Oscar’s X-Rated Past! The 13 Academy Award Nominations For X-Rated Films With An Awards Edge!

Oscar’s “Lucky 13!”

Time to celebrate this year’s Academy Awards with the strangest Oscar trivia imaginable: the X-rated kind!


This isn’t the kind of image you equate with the Oscars, is it? Well here’s some obscure Academy Award trivia for you – there have been THIRTEEN oscar nominations associated with X-rated movies!

a clockwork orange

Talk About An “Adult” Oscar!

The history of the Academy Awards is full of great moments and trivia – and this is one of the most fascinating to me…

x-rated midnight cowboy

Time to look at the biggest awards night of the year in a different way: there was a time when Oscar not only tolerated sex in the movies, they rewarded it with some of the night’s biggest awards!

last tango in paris butter scene

There have been thirteen Academy Award nominations tied to X-rated movies…it happened in an era when the film industry gave filmmakers the freedom to tell stories in a very adult way – let’s look at this fascinating part of Oscar lore…


Here Come The Ratings!

The ratings system for films was created in the late 60’s to help audiences cope with the onslaught of adult content in film…the sexual revolution was underway, and films like “Bonnie & Clyde” offered up much more provocative content.

bonnie & clyde

What The Hell’s An “M”?

When the Motion Picture Association of America created the ratings system in 1968, there were the following designations: G, M, R, and X.

There was quickly confusion between a movie that was “mature” versus one that was “restricted”, so it was changed to “GP”, then to “PG”, for parental guidance…”PG-13″ was added later, as the heart-ripping scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom” was deemed a bit too harsh for a straight “PG” rating.


Back To The 70’s!

It was in the early 70’s that film makers began to use the ratings to push the envelope for graphic content, such as in the classic film “Straw Dogs” with Dustin Hoffman…

most controvesial films

Soon, America’s greatest filmmakers were taking advantage of these guidelines to make adult films that dealt with the social issues of the day…and with lots of nudity and sexual content!

midnight cowboy sex scene

Oscar’s Only X-Rated Winner!

One film would soon be the first to ever win Best Picture – with an “X” rating! And it is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time! Time to head back to a much different New York City – to meet Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo!

“I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”

x-rated midnight cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

The setup to this great film is simple: young, naive Joe Buck heads to New York City to be a male hustler…check out the trailer:

Jon Voight Midnight Cowboy

Jon Voight stars as Texas greenhorn Joe Buck – a “stud” who arrives in New York for the first time. Preening himself as a real ‘hustler’, he finds that he is the one getting ‘hustled’ until he teams up with a down-and-outcast named Ratso Rizzo.

Midnight Cowboy

And that’s the plot: a country “hick” learns how to survive in the big city, thanks to “Ratso”, an amazing performance by Dustin Hoffman, including the legendary line:

“I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”

midnight cowboy

This is New York City at its grittiest – and to survive, you had to be willing to do ANYTHING. For Ratso, that meant crashing holiday parties to steal the food on the buffet table…and have no shame when caught:

Dustin Hoffman

Gretel McAlbertson: Why are you stealing food?
Ratso Rizzo: I was just, uh, noticing that you’re out of salami. I think you oughtta have somebody go over to the delicatessen, you know, bring some more back.
Gretel McAlbertson: Gee, well, you know, it’s free. You don’t have to steal it.
Ratso Rizzo: Well, if it’s free, then I ain’t stealin’.

Dustin Hoffman Midnight Cowboy

Dustin Hoffman’s performance as “Ratso” Rizzo is ranked #7 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. It was also an Oscar-nominated performance, along with Voight’s iconic Joe Buck:

Midnight Cowboy

Elvis IS Joe Buck!

But, even with such adult content, it was almost an Elvis movie! According to the great website IMDB, one studio executive sent Director John Schlesinger a memo stating, “If we could clean this up and add a few songs, it could be a great vehicle for Elvis Presley.” HA!

