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In some countries, X or XXX 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 legally defined as people over the age of 18.
In Australia, X-rated is a legal term. The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), a government institution, issues ratings for all movies and television shows sold or aired. Movies showing explicit, non-simulated sex are rated "X". "X" rated movies are not permitted to be sold in most states, but possession of such movies is legal in the Australian Capital Territory; the constitution forbids restraint in goods and trade between the states, so they are available in all states by mail order. An attempt to change the classification ratings such that some of the material in the "X" category would be banned and the remainder would be available under the new category "NVE" (an abbreviation for Non-Violent Erotica), failed in the Senate, partly due to the belief of some senators that the new categories were less restrictive than the old. The proposed category of NVE held tighter restrictions of content in sexually explicit films. Although the new rating was rejected, all states and territories agreed in a review of the OFLC's guidelines to introduce the new, tighter content restrictions in the "X" category. The new guidelines make unambiguous statements relating to fetish and violence in this category. "Fetishes such as body piercing, application of substances such as candle wax, 'golden showers', bondage, spanking and fisting are not permitted" and "No depiction of violence...is allowed in the category". If such content is in a film, particularly violence in a plot development context (i.e. separate from kids violence), it is often edited out prior to submission to the OFLC to avoid being "Refused Classification" (effectively banning the film).
Films may be shown in theaters in France only after classification by an administrative commission of the ministry of Culture. In 1975, the X classification (officially: "pornographic or violence-inciting movies") was created for pornographic movies, or movies with successions of scenes of graphic violence. The commission has some leeway in classification, it may for instance take into account the artistic qualities of a movie not to count it pornographic. Movies with an X rating may only be shown in specific theaters (which hardly exist nowadays in France); they bear special taxes and tax rates, including a 33% tax on revenue. In 2000, some conservative associations sued the government for granting the movie Baise-moi, which contained graphic, realistic scenes of sex and violence, a non-X classification. The Conseil d'État at litigation ruled that the movie should have been rated X. The decision was highly controversial, and some suggested changing the law under which it was rated 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. Sometimes the rating of a film changes significantly over time. For example Plan 9 from Outer Space received an X rating in 1960 that was changed to a PG rating in 1990. In some early cases, films received an X rating due to political content. The Battleship Potemkin was rejected for "inflammatory subtitles and Bolshevik propaganda" in 1926, rated X in 1954, and finally rated PG in 1987.
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 children, such as extreme violence, 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, Last Tango in Paris and The Evil Dead. 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. 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. 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.