For many years, filmmakers taking on excessively mature subject matter had to cut their films in order to achieve an R rating. This was done because the sole “adults only” rating, the X, had been co-opted by the pornography business. The Motion Picture Association of America (known as the MPAA then, but just the MPA now) famously got a copyright for all its ratings except the X. That allowed the adult film industry to self-apply it, and also to make up meaningless variations like “XXX.” Newspapers wouldn't accept ads for X-rated pictures, and they could not be advertised on television. That put directors in a tough spot.
Many cinephiles, including famed film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, spent years calling for the MPAA to create a new “adults only” rating between the R and the X, one that would designate serious artistic works that were meant to be seen solely by grown-ups. In 1990, they got their wish. The NC-17 - or “no children under 17 admitted” - rating was established. Unfortunately, it didn't solve the problem. Only a small handful of major movies have accepted the rating since its inception, and none of them have been massive hits.
What follows is a list of those films. These are the ones released theatrically with the NC-17 rating. Movies that earned the NC-17 but chose to hit theaters unrated are not included, nor are older films, like Last Tango in Paris, that were originally rated X and re-rated later on. Vote up the ones you think the NC-17 was most appropriate for.