In some countries, X is or has been a motion picture rating reserved for the most explicit films. Films rated X are intended only for viewing by adults, usually defined as people over the age of 17 or 18.
The original X certificate, replacing the H certificate, was issued between 1951 and 1982 by the British Board of Film Censors in the United Kingdom. It was introduced as a result of the Wheare Report on film censorship. From 1951 to 1970, it meant "Suitable for those aged 16 and over", and from 1970 to 1982 it was redefined as meaning "Suitable for those aged 18 and over." The X certificate was replaced in 1982 by the 18 certificate. See History of British film certificates.
One notable film to get this rating in the UK was the US film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), later re-rated PG.
In the United States, the X-rating originally referred to a non-trademarked rating that indicated a film contained content that was not suitable for minors, such as extreme violence or explicit sex, and thus was for adults only.
When the MPAA film rating system began on November 1, 1968 in the U.S., the X-rating was given to a film by the MPAA if submitted to them or, due to its non-trademarked status, it could be self-applied to a film by a distributor who knew beforehand that their film contained content unsuitable for minors. In the late 1960s to mid 1980s, several mainstream films were released with an X-rating such as Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange, Fritz the Cat and Last Tango in Paris.
Because the X-rating was not trademarked, anybody could apply it to their films, including pornographers, which many began to do in the 1970s. As pornography began to become chic and more legally tolerated, pornographers placed an X-rating on their films to emphasize the adult nature of them. Some even started using multiple X's (i.e. XX, XXX, etc.) to give the impression that their film contained more graphic sexual content than the simple X-rating. In some cases, the X ratings were applied by reviewers or film scholars, e.g. William Rotsler, who wrote "The XXX-rating means hard-core, the XX-rating is for simulation, and an X-rating is for comparatively cool films." Nothing beyond the simple X-rating has ever been officially recognized by the MPAA.
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