Midnight Cowboy Elvis

Presley wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, and was interested in the role of Joe Buck. Presley went on instead to do the G-rated “Change of Habit” with Mary Tyler Moore, which bombed!

midnight cowboy sex scene

It is hard to imagine that Elvis would have filmed some of the movie’s tougher scenes like this sex scene with Sylvia Miles….

Midnight Cowboy sex scene

It’s Raining Oscars!

The film’s cinema verite style and rough content was just what Hollywood was looking for in 1969, and the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including:

Best Actor Dustin Hoffman
Best Actor Jon Voight
Best Supporting Actress Sylvia Miles
Best Film Editing

x-rated best picture midnight cowboy

“Midnight Cowboy” took home three Academy Awards in 1969, including:

Best Screenplay Waldo Salt
Best Director John Schlesinger
Best Picture Of The Year!

“Midnight Cowboy” is the only X-rated film to ever win Best Picture, but it’s NOT the only one ever nominated! Here’s the other:


Check Out These Provocative Opening Lines!

“There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.”

a clockwork orange x-rated movie

A Clockwork Orange

2 years after “Midnight Cowboy” won Best Picture, Stanley Kubrick’s nightmarish vision of the future shocked audiences and captured four Academy Award nominations.

Check out this provocative trailer:

Malcolm McDowell A Clockwork Orange

“A Clockwork Orange” was based on the futuristic novel by Anthony Burgess. In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge terrorizes respectable society, along with this three “Droogs”…


Once jailed, Alex volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem… but not all goes to plan. “A Clockwork Orange” is a brilliant movie, but very tough to watch in parts…if you haven’t yet seen it – you really don’t know what you are in for, and you have been warned.

best picture A Clockwork Orange

The film was nominated for Best Picture (losing to the equally brilliant “The French Connection”) – and Stanley Kubrick was nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay – the fourth nomination was for Best Film Editing.


The Stones As Droogs!

According to IMDB, which always has terrific trivia, the novel’s Author Anthony Burgess originally sold the movie rights to Mick Jagger for $500 when he needed quick cash. Jagger intended to make it with The Rolling Stones as the droogs, but then re-sold the rights.

A Clockwork Orange

During the filming of the scene where Alex is forced to watch ultra-violence, star Malcolm McDowell scratched one of his corneas and was temporarily blinded. He also suffered cracked ribs during filming of the humiliation stage show.


McDowell’s next film was the equally brilliant but obscure “O Lucky Man!” – see that film’s “Seinfeld” connection here:


Both “Midnight Cowboy” and “A Clockwork Orange” are brilliant movies that have stood the test of time. As ratings guidelines have loosened, both are now rated “R”R and are the same film! The last nomination for an X-rated movie came, not for Best Picture, but for the directing and acting in the equally provocative “Last Tango In Paris”.

“Go, get the butter.”

It is one of film history’s most legendary lines – spoken by one of its most controversial Actors – check out this moody, atmospheric trailer:

last tango in paris

Brilliant Brando!

In the 1970’s, Marlon Brando made some brilliant movies – before he went off the rails in the 80’s…let’s look at his performance in this controversial, erotic drama…

Last Tango In Paris

While looking for an apartment, Jeanne, a beautiful young Parisienne, encounters Paul, a mysterious American expatriate mourning his wife’s recent suicide. Instantly drawn to each other, they have a stormy, passionate affair, in which they do not reveal their names to each other.

erotic Last Tango In Paris

“Beauty of mine, sit before me. Let me peruse you and remember you… always like this.”

Those words are spoken by Brando to the beautiful young woman he pursues. Maria Schneider stars with Brando, and she is captivating as the young woman lost in this anonymous love affair…

Maria Schneider Last Tango In Paris

Bernardo Bertolucci was nominated for Best Director (he eventually won the Award for “The Last Emperor” in 1987, which also won for Best Picture), and Marlon Brando was nominated for Best Actor.


