X-rated, X certificate, X classification or similar terms are labels for movies implying strong adult content, typically pornography or violence. The precise meaning of the "X" and whether it is an official rating or an unofficial labelling varies from country to country.
In the United Kingdom, the X certificate was issued between 1951 and 1982 by the British Board of Film Censors. It was introduced as a result of the Wheare Report on film censorship. From 1951 to 1970, it meant "Suitable for those aged 16 and over", and from 1970 to 1982 it was redefined as meaning "Suitable for those aged 18 and over". The X certificate was replaced in 1982 by the 18 certificate and the R18 certificate. See History of British Film Certificates.
In the United States, the X-rating originally referred to a non-trademarked rating that indicated a film contained content unsuitable for minors such as extreme violence or explicit sex and thus was for adults only. When the MPAA film rating system was instituted in 1968 in the U.S., the X-rating was given to a film by the MPAA if submitted to them or, due to its non-trademarked status, it could be self-applied to a film by a distributor who knew beforehand that their film contained content unsuitable for minors. In the late 1960s to mid 1980s, several mainstream films were released with an X-rating such as Midnight Cowboy, The Exorcist, A Clockwork Orange, and Death Wish III. Because the X-rating was not trademarked, anybody could apply it to their films, including pornographers, which many began to do in the 1970s. As pornography began to become chic and more legally tolerated, pornographers placed an X-rating on their films to emphasize the adult nature of them. Some even started using multiple X's (i.e. XX, XXX, etc.) to give the false impression that their film contained more graphic sexual content than the simple X-rating. Nothing beyond the simple X-rating was ever officially recognized by the MPAA. Because of the heavy use of the X-rating by pornographers, it became associated largely with pornographic films and thus non-pornographic films given a X-rating would have fewer theaters willing to book them and fewer avenues for advertising. This led to a number of films being released unrated sometimes with a warning that the film contained content for adults only. To try to rectify this problem, the MPAA eventually agreed to a new NC-17 rating that would be trademarked and thus could only be applied by the MPAA itself.
Midnight Cowboy is the only X-rated film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. At the time the X-rating did not have the stigma it later took on. Midnight Cowboy has also been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Due to a degree of relaxation in attitudes regarding sex in film, the film has since been re-rated R.
In Australia, X-rated is a legal term. The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), a government institution, issues ratings for all movies and television shows sold or aired. Movies showing explicit, non-simulated sex are rated "X". "X" rated movies are not permitted to be sold in most States, but possession of such movies is legal and they are sold in the Australian Capital Territory; the constitution forbids restraint in goods and trade between the States, so they are available in all States by mail-order. An attempt to change the classification ratings such that some of the material in the "X" category would be banned and the remainder would be available under the new category "NVE" (an abbreviation for Non-Violent Erotica), failed in the Senate partly due to the belief of some Senators that the new categories were less restrictive than the old.
Films may be shown in theaters in France only after classification by an administrative commission of the ministry of Culture. In 1975, the X classification (officially: "pornographic or violence-inciting movies") was created for pornographic movies, or movies with successions of scenes of graphic violence. The commission has some leeway in classification, it may for instance take into account the artistic qualities of a movie not to count it pornographic.
Movies with a X rating may only be shown in specific theaters (which hardly exist nowadays in France); they bear special taxes and tax rates, including a 33% tax on revenue.
In 2000, some conservative associations sued the government for granting the movie Baise-moi, which contained graphic, realistic scenes of sex and violence, a non-X classification. The Conseil d'État at litigation ruled that the movie should have been rated X. The decision was highly controversial and some suggested changing the law.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04