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Will Ashton

Lights, Camera, Ashton: R-rated movies, thankfully, dominate the box office again

R-rated movies, thankfully, dominate the box office again.

Let it be known, people: R-rated movies are the leaders of the box office once again.

For years, adult-rated blockbusters were primarily pushed to the wayside for “wide audience appeal.” However, between Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service — this weekend’s box office champions — along with American Sniper and trashy projects like The Boy Next Door, R-rated movies are not only more consistent, but thriving in the money department.

With that, audiences have made it clear that in 2015 they want R-rated movies, and they want them to stay.

Regardless of what you think of the films and their individual politics — all things considered, most of these R-rated movies aren’t fantastic, although Kingsman is an absolute ball — this is a glorious time for R-rated movies. For years, that cheap slut PG-13 thought it was in charge. It forced movies to cut nudity, blood-laced violence and f-bombs from their run times, making filmmakers sanitize their work for those dumb pre-teens who don’t even appreciate the movies they watch anyway.

No more, though. America wants its movies nice and R again, laced with sexuality and violence galore and, sometimes worriedly, glorified. More importantly, they like to see a film or two that can say the f-word more than one choice moment. All those times you’ve wanted to see that character drop a naughty word or see a guy’s head explode, aided by a blood packet, can now see their dreams alive on the screen again. It’s a beautiful thing.

Screw the teenage demographic. Who cares if they can’t see the movie — unless their uncaring parents take them or they sneak in? They can take their loud, bright cell phone-wielding, seat-kicking asses and see The Spongebob Movie with the other adolescent juveniles. Let us adults enjoy our free time. 2015, and even 2014 and 2013, have seen an increase in R-rated movies produced in Hollywood, and it looks like this year will only accelerate the trend.

This is a part of an even bigger discovery, which is that studio executives finally realized that not all moviegoers are 14-year-old boys. Audiences are diverse and distinguished, and directors are doing more to produce a wider range of films. That includes some for mature audiences; ones who don’t want to shell out 14 bucks just to see giant robots fighting each other.

This is something that has been on the quiet uprise for the past 10-or-so years. When The Passion of the Christ exploded the box office in 2004, it proved to Hollywood just how profitable R-rated movies could be. Slowly and surely, more R-rated movies crept into the Hollywood machine. Of course most of them were “frat boy” comedies, but at least it was a start.

Then Oscar favorites like Argo, Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street catered to various adult viewers, each of which racked in more than $200 million in box office sales. This past year brought decidedly adult adventures like The Equalizer, Gone Girl and Fury, just to name a few, to more theaters across the country, and each found strong success.

Following a great deal of success in the ‘70s and ‘80s, an R-rating quickly became a box office illness. Now, the R-rated movie is king again. They are not only more frequent, but also more popular, and the dirty words, hyper-violence and sexuality are back in free form on the big screen. Whether the films themselves — i.e. American Sniper and Fifty Shades of Grey — communicate the right messages or not is a whole other debate. For now, the R-rating is back and more popular than ever, and that’s a cause for celebration.

Will Ashton is a senior studying journalism and a staff writer for Email him at or find him on Twitter at @thewillofash.

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