Controversial Brando!

This nomination was just three years after Brando stunned Hollywood by winning Best Actor for “The Godfather” – and sending Sasheen Littlefeather up to reject the award, based on America’s inhumane treatment of American Indians.

sacheen littlefeather oscars scandal

Back To The Butter!

As I said, “Last Tango IN Paris” was the last X-rated film to receive Academy Award recognition…and the film has always been remembered for the moment when Marlon Brando uses butter in the film’s most notorious scene – as a lubricant in order to have anal sex with Schneider.

last-tango-in-paris sex scenes

According to Maria Schneider, the famous “butter scene” was never in the script and improvised at the last minute by Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci without consulting her. It is one of film’s most notorious moments.

last tango in paris butter sex scene

Though the sodomy act was faked, her real tears in the film testify to her surprise and her state of shock. Much later in her life, a very troubled Schneider would make many charges about how she felt violated in the filming of the scene…sadly, she lived a troubled life, and had many negative things to say about the experience of making the movie.

last tango in paris

After the film’s release in Europe, director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Alberto Grimaldi, Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider were all indicted by a court in Bologna, Italy for making the film under the term “ultalitarian pornography”.

Last Tango In Paris

They were all acquitted of the charge – but Bertolucci lost his civil rights (including his right to vote) for five years.


“Last Tango In Paris” was a moody, polarizing film that shocked audiences when it came out, and is a true European art masterpiece.

last tango in paris

So Whatever Happened To The Good Old “X”?

Now, back to the “X” rating. When the designation was assigned, the MPAA didn’t copyright it. With no registered trademark, the “X” could legally be self-applied to any film — a loophole pornography happily exploited. For example, the notorious 1972 film “Deep Throat” gave itself a tongue-in-cheek “X,” and many other adult films followed suit.


Movies Go “XXX”!

Soon after “Deep Throat” took ownership of the “X” rating, films like “Debbie Does Dallas” boasted a self-designated rating of “XXX”, promising three times the adult material! Look at the rating box with the extra “X’s” added!


While the arbitrary “XXX” rating has since become standard for the adult film industry, the damage was done to the singular “X”. An “X” rating became synonymous with “hardcore,” and mainstream advertisers and distributors stopped showing them in mainstream theaters.

taxi driver

Many filmmakers have protested the “X” rating, since it made artistic films indistinguishable from hard-core pornography. It was reported that “Taxi Driver” was originally given an “X” rating for its violent content, but some of the color of the blood was toned down in order to get an “R” rating.


In 1990, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar filed a civil suit over the X-rating given to “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” Almodovar lost his lawsuit, but the MPAA soon after created the trademarked “NC-17” rating, which is still little used.

russ meyer and roger ebert

Roger Ebert’s X-Rated Past!

So there you go, have a nice night of viewing Oscar’s “X”-rated past! And what about this! Famous film critic Roger Ebert also had an X-rated past!

Take a look at the Rogert Ebert and Russ Meyer X-rated collaboration – a cult classic that is unfortunately NOT Oscar worthy!



Let me know your thoughts on Oscar’s X-rated past!

Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Action Films, Art, Awards, Books / Media, British Cinema, Cult Movies, Exploitation films, Film Fight Club, Film Noir, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, London, Los Angeles, Movies, New York, Obscure Movies, Paris, Talent/Celebrities, TV Show

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4 replies

  1. We had a simple system here for a long time. ‘U’ for everyone, ‘A’ for with adult supervision, and ‘X’; for over 18s only. We later got the ‘PG’ and others.
    As for the Oscars, I always thought it was something of a double standard that films with very violent scenes (like The Godfather) were considered ‘acceptable’, but those with what was regarded to be ‘explicit sex’ were not. If the soft-porn industry had their own Oscars, I suppose good old Russ Meyer would be up there as one of the greats! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person


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