R-rated movies, with their foul language, violence, and risqué content, are deemed “unsuitable for children under the age of 17.” Interestingly, some actors have starred in films they couldn’t even watch without adult supervision at the time, such as Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver.
Of course, some stars don’t dabble in the rating until later in their career, while others dive in head-first with an R-movie, like Natalie Portman. Keep reading; you might be surprised at some of these “firsts.”
Julia Roberts In Mystic Pizza
Before establishing herself as a leading lady in Hollywood, Julia Roberts starred in her first-ever R-rated movie, Mystic Pizza. Released in 1988, the comedy-drama has since gained a large following.
And how could it not, with a plot surrounding three young women trying to figure out how to get out of their small town while slinging pizzas the summer after high school graduation? It’s hard to believe this is the film that Roberts starred in before she was considered a top actress.
Reese Witherspoon In S.F.W.
Before she taught everyone the importance of the bend and snap, Reese Witherspoon starred as Wendy Pfister in S.F.W. Witherspoon’s character must come to terms with her new reality, being a “celebrity” after coming out of a violent hostage situation.
It’s safe to say that Witherspoon’s acting career only got better since the release of the 1994 flick, of which only gained a 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It might come as a surprise, but she did not win any awards for her first R-rated movie.
Daniel Day-Lewis In My Beautiful Laundrette
Daniel Day-Lewis is arguably one of the greatest actors of all time, getting his start in theater and television before making his way to independent film. His first real taste of film making was also his first R-rated film, My Beautiful Laundrette, a landmark film in gay cinema.
He starred as a gay English man in an interracial relationship during the ’80s in London. And while no one really saw the film upon its 1985 release, it was Day-Lewis’ first critically-acclaimed performance
Anne Hathaway In Havoc
After starring in The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted, Anne Hathaway wanted to break away from her “good girl” persona. So, she took the phrase “go big or go home” to heart, starring in her first R-rated movie, Havoc.
The 2005 film has her character, Allison, hanging out with kids from the wrong side of the tracks of Los Angeles and slowly being dragged down into the criminal underworld. A rough-and-tough Hathaway is a long way from the PG-rated Princess Mia Thermopolis.
Leonardo DiCaprio In This Boy’s Life
Okay, technically Leonardo DiCaprio’s first R-rated film was Poison Ivy, but he’s in it for a solid second, so we’re not counting it. Instead, we’re going to say his first R performance was as Tobias Wolff in This Boy’s Life.
The 1993 coming-of-age story pits DiCaprio against Robert De Niro in many scenes. Considering this film is DiCaprio’s breakout performance, it must have been something special to have shared so many scenes with a huge-name actor.
Natalie Portman In Léon: The Professional
Actress Natalie Portman’s first R-rated film also happened to be her film debut. She plays the role of 12-year-old Mathilda Lando in Léon: The Professional, a leading part opposite the likes of Gary Oldman and Jean Reno.
The 1994 film showed off Portman’s acting abilities, with critics calling her performance a striking debut. Little did they know that the young girl would go on to become an Academy Award-winning actress down the road!
Matt Damon In Mystic Pizza
Like Julia Roberts, actor Matt Damon’s R-rated movie debut was in Mystic Pizza. But, unlike the actress, this was also Damon’s film debut! Yup, before he went off to Harvard in Good Will Hunting, the Academy Award-winning actor was nothing more than Roberts’ boyfriend’s little brother in the coming-of-age film.
Needless to say, he’s landed some more prominent roles since the 1988 movie, including the role of Jason Bourne in the critically acclaimed Bourne franchise.
Jodie Foster In Taxi Driver
When she was just 12 years old, Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster performed in her first R-rated movie, Taxi Driver. In the Martin Scorsese film, Foster plays a child lady of the night called Iris. Because the actress was so young at the time, her older sister was used as a body double for the more revealing scenes.
Even though she technically wasn’t old enough to see the finished movie without her parent’s permission, Foster still earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Johnny Depp In A Nightmare On Elm Street
Before Johnny Depp became everyone’s favorite pirate and the face of pretty much all of the important Tim Burton movies (excluding Batman), he was a teenager debuting in his first-ever R-rated movie.
After Nic Cage told Depp he should try his hand at acting, the actor landed the role of Glen, Nancy’s boyfriend, in the original 1984 slasher flick A Nightmare on Elm Street, his film debut. Of course, Depp went on to star in many more R movies.
Jennifer Lawrence In The Poker House
While many believe Winter’s Bone is the first R-rated movie Jennifer Lawrence starred in, it was actually a film called The Poker House. Released in 2008, the film is Lori Petty’s autobiographical story of her life raising her two sisters while their mom works as a lady of the night in “The Poker House.”
