The results are finally in and they seem to indicate that overall, folks want more R-rated superhero films. Given the recent success of the more adult-themed “Deadpool” and “Logan” raking in the big dollars at the box office, it’s no surprise that audiences want more movies that allow for higher ratings if it means portraying the character well.
With this newfound success, we at CBR can think of a few superheroes we’d like to see make the jump to the R-rating. Not just for cheap gory thrills or naughty language (even though that’s good too), but for an unbarred look at some iconic stories or characters we would have never seen before on the big screen till now.
Seeing as how DC is going the way of somber and grit in its cinematic universe these days, audiences have already been privy to the more despairing version of the hero. “Man of Steel” and even “Batman v. Superman” saw Superman as an alien conflicted with his status on Earth. The Kryptonian killed hundreds in the collateral damage caused by his fight with Zod and seemed largely apathetic about the whole ordeal.
If this is the character we’re running with, why not jump in with both feet? An R-rated Superman film that would be perfect in the current DC cinematic slate would be seeing Batman’s Knightmare sequence in “BvS” come true. A gritty dive into a potential apocalyptic future or even alternate world (“Injustice” anyone?) would be well suited to a more restricted rating. It would beget the brutality that Superman has always been capable of, and maybe command him a little respect after netting a Boy Scout reputation after all these years.
14. THE HULK
A character that has had a limited, if tepid, run in major movies, the Hulk could benefit from a show of his true power. So far all we’ve seen from the Gamma-radiated hero of sorts is his powerful punch ups between abominations, the Chitauri, robots and at one point, Iron Man. All of these fights, however, show that Hulk is more a threat to property insurance premiums going up, rather than any actual human life.
The big green monster and Avenger is more than that, however, and an R-rated outing would be the best way to show it. One such example of course would have been his rather horrifying role in the “Old Man Logan” comic (not to be mixed up with the “Logan” film), but one that might fall more in line with the current MCU could be “World War Hulk.” Audiences could finally see the actual threat Hulk poses to those around him, especially if he was particularly pissed off. The film could have the opportunity to finally examine the relationship between Banner and his inner demon, and just how much of a monster they both are.
Batman seems to be a character that has long skirted the big R in movie theaters, more than likely due to his mass appeal to younger fans. While he has more recently taken to branding criminals and filling them with hot lead, the character is a good case for starring in his own R-rated film. The catch here though, is that the rating wouldn’t necessarily apply to the Dark Knight himself, but rather his incredible villains.
The caped crusader is next to nothing without his Joker, and the clown prince of crime has gone through some fairly dark avenues in the comics but never the films. “Death of the Family” in particular would have a fantastic presence as a mature film, not only for its obvious face-cutting gore, but also the deep psychological mind games the rogue put Batman though. There are plenty of other villains that could show up in a darker Bat-film as well, such as the Court of Owls, Hush or the Riddler. In this particular case, an R-rating would allow the Dark Knight’s villains to shine, rather than give way to more insane bat-violence.
12. MOON KNIGHT
A long championed character for an R-rated film, Moon Knight makes for a great case for having his own mature movie. The vigilante suffers from dissociative identity disorder and is known for dispatching evil doers in brutal fashion, such as carving a crescent moon shape onto the foreheads of his victims. Moon Knight has struggled to maintain even footing throughout the years, operating as the deadly avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu.
This character presents plenty of possibility, especially in a more mature film. He’s not as well known as some of his MCU peers, so he has the ability to appear with a clean slate. The movie could focus on his supernatural origin, Moon Knight’s struggles to appease his god and even introduce his main villain, Bushman. Seeing the vigilante go toe-to-toe with his enemy just like they did in Moon Knight’s early comics would be well worth the rating alone (if not, there’s always its face-lift of a conclusion). Giving Knight a mature introduction would be a good way to not restrict the somewhat brutal character.
He may be friendly and in your neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean Spider-Man has had a few stories or villains that go beyond simple parental guidance. One such example is the arc “Back in Black,” written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Ron Garney. Instead of doing odd hip thrusts on a downtown street a la “Spider-Man 3,” Peter Parker truly goes off the deep end when Aunt May is shot by a sniper, going on a brutal rampage to find out who ordered the hit. He ends up nearly beating Wilson Fisk to death, as well as numerous lackeys, in his quest for revenge.
