50 Essential NC-17 Films

Get ready for an entire generation to feel old: Larry Clark’s controversial tale of teen sex, Kids, turns 20 next month. BAMcinemaFest is celebrating the occasion with a retrospective screening this week, complete with a Q&A with co-writer and star Harmony Korine (who penned the script at only 18 years old), along with cast members Chloë Sevigny, Leo Fitzpatrick, and Rosario Dawson. Featuring breakout performances from its young cast (who have since gone on to become A-listers and indie darlings), and set during the height of the ‘90s AIDS epidemic, Clark’s vérité-style look at city-kid debauchery was labeled child porn during its initial release — as is the case with much of Clark’s filmography (and photography). But many critics have since embraced the film for its raw portrait of troubled youth. Kids is one of the better-known NC-17 movies, and producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein had to create a special one-off company, Shining Excalibur Films, to release it (their company Miramax forbid the release of NC-17 movies). But it isn’t the only film to be branded with the scarlet rating. Here are 50 other films that challenged censors.


Bad Lieutenant

There’s no put-on when it comes to Abel Ferrara’s brand of NC-17. The film is sleazy, grimy, and philosophically bleak, and Harvey Keitel delivers a bravura performance of a corrupt cop.