I've always found it interesting that back in the late '70s, '80s, and '90s, there were some R-rated movies that were being marketed to kids. It’s really strange to think about now because of how much Hollywood has changed over the years, and that's not really socially acceptable anymore. Hell, these day parents are pissed off about collectible adult toys for TV shows like Breaking Bad. Back in the day though, there were several R-rated movies that spawned kids toys and amusing cartoon series. A lot of these films were considered hard-R movies as well, full of crazy violence, bad words, nudity, and sex. These were movies that kids shouldn’t have been watching, but the companies decided to include kids in their target market anyway, which turned out to be pretty freakin’ cool for those of us who got to experience it. We don’t see that kind of stuff happen anymore - Hollywood is trying to make everything PG-13 these days anyway. I’ve come up with a list of ten classic R-rated films and what they spawned for kids. Look over the list and let us know what toys you owned and cartoons you watched! Also, did you see any of these movies when you were a kid?
RoboCop is easily the most violent R-rated film to get a toy line and animated series. The 1987 film featured one hell of a graphic scene in which police officer Alex Murphy is brutally shot to death in the most violent way imaginable. It was so hardcore that the movie was almost slapped with an X rating.
Kenner developed toys called Robocop and the Ultra Police. Then, in addition to his partner Ann Lewis, Robocop was given a few other allies like “Birdman” Barnes and even fought the evil Vandals gang. In the 1990s, we got Robocop 2, which was released after the cartoon and toy line. Some people consider it to be even more violent and sadistic than the first movie.
Kids seemed to love the toys though, and I watched the cartoon. I didn't see the actual movie until I was older. But seeing the toys made me want to watch it, and at the time I didn't understand why I couldn't. There was no way my parents were going to allow that movie.
First Blood was a brutal 1982 war thriller that followed a Vietnam vet who couldn't escape from the horrors of war. He was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Rambo: First Blood Part II came along in 1985, and was an even more over-the-top action film that included a ton of bad guys who are graphically and savagely killed, and at one point Rambo is viciously tortured. It only makes sense that a kids’ cartoon was developed in 1986 along with a line of action figures where kids could act out killing each other in toy form.
The series was called Rambo and the Forces of Freedom, and it was basically a rip-off of G.I. Joe. It was also made to help promote and sell the Coleco toy line. Rambo and his men fought an evil organization known as S.A.V.A.G.E. which was run by Nomad, a stereotypical Arab turban-wearing terrorist, who is “not above seizing hostages or planting a bomb.” There was a lot of controversy surrounding that villain figure. After receiving a several complaints about Nomad, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee successfully lobbied Coleco into ceasing production of the figure.
My childhood wouldn't have been complete without playing with the Rambo toys. The cartoon was always fun to watch as well.
Technically the Toxic Avenger isn’t rated, but if it did have a rating there’s no doubt it would be R due to its black humor and gratuitous violence. There were also a couple sequels that were made that got an R-rating. The disgusting low-budget film became a cult classic, and in the early 90s, Playmates Toys gave the franchise its own action figure line. I guess they thought kids would enjoy playing with a mutated janitor with a mop for a weapon. There was also a short-lived cartoon series called Toxic Crusaders that sucked.
This is a toy line, cartoon, and movie franchise that I never got into. I've seen the movie and cartoon but didn't really ever care for either of them. I think I was about 14 or 15 when I saw the movie, and I haven’t watched it since. I also never owned any of the toys.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Kenner ended up picking up the toy license to James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The interesting thing about this film is that there was no cartoon or comic book tie-in to promote. These were straight up action figures for an R-rated film. I was about 12 years old when this movie came out, and my dad took me to the theater to watch it. It was one of the greatest movie-going experiences ever for me.
After I saw it, I had to have the action figures! The toy versions of The Terminator, the T-1000, and an Endoskeleton were all so awesome. This was a movie not to be missed on the big screen, even for a kid. It’s interesting that Kenner felt there were enough 8 to 10-year-old kids out there who knew who the Terminator was to warrant a toyline.
Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens both got toy lines from Kenner as well. Watching the kids in the first Alien commercial below is hilarious because they probably would have shit their pants had they actually watched the movie. Yet there they are, acting out the terrifying sci-fi horror film. I also think it’s funny that the commercial starts off with one of the kids maniacally hissing. Then the Xenomorph wins at the end of the commercial! The bad guy isn't supposed to win! Alien only got one 18” figure. Apparently parents complained, which is why we didn’t see any more toys.
Aliens was more of an action sci-fi film, and it was extremely fun. Aliens was the first rated R movie that I saw, and I freakin’ loved it! I actually wrote up a whole article on my experience that you can read here. There was a plan to make a cartoon series called Operation: Aliens, and the action figures were supposed to tie into that. The series ended up being cancelled before it aired, but they released the toys anyway. They included all of our favorite characters from the film, different kinds of Xenomorph aliens, and some cool vehicles.
Aliens Vs. Predator
In 1992, before the Alien vs. Predator movies were even made, Kenner went ahead and decided to create a toy line that pitted two rated R film franchise aliens against each other. Unlike several of the other toys, there was no animated cartoon to promote through the toys. They were, however, somewhat inspired by the Dark Horse comics. The toy company was pretty much betting on the idea that kids would know who the Aliens and Predators were. Judging from the success they had from the line, they made the right bet. I owned a few of these, mostly used for the decoration of my bedroom.
Starship Troopers was released in 1997 and it was a hardcore and violent sci-fi action movie that even included some nudity. This movie was rated R for a reason, and it wasn’t made for kids. That didn’t stop Galoob from making an action figure line for them though! It even included a Micro Machine line.
There was also an animated series in 1999 made called Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, and it was way better than the movie! That show was badass.
I also found it amusing that Casper Van Dien reprised his role as Johnny Rico for a Childhelp PSA. I understand that it was to help raise awareness for child abuse, but seriously, Starship Troopers as its spokesman? That's kind of weird...right?
These were toys I never owned as they didn't really interested me. I couldn't find an actual commercial promoting the toy, but I found a silly parody and the PSA.
The 1984 comedy Police Academy was hilarious, but it was a vulgar movie that’s not appropriate for kids. The first film was followed by six more, each one getting worse and worse as they were released. Regardless of the rating, in 1988 a goofy animated series was developed along with a goofy-looking series of toys. They obviously dropped all the vulgar stuff and just focused on the slapstick, silly elements of the movie.
Most of the main characters from the film were included in the cartoon adaptation, but they added a group of K-9 dogs to help them solve crimes because, you know, kids love dogs. The cartoon also featured the voices of actors from the films, including Leslie Easterbrook, Steve Guttenberg, and Michael Winslow. Not that any of the kids watching the show would notice.
Conan The Barbarian
Someone thought that the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Conan the Barbarian would make a great kids animated series and toyline, and you know what? It kind of did! The series was called Conan the Adventurer. Just to remind you of the kind of character Conan was, when he is asked what is best in life, he responds with, "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women." Yeah! Sounds like a perfect fit for kids!
In the 1993 cartoon and action figure line, Conan was portrayed as a heroic, strong, and morally sound character who would never think of doing anything wrong. After all, he couldn't be portrayed as the violent murderous womanizer that he was in the movie.