The other more obvious play here would be to see Carnage finally join the fold. Venom was already done in film form (even if he was lackluster), so it’s time for Cletus Kasady to take the stage. The pure rage, chaos and downright violence imbued in the rogue would be ripe R-rated material. Whether it be a storyline where Peter finally snaps or Carnage finally beginning his brutal rampage, a mature Spider-Man film could be the true cinematic reboot the hero needs.
10. IRON MAN
Everyone’s favorite big-screen billionaire playboy philanthropist might have made a real splash in the MCU, but his more mature tones have been subdued somewhat. There are certainly cracks in his armor (literal and physical), mostly regarding his P.T.S.D. from the New York incident and his more recent clash with Captain America. Now is the perfect time to see Tony get pushed over the edge in a truly dire story for the hero.
A darker Iron Man film could easily pull from his more morally questionable decisions made in the “Civil War” comics, or even from the more recent “Superior Iron Man” arcs. Either way, we could get an Iron Man film that is reflective of Stark’s moral dilemmas and the decisions he made that can sever ties for a lifetime. It would definitely be more towards the “Logan”-esque themes of despair rather than outright brutal action (although it could boast plenty of that too), but it would make for a truly fitting Tony Stark movie.
9. SWAMP THING
Let’s face it, Swamp Thing is not a character for the faint of heart. Going through a variety of incarnations, the character has always remained, at his core, a monster at odds with the rest of the world. In Alan Moore’s hands, the hero (of sorts) became a true abomination as mutated plant life absorbing the conscious of scientist Alec Holland.
Caught between trying to act as a human but unable to regain a form it never had in the first place, Swamp Thing as a monster suffered an identity crisis of the darkest kind in his early run. This material could apply easily to an R-rated film, as it is more so based in horror than outright brutality or despair; even though those are included too. With a more adult-oriented movie, audiences could see Swamp Thing as the savage creature he became and his critical fight to regain what few pieces of his humanity he still had after everything he’s been through.
8. BLACK ADAM
With news that Black Adam will eventually get a spin-off film once “Shazam” hits theaters, there’s a good case for that solo movie to carry an R-rating. The ruler of Kahndaq imbued with the powers of Egyptian gods, Black Adam is a brutal character that solves a good portion of his problems through violence. He’s ripped out his enemies’ hearts, gouged out their eyes and even laid waste to an entire city of innocent people in a furious rampage.
Adam’s brutality alone would easily net the heftier rating. As a villain (and occasional hero), he is a devout believer in absolute justice being served in the most violent way possible. Sure, this could be communicated through tactical cutaways or audio accompaniments, but to truly see the lengths at which Black Adam is willing to go in order to see his will done is what makes him so terrifying. If he got the chance to let loose for an R-rated film, he would undoubtedly shoot to the top of scary superhero rogues.
Here is a character that is deceptively brutal. Mark Grayson is a teenage superhero named Invincible who finds that he and his father, another superhero called Omni-Man, have different ideas for going about being heroes (namely, his father only uses it as a cover before trying to conquer the planet). Where “Invincible” strays from the rest however, is its hyper realism when it comes to gore. While Superman can knock around Batman willy nilly and the Dark Knight emerges with nary a bruise due to his armor, Invincible gets downright eviscerated (or does the eviscerating) in his super-powered punch ups.
Invincible could totally work as an R-rated film similarly to how “Deadpool” did. On its face, the story is an homage to long-standing comic book heroes done with a new spin, but when it gets violent, it does so without hesitation. If anything, it shows the actual power behind these heroes and just what can happen when they tangle. If “Invincible” got its heavy rating, no one would be leaving without several broken bones.
Matt Murdock is certainly no stranger to dark themes and depressive tones, which is why he would be well-suited to an R-rated film. The Netflix series following the character already sports his violence as a vigilante with ease, and a film version could fill in for one of his more succinct arcs. Audiences could be shown one of the character’s downward spirals (as he is oft wrapped up in), like “Guardian Devil” that calls for far more darker tones to be employed.
Given his previous lackluster film debut with Ben Affleck touting the red-tinted sunglasses, Daredevil is badly in need of cinematic redemption. He isn’t a character that just gets sad once in a while, but rather one who struggles with his sense of justice in regards to his vigilantism. Villains of all sorts have attempted to dismantle his life and succeeded. When that happens however, audiences could be shown what an unhinged Daredevil is truly capable of, leading to violent scenes not unlike what we saw in his Netflix series.
There’s simply no arguing this one: Lobo can only exist in movie form with an R-rating. He’s mean, he’s violent and he’s predisposed to getting smashed and brawling with the first person that looks at him the wrong way. Given his bounty hunter status, a film could easily dive into a one-off story about Lobo chasing down a mark (maybe even the entire Justice League). Heck, he could even sub in as a new member of the Suicide Squad should they net a direct sequel.
