Highest grossing R-rated movies in North America 2019

As of January 2019, the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time at the North American box office was epic biblical drama ‘The Passion of the Christ’, which generated 370.78 million U.S. dollars in revenue. Also close to the top of the ranking with over 250 million U.S. dollars in box office revenue each are the first two films in ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, as well as superhero movie ‘Deadpool’ and its sequel, ‘Deadpool 2’ which broke the 300 million barrier.

Whilst the majority of films in the top ten were released in the early to late 2010s, 1984 hit ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ also made the list with 234.76 million U.S. dollars in box office revenue. The oldest movie in the top ten is William Friedkin’s infamous creation ‘The Exorcist’, which was met with a mixture of fear, controversy, outrage and fascination upon its release in 1973.

‘The Exorcist': a lasting impression

‘The Exorcist’ is one of the most famous movies in the world and is widely regarded as one of the most controversial horror features ever released. The film ranks second in the list of highest grossing R-rated horror movies in North America, outperforming cult horror hits from the 1990s such as ‘Scream’ and ‘The Blair Witch Project’.

The movie was adapted from the best-selling novel written two years earlier by William Peter Blatty, inspired by a real-life case of possession and subsequent exorcism the author had been made aware of years earlier. Production of ‘The Exorcist’ was fraught with problems, ranging from unanticipated and inflated costs to injuries sustained by cast members and even a fire which caused almost the entire film set to burn down. The strange events taking place around the time of production have been a focus of fans, critics and religious groups alike since the 1970s, with many citing the movie’s subject matter as a reason for the freak accidents, injuries and deaths which occurred.

Given the often uncomfortable topics dealt with in horror movie plots, it is perhaps fair to say that the genre is not for everybody. Despite being more popular with younger generations, the horror genre is one of the least favorable among U.S. adults, and movies in this category rarely make a splash at the box office in the same way as action and adventure features. An element of the horror genre which does not help its cause is that many themes have been revisited time and time again over the last few decades. By contrast, one of the reasons ‘The Exorcist’ was so successful is because it was the first movie of its kind to approach the subject matter on such a large scale. Multiple films inspired by ‘The Exorcist’ have been released since, including tributes and even parodies, creating a subgenre of features based purely around exorcism.

Highest grossing R-rated movies in North America of all time as of September 2019

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Release date

September 2019


North America

Survey time period

as of September 2019

Supplementary notes

Figures have been rounded.

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