10 Nude Scenes that Challenged the Ratings

More than just a peek at pretty people’s privates, big screen nude scenes can push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. And not just for audiences but for the industry, too. In fact, what was NC-17 back in 1990 might only rate as R today. Read on to uncover the movies (and birthday suits) that helped define the MPAA vocabulary.

Nymphomaniac (2014)
Lars Von Trier’s hotly discussed 5-plus-hour movie about the life and loves of a sex-addict is all sex, all the time. Much of it, unclothed. While the original plan was to release an R-rated version that hasn’t happened quite yet. Apparently, unrated works best for the undressed.

Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
This French movie about a young woman who comes into her own in part through a lesbian love affair won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. There’s no shortage of nakedness between the two, but many were surprised that a movie labeled a masterpiece could still receive an NC-17.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese narrowly avoided earning his first NC-17 rating for this paean to debauchery during which we witness all (and we do mean all) of Margot Robbie—and quite a lot of Leonardo DiCaprio, too. Only after a careful edit did the film squeak by with a still very racy R.

Shame (2011)
It should really come as no surprise that a movie about a sex addict (Michael Fassbender) has plenty of nudity in it. So what’s the big deal? As Fassbender told Vulture, “It just baffles me: Women can parade around naked all the time, but the guy conveniently has his pants on.” Well put.

Shortbus (2006)
From John Cameron Mitchell, the auteur of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, this unrated movie admittedly skirts the boundaries of porn. After all, the actors frequently bare all when they do all! To its credit Shortbus challenged the ratings by not bothering to submit to them at all.

A Dirty Shame (2004)
Hardly the raunchiest John Waters’ movie (that’s Pink Flamingos), this romp is a reaction to national prudishness. Who could forget Ursula Udders (Selma Blair) “busting” into each scene or the swinging neighbors (Susan Allenback and Paul DeBoy) answering the door in the buff? When asked about the NC-17 rating, Waters declared, the MPAA “stopped taking notes” when screening.

The Dreamers (2003)
Bernardo Bertolucci’s story of sexual liberation and student protest in 1960s Paris received an NC-17 for a couple of reasons: nudity (both male and female) and a very close brother-sister relationship among them. The R-rated version — not shown in theaters — merely excises the more explicit moments.

Showgirls (1995)
A camp classic, Showgirls was also a trailblazer in NC-17 acceptance, enjoying a much wider release than any previous flick with the rating. So what about it warranted the rating? Let’s see… stripping, lap dancing, pole licking — flesh, flesh and more flesh.

Henry & June (1990)
Based on the lives of the true threesome of writers Anaïs Nin (Maria de Medeiros), Henry Miller (Fred Ward) and Miller’s wife, June (Uma Thurman), this movie — featuring plenty of artful nudity — was the first to receive an NC-17 rating. It’s also the only NC-17 pic to get an Oscar nod (granted, for cinematography).

Angel Heart (1987)
The noir thriller pairing Mickey Rourke as private eye Harry Angel and Lisa Bonet as young Epiphany Proudfoot made the MPAA censors see red, so a tamer version toning down the offending nude scene (both of them in the buff) was released with an R rating. (Can’t get enough Bonet? Catch her on THE RED ROAD).

If you think these films are steamy, check out this top 10 list of sex scenes too hot for American Cinema.

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