Sharon Stone in 'Basic Instinct'

Many people think that a movie needs to avoid an R-rating in order to become a blockbuster. Most recent top earners have followed that dictum, with only four R-rated movies among last year's top 25 at the box office. Zack Snyder's 300 was a defiant exception in 2007, earning more than $456 million worldwide, and clearing the way for Snyder's R-rated dream project, Watchmen. Its content advisory warns / promises: "Strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language." Can such an R-rated superhero movie become a blockbuster today, especially in the wake of PG-13 smashes like The Dark Knight and Iron Man?

If the history of the movies has taught us anything, it's that people will flock to see films that they really, really want to see, no matter the rating. As evidence, here are seven R-rated films with strong, adult content that may have made some folks blanch -- but it didn't keep the flicks from becoming blockbusters.

Basic Instinct
Paul Verhoeven's thriller has it all: sex, violence, profanity, and very adult themes. The most notorious shot features Sharon Stone's, er, legs, but the flick also includes male and female nudity, intense sex scenes, stabbing, blood spattering, dozens of profanities, and relentless sexual innuendos. But it's not just a sensationalist button-pusher. Indeed, Basic Instinct lives up to its title in its dogged, sometimes earnest exploration of the basest desires known to man or woman. It may have tittilated, but it also made you think long after the credits rolled.

categories Cinematical