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Movies You Should Never Watch With Your Parents

All movie fans eventually stumble across a scandalous film. Movies about the dynamics of relationships, seedy ends of show business, or physical addiction can make for interesting viewing. Considering many world-class directors — including the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Steve McQueen — have delved into eroticism, some of these movies go beyond curiosities and enter the realm of essential viewing. That said, films like this are likely best viewed alone; or, at the very least, they almost definitely shouldn't be viewed with one's parents.

This goes double for classic comedic entries. While some movies revolving around sex and its impact are often considered art films or serious dramas, many a comedy has been made detailing just how awkward human relationships can be. In an effort to help viewers avoid horrendously awkward situations with their folks the next time they're searching for something to watch, here's a list of movies you should never watch with your parents.

Shame

The first entry on the list, 2011's "Shame," is a devastating meditation on addiction, an impressive showcase of director Steve McQueen's talents, and a vehicle fueled by lead actor Michael Fassbender's singular charisma. It's also an NC-17-rated deep dive into the life and times of a struggling sex addict named Brandon Sullivan (played by Fassbender).

Sullivan lives his life based entirely on his physical appetite and director McQueen's camera consistently frames Sullivan in isolation, matching the effects of the protagonists' lifestyle. The camera stays locked on Sullivan or seems to find him in the background no matter what is going on in the foreground of the scene —the effect is riveting. It allows Fassbender to fully color in a character whose proclivities are likely unfamiliar to most folks. 

The movie was also a hit with critics. Famed reviewer Roger Ebert gave the film four stars. While the film includes graphic nudity and sex scenes, it's not designed to be exploitative. New York Times critic A.O. Scott summed up one of the movie's themes, saying: "The cruel paradox of addiction is that it transforms a source of pleasure into an inescapable, insatiable need." McQueen and company render this idea masterfully. Come for the unique ideas, stay for the performances, and be sure any parents are cleared out of the screening.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Caligula

1979's "Caligula" is a pornographic historical drama about the violent rise and subsequent insane fall of Roman Emperor Caligula. Caligula, played by Malcolm McDowell (likely most recognizable as Alex DeLarge from "A Clockwork Orange"), is a hedonistic man-child with a propensity for violence and a, uh, lust for life.

The idea of a ruler gone wild isn't an unfamiliar idea to contemporary fans. "Game of Thrones" rooted four seasons of nasty content around their own Caligula, King Joffrey Baratheon. However, what sets "Caligula" apart from similar stories is its pornographic content. The film was produced by Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse (via /Film). After initial filming on the project wrapped, Guccione went back and filmed additional orgy scenes with Penthouse Pets.

Any movie made by Penthouse is probably a no go on family movie night. However, for cult movie fans, "Caligula," is worth checking out. Like many cult films, "Caligula" was thrashed by its contemporary critics. Critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel even put the movie in a "Worst of the Year" episode of their movie review show in 1980. However, the movie's enormous scale, manic performances, and adult content have made it a curiosity for movie fans everywhere. Watch at your own risk.

Basic Instinct

The iconic scene from "Basic Instinct" is a strong indicator of why it's best to skip excluding parents from your next viewing. The movie stars Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone as Homicide Detective Nick Curran and crime novelist Catherine Tramell, respectively. The two characters collide when Catherine's boyfriend is murdered and Nick comes to investigate the case. Naturally, it's not too long before the two charismatic leads hook up and the investigation gets all kinds of messy.

At the time of its release, the reviewers noted its excessive violence and misogyny. However, it was a smash hit with audiences in March of 1992 and went on to gross $352 million worldwide (via New York Times). The movie is gratuitous, to put it politely. Director Paul Verhoeven really leans into the chemistry and danger between his two leads. While their screen presence is electric, it's certainly not rated PG-13. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone familiar with Verhoeven's resume (this isn't his only movie on the list).

The movie is not without controversy either. Actress Sharon Stone wrote in her memoir that she was tricked into performing the film's notorious interrogation scene and its frontal nudity (via Vanity Fair). Viewers be warned, "Basic Instinct" is an artifact from a different time.

Boogie Nights

1997's "Boogie Nights" starred a number of generational stars and acting talents including Mark Wahlberg, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, and Don Cheadle. It also marked the arrival of Paul Thomas Anderson as a capital "S" serious director. Plus, it features an Oscar-nominated performance from Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds.

The movie tracks the rise and fall of Wahlberg's adult actor Dirk Diggler through the porn industry in the 1970s and '80s. That "Boogie Nights" is at times hilarious, tragic, terrifying, and empathetic to all of its characters is a real tribute to its cast and crew. From its iconic nearly three-minute opening tracking shot, the movie is almost always engaging. By the end of its runtime, many audience members will be surprised at how much they've grown to care about the ensemble cast portraying workers in the taboo industry. It's a must-watch for film fans.

That said, it's also a must-watch-without-parents film. Anderson wisely plays the ins and outs of '70s adult filmmaking straight. The characters are frank about their jobs and the movie's blunt approach to exploitative content prevents the movie from becoming overly exploitative in turn. So while it may not be gross, it's definitely not fun for the whole family either.

