What would happen if Disney made an R-Rated Film?

Disney Rated-R Film

Journey into the Movies” by Brian Walter is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (Edits by Disney Adulting)

What would happen if Disney made an R-Rated Film?

TL;DR Version: Disney has released a large number of R-Rated films under their American film distribution label of Touchstone Pictures.

Walt Disney Studios & Touchstone Pictures

The answer to this question is one that normally shocks most readers, even the most avid of Disney fans. Disney has quite the repertoire of R-rated films but avoided releasing them under the “Disney” name to avoid the public outcry over brand confusion and dilution. The squeaky-clean family-friendly image would take a big public relations hit by releasing an R-rated film under the Disney (or Marvel Studios, Pixar Studios or even Lucasfilm) brands.

Touchstone Pictures is an American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Established on February 15, 1984, by then-Disney CEO Ron W. Miller as Touchstone Films, it typically releases films targeted to adult audiences with more mature themes and darker tones than those released under the Disney name.

List of R-Rated Films Released by Touchstone Pictures


Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 103 Min | Released: January 31, 1986
Cast: Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, Richard Dreyfuss

When a suicidal hobo attempts to drown himself in their swimming pool, a wealthy family adopts the reluctant tramp. The family and their new companion clash and form unexpected bonds in this popular comedy inspired by Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved By Drowning.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)



The Color of Money (1986)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 119 Min | Released: October 8, 1986
Cast: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Oscar-nominated in 1961 for his performance as pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler, Paul Newman won that award a quarter century later when he reprised the role in The Color of Money. At the end of The Hustler, Felson was banned for life from playing the game professionally. In the intervening years, he has become what the despicable George C. Scott was in the 1961 film: a front man for younger hustlers, claiming the lion’s share of the winnings. His latest “client” is arrogant young Tom Cruise, who is goaded into accepting Felson’s patronage by his avaricious girl friend Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Cruise learns not only the refinements of the game but also the dirty trickery that will help him lure in the suckers. As Cruise becomes successful on these terms, Felson seethes with jealousy, hitting the bottle and carelessly allowing himself to fall victim to another hustler. He tells Cruise to get lost and vows to make an honest comeback. It is inevitable from this point onward that the younger and the older player will square off in a game for the biggest stakes of all: Fast Eddie Felson’s self-respect. Both the original Hustler and The Color of Money were based on novels by Walter Tevis.

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Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 121 Min | Released: December 23, 1987
Cast: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby

The film begins in 1965 when disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) is assigned to take over the AFR’s Saigon radio broadcasts. In contrast to the dull, by-rote announcers that have preceded him, Cronauer is a bundle of dynamite, heralding each broadcast with a loud “Goooooood morning, Vietnaaaaam,” playing whatever records tickle his fancy (even those not officially sanctioned by his hidebound superiors), and indulging in wild flights of improvisational fancy. Cronauer’s immediate superior Lt. Hauk (Bruno Kirby), whose own notions of humor are puerile and pathetic, jealously attempts to dethrone Vietnam’s favorite rock jock. Fortunately, Cronauer’s popularity is such that he enjoys the full protection of the higher-ups. But when Cronauer, after experiencing the horrors of war first-hand, insists upon telling his listeners the truth instead of the official government line, he is instantly replaced by the unfunny Hauk and must struggle to get back on the air.

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Cocktail (1988)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 103 Min | Released: July 29, 1988
Cast: Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue

After being discharged from the Army, Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) moves back to Queens and takes a job in a bar run by Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), who teaches Brian the fine art of bartending. Brian quickly becomes a patron favorite with his flashy drink-mixing style. Brian adopts his mentor’s cynical philosophy on life and goes for the money. He leaves his artist girlfriend Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue) for Bonnie (Lisa Banes), a wealthy, high-powered executive. Brian soon must choose between the two, as he evaluates his options. Scriptwriter Heywood Gould displayed his sense of humor when assigning the character name “Mr. Mooney” to Lucille Ball’s real-life son-in-law, actor Laurence Luckenbill. Television fans of The Lucy Show will recall Mr. Mooney, played by Gale Gordon, as Lucy’s fussy financial boss. The film is more memorable for the 17-song soundtrack and plays like a series of MTV videos. Cocktail was a big draw at the box office in 1988.

