R-Rated Films In China

Historical box office sources: Box Office Mojo (NA), 58921.com (China)
Historical exchange rates: wikipedia
Chinese language movie posters: Mtime
Films in ALL CAPS screened uncensored in China
Films in lowercase screened censored in China

R-rated Hollywood films have a long history in China, dating to 1995, when True Lies entered the country as the second-ever revenue-sharing import. Surprisingly, most R-rated films released there in the 22 years since have managed to squeak past the censors intact: some 21 of the 36 films on this list were shown to Chinese audiences uncensored.

At the same time, censorship standards and criteria have been evolving in the interval: Saving Private Ryan was imported in its complete version in 1998, but the World War II-themed films, Allied and Hacksaw Ridge both fell afoul of Chinese censors last year.

Violence and nudity aside, runtime also plays an important role in determining what gets cut. Chinese exhibitors are notoriously stingy with films running over two hours, as that cuts into the possible number of showtimes in a given day, thereby affecting profits. Both Cloud Atlas (35 minutes trimmed) and American Hustle (30 minutes) were seriously excised by local distributors rather than the censorship board to please theater-owners.

Where box office is concerned, there is little correlation between censorship and a R-rated film’s ability to succeed. The RevenantResident Evil: The Final Chapter, Logan, and Kingsman: The Secret Service all became box office hits despite shortened run times, thanks to their star power and IP recognition.