Pleasure

Director Ninja Thyberg's "Pleasure" takes a no-frills look at the ins and outs of the contemporary adult industry. "Pleasure" follows the career of aspiring adult actress Bella Cherry, played wildly well by Sofia Kappel. However, unlike a movie like "Boogie Nights" which is focused more on the drama between its characters than the industry they work in, "Pleasure" takes a clinical approach to how adult films get made.

If it's not already abundantly obvious: viewers, this one's not for mixed company. Thyberg leaves no industry stone unturned and focuses on the minute details of what goes on behind closed set doors. The end result of the movie's attention to detail is two-fold. First, the film answers any questions folks may have had about exactly how these movies are made. Second — as noted in reviews — the movie's real concern is consent.

By spending so much time exploring the infrastructure behind the movies, Thyberg reveals the ways in which the industry still fails to protect its actresses from harm. Some of these scenes are overwhelming and shocking, but "Pleasure" is not designed to shock for shock's sake. All in all, "Pleasure" is a considered evaluation of a deeply taboo subject. Thankfully for movie fans, Thyberg's talent hasn't gone unnoticed; she was awarded Cannes Film Festival's Women in Motion Young Talent Award for her efforts (via The Independent).

American Pie

While the 1999 teen sex comedy "American Pie" has certainly not aged well, its send-up of high school anxieties still has its fair share of laughs. In the movie, four high school friends vow to lose their virginity by prom. This being a teen comedy, naturally, hilarity and hijinks ensue. 

The movie was a hit upon its initial release and grossed $18.7 million during its opening weekend alone (via Box Office Mojo). It even went on to spawn three sequels. While almost every generation of teens get their definitive immature comedy, "American Pie," stands apart from its counterparts by balancing character relations with physical ones. Movie critic Roger Ebert specifically pointed out that the film is "not mean. Its characters are sort of sweet and lovable."

That said, nothing about "American Pie" is family-friendly. Scenes between the gawkish Jim (played to awkward perfection by Jason Biggs) and his even more awkward father (played by comedy legend Eugene Levy) will make any child or parent who's ever given "the talk" recoil in second-hand embarrassment. Fans should take note: this generational comedy should only be seen with other members of their generation.

Showgirls

"Showgirls" — starring Elizabeth Berkley from "Saved by the Bell" in her first dramatic role — was widely derided by critics upon its initial release (via Variety). However, in the years since it's gone on to develop quite the cult following and even had its own "making of" documentary named for Berkley's lead character, "You Don't Nomi."

The film was penned and directed by writer Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven, the same pair behind "Basic Instinct." The movie's plot is basically "All About Eve" by way of the dressing rooms and show stages behind the Las Vegas Strip. When Berkley's Nomi shows up in Las Vegas looking to make it as a showgirl, the audience is whisked away into a world of seedy bars, large soundstages, neon-lit rooms, and hotel rooms of all shapes and sizes.

The movie is an odd blend of campy vulgarity. From its subject matter to its dialogue, Verhoeven and company certainly had no intention of sanitizing the life of an aspiring showgirl. They also play everything loud. The sets are big, the musical numbers odd, and the performances are practically gonzo. However, the movie never mocks the emotions of the girls at the center of its story; it plays that part straight.

Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick's final film, "Eyes Wide Shut," is definitely not the type of flick anybody should watch with their parents, and that goes double for in-laws. The movie follows Bill and Alice Harford, a young married couple played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, respectively. When the film opens, Bill and Alice get into a bedroom-specific marriage dispute. From there the movie unfolds like a dream as both members of the couple face varying degrees of extra-marital temptations.

While the plotline may sound like a summer beach read, Kubrick's unique vision for bizarro imagery and careful attention to detail turns a couple's growing wanderlust into a mysterious nightmare. In a retrospective about the film, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw summed up what makes the movie's odd tone so mystifying, saying the film is wrapped up in "deadpan absurdity and soft-porn seriousness."

Saying anymore about what Bill and Alice discover on their respective journeys would give away the movie's best surprises. However, for anyone interested to see a master like Kubrick's final work, "Eyes Wide Shut" is definitely worth seeking out solo. 

Bridesmaids

Any ensemble comedy fan who somehow missed 2011's "Bridesmaids" should run, not walk, to check out this romp. It's hilarious. The movie follows the trials and tribulations of maid of honor Annie (played by Kristen Wiig) as she gears up to support her best friend Lillian (played by Maya Rudolph) at the altar.

What unfolds in the run-up to the wedding is a series of unfortunate events made all the more hilarious by arguably one of the greatest comedic ensembles ever to grace the silver screen. "Saturday Night Live" alumni Wiig and Rudolph are flanked by great comedic actors like Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Rose Bryne, and Chris O'Dowd. Plus, Jon Hamm shows up in an all-time self-effacing role as Annie's terrible boyfriend Ted.