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Pretty Woman (1990)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 117 Min | Released: March 23, 1990
Cast: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Hector Elizondo

Edward is a rich and sophisticated businessman who specializes in corporate raiding – buying up businesses to break them up and sell them off in pieces. Vivian is a Los Angeles prostitute struggling with her lifestyle and a need to pay the rent. On a business trip to Los Angeles, Edward hires Vivian to be his girlfriend for a week while he traverses the local social circles. Love and various social complications invade their tidy arrangement and have the pair wondering if this Cinderella-story could have a happy ending.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)


Ed Wood (1994)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 124 Min | Released: September 28, 1994
Cast: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker

Ed Wood was a little-known film-maker from the early 1950’s who gained posthumous notoriety for his dreadful B-grade science fiction films in the mid-’80s. This film is producer/director Tim Burton’s fictionalized portrait of Wood’s strange, yet mediocre life and career. Burton filmed “Ed Wood” in black and white to recreate the atmosphere of Wood’s films. The film primarily focuses on three aspects of Wood’s life, his transvestism, his relationships with his oddball casts and crew as he tried to make his films on shoestring budgets, and his friendship with aging horror-movie great Bela Lugosi whom he tried to help.

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Con Air (1997)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 115 Min | Released: June 6, 1997
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich

Former war hero Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is sentenced to eight years in prison when he accidentally kills a man in a barroom brawl while defending his pregnant wife. When his release comes through, he’s eager to see the daughter he’s never met. However, Poe’s original flight is delayed, so he’s put aboard a flight transporting ten of the most dangerous men in the American penal system to a new high-security facility. One of the criminals, Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), is a serial killer and insane genius who has hatched a diabolical plot: with the help of several other hoods, including Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), Johnny 23 (Daniel Trejo), and Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi), Cyrus and his men will hijack the plane and fly to a neutral nation where they can live as free men. Poe finds himself stuck in the middle; he has to find a way to get home, keep himself alive, look after his cellmate Baby-O (Mykelti Williamson), who will die without proper medicine, and try to help the cops on the ground, including agent Vince Larkin (John Cusack). Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s first film after the death of his partner Don Simpson, Con Air shows he learned well how to assemble the formula all by himself, with plenty of action, stunts, and special effects and not a lot of story to get in the way.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)

Face/Off (1997)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 138 Min | Released: June 27, 1997
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen

The third of John Woo’s American-made feature films, Face/Off stars John Travolta as Sean Archer, an FBI agent obsessed with capturing Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), a criminal genius who years before killed Archer’s son while trying to assassinate the agent. Archer’s single-minded pursuit of Troy has caused serious harm to his marriage, but Archer thinks the light may have appeared at the end of the tunnel when a seriously wounded Troy is captured in a bloody shootout. However, it turns out that Troy has planted a time bomb, with a biological payload that could destroy the entire city of Los Angeles — and Troy isn’t about to say where it is. The only other person who knows the bomb’s location is Troy’s brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola), who is no more helpful than Castor. FBI scientists hatch a plan: they have developed an experimental surgery which would allow them to graft Troy’s face temporarily on Archer’s head and allow him to question Pollux as if he were his brother. But after Archer has taken Troy’s face, Troy regains consciousness and forces the doctors to give him Archer’s face. Now the criminal mastermind has the FBI at his disposal, and the lawman is underground with few places to turn. Along with Woo’s usual elaborately choreographed action scenes, Face/Off features a number of notable supporting performances, including Joan Allen as Archer’s wife, Colm Feore and C.C.H. Pounder as FBI scientists, and Gina Gershon as Troy’s loyal but long-suffering girlfriend.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)

Starship Troopers (1997)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 129 Min | Released: November 7, 1997
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards

Paul Verhoeven has fashioned a visually spectacular, morbidly funny comic book adventure that seems to merge the fresh-faced youths of the Archie Comics with the save-the-planet mandate of Buck Rogers.

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Rushmore (1998)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 93 Min | Released: September 17, 1998
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

“Rushmore” chronicles a year in the life of Max Fischer, a student at Rushmore Academy, one of the finest schools in the country. Max loves his prestigious school. He is the editor of the newspaper and yearbook; founder of the debate team, the dodgeball society, and the Max Fischer Players; and president of the French club, German club, chess club, and practically everything else. Max is applying for early admission to Oxford. Harvard is his safety. However, he is also one of the worst students in the school. Threatened with expulsion, Max begins a new pursuit: falling for a first-grade teacher. But when Max’s tycoon mentor starts an affair with the teacher, it triggers a war between Max and his friend.

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Coyote Ugly (2000)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 100 Min | Released: August 4, 2000
Cast: Piper Perabo, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey

An aspiring musician becomes one of the most famous bartenders in New York in this high-spirited comedy-drama. Small-town girl Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) dreams of making a name for herself as a singer and songwriter, so she moves to New York City in hopes of landing her big break. Needing to support herself until stardom rolls around, she takes a job as a barmaid at a new nightspot called Coyote Ugly, where the owner Lil (Maria Bello) and the staff of attractive young women dance on the bar, flirt with the mostly male clientele, sing along with the jukebox, and goad the customers into matching them shot for shot. Soon, local media pick up on the bar’s success, turning the staff into unexpected celebrities, a situation that presents its own set of problems. Coyote Ugly also stars John Goodman as Violet’s straight-laced father, Adam Garcia as a customer Violet becomes involved with, and Tyra Banks, Melanie Lynskey, Bridget Moynahan, and Izabella Miko as the barmaids; action-film titan Jerry Bruckheimer produced.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)

