1968 – The MPPDA is replaced by The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and begins to assign ratings, including Britain’s X rating for films unsuitable for minors. 1968’s Greetings , directed by Brian De Palma and starring Robert De Niro, becomes the first American film to receive an X rating, despite being non-pornographic (it was later re-rated R).
1969 – Midnight Cowboy receives an X rating from the MPAA. It goes on to win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first X-rated film to win an Academy Award.
1971 – The MPAA gives Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange an X rating.
1972 – Fritz the Cat becomes the first animated film to receive an X rating from the MPAA.
Early 1970s – The MPAA’s X rating also referred to non-trademarked films, meaning that any filmmaker could give a film an X rating without even submitting to the MPAA. Thus, beginning in the 1970s, many pornographic films carried an X rating, later evolving into the use of multiple X’s (i.e. XX, XXX) to indicate just how unsuitable for minors the film was. Again, these were not MPAA-sanctioned ratings — the MPAA only gave single X ratings.
1990 – The MPAA replaces the X rating with NC-17, thus separating non-trademarked works from those rated as unsuitable for minors (only the MPAA can give an NC-17 rating). The acronym stands for “No Children Under 17 Admitted.” Henry & June , released October 5, 1990, becomes the first movie to receive the new rating. Some papers refuse to run ads for the film, or future NC-17 titles.
1995 – Showgirls is released by United Artists with an NC-17 rating. Despite the rating, the film is distributed in 1,388 cinemas upon release, however its financial failure does much to steer producers clear of the NC-17 rating. (That said, with a $20 million box office, it is the top-grossing NC-17 film all of time. Food for thought.) Many films, upon receiving an NC-17 rating, have gone back and edited out contentious material until the MPAA downgrades the rating to R. Both American Pie and Grindhouse were originally rated NC-17 and later edited down to R.
Late 1990s – The MPAA changes the wording of the NC-17 rating from “No Children Under 17 Admitted” to “No One 17 And Under Admitted.”
2008- Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno becomes the first film to win an R rating after appealing the MPAA’s NC-17 designation.