Lawrence’s role as Agnes, the oldest daughter, was critically acclaimed and even won the young actress an Outstanding Performance award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Angelina Jolie In Love Is All There Is
Love Is All There Is is a modern-day retelling of the classic Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet. It also happens to be the first R-rated movie Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie appeared in, playing the role of Gina Malacici, aka Juliet.
As the story goes, two rival families, the Capomezzos and Malacicis, can’t stand one another. But, they have to figure out a way to get along when the son and daughter of the rival families fall in love.
Winona Ryder In 1969
It’s not hard to forget about Winona Ryder’s R-rated movie debut since 1969 was smack dab in the middle of the release of two of her biggest movies, Beetlejuice and Heathers. But the film did happen, although it wasn’t necessarily well-received by critics.
Ryder plays the role of Beth Carr, Robert Downey Jr.’s younger sister, who falls in love with his friend, Scott. Of course, things get messy, people try to skip out on the Vietnam War draft, prison sentences are given out, and marches are held in protest.
Ryan Gosling In The Believer
After coming off kids’ shows and movies like The Mickey Mouse Club and Goosebumps, it was interesting to see Ryan Gosling starring in a complex R-rated film. The Believer follows the “true story” of Daniel “Danny” Balint, a Jewish man who runs in a crowd of extremists.
Gosling was wildly praised for his performance as Danny, with one critic saying, “the film is driven by Gosling’s revelatory performance … arresting, prickly, vaguely funny, even—’difficult’ in the best sense.”
Matthew McConaughey In Dazed And Confused
Alright, alright, alright, we know Matthew McConaughey has come a long way from being the weird hippie dude and rom-com guy. But his first R-rated movie labeled him as just that. Well, the former and not the latter.
In the 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused, the Academy Award-winning actor plays David Wooderson, a guy in his early 20s who still hangs out with high school students. At least we got to see the actor sporting a weird haircut, mustache, and some groovy outfits.
Scarlett Johansson In Just Cause
Academy Award-nominated actress Scarlett Johansson made her R-rated movie debut at the young age of ten years old when she appeared in the 1995 film Just Cause. Before becoming the Black Widow, Johansson was Katie Armstrong, a young girl who is kidnapped at the end of the thriller film (spoiler).
The actress must have liked the intensity of the R-rated film, because her next two credits, Manny & Lo and If Lucy Fell, are also rated R.
Edward Norton In Primal Fear
Edward Norton is somewhat known for his roles in R-rated movies, such as American History X and Fight Club. We won’t talk too much about the latter. But his roles in these films all started with his 1996 role in Primal Fear.
In the movie, Norton plays an altar boy, imprisoned for the death of an influential Catholic archbishop. Norton wound up earning a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Oh, and the film ends on one of the biggest plot twists ever!
Emily Blunt In My Summer Of Love
In her film debut, Emily Blunt jumped right into the deep end with the R-rated film My Summer of Love. Before she became one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Blunt played the role of an upper-middle-class girl named Tamsin, who, over the course of a summer, figures out who she is.
The film explores the relationship between Tamsin and Mona, two girls from different backgrounds who grow fond of one another. According to the online magazine Autostraddle, it is one of the best lesbian movies of all time.
Kevin Bacon In Animal House
Before he saved the small town of Bomont, Oklahoma, from a life without dancing, Kevin Bacon was Chip Diller, one of the Omega pledges at the fictional Faber College in Animal House. He was only 19 at the time.
Considering Bacon was just starting off his film career at the time of the 1978 movie, it’s not too shabby that he can say his first R-rated film also happens to be one of the best and most beloved comedies in cinematic history.
Sean Penn In Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Sean Penn is a very diverse actor, starring in critically-acclaimed films such as Milk and Mystic River, both of which won him Academy Awards for his performance. And while he has had a successful career with dramas, Penn’s first R-rated film was quite the opposite.
His first R-rated film was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, one of the most beloved high school flicks to come out of the ’80s. In the film, Penn plays Jeff Spicoli, a surfer who dreams of nothing but catching waves.
Michelle Pfeiffer In The Hollywood Knights
Before she landed the role of Catwoman, changing the course of her career forever, Michelle Pfeiffer had a minor role in The Hollywood Knights, her first feature film that also happens to be rated R.
In the 1980s frat-style comedy, 20-year-old Pfeiffer plays the minor character of Suzie Q, Tony Danza’s character’s girlfriend, who helps the drag-racing club, the Hollywood Knights, save their beloved Beverly Hills hangout, Tubby’s Diner. Think Grease, but the enemy is the local authorities and not fellow greasers.