This nigh un-killable bounty hunter could be introduced to audiences as foul-mouthed and brutal as he appears in the comics. He could be portrayed with all his dark humor as well, without a need to tone things down for younger viewers. A character that enjoys murdering folks to the point of wiping out his entire home planet just so he can claim he’s the last of his race, a Lobo movie simply would not be able to remain true to the character with anything under an R-rating. Necks will snap, curses will fly and Lobo needs to be sure to kick someone in the family jewels hard enough to make their spine fly out at least once in order to make it all worth the cost of admission.
Gambit is a hero that could benefit from an R-rated movie not because he is overly violent, but because it would help him stand out from the multitudes of other mutants in the cinematic space. Remy Lebeau’s story is somewhat different from his fellow X-Men and deserves a proper dive. His movie could function as a more somber-toned origin story covering his being a general outcast and thief. Alongside his struggles with controlling his powers, his ties to the Mutant Massacre and to one of Marvel’s more disturbing villains, Mr. Sinister, could finally be shown on the big screen.
Even though “Logan” has found success, a lot of the other X-Men have been lost in the background the bigger the ensemble casts get with each film. Using a heavier rating would allow for Gambit to stand out a bit, not due to his flash, but for his rather harsh upbringing as a thief. This be a great opportunity to look into the seedy underbelly of the criminal underworld that the character participated in for a large part of his life before becoming an X-Men.
3. BLACK WIDOW
Natasha Romanov might have gotten the ball rolling with “Iron Man 2” and shown up as an Avenger in several other MCU movies, but there’s been a lot of talk about her finally getting her own solo film. While this would be much needed, if it were to be an origin story, it would benefit from being an R-rated one. Romanov was trained as an assassin very early in life and participated in “Red Room” training that was only recently referenced in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Before working with S.H.I.E.L.D., Widow participated in a number of covert operations that called for her skills in deception and brutality.
Widow’s solo movie would likely benefit the most from an R-rating, as her upbringing as a spy and killer is not easily bowled over. She’s done terrible things in the name of her Russian superiors, many of which still haunt her to this day while she works for S.H.I.E.L.D. A more mature film would show Black Widow without the veil of innocent punch ups with invading aliens, but rather the deadly and conflicted character she is today.
2. RED HOOD
We might have mentioned Batman earlier in this list, but we feel that one of his associates deserves an R-rating even more so. Red Hood beginnings and continued story are anything but gentle. Starting off as a Robin to the Dark Knight, Jason Todd was a headstrong youth before getting the business end of a crowbar at the hands of the Joker, who then leaves him in a warehouse filled with bombs that explode. Thought dead by his mentor, Todd reemerged years later thanks to being submerged in a Lazarus pit. Now calling himself the Red Hood, he became a vigilante hellbent on dispatching those who wronged him in ways Batman could never muster the stones to do.
From his rather brutal torture at the hands of the Joker to his later violent retribution and vendetta against Batman himself, Todd is simply not PG-13 material. Functioning essentially as the antithesis to the caped crusader, a more mature Red Hood movie would give audiences an opportunity to see a different side of the Dark Knight’s activities. Batman’s mission to protect Gotham hasn’t come without a cost, and Todd is an example of the collateral damage it has caused. Seeing Red Hood try to exact bloody vengeance on his enemies, including his former mentor, would be a truly satisfying change up for the Batman film franchise.
It appears that an X-Force film isn’t far off from debuting in the theaters and will feature Deadpool and Cable to some degree. At its core, the team is a much grittier version of the X-Men, functioning as a sort of black-ops team that gets the dirty jobs done. Going up against foes such as the Mutant Liberation Front or the hybrid sentinel Bastion, the group has defended mutants to the best of their ability by quashing various threats over the years. Their team structure has changed over the years, but they have remained one of the deadlier squads in Marvel’s history.
It’s still too early to tell what the roster will be or which X-Force stories the new film will speak to, but the writer/producer of the upcoming feature, Simon Kinberg, acknowledges that the group is definitely darker and merit an R-rating. This is reassuring news, given the team’s bloody swath of work in the past, that the people in charge of the movie understand that the X-Force is not a quirky squad like the Avengers. We can only hope the film will be suitably violent and dark, which has so far been a refreshing deviation for “X-Men” related flicks.
Let us know in the comments which superheroes you feel would benefit from an R-rated movie!
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