When the film came out, reviews were quick to point out the movie's novelty as a women-centric blue comedy, and what a welcome change to the usually male-centric formula "Bridesmaids" presents. Its titular ladies-in-waiting revel in the sweet, awkward, sometimes horrific, but always funny traditions associated with modern weddings. However, don't let the movie's heart fool you, this comedy is deeply blue. The opening scene alone, a protracted sex scene between Annie and Ted that plays like a cringe comedy marathon, should be enough of a sign to leave mom and dad out of any fans' next screening.

Blonde

"Blonde," a 2022 biopic about the life and times of Marilyn Monroe starring Ana de Armas as the titular toe-head, has been met with much controversy. For the most part, the film's seen negative reviews and even think pieces about "faux-feminism." However, given Marilyn's iconic stature in popular culture, it's unsurprising that many movie fans will likely seek the movie out. In fact, the movie even reached number one on Netflix in the days after its initial release on the streaming platform (via Variety).

Its plot — based on a quasi-fictional-biography of the same name by author Joyce Carol Oates — follows Monroe's life from cradle to grave. Director Andrew Dominik's heavily stylized filmmaking puts the audience squarely in Monroe's shoes for the triumphant and traumatic events of her life. Technically, the movie's a marvel, but its content can be seriously unpleasant. So any fan interested to see what all the hub-bub is about be warned, "Blonde" is rated NC-17. It's graphic and at times harrowing. It may even be best viewed alone.

Lolita

Stanley Kubrick's second entry on the list, an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's nasty satire "Lolita," is not as graphic as the other films listed here, but it's definitely not a comfortable watch. For any fan unfamiliar with the basic beats of the story, its plot revolves around Professor Humbert Humbert's infatuation with the 12-year-old Dolores "Lolita" Haze. What transpires in Humbert's pursuit of his deeply problematic desires makes up the rest of the plot and doubles as a satirical takedown of the dangers of rationalization and victim blaming.

Given the deeply disturbing premise central to the work, much has been made over the novel and the movie over the years. However, anyone interested in seeing Nabokov's story should check out the movie. Kubrick's directing is (obviously) top-notch and its cast of '60s stars all deliver strong performances. Plus, the movie had to do away with some of the book's most uncomfortable scenes to be made at all (via The Guardian). So "Lolita" could be the rare adaptation that may be a better experience in movie form. Whether it's a stream or a skip, reminder, its content is definitely not parent-friendly.

The Girl Next Door

High-concept sex comedy "The Girl Next Door," is really not the kind of thing viewers should watch with anyone out of their age group. Its plot follows high school senior Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) and his attempts to court his new attractive neighbor Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), aka the girl next door. Things get complicated between the two when Matthew discovers Danielle used to be an adult actress.

The movie received some negative reviews upon release and it definitely doesn't reinvent the high school sex comedy wheel. However, it does offer some laughs and the budding relationship between Matthew and Danielle is played sweeter than the movie's subject matter might suggest. Plus, the movie's climax — spoilers — revolves around making a sex-positive sex education tape. It's by no means perfect and remains inherently silly, but "The Girl Next Door," is definitely kinder to its characters than some of its other 2000s counterparts.

Magic Mike

Steven Soderbergh's male stripping opus "Magic Mike" was an enormous hit when it first arrived in theaters. To date, it's grossed $167,739,368 on a $7 million dollar budget (via Box Office Mojo). The movie, about the titular stripper played by Channing Tatum, has all the hallmarks of a Soderbergh film. It's stylish, fun, features a great ensemble, and is a lot smarter than its premise might suggest.

As Mike, Tatum's signature charisma leaps off the screen and dances right into the audience. Other cast members, including Matthew McConaughey as seedy club owner Dallas and Olivia Munn as Mike's friend and romantic partner Joanna, all bring their A-game. With all of these pieces in play, "Magic Mike" could've simply been a fun romp. Instead, Soderbergh and company blend the harsh realities facing exotic dancers with the good times. The end result is a well-made character study dressed up with dance routines and g-strings. Come for the dancing and stay for the characters, but leave any parents out of it.

Fifty Shades of Grey

"Fifty Shades of Grey" was quite the culture phenomenon in the 2010s. The movie, adapted from a novel of the same name, follows college graduate Anastasia Steele as she enters a sadomasochistic relationship with business magnate Christian Grey. The movie was a hit with audiences when released, and has since been followed up with multiple sequels for a franchise box office gross of over $1 billion (via Forbes). Not bad for a franchise that's life began as a piece of "Twilight" fanfiction.

It's also a strong debut for lead actress Dakota Johnson. Obviously, playing Steele requires a lot from the actress and Johnson leans into the hammy dialogue and steamier scenes. Since the franchise wrapped, the actress has gone on to work in major Hollywood projects like "Black Mass" and indie wonders like "Peanut Butter Falcon" and "Bad Times at the El Royale." Fans looking to see her first major role should check out "Shades." That said, the movie does revolve around sadomasochism, so please, don't check this one out with your folks.