While movies that earn an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America tend to include some of the most critically acclaimed films of modern Hollywood, they can also struggle to make a dent at the box office.
For example, of the 50 highest grossing movies in American history, only three are R-rated — and they are all in the bottom 10 of that list. And did you know there’s never been an R-rated movie to earn more than $1 billion at the global box office, despite dozens of movies passing that threshold over the years?
Using numbers crunched by the experts at Box Office Mojo, here’s a look at the R-rated movies that have earned the most money in American theaters, as of June 17, 2019. Some of them are bound to surprise you.
25. ‘Air Force One’ (1997)
Domestic Gross: $173 million
In 1997, “Titanic” was the unquestioned king of the cinematic world — but “Air Force One” made some serious cash, too. This Harrison Ford vehicle (pun fully intended) was set aboard the world’s most famous aircraft as terrorists hijacked it, forcing the president himself to kick some butt. “Air Force One” became the highest-grossing R-rated movie of 1997, edging out critical darlings like “As Good as It Gets” and “Good Will Hunting.” It went on to gross more than $315 million worldwide.
24. ‘Us’ (2019)
Domestic Gross: $175 million (as of June 17, 2019)
The newest movie on the list, “Us” was still wrapping up its theatrical run as of publication time. This psychological horror movie from Oscar-winning writer-director Jordan Peele follows a family who is terrorized by their own doppelgangers. So far, it’s the highest-grossing R-rated movie of 2019. It’s also been hailed as one of the year’s most acclaimed movies, racking up an impressive 94% Fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes.
23. ‘Get Out’ (2017)
Domestic Gross: $176 million
Speaking of Jordan Peele, the movie that made him one of Hollywood’s hottest directors also ranks among the highest-grossing movies that were rated R. “Get Out” was about a man’s horrifying weekend visiting his girlfriend’s rural family home and discovering a sinister secret about them. The movie was a massive hit with audiences and critics, even becoming the rare horror film to win an Oscar. “Get Out” stands as the highest-grossing movie ever for Blumhouse Productions, the studio behind popular horror flicks like “The Purge” and “Paranormal Activity.”
22. ‘There’s Something About Mary’ (1998)
Domestic Gross: $176.5 million
The year 1998 was a big one for R-rated blockbusters, as movies with that rating made up two of the top three biggest earners. “There’s Something About Mary” was the third highest-grossing movie of 1998 and became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever when it was released. It starred Cameron Diaz as the titular woman who had a long list of obsessed male suitors. It turned Diaz and co-star Ben Stiller into major stars and went on to rake in nearly $370 million worldwide.
21. ‘Pretty Woman’ (1990)
Domestic Gross: $178.4 million
As a genre, romantic comedies are almost never rated R and in 1990, that was virtually unprecedented. “Pretty Woman,” which saw Julia Roberts as a prostitute who earned the love of a wealthy man played by Richard Gere, proved R-rated romance could make massive money with a smart script, a gifted director and great actors. It was the highest-grossing R-rated movie of 1990 by a wide margin, crushing action blockbusters like “Die Hard 2” and “Total Recall.” Foreign audiences liked it even more, netting it an additional $285 million overseas.
20. ‘The Revenant’ (2015)
Domestic Gross: $183.6 million
This Oscar-winning epic, which told the true story of a frontiersman’s quest for revenge on his former companions, stands as the third highest-grossing movie in the storied career of star Leonardo DiCaprio. “The Revenant” was the top-earning R-rated movie of 2015, grossing nearly $20 million more than “Fifty Shades of Grey” in American theaters. What’s more impressive is how much money “The Revenant” made overseas, swelling its global total to nearly $533 million.
19. ‘Gladiator’ (2000)
Domestic Gross: $187.7 million
Another revenge epic, “Gladiator” holds the distinction of being the highest-grossing R-rated movie to ever win best picture at the Oscars. It won five Oscars in total and helped make Russel Crowe, who starred as the wronged Roman gladiator Maximus, into a massive star. “Gladiator” was the highest-grossing R-rated movie of 2000 and, thanks to a $460 million worldwide total, was the second-highest-grossing movie at the global box office that year.
18. ’22 Jump Street’ (2014)
Domestic Gross: $191.7 million
This buddy comedy, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as undercover cops, was an even bigger smash than its predecessor, 2012’s “21 Jump Street.” Its nearly $192 million gross topped the original’s by more than $50 million in America alone. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever set on a college campus, which puts it atop some elite company like “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “The Social Network.”
17. ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991)
Domestic Gross: $206 million
Director James Cameron has made some of the highest-grossing movies in history, including “Titanic” and “Avatar,” but the 1991 sci-fi classic “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is his top-earning R-rated film. The lifetime domestic gross of $206 million earned by “T2” has been accumulated over multiple theatrical releases but it was a massive hit from the jump. It was the world’s highest-grossing movie — regardless of MPAA rating — in 1991 by a wide margin, and is still the biggest cash cow of the long-running Terminator franchise.
16. ‘Wedding Crashers’ (2005)
Domestic Gross: $209.2 million
The year 2005 saw some major R-rated releases, including “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Saw II,” but it was “Wedding Crashers” that easily ruled them all at the box office. This comedy saw Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as a pair of ruthless bachelors who routinely crashed strangers’ weddings in order to sleep with women. According to Box Office Mojo, “Wedding Crashers” is the second-highest-grossing movie ever to involve a wedding in its primary storyline, topping hits like “Bridesmaids” and “Mamma Mia!”
15. ‘300’ (2007)
Domestic Gross: $210.6 million
When it debuted in 2007, “300” became the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever based on a comic book. It has since lost that title but the $210 million it pulled in made it the year’s top-earning R-rated film and the only one in the overall top 10 for 2007. It told a fictionalized and heavily stylized account of a famous Persian War battle where heavily outnumbered Greek soldiers took on Persian forces. In total, “300” made more than $450 million at the worldwide box office.
14. ‘A Star Is Born’ (2018)
Domestic Gross: $215.3 million
The highest-grossing musical on this list — and one of very few R-rated musicals ever made — “A Star Is Born” somehow pulled in more than $215 million despite never being the top movie at the box office for any weekend of its run. Director Bradley Cooper and his co-star, Lady Gaga, combined for incredible chemistry in this story about a self-destructive musician and his protégé. In addition to making serious cash, “A Star Is Born” was one of 2018’s most acclaimed movies, eventually winning an Oscar.
13. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998)
Domestic Gross: $217 million
Cinematic icons Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have combined their powers for four movies over the years and 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” was by far their biggest hit so far. This World War II blockbuster, which featured a gruesome and intense reenactment of the D-Day landings at Normandy, ended up being the highest-grossing movie of 1998 in America, regardless of MPAA rating. Perhaps more surprising is that “Saving Private Ryan” did so well with foreign audiences, who contributed an additional $265 million to its worldwide total.
12. ‘Ted’ (2012)
Domestic Gross: $218.8 million
What’s the highest-grossing movie in the ever-popular “slacker/stoner” subgenre? According to Box Office Mojo, none of them ever got higher than “Ted.” This 2012 comedy starred Mark Wahlberg and his character’s childhood teddy bear, which was alive and voiced by Seth MacFarlane. Lightning apparently couldn’t strike twice, as 2015’s “Ted 2” grossed just $81 million domestically, roughly a third of what its predecessor earned.
11. ‘Logan’ (2017)
Domestic Gross: $226.3 million
Taking the beloved X-Men character of Wolverine in a dark new direction proved to be a great move. “Logan,” which saw Hugh Jackman playing an aging, even more gruff version of his iconic superhero role, was a massive hit in 2017, earning more than most of the PG-13-rated X-Men movies that had come before it. “Logan” ended up being one of the most acclaimed comic book movies also, racking up a 93% Fresh grade from critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
10. ‘The Exorcist’ (1973)
Domestic Gross: $233 million
The MPAA’s R rating has been around since the system was created in 1970, just a few years before “The Exorcist” would become the first R-rated movie to rule the box office. This horror classic, which tells the story of a young girl’s intense exorcism, held the record as the highest-grossing R-rated movie for 11 years — and it held the record for R-rated horror films for more than 40 years. According to Box Office Mojo, when ticket prices are adjusted for inflation, “The Exorcist” is the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history by a mile, earning nearly $1 billion in theaters since 1973.
9. ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ (1984)
Domestic Gross: $234.8 million
It took until 1984 for something to unseat “The Exorcist” as the highest-grossing R-rated film ever and “Beverly Hills Cop” got it done by a hair. This Eddie Murphy comedy-action vehicle was a massive hit, becoming the first R-rated film to ever be a year’s highest-grossing movie overall, earning even more money than powerhouses like “Ghostbusters” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Its two sequels would each make far less money than the first one, leaving “Beverly Hills Cop” to hold the crown as the highest-grossing R-rated movie to be released before the year 2000.
8. ‘The Hangover Part II’ (2011)
Domestic Gross: $254.5 million
One of the highest-grossing comedy sequels ever, regardless of MPAA rating, “The Hangover Part II” fell just short of the domestic gross of 2009’s “The Hangover,” but it actually surpassed the original at the worldwide box office. Stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis returned, and audiences were happy to join them again in theaters across the world. Of all movies that have ever opened on a Thursday, “The Hangover Part II” had the third largest opening night gross in history, ranking only behind movies in the “Star Wars” and “Matrix” franchises.
7. ‘The Hangover’ (2009)
Domestic Gross: $277.3 million
Speaking of “The Hangover,” the 2009 original was one of the biggest surprise comedy hits in recent memory. It followed a ragtag group of guys at a Las Vegas bachelor party, where they lose the groom-to-be and have to track him down. It ended up being the highest-grossing R-rated movie of 2009 and the sixth-highest of the year overall, topping the domestic earnings of hits like “Star Trek” and “Taken.”
6. ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ (2003)
Domestic Gross: $281.6 million
In 2003, the long-awaited sequel to 1999’s “The Matrix” was released to eager audiences who made it a record-breaker that earned more than $100 million over the original’s massive take. “The Matrix Reloaded” ended up passing “Beverly Hills Cop” to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever. It wouldn’t hold that record long but it would be the highest-grossing R-rated sequel for 15 years. The year 2003 saw landmark movies like “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Finding Nemo” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” but “The Matrix Reloaded” had the biggest opening weekend of the year.
5. ‘Deadpool 2’ (2018)
Domestic Gross: $324.6 million
Not only is “Deadpool 2” the highest-grossing R-rated sequel in history, it also currently holds the record as the highest-grossing R-rated movie in worldwide box office history. It collected nearly $800 million globally — but its $324 million take in America is what lands it high on this list. In a year that saw plenty of audience-pleasing blockbusters, “Deadpool 2” earned more money than hits like “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
4. ‘It’ (2017)
Domestic Gross: $327.5 million
A complete monster at the box office, 2017’s “It” became the highest-grossing horror movie in history, regardless of MPAA rating, with its $327 million grab. A pleaser of audiences and critics, “It” also easily became the highest-grossing movie ever based on a book by Stephen King, which includes a long list of films. It’ll only be a matter of time before we see if the pre-planned sequel, which arrives in theaters in 2019, will be anywhere near the kind of hit this juggernaut was.
3. ‘American Sniper’ (2014)
Domestic Gross: $350.1 million
This is Bradley Cooper’s fifth movie on this list, which I think makes him the all-time king of R-rated blockbusters. “American Sniper” was the Oscar-nominated true story of Chris Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history. It proved deadly at the box office, becoming only the second R-rated movie at the time to earn at least $300 million domestically. Perhaps most impressively, “American Sniper” is the highest-grossing movie in Warner Bros. studio history that doesn’t involve a superhero or Harry Potter.
2. ‘Deadpool’ (2016)
Domestic Gross: $363 million
Audiences were clearly ready for an R-rated superhero when “Deadpool” hit theaters in 2016 and broke a ton of records. Currently, this Ryan Reynolds-starring flick holds several all-time marks, including the highest-grossing R-rated superhero movie ever and the biggest opening weekend for any R-rated movie. It’s also the highest-grossing X-Men movie ever, which puts it atop a tall heap of hit movies, most of which were rated PG-13. “Deadpool” came within $7 million of breaking the all-time record for R-rated movies at the American box office.
1. ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ (2004)
Domestic Gross: $370.8 million
Holding the throne for more than 15 years, director Mel Gibson’s controversial 2004 film, “The Passion of the Christ,” is the top-earning R-rated film in American history. It’s also the highest-grossing Christian movie ever made, according to Box Office Mojo, pulling in even more cash than Disney’s family-friendly “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Its $370 million domestic take puts it as the 42nd-highest-grossing movie in history, showing just how far off the pace even the biggest R-rated blockbusters are when compared to less harshly rated movies.