- XXX; Hardcore porn. Not just one x or two will do!
In the United States, the X rating was applied to a film that contained content judged unsuitable for children, such as extreme violence, strongly implied sex, and graphic language. When the MPAA film rating system began in the US on November 1, 1968, the X rating was given to a film by the MPAA if submitted to it or, due to its non-trademarked status, it could be self-applied to a film by a distributor that knew beforehand that its film contained content unsuitable for minors. From the late 1960s to about the mid-1980s, many mainstream films were released with an X rating such as Midnight Cowboy, Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, A Clockwork Orange, Fritz the Cat, Last Tango in Paris and The Evil Dead. (Films that achieved critical and commercial success were later re-rated R after minor cuts, including Midnight Cowboy and A Clockwork Orange.) The threat of an X rating also encouraged filmmakers to re-edit their films to achieve an R rating. Certain films, such as Cruising (1980), received an R rating that some theatre owners felt should have been an X (Cruising was withdrawn from distribution after it was clear that required cuts to obtain the R rating had not been made).
Because the X rating was not trademarked, anybody could apply it to their films, including pornographers, as 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 content. 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. Because of the heavy use of the X rating by pornographers, it became associated largely with pornographic films, so that non-pornographic films given an X rating would have fewer theaters willing to book them and fewer venues for advertising. Moreover, many newspapers refused to advertise X rated films. This led to a number of films being released unrated sometimes with a warning that the film contained content for adults only. In response, the MPAA eventually agreed in 1990 to a new NC-17 rating that would be trademarked, and could only be applied by the MPAA itself. By trademarking the rating, the MPAA committed to defending a NC-17 film charged with violating obscenity laws.