Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Why 'Killer Joe' got an NC-17

Violence and fried chicken helped earn Matthew McConaughey’s new indie the dreaded rating

Posted on

What does it take to get an NC-17 rating? In the case of Killer Joe, the psychosexual crime film that stars Matthew McConaughey as a disturbed hitman, the answer is: nudity (costar Gina Gershon appears pantsless in an extended opening sequence), gory violence, and disturbing depictions of psychological abuse. Then there’s the scene where McConaughey and Gershon do something so unspeakably horrific with a leg of fried chicken that moviegoers might be inclined to swear off KFC for life. According to David Dinerstein, president of LD Entertainment, which is distributing the film, that moment was largely responsible for pushing the rating from R to NC-17 — a label that often discourages theaters from showing a movie. Along with screenwriter Tracy Letts (who based the film on his own play), Dinerstein unsuccessfully appealed the MPAA’s ruling. But rather than cut the scene, he and the filmmakers decided to stand by Killer Joe in all its poultry-defiling glory. ”I’m very surprised by the rating, honestly,” says Dinerstein. ”There are far more disturbing films that have gotten an R.”