High Fidelity (2000)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 113 Min | Released: March 31, 2000
Cast: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso

In a biting romantic comedy, Rob Gordon is the owner of a semi-failing record store in Chicago, where he sells music the old-fashioned way — on vinyl. He’s a self-professed music junkie who spends his days at Championship Vinyl with his two employees, Dick and Barry. Although they have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and are consumed with the music scene, it’s of no help to Rob, whose needle skips the love groove when his long-time girlfriend, Laura, walks out on him. As he examines his failed attempts at romance and happiness, the process finds him being dragged, kicking and screaming, into adulthood.

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Pearl Harbor (2001)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 183 Min | Released: May 25, 2001
Cast: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale

Set during the time of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, two childhood friends are caught up in the events that draw the United States into World War II. Together, they enlist in the US Air Force and soon enough they both become involved with the same woman.

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The Royal Tenenbaums (2002)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 108 Min | Released: January 4, 2002
Cast: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow

Royal Tenenbaum and his wife Etheline had three children–Chas, Richie, and Margot–they were a family of geniuses and then they separated. Chas started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have had a preternatural understanding of international finance. Margot was a playwright and received a Braverman grant of fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. Richie was a junior champion tennis player and won the U.S. Nationals three years in a row. Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums was subsequently erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster. Most of this was generally considered to be their father’s fault. The tale follows the family’s sudden and unexpected reunion one recent winter.

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The Ladykillers (2004)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 104 Min | Released: March 26, 2004
Cast: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans

Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III is a charlatan professor who has assembled a gang of experts for the heist of the century. The thieves are experts in explosions, tunneling, and muscle. The professor is their critical inside man. The base of operations is the root cellar of an unsuspecting, church-going, little old lady named Mrs. Munson. The ruse: the five need a place to practice their church music. The problem: it quickly becomes evident that Dorr’s thieves lack the mental capacity to do the job. The bigger problem: they have seriously underestimated their upstairs host. When Mrs. Munson stumbles onto their plot and threatens to notify the authorities, the felonious five decide to ‘do her in’ before she ruins their heist. After all, how hard can it be to knock off an old lady? They’ll soon find out.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 118 Min | Released: December 10, 2004
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett

Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou and his crew–Team Zissou–set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou’s partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. A young airline co-pilot who may or may not be Zissou’s son, a beautiful journalist assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and Zissou’s estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor, joins them on their voyage. They face overwhelming complications including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy.

Rent or Buy (via Amazon)

Apocalypto (2006)

Disney R-Rated FilmR | 138 Min | Released: December 8, 2006
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer

“Apocalypto” is a heart stopping mythic action-adventure set against the turbulent end times of the once great Mayan civilization. When his idyllic existence is brutally disrupted by a violent invading force, a man is taken on a perilous journey to a world ruled by fear and oppression where a harrowing end awaits him. Through a twist of fate and spurred by the power of his love for his woman and his family he will make a desperate break to return home and to ultimately save his way of life.

Buy (via Amazon)



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  4. Kevin on May 2, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    It’s sad how Warner Brothers and other companies can do everything in one label, yet Disney can’t. Shows a lack of courage, and I sort of don’t blame them, because they’re so hooked on what parents think.

    • Anati Zubia on May 9, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      It’s tough with niche brands for sure, but it’s pretty common in almost any market. A good example is the food industry (http://www.businessinsider.com/10-companies-control-the-food-industry-2016-9) who honestly would connect Pepsi to breakfast cereal. It’s nice to see Disney still produce movies, even if they put them under a different label. We all know it’s Disney talent at the end of the day. Love you insight on this, thanks for commenting! – Anati

    • Anati Zubia on May 9, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      It’s tough with niche brands for sure, but it’s pretty common in almost any market. A good example is the food industry (http://www.businessinsider.com/10-companies-control-the-food-industry-2016-9) who honestly would connect Pepsi to breakfast cereal. It’s nice to see Disney still produce movies, even if they put them under a different label. We all know it’s Disney talent at the end of the day. Love your insight on this Kevin, thanks for commenting! – Anati

  5. Shirley Dulcey on April 4, 2019 at 6:52 am

    In addition to Touchstone, Disney owned Hollywood Pictures, a division that operated from 1989 until 2007. R-rated films from that division include Grosse Pointe Blank, Dead Presidents, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, Shadow Conspiracy, Gun Shy (2000), and An American Werewolf in Paris.

    Disney also owned Miramax from 1993 (when they acquired it from the Weinstein brothers) until 2010 (when they sold it to Filmyard Holdings, a joint venture. Miramax released many R-rated films during that period, starting with Pulp Fiction.

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