, earning only roughly half of Reloaded’s box office total.
After years of anticipation, the long-awaited It movie hit theaters in September 2017 and quickly became a hit. The horror film, starring Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise aka It, earned widely positive reviews from critics (scoring an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes) and fans alike.
It also performed well at the box office, grossing $327.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $372.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $700.2 million. That’s even more impressive when you consider the movie’s production budget was a relatively low $35 million.
3. American Sniper
The biographical war drama directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, began smashing box office records almost as soon as it hit theaters in early 2014. Starring Cooper as Chris Kyle, one of the deadliest marksmen in U.S. military history, the movie broke the record for the largest January opening, as well as for the largest winter opening.
It earned over $350 million domestically, making it Eastwood’s highest-grossing directorial effort by far and the highest-grossing war film in North America. In addition to being a commercial success, the movie was also a critical hit, earning a total of six nominations at the 2015 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Actor).
The Marvel superhero flick starring Ryan Reynolds was a smash hit in its 2016 Valentine’s Day weekend debut, garnering both critical and commercial success. Over the course of its theatrical run, Deadpool grossed over $363 million in North America and $396.3 million in other territories.
In addition to delivering strong box office earnings, the movie earned a largely positive response from both critics and audiences alike. A sequel is in the works and currently scheduled to hit theaters in June 2018.
1. The Passion of the Christ
The 2004 epic biblical drama, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel, stirred up its fair share of controversy at the time of its release. Some critics decried its use of extreme violence. There was also a dispute over whether a media-reported endorsement from Pope John Paul II actually occurred or not. All the debate seemed to work in its favor though.
The film was a major commercial success, grossing approximately $370.7 million domestically and $600 million plus total worldwide. The Passion of the Christ is now both the highest grossing R-rated film in United States history, and the highest grossing non-English-language film of all time.