Best 18-rated movies: fantastic Rated R movies from the last 18 years
These films are Rated R for ridicuously good.
The notion of an 18 rating may not hold the cache it once did, given nowadays most filmmakers will try and make sure their movie hits the box-office friendly 15 age certificate.
But sometimes you just crave an 18 rating (usually Rated R in the US) as it makes sure that what you are watching hasn't been sanitised in any way.
The best 18 movies, for us, though hit their rating carefully. The following 18-rated movies we have picked from the last 18 years (2004-2021 as we are still waiting to see what 2022 offers), are adult only but the movies made aren't merely gratuitous.
Anyone can make a horror film with a body count to tip it into 18 territory, but the following are films that earned the certificate because they go hard in all the right places.
Oh, and a little bit about the way we chose: we took an 18 film from each year - from 2004, all the way up to 2021. If you think we have missed one of your best 18-rated movies, then give it a nod in the comments below.
The best 18 movies of the last 18 years
1. The Departed (2006)
Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong film on which this is based, somehow escaped with a 15 rating but Departed, a Best Picture Oscar winner, with its ‘hey, give someone else a chance’ cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg went all-out. It’s good if you haven’t seen the original and it’s good even if you have. You know, because Scorsese.
2. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino's revisionist take on WWII is an absolute joy. From the note-perfect opening scene, which lays the foundations for the blend of tension and humour that follows (for all the praise for Tarantino’s dialogue, those scenes where less is said are among his best), to the batshit cinema showdown, it's unhinged filmmaking at its best.
3. Dredd (2012)
Dredd did not do very well at the box office, and that, my friends, is a painful tragedy. Especially when you consider the dire Stallone version out-grossed it by a long way, back in the confusing days of 1995. But Alex Garland, Pete Travis and Karl Urban’s take on the iconic comic book character is an absolutely wild ride. It’s stripped back, tense and violent in the most beautiful way possible - the slow-mo gun fights are works of claret-splattered art - it was everything a Judge Dredd movie should be. But nobody saw it, and a sequel that people actually wanted to see was canned as a result. Well done everyone!
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
It feels like just yesterday that Jonah Hill shocked Superbad and 21 Jump Street fans by producing a second supporting actor role worthy of an Oscar nomination (after 2011’s Moneyball), but 2022 marks nine full years since The Wolf of Wall Street premiered. Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie are all brilliant here, as you probably already know, and it’s probably been a few years since the record-breaking use of the word ‘fuck’ and that Matthew McConaughey scene passed before your eyes, so give it another watch.
5. A History of Violence (2005)
He might have done a lot more before and since, but in 2005, Viggo Mortensen was best known as Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings series. There are no two ways about it – once you’re involved with something so big, it sticks with you until you produce something that helps you escape it. That something was A History of Violence, which saw Mortensen make exactly the sort of departure needed to escape his blockbuster past. It’s a David Cronenberg film adapted from a graphic novel, so you know what you’re getting to a point, but there are many things you don’t know and won’t anticipate.
6. In Bruges (2008)
Brendan Gleeson's performance in Bruge is still the best from a Gleeson in cinematic history (sorry Domnhall but your Star Wars role isn't a patch). In case you were surprised by the rating, it was flagged for ‘strong bloody violence, very strong language and hard drug use’ i.e. the best kind of 18.
7. Drive (2011)
A movie that put brought a more Hollywood sheen on the work of Nicolas Winding Refn but that didn't stop it from being bloody brutal. Ryan Gosling is a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. Despite having an all-star cast (including Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston) this is a tough movie to watch, one that Gosling shines in.
8. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Yep, it's another Tarantino but, for us, this is his best movie since Pulp Fiction. Another revisionist tale of history, this one is set in the 60s with a backdrop of fading classic Hollywood actors and Charles Manson. The result is a sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying and occasionally graphic look at the era. Both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are fantastic here, putting in career-best performances.
9. Green Room (2015)
OK, I’m going to lay it out there right away, Green Room isn’t pleasant viewing. In fact, at times, it’s actively unpleasant viewing. However, it’s expertly put together and exactly the right kind of uncomfortable. You were already sold, I know, but it’s also got Patrick Stewart as a white supremacist, Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat in a rare big-screen role, and one of Anton Yelchin’s career-best performances, just one year before his untimely death.
