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Christopher Nolan Cut A Gruesome Dark Knight Rises Death Scene To Avoid NC-17 Rating

In an alternate world, Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" would have received an NC-17 rating. After the release of 2008's "The Dark Knight," Nolan was riding a crazy high. His sophomore "Batman" flick went on to gross a whopping $1 billionand received eight Oscar nominations, bringing home two statues, including a best supporting actor nod for Heath Ledger as the Joker. He later returned to wrap up his Caped Crusader trilogy with 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises," which featured Bane (Tom Hardy) taking over Gotham City. 

The hype for "The Dark Knight Rises" was unprecedented but completely valid. But if Nolan had left one scene in, the film's theatrical release would have been botched. On the "ReelBlend" podcast, Matthew Modine, who played Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, revealed that his death scene at the hands of Talia al Ghul's (Marion Cotillard) poor driving was a bit too much and had to be cut. "Because he said it was so violent that [the film] would have gotten an NC-17 rating," Modine said, discussing how, in the final cut, his character's lifeless body is shown shortly after Bane's death and Talia al Ghul's escape. 

Modine continued by breaking down his character's death in detail. "The guy that was doubling me got hit by the car," Modine said, pointing to al Ghul's road rage after Bane's death. "They put a plexiglass thing on the front of [the car] and he got hit. They had ropes to pull him into the air, but he went up and they dropped him from about 15 feet, and the sound of his body hitting the cobblestone street in front of the New York Stock Exchange, it was sickening." 

Why an NC-17 rating would have been a death sentence for The Dark Knight Rises

In the final cut of "The Dark Knight Rises," Matthew Modine's character shoots at Talia al Ghul, only for the picture to cut away, implying that she ran him over. While the death sequence was filmed, it seems like Christopher Nolan knew right there and then that the shot wasn't going to make it to multiplexes. "I remember I looked at Christopher Nolan [...] when we shot it and his face was white," Modine said. "He was like, 'OK, let's move on. We got that.' But it was like, 'Oh my God, is that guy going to get up? Is he okay?'" Ultimately, Nolan told the actor that the sequence would have given the blockbuster an NC-17 rating. 

For those unfamiliar with the NC-17 rating, it's the harshest and most mature rating a film can receive. While some NC-17 films have debuted in cinemas, some exhibitors don't show films with the rating at all, which means that profitability can become minimal. A look at the highest-grossing NC-17 films to ever be released reveals that none have topped more than $65 million. 

With no one under 17 admitted, a blockbuster simply can't thrive with such a rating. For context, "The Dark Knight Rises" debuted in over 4,400 theaters domestically and went on to make over $1 billion at PG-13. Imagine if the film had an NC-17 rating — the flick, which cost $230 million, would have been one of Warner Bros. and Nolan's biggest bombs. But then again, Nolan's R-rated "Oppenheimer" made over $950 million in 2024, which confirms there's a market for mature, adult-oriented blockbusters.