The Dark Knight cinematographer Wally Pfister is still surprised ten years later the film didn’t earn an R-rating from the MPAA.
R-rated superhero films were not seen as a profitable investment by studios until Deadpool grossed $783 million worldwide in 2016. Since then, audiences have seen a lot more mature superhero content with Logan and more to come. Even Batman has had more mature content recently with Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition and in the video game space with Arkham Knight and The Telltale Series. Todd Phillips’ upcoming Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix is also shooting for an R-rating. But back in 2008, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight pushed the envelope on what you could get away with in a PG-13 superhero movie and Pfister admitted in an interview with Vulture that he is still surprised it wasn’t rated R:
“It’s kind of shocking that The Dark Knight ended up being PG-13. All of Chris’s movies would be PG-13 to open it up to a wider audience. Somehow, he always had some magic with the MPAA. Lo and behold, he has the pencil and I’m like, “You are not getting the PG-13 with that. There’s no way this is going in. He’s driving this pencil through a guy’s head!” And I was wrong. Chris was always right, whether you liked it or not. You’d be like, “F*** you, you were right again.” With this pencil trick, I thought, ‘If it has the right amount of levity, we’ll sell this and it won’t come off as being violent but it’ll come off as being a magic trick and it’ll come off as being a punchline.’ And it was!”
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Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy is available now in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray and DVD.