With few exceptions, filmmakers in Hollywood have to contend with the age-old choice: If you want your movie to cost big bucks, it has to be PG-13. Nowhere is this more prevalent than among superhero movies, since parents often assume even the grimmest and grittiest entries in the genre have been properly sanitized for the kiddies.
With the recent through-the-roof success of
, which took in over $761 million at the worldwide box office, that may all be changing, with even previously kid-friendly heroes like Deadpool now getting their own “children under 17 will not be admitted” films. Wolverine
With the arrival of
Deadpool on Blu-ray and DVD this week, we thought we’d take the opportunity to round up some of our favorite R-rated entries in the superhero canon to show that hardcore violence, nudity and F-bombs have been standard issue for decades. Not all our picks are explicitly based on comic books, but they all seem like they were ripped from the pages of one… a really gruesome, sweary one full of psychological torment and bare breasts.
Check out the 10 Best R-Rated Superhero Movies in the gallery below!
10 Best R-Rated Superhero Movies
Although not explicitly based on one particular comic book, Ed Neumeier's brilliantly satiric screenplay and Paul Verhoeven's cheeky direction combined to make a classic of the form. Peter Weller's heroic cop-turned-cyborg enforcer is the stuff of fanboy dreams, and the first film nailed the comic book tone far better than the sequels written, oddly enough, by Frank Miller.
When Sam Raimi couldn't finagle the rights to adapt Walter B. Gibson's The Shadow to the screen, he did one better and invented his own pulp hero. Not unlike RoboCop, Liam Neeson's Darkman is a scientist who uses his facial recreation technology to knock off the gang who left him for dead. As with The Shadow, his own face is obscured and he wears a long black trenchcoat. Raimi would utilize the same high-flying spirit he displayed in this film for
Spider-Man a decade later.
The Crow (1994)
Brandon Lee faithfully recreates the spirit of James O'Barr's dark, brooding graphic novel anti-hero in Alex Proyas' stylized, moody adaptation. Once again we're provided with the "resurrected for revenge" plot, though given a more spiritual infusion via Lee's haunting final performance.
Blade II (2002)
Comic book super nerd Guillermo del Toro publicly admitted he only took this assignment to prove to studios he could make his dream project "Hellboy." However, as work-for-hire jobs go you can't get much better than this, the clear highlight of Wesley Snipes' trilogy turn as the half-vampire vampire hunter. A longtime Marvel devotee, del Toro imbued the action with the perfect balance of cheese and poetry, all while breathing new life into the vampire mythos.
V for Vendetta (2006)
Many Alan Moore devotees (including the man himself) cried foul over the many changes The Wachowskis made to his sprawling limited series. While fundamentally reframing the narrative about a masked vigilante wrecking havoc on a fascist government, the filmmakers made a Bush-era movie that felt not only current but vital in attacking the conservative ethos that was laying waste to civil liberties at that time. Hugo Weaving is dashing and splendid as the title character who blurs the line between hero and terrorist.
Before he brought his inappropriately grimdark sensibilities to Superman, director Zack Snyder embraced the inherently-satiric nature of Alan Moore's superhero masterpiece. The conspiracy structure, ostensibly built on the murder of costumed heroes, always contained a multi-perspective sense of subversiveness which Snyder retains beautifully, even when the 3-hour runtime threatens to buckle under the narrative weight of Moore's dense tome.
Director Matthew Vaughn gives us a comedic flipside to
Watchmen in his colorful, breezy and hilarious adaptation of Mark Millar's hyperviolent comic series. Addressing the age-old question, "What would it really be like if there were costumed heroes?" Vaughn creates an engaging sense of escalation as his hero Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) learns the hard way just how punishing superhero life is.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" filmmaker James Gunn (also an avowed comic book fan) created the more disturbing,
Taxi Driver version of Kick-Ass with Rainn Wilson's bumbling crime fighter "The Crimson Bolt." The religious nutjob joins forces with Ellen Page's ultimate misguided, violence-obsessed fanboy and it's perhaps the harshest filmed criticism of superhero culture ever committed to celluloid.
British comic bookdom's most famous fascist cop makes it to the big screen in all his unbridled fury after the camp outlandishness of the Sylvester Stallone version. Karl Urban is behind the iconic mask this time, dealing out justice to an entire 200-story building with the help of his psychic partner Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby).
After the studio famously butchered the character for the deplorable
X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds was given a second chance at superhero redemption (third if you count Green Lantern) as he dons Wade Wilson's bright-red mask. The result was a box office bonanza that proved superheroes need neither save the world nor be PG-13 in their movie iterations.