Evan Rachel Wood In Thirteen
Before she showed off her vocal chops in Across the Universe and Frozen II, Evan Rachel Wood played the good girl gone bad in the 2003 R-rated film Thirteen. In her R movie debut, Wood played Tracy, an honor-roll student who befriends the queen bee at school.
It doesn’t take long for her behavior to become destructive, with piercings, pick-pocketing, and being rude to her friends and family. Wood was only 16 during the time of the critically acclaimed film’s release.
Norman Reedus In Mimic
Unlike a lot of actors, Norman Reedus started off in film before shifting his focus to television. While he is definitely known for his time on The Walking Dead, Reedus has actually been a part of many critically acclaimed movies.
His first R-rated film, for example, was Guillermo Del Toro’s 1997 creature feature Mimic. The movie also happens to be Reedus’ Hollywood debut, but it seems like he’s always had an affinity for landing roles in pictures with supernatural creatures.
Jeff Goldblum In Death Wish
Jeff Goldblum is many things, including an actor who has participated in some of the highest-grossing films of his generation. But he is also an interesting, witty guy who made his film and R-rated debut as none other than Freak #1 in the 1974 film Death Wish.
Is it just us, or is the character title the most Jeff Goldblum thing you’ve ever heard? Regardless, Goldblum’s first film credit is a number. Thankfully for his career, he went on to have actual character names.
Kristen Stewart In The Safety Of Objects
While Kristen Stewart was in a slew of R-rated movies at the beginning of her film career, her first was the 2001 movie The Safety of Objects. In the movie, the then-11-year-old Stewart plays Sam Jennings, a young daughter who is caught in the middle of her parent’s messy divorce.
There’s a kidnapping, what appears to be a delusional father, and a whole lot of other ugly instances that you’re just going to have to watch the film to believe.
Nikki Reed In Thirteen
Nikki Reed co-starred alongside Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen, an R-rated film based loosely off her personal life. Playing the role of Evie in her first-ever R movie, Reed portrays the not-so-good high school queen bee: a girl who does what she wants when she wants and brings a corruptible teenager, Tracy, along for the ride.
Reed wound up winning an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance, as well as many other nominations for her role as Evie.
Frances McDormand In Blood Simple
The 2018 Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand made her film debut in the 1984 R-rated film Blood Simple. Interestingly, this was also the mark of her husband, writer/director Joel Coen’s breakout in Hollywood, too.
While Coen wasn’t part of the famous “Coen Brothers” quite yet, McDormand helped him make some necessary moves in that direction. And although the film didn’t do too well in the box office, it was a startlingly huge critical success, receiving a 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Amy Poehler In Wet Hot American Summer
The 2001 comedy brought together some of the funniest young actors in Hollywood, like Elizabeth Banks and Paul Rudd. But among the troops were a few unknown names who were going “R” for the first time in their careers.
One of those unknowns is none other than the funny lady Amy Poehler. In the film, Poehler plays one of the talent show producers, Susie, at the camp, alongside a soon-to-be huge star in Hollywood, Bradley Cooper.
Bradley Cooper In Wet Hot American Summer
Speaking of Bradley Cooper, his first R-rated film was, you guessed it, Wet Hot American Summer. While he technically plays the part of Amy Poehler’s partner, Ben, in the film, he’s probably better known for his little session in the woodshed with Michael Ian Black’s character McKinley.
If you’ve seen the film, you know what we’re talking about! This film was just the start of Cooper’s R-rated film run, which included Wedding Crashers and the Hangover movies.
Viggo Mortensen In Witness
For Viggo Mortensen, his R-rated movie debut also happened to be his feature film debut. He had a small role in the 1985 Harrison Ford led thriller film Witness, the character of Moses Hochleitner.
Of course, Mortensen only went uphill from there, appearing in many critically acclaimed films and landing the role of Aragorn in the epic fantasy adventure of the Lord of the Rings franchise. This role shot the actor into international stardom.
Jonah Hill In I Heart Huckabees
Although Jonah Hill is known for his multiple R-rated movie roles, such as Superbad, The Wolf of Wall Street, and the 21 Jump street films, he started out as the minor character Bret Hooten in I Heart Huckabees.
The star-studded cast overshadowed Hill’s film debut. But, we have to say, the young actor didn’t let it get him down. He went on to act in some critically acclaimed films as well as direct the coming-of-age drama Mid90s, a film that has been said to be a “promising first outing for Hill.”