Here's a thing you might not know about PG-13 movies: the MPAA allows only one F-bomb in the entire film. If you have two vocalized F-bombs, your movie becomes R-rated, which obviously cuts down on your potential audience. Most films don't bother flirting with this rule, but some will specifically pick one F-word to include. They have only one F-bomb to drop, and they intend to use it.
Those are the movies I care about. While some movies use their one F-bomb poorly (Be Cool immediately comes to mind), others use it to great effect.
X-Men: First Class serves as the pilot for the soft reboot of the hit-and-miss "second wave" of the X-Men Cinematic Universe. It focuses on some familiar characters from the original X-Men film trilogy (Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast), while adding a few new players (Emma Frost, Havoc, and whatever the bad guys who surrounded Kevin Bacon were called [Silent Tornado Hands?]), and it sets the whole thing against the exciting, retro backdrop of the 1960s.
It was an attempt to reboot the X-world and also show the origins of the Xavier/Magneto relationship, which forms the cornerstone of the entire franchise.
The One F-Bomb:
Being a mutant is a pretty new thing in the '60s. Young Xavier and Magneto, who are friends at this point, attempt to track down all the mutants they can find and recruit them for their peaceful, pro-mutant cause.
We’re treated to a series of scenes where the two visit various mutants and encourage them to join. It's super cool and functions as an Ocean’s 11-style “getting the team together” montage. They've recruited a bunch of cool, new mutants with a bunch of cool, new powers that we, as an audience, haven't seen before.
Finally, they meet Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine at a bar. Hugh Jackman is kind of a surprise cameo, as he's the only actor from the original X-Men trilogy to show up in this new reboot. I remember watching the movie on opening night, and then again a few days later - both times the audience was absolutely amped to see Wolverine.
Anyway, Charles and Magneto attempt to recruit him for their cause, and - before they can explain what they're doing - he growls, “Go f*ck yourself." They leave without another word. It's fun, it’s unexpected, it gets a laugh, and it's crucial.
This is already a fun and funny scene, but here’s what makes it crucial: this is the first time in cinematic history Wolverine has used an F-bomb. Deadpool gets a lot of credit among adult comics fans who were waiting for superheroes to swear in mainstream movies; screenwriter James Mangold even said Deadpool helped open the door for Logan, the hard-R Wolverine movie we’d all been waiting for.
But it’s important to note the first F-bomb uttered by Wolverine in a movie was in a 10-second cameo in X-Men: First Class, a movie most people forget exists. It was as good and noble a use of the PG-13 loophole as I've ever seen.
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Rebecca Romijn, + more
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Kong: Skull Island is a movie mixing the fun of giant monsters fighting each other with the tense, sweaty discomfort of Apocalypse Now, and somehow it works.
A bunch of soldiers, Brie Larson (for some inexplicable reason), and Tom Hiddleston (for an even less explicable reason) become stranded on the titular island in search of the titular Kong when they come across John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, a World War II fighter pilot stranded on the monster-filled island for almost 30 years. Marlow becomes their island guide and helps the soldiers escape the island while avoiding the creatures.
The One F-Bomb:
There are a lot of threats on Skull Island. Huge mosquitos come to mind. The lizard monsters - they’re pretty bad. King Kong - that’s a big one. But there are also vicious ants that have learned to imitate bird calls. On the first night, Marlow warns the newcomers of the deadly, nocturnal ants. He hears one of the ants and says it “sounds like a bird, but it's a f*cking ant.”
This might be the least necessary F-bomb in the history of cinematic F-bombs. In no way does it add to the movie; it’s not an impactful deviation from the PG-13 aspects of the film, and doesn’t even happen on camera (you just hear Reilly deliver it off-screen).
Further, the “f*cking ants” he’s talking about NEVER ACTUALLY SHOW UP IN THE FILM. The film had one F-bomb at its disposal and used it on an off-camera moment to describe an inconsequential and never-seen threat. It’s completely useless, but still makes me laugh every F-bombing time.
Actors: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, + more
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
It’s the future, and life is video games, and a bunch of skilled gamers are competing to win a life-changing prize in a purely virtual world where you can summon just about any famous pop culture figure or artifact to help you in your quest. The film follows Parzival, a poor loser from the worthless garbage state of Ohio, as he and his friends struggle to win the game and free the masses.
The One F-Bomb:
So there’s a massive battle at the end of the movie. We have our scrappy heroes going up against the faceless, corporate, bad guys. Both sides are using special weapons and summoning famous pop cultural icons to do battle; there’s a huge Iron Giant robot, a Freddy Krueger, a DeLorean, and so on. Finally, one of our heroes activates a secret weapon. We don’t immediately know what it is, but we know it’s going to be INTENSE. They activate the weapon and deploy it on one of the bad guys.
We hear a bad guy reacting to it.
And that bad guy says:
“It’s F*CKING CHUCKY.”
It’s a vicious and violent Chucky doll (from the Child’s Play/Chucky horror franchise), here to do some intense and joyful murdering. It seemingly does more damage than any A-bomb or falling piano could do. It gleefully jumps from enemy car to enemy car, wreaking havoc. It’s awesome.
This is particularly fun because it’s a Steven Spielberg movie. Modern Spielberg doesn't usually need the single F-bomb loophole in his movies. He will either make a very family-friendly PG-13 movie or a serious R-rated flick for adults. But in Ready Player One (a decidedly family-friendly movie), he opted to have a character drop an F-bomb out of nowhere. It's unexpected, but so joyful and perfect.
Actors: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, + more
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Crazy, Stupid, Love is a wonderful romantic comedy about several people of various ages finding love wherever and however they can. It’s equally hilarious and heartwarming. It's got Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and Marisa Tomei.
The One F-Bomb:
Listen. Ryan Gosling has always been cute and lovable. He was lovable in an adorable sort of way in his first professional role on the Mickey Mouse Club. He was lovable and handsome in a sweet and devoted sort of way in his breakout role in The Notebook.
But in Crazy, Stupid, Love, Ryan Gosling (who put on muscle for the role) was undeniably and impossibly and violently hot. He was a hot man in this movie. A Hot Man. He dresses well, is always confident, has the best lines, and represents the gold standard of Hot Man throughout.
I saw this movie in theaters, and sometimes when Ryan Gosling would show up looking all tan and wearing a nice outfit, people around me just made noises. Like, uncontrollable, unconscious noises, like passion sounds were erupting out of them, because that’s what God intended. God put Ryan Gosling on this planet and in the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love specifically to elicit an animalistic release-sigh in women and men across the planet - and maybe even in heaven. That’s what God did.
And anyway, finally, after an excruciating 55 minutes (which felt like an eternity), Ryan Gosling takes his shirt off, and Emma Stone says what we’ve all been thinking this whole time:
“F*ck! Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped.”
If you have one F-bomb available, you would be forgiven if you used it the first time you saw Ryan Gosling shirtless circa Crazy, Stupid, Love. Literally every single person who watches Crazy, Stupid, Love finds Ryan Gosling attractive. They did a study. And when he is standing, shirtless, in a fancy house with nice music playing in the background, of course, the only thing to say is “f*ck.”
Of course it is.
Actors: Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Steve Carell, + more
Directed by: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra