When a movie features strong language, excessive violence, and adult themes, it tends to get slapped with an R rating, thus preventing minors from seeing the film without being accompanied by an adult. Thus, when kids can't see an R-rated film, you would think that film studios would see no reason to market to this demographic. Yet, over the years, there have been plenty of films prominently featuring blood, gore, and language so salty it would make George Carlin blush, that have received toy lines aimed squarely at youngsters. Once upon a time, it wasn't unheard of to see Robocop figures rubbing shoulders with She-Ra toys, which, while this trend may have been a hit among kids, surely left plenty of adults scratching their heads in confusion.
These days, it would be unheard of for a film featuring hardcore violence to be marketed towards kids, but back in the day, the toy aisles used to be jammed with action figures, dolls, and play sets based on hard-R movies. While some of these R-rated toys managed to find huge success (seriously, it was basically law that every '90s kid have at least one Terminator 2 toy), plenty more fizzled out and faded away. Maybe you remember some of these toy lines, but we bet plenty of these slipped under your radar. Join CBR as we take a look back to a different time to bring you 18 R-Rated films that received toy lines (and 7 we kinda wish had.)
25 TERMINATOR 2
To many, James Camerons' Terminator 2: Judgement Day was more than a film; it was a bonafide event. Although the over-18 crowd showed up in droves for this big budget robot action flick, it turned out T2's biggest supporters couldn't even see the film!
Kids went gaga for Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator, leading to an avalanche of toys and playsets directed at the tykes that weren't even admitted to the movie. Toy shelves were crammed with talking Arnie dolls, Terminator action figures, and even a "Bio-Flesh Regenerator" playset, which allowed youngsters to pick the flesh off of disguised Terminators! This violent sci-fi action epic most certainly wasn't for kids, but you wouldn't have guessed from the onslaught of kids toys the movie received.
24 A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
You know, for an otherworldly murder that stalks the dreams of terrified teenagers, Freddy Krueger proved to be quite the hit with kids. Yes, the famous claw-sporting slasher starred in decidedly-not-kid-friendly flicks, but Freddy found popularity amongst youngsters, leading to plenty of family-friendly toys that clashed with Freddy's bloody films.
Over seven films, Freddy sliced, diced, and generally mutilated anyone who crossed his sick, twisted path, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the slasher's kids toy line. Talking Freddy dolls were released (with lines such as "Hi, I'm Freddy!" and "Let's be friends!"), Freddy dress-up dolls were everywhere, and we even saw Freddy Krueger yo-yos! A Nightmare On Elm Street most certainly doesn't seem like the kind of franchise to spawn a toy line aimed at kids, which just makes all of these toys that much stranger.
23 DEMOLITION MAN
Ah, Demolition Man. Depending on who you ask, it was either a tongue-in-cheek satire on political correctness or a dumb Sylvester Stallone movie filled with silly one-liners, but what Demolition Man most certainly wasn't was kid-friendly. But that didn't stop this oddball action flick from receiving a tie-in toy line directed specifically at youngsters.
The toy line was standard action figure fare, having main characters John Spartan and Simon Phoenix receive a variety of silly battle-armors, bearing names such as "Battle Baton Spartan" and "Blast Attack Phoenix." Unfortunately, we never saw a toy release of the famous three seashells, but that was probably for the best, as this toyline based off Stallone's foul-mouthed, blood-filled R-Rated flick was strange enough.
Now this is a toy line that fits the definition of "Hindsight is 20/20." When the Christopher Lambert-starring Highlander hit big screens in 1986, kids were clamoring for toy versions of the film's immortal Scottish swordsman. Kids would eventually get Highlander toys, albeit eight years later.
Yes, despite being a franchise primarily based around lopping off heads, Highlander managed to get the kids cartoon treatment, leading to the release of Highlander: The Animated Series in 1994. Tying into this oddball animated adaption was a toy line, which saw new Highlander Quentin and baddie Kortan get the plastic treatment. Of course, the cartoon and associated toy line bombed, probably because even kids thought a toy line based on flippin' Highlander was just too weird.
21 SWAMP THING
u a cartoon company executive heard about Swamp Thing, the 1982 movie adaption of DC's psychedelic plant-man, featuring ample nudity and adult language, and thought "Yeah, that sounds perfect for a kids show and accompanying toy line."
Debuting in 1991, the short-lived Swamp Thing continued the storyline of the cult favorite film, pitting Swamp Thing against the evil Anton Arcane. A toy line was launched as a tie-in, giving kids toys such as "Snare Arm Swamp Thing" and "Bio-Glow Swamp Thing," but kids weren't eager to watch the weekly adventures of a walking pile of muck, and this strange cartoon and toy line was quickly canned.
20 STARSHIP TROOPERS
A satirical takedown on warmongering culture dressed up as a big, dumb action movie, Starship Troopers was a strange flick. But kids weren't interested in the allegorical nature of Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi flick; no, tykes saw those guns and giant bugs and clamored for toys, which is exactly what they got.
Despite most certainly not being for kids, Starship Troopers spawned a veritable avalanche of tie-in toys, ranging from action figures (with names like "Firestorm Johnny Rico" and "Bug Thrasher Carmen Ibanez") to remote controlled versions of the film's villainous bugs. With ample nudity, an abundance violence, and plenty of salty language, Starship Troopers seemed the least likely candidate to get the toy treatment, making this forgotten toy line all the weirder.
19 TALES FROM THE CRYPT
Kids loves a good pun, even if said pun is delivered by a shambling corpse. At least, that's our best guess for what caused the inexplicable rise in popularity of the Crypt Keeper, host of HBO's adults-only Tales From The Crypt and subsequent R-Rated film spin-offs, among the ankle-biter crowd.
As the cackling host of Tales From The Crypt, the Crypt Keeper was always quick with a groaner of a joke to alleviate the shock of the gory stories he presented. Kids went wild for ol' Crypty, leading to a kids cartoon and a mess of toys, including talking dolls and action figures. You never know what is gonna take off with kids, but the success of the Crypt Keeper with youngsters still has us DEAD confused!
18 CONAN THE BARBARIAN
When the movie you are adapting into a kids cartoon has a word in its very title that you find objectionable, that might be a good indicator that the movie you are attempting to adapt should not be a kids cartoon. But this didn't stop the powers-that-be from giving Conan The Barbarian the kiddie treatment, resulting in a TV show and toy line branded Conan The Adventurer.
Taking Robert E. Howard's famously violent wandering barbarian and giving him a family friendly makeover was strange enough, but the accompanying toy line, which saw Conan and the villainous Snake Cult get the He-Man knock-off treatment, was even stranger. The cartoon and toy line were quickly axed over low interest, leaving us wondering, by Crom, who thought this was a good idea?
There is nothing in the Aliens franchise that is appropriate for kids. Zero things. Zilch. We're talking about a franchise centered around scary monstrosities from beyond the stars the reproduce by laying eggs in the body of a host, which subsequently burst through the chest of the host in a fountain of gore and viscera. And yet, someone saw this and said "Yeah, let's turn that into a kids toy line."
From Alien through Alien Resurrection, every entry in this sci-fi franchise received a smorgasbord of toys, ranging from your garden variety action figures to playsets that allowed kids to cocoon their toys in the ooze from an Alien Queen's tail. Aliens toys these days are pretty much exclusively catered towards adult collectors, but there was a time when kids around the world could pit their G.I. Joes against xenomorphs, and that is just strange.
How do you take a film in which an intergalactic hunter stalks men through an exotic jungle, all in the name of harvesting their skulls as trophies, and turn it into a toy line? If you answered "Take that intergalactic hunter and give him wacky paint jobs," you'd be right!
After the runaway success of Predator in 1987 (and the less runaway success of Predator 2 in 1990), toy makers Kenner set out to crank out a boatload of toys based on the spine-ripping, head-exploding Predator. Realizing they couldn't give the star of their toy line "man skinning action," Kenner instead opted to churn out repainted Predators (such as the ridiculous, red-hued "Lava Planet Predator") and armor variant Predators. Despite their violent origins, the toys sold like hot cakes, leading Kenner to churn out dozens of Predator lines over the years.
15 CHUCK NORRIS AND THE KARATE KOMMANDOS
You might best know Chuck Norris these days from that old-as-dirt meme that your weird uncle still thinks is hilarious, but once upon a time, Norris was a bonafide action movie star. Clad in glorious mustache and his best Dad jeans, Norris fought ninjas and terrorists in dozens of R-Rated flicks throughout the '80s. Seeing this star of movies prominently featuring blood and explosions, the decision was made to give the guy a cartoon and toy line.
Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos saw Norris leading a kung-fu themed G.I. Joe rip-off team as they battled Cobra wannabes VULTURE. Not content to simply rip-off the G.I. Joe cartoon, the accompanying Karate Kommandos toy line looked remarkably similar to the ultra-popular G.I. Joes toys. The cartoon and toy line, much like any attempt to revitalize the Chuck Norris meme, flopped hard, with only 5 episodes and a single line of toys being churned out before this whole strange shebang was axed.
There might be no stranger franchise progression than that of Rambo. Starting as a quiet, contemplative film on what it is like for a man to return from war and try to integrate back into normal society, the franchise took a hard left and became a big budget shoot-em-up, with body counts in the hundreds and plenty of explosions. Two guesses which of these films they decided to base a toy line on.
Kids became obsessed with Rambo, even though they couldn't even see the films he starred in. As Rambo fever hit a boiling point, a cartoon, Rambo: The Force Of Freedom, and accompanying toy-line was churned out, allowing youngsters to bring home plastic versions of Rambo, complete with cartoonishly large plastic guns. From hollow-eyed Vietnam vet, to action star, to G.I. Joe rip-off. What a long, strange trip it has been for Rambo.
13 ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
Escape From New York is the gritty, dirty story of Snake Plissken, who is enlisted to sneak into a futuristic war-torn New York to rescue the President. Doesn't this plot just sound perfect for a board game for the whole family? No? Well, that didn't stop one company from cranking out this board game in 1981.
In the Escape From New York board game, four players assume the role of Snake Plissken, drawing cards and rolling dice in an attempt to be the first to escort the President out. In an era where the standard family board game night was composed of Sorry and Monopoly, this kid-friendly board game adaption of John Carpenter's hard-R action flick was certainly an irregularity.
12 POLICE ACADEMY
Much like a zombie or Rob Schneider's career, Police Academy is one of those franchises that refuses to die. Spawned from the hard-R original, the series would ultimately spawn 6 (!!!) sequels, a planned reboot, and, most confusingly, a cartoon (with a theme song from The Fat Boys??) and accompanying toy line.
While Police Academy was filled with the kind of colorful language that would make a sailor blush, this didn't stop the powers-that-be from cranking out a cartoon, in which the bumbling police officers used wacky gadgets to thwart criminals. The tie-in toy line continued this trend, with action figures coming packaged with zany accessories such as giant hamburgers and paragliders. Unlike the Police Academy movie franchise, this toy line was mercifully put down after a single outing, as even kids realized that a Police Academy toy line was lame.
Now here's a toy that certainly ruffled some feathers. The 2012 film Ted saw Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane voicing a foul mouthed teddy bear that was brought to life by the power of his best friends' wish. Wanting to cash in on the film's success, dolls were churned out of the titular teddy bear, which just so happened to end up in the kid's toy aisle.
Whether these teddy bears were aimed at the ankle-biter crowd is up for debate, but talking Teds found themselves in toy stores around the world, where the cute and cuddly bear was snatched up by kids in droves. Problem was, some of these teddy bears could talk when squeezed, and just so happened to include some particularly colorful voice lines. Parents were outraged, but kids were too happy to bring home this sailor mouthed teddy bear.
Listen, they only called this movie Commando because Arnold Shwarzenegger Kills Like A Bunch Of People: The Movie didn't market test well. Seriously, the body count of Commando rivals the death toll of most wars. This was a hard-R action flick, with plenty of violent kills, ligaments being blown off, and henchmen being mowed down in a hail of bullets. But that didn't stop this film from receiving a toy line aimed squarely at kids.
The release of Commando saw a torrent of tie-in toys, ranging from a G.I. Joe-aping line of small action figures to a selection of toy weapons, including plastic guns and a functioning toy grenade stuffed with popping caps. This toy line was as strange as Commando was violent, which is to say it was super strange.
9 TOXIC AVENGER
The Toxic Avenger features a prominent scene in which our hero, the titular Toxic Avenger, shoves an armless bad guy into a pizza oven to be baked alive. Someone somewhere saw this scene and thought to themselves "This would make a great toy line." Yeah, the '80s were weird.
Troma Studios' famous disgusting anti-hero was given the kiddie treatment in 1991, with a cartoon, dubbed Toxic Crusaders, that saw Toxie leading a band of deformed weirdos as they fought the evil Dr. Killemoff and generally discussed the importance of recycling and protecting the planet. The accompanying toy line saw the Toxic Avenger, who, lest we forget, once plucked the eyes straight out of a bad guy's head, get the family friendly treatment, replete with wacky accessories and crazy vehicles. Hands down, this was one of the strangest toy lines inspired by an R-Rated film.
Robocop was designed as a tongue-in-cheek social satire of corrupt businesses, the dumbing down of pop culture, and the dangers of a police state, but when kids saw the film, they weren't interested in the social commentary; they wanted more of the cop who is also a robot. Despite its hardcore violence. Robocop was a smash hit among kids, leading to two cartoons, a boatload of toys, and, worst of all, a PG-13 sequel.
Despite featuring more stomach-churning violence than you could shake an ED-209 at, Robocop was toy hit, with a variety of toy lines being pumped out to satisfy demand. Robocop was given wacky armor, ridiculous vehicles, and was even briefly teamed up with the "Ultra Police," a team of M.A.S.K. rip-offs. Again, this was a movie in which a man was melted with toxic waste and then hit with a car so hard he explodes. The fact that Robocop received toy line is truly a head scratcher.
7 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: DIE HARD
While debate continues to rage over whether or not Die Hard counts as a Christmas movie, there is one sentiment we can all agree on: Die Hard is totally awesome. This classic action flick, which sees gruff cop John McClane fighting his way through a towering building to rescue his estranged wife and her coworkers from a group German terrorists, is widely regarded as one of the greatest action movies of all time. But despite this pedigree, Die Hard didn't receive a toy line upon release, and that's a shame.
Die Hard is the kind if universal film that appeals to moviegoers young and old. Sure, it's chock full of violence and salty language, but any kid that came of age when Die Hard was released would have killed for a G.I. Joe-size John McClane figure, or a Nakatomi Plaza playset (complete with falling Hans Gruber action!). Talk about a missed opportunity!
6 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: HEAVY METAL
Heavy Metal is the kind of movie every kid sees on TV growing up, late at night when they aren't supposed to be awake, that they would never admit to having seen to their parents. Filled to bursting with ridiculous violence, ample nudity, and the kind of colorful language that would make your grandma blush, Heavy Metal was an animated film that most certainly wasn't for kids. But man, it sure deserved a toy line.
An anthology film with a unifying theme of general out-there weirdness, Heavy Metal had plenty of toyetic scenes. Kids would have killed for plastic versions of the zombie-staffed B-17 bomber, or a playset in which tykes could recreate the scene in which a robot snorts space coke. Okay, maybe Heavy Metal didn't have the most family friendly subject matter, but with its trippy fantasy and sci-fi settings, it would have made for some truly legendary toys.
5 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: DREDD
We could honestly fill an entire article with things that should have happened with the 2012 film Dredd. Dredd should have been the biggest sci-fi action flick of the year. Dredd should have gotten a sequel. Dredd should have gotten a TV show that ran for 20 seasons. But, most importantly, Dredd should have received a kid's toy line.
We know Dredd is filled with gory kills, crass language, and at least one head being set on fire via immolation round. But thanks to its sci-fi setting and wild action, Dredd was the kind of movie kids would have eaten up in the '80s, making it perfect for the kids toy treatment. Imagine Dredd action figures, or a Nerf-shooting version of Dredd's famous Lawgiver! Whoever decided to skip on Dredd toys deserves 10 years in the Iso-Cubes.
4 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: TOTAL RECALL
With Predator, Conan The Barbarian, and Commando, it would appear that turning Arnold Shwarzenegger movies into toy lines was big business. But where was the toy line for Arnie's 1990 out-there sci-fi epic, Total Recall? If ever there was a Schwarzenegger flick that deserved the toy treatment, it was Total Recall.
Kids love dumb action scenes, and kids love movies set in space, making Total Recall basically the perfect movie for action-hungry youngsters. Kids would have loved little plastic versions of Quaid and Richter, with a playset of the mind-altering Total Recall machine and lab to play around in. Much like the 2012 Colin Ferrel-starring remake of Total Recall, not making a Total Recall toy line was a bad decision.
3 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: TIMECOP
Timecop just might be one of the dumbest action movies of the '90s. After all, this is a film featuring a mullet-clad Jean Claude Van Damme traveling through time to fight crime, all while finding time to squeeze in some naked splits. But don't let our less-than-glowing recap fool you: Timecop would have been perfect for a toy line.
Timecop is the kind of movie that seems designed for a toy line in which the movie's star is put in ridiculous armor, with each armor having a silly gimmick. We can see it in our mind's eye: "Radical Roundhouse Max Walker (Squeeze his torso to make him kick!)," or "Totally Temporal Max Walker (fill his gun with water and make him shoot time juice!)." '90s kids would have snatched Timecop toys up, making this a real missed opportunity.
2 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA
Big Trouble In Little China seems so tailor made for kids, it is a minor miracle the film didn't spawn an avalanche of kid-friendly sequels. We're talking about a film filled with ninjas, wizards, gun fights, kung-fu battles, and a truck driving Kurt Russell! While Big Trouble In Little China bombed upon release, only going on to become a cult favorite years down the line, we'd like to think a kid's toy line could have helped the movie's fortunes.
John Carpenter's out-there kung-fu trucker action flick is perfect for the toy treatment; seriously, think of the Jack Burton action figure that you could put in the Porkchop Express toy truck! Or the insidious Lo Pan, with glowing eyes action! Or cap gun versions of Wing Kong's golden six shooters! Seriously, the fact that no one thought of this potential at the time of the film's release is just baffling.
1 SHOULD HAVE HAD A TOY LINE: MAD MAX
You know how they say hindsight is 20/20? Well, with the blessing of hindsight, we can look back in time to the release of Mad Max and say "This would have been perfect for a toy line!" In fairness, the original Mad Max was a low budget affair, and a toy line likely never passed the studio's minds, but there's no excuse for not churning out tie-in toys for the film's big budget sequels.
Seriously, Mad Max 2 and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome were big deal movies, and kids everywhere ate up Max Rockatansky's souped-up adventures in the post-apocalypse. The films practically begged for the kid's toy line treatment, with the potential for toy cars, plenty of action figures (seriously, a Master Blaster figure would have been the best), and even a Thunderdome playset! Sure, a Lord Humongous figure may have stood out out in the toy aisle, but there isn't an '80s kid alive who wouldn't have loved a Mad Max toy line.