From 'Shame' to 'Showgirls,' why the MPAA's highest rating is no badge of dishonor
10. "Henry & June" (Philip Kaufman, 1990)
As Julie Andrews sang in the decidedly non-NC-17-rated "The Sound of Music": "Let's begin at the beginning, it's a very good place to start." The very first film to receive the NC-17 rating -- the one, indeed, for which it was invented, now stands as one of its more well-behaved recipients. Any film that studies the lives of “Tropic of Cancer” author Henry Miller and erotic diarist Anaïs Nin in bohemian Paris is going to have to deal pretty frankly with sex, but the plentiful action in Kaufman’s film is, via Philippe Rousselot’s gorgeous, Oscar-nominated lensing, pretty gauzy. More sexy than erotic, then, the film is best viewed today as a grown-up arthouse biopic – with the curio value of having linked Uma Thurman and Maria de Medeiros four years prior to “Pulp Fiction” – but it will forever own that “first” status.