10. The Invisible Man (2020)
The Universal horror classics have not worked well when they have been given a modern makeover (the less said about Tom Cruise's The Mummy the better) but The Invisible Man by Saw's Leigh Whannell is a superb, creepy thriller. He updates the story to focus on domestic abuse (an apparently deceased husband is back to prey on his wife). Elisabeth Moss in the main role is fantastic, underpinning what is a chilling horror film that's about and born from the #metoo era.
11. Planet Terror (2007)
Remember Grindhouse, that weird pet project from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez? The one consisting of a film from each director, plus a load of fake trailers? The one that was subsequently chopped in two and each segment released separately in extended versions? The one that was half very shit and half very good? Yeah, well it’s the ‘very good’ slice we’re focusing on here - Robert’s banger of an exploitation movie, complete with zombies, exploding heads and a woman with a machine gun for a leg. It’s like they made this film specifically for me.
12. The Handmaiden (2016)
While the majority of this list steers clear of erotic thrillers (mainly because they have been pretty pants since their heyday in the '90s), The Handmaiden is something else. A pulpy, sexy blood-pumping thriller that sees a Japanese heiress hire a handmaiden, but unbeknownst to her that the woman hired is trying to defraud her. The plot is nowhere as simplistic as that, but it's best to go in to this one not knowing much and coming out with your mind blown.
13. Super (2010)
Remember 2010, when all we could talk about was Kick-Ass, that film about an ‘ordinary’ superhero played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson? Well, that same year saw the release of Super, a film starring Rainn Wilson, which focused on – you guessed it – an ‘ordinary’ superhero. It might have struggled in the box office, but the performances of Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler and Kevin Bacon make this well worth a watch – especially now, free from the shackles of that other film. We're not sure what its director, James Gunn, did next - haven't heard much from him since...
14. Saw (2004)
The first Saw turns 18 this year, which means it’s now old enough to go to the cinema t watch the first instalment of the franchise of diminishing returns. Later films in the sequence might have been a little more formulaic, but it’s worth revisiting James Wan’s sophomore film to see how he takes horror elements which others have struggled to replicate and makes it look so, so easy.
15. Suspiria (2018)
Suspiria is strange and all the better for it. A remake of the classic Dario Argento horror movie - instead of being a carbon copy, it treads its own horror tightrope that's both psychedelic and nightmarish. Dakota Johnson is mesmerising in her role, fresh from the 50 Shades saga and proving to the world how good an actress she is. As for the score, it was always hard to beat Goblin but Thom Yorke is a fine substitute.
16. Raw (2017)
If you’re in the market for a film that has the potential to swiftly return your lunch to the outside world, then Raw is probably a safe bet. It’s your standard coming-of-age college movie, only with the added spice of cannibalism in the mix. Lots of flesh-munching, basically. Lovely bit of skin-chewing, you’ve got here. Nice slice of gut-chowing, for your troubles. It’s top stuff though, a refreshing take on a well-worn genre - just probably not one for teatime viewing, is all.
17. Titane (2021)
Director Julia Ducournau is no stranger to controversy - in fact this is the second of her films on the list (she also made the delectable Raw). But Titane pushes everything to the limits and is a movie for those with both a strong head and stomach. It's a body horror masterpiece, in the same vein as Cronenberg's Crash, about a woman with metal plates in her head that spark off an intense relationship with cars. It's a love story of sorts, one that comments sexuality, gender fluidity and, well, machines. This one won the Palme d’Or winner, but is unlike any other award-winning film you will have seen.
18. Maps to the Stars (2014)
The second Cronenberg feature on this list, Maps to the Stars picked up a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes but never found itself in the reckoning for the Oscars. That’s a shame, because Julianne Moore’s performance as fading actress Havana Segrand could have provided solid competition to *checks notes* Julianne Moore’s performance in Still Alice. Yeah, that was a good year for her. The film is more than Moore, though, with young co-stars Mia Wasikowska and Evan Bird both producing moments of brilliance.
- The best Tarantino movies, ranked.