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R-Rated Opening

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Yes, that is a child being sent to the gallows. In a Disney movie.

An early scene consisting of mature content used for works of fiction to let the audience know right off the bat that no, this ain't for kids. The R-Rated Opening is primarily for dealing with potential Public Medium Ignorance about genres that are traditionally associated with family-friendly material, or involve mature "twists" on iconic family-friendly genres/themes such as a Super Hero film from The Dark Age of Comic Books, that's based on a Darker and Edgier Deconstruction of your typical cape. Having someone get shot, die, curse, or even just bleed on screen will very clearly let audiences know to expect things to get much, much more serious and give fair warning for any parent who didn't pay attention to the R-rating but saw "cartoony people" in the movie trailer and thought they were taking their kids into some light-hearted fare.

Animated works trying to break out of the Animation Age Ghetto are a popular source for these. An R-Rated Opening can set the mood early by openly subverting standard conventions about the "heavy" material being well into the work and set the tone for the mature territory right where it should be. It can be combined with Mood Whiplash by starting out with a clichéd light-hearted scene the audience has seen a million times from the genre and completely dismembering it figuratively and literally.

Despite the trope name, the production in question does not actually have to have either an R, TV-MA or M rating, as examples of this can be found in PG and PG-13/TV-14/Teen-rated productions as well (such as the page image which is taken from a PG-13 movie). The intention is more about setting a certain tone rather than how extreme the content really is.

Subtrope of Establishing Series Moment.


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    Comic Books 
  • Done almost literally with Alias by Brian Michael Bendis: the very first word of the very first issue is an F-bomb.
  • The first chapter of Blade Devil opens with the main heroine messily mercy killing a group of bandits that have been infected with The Corruption before taking an entirely nude dip in a Waterfall Shower full page spread. All this happens by page 5.
  • The very first image from the first issue of The Boys has what looks like a superhero getting his head violently and gorily stomped in with a combat boot in close-up. The opening of the comic proper has Billy Butcher watching the Seven taking off in the sky, with another panel focusing on Homelander in far-off flight, just before Butcher says, "I'm gonna fuckin' have you. You cunt."
  • The Dreamkeepers Graphic Novels opens with a summoning ritual where they show a big, giant spear going right through the heart of a teenage girl.
  • Gear is a fairly-violent and upsetting Humongous Mecha war-story, but has very cartoony artwork (reminiscent of Disney's cartoons in the 1920s). The first issue opens on a noirish interrogation scene that ultimately leads to a mafia-style execution. It uses a Gory Discretion Shot, but it still establishes that, despite the artwork, it's not an all-ages comic.
  • Before the above Bendis example, the very second page of The Invisibles is a splash page of a character screaming "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!".
  • The adults only The Punisher MAX series opens up with Frank recounting the fateful day in Central Park where his family were slain in a mob shootout. Complete with graphic depictions of Frank's dead family. Shortly afterwards, we see Frank laying waste to dozens of Capos with his signature M60, along with copious amounts of gorn. It's important to note that all of this happens before the first issue is even finished.
  • Saga's opening scene is a childbirth scene, with the first line of dialogue being "Am I shitting? It feels like I'm shitting!".
  • The first issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic begins with the turtles fighting and killing a street gang, some of which uses a Gory Discretion Shot.

    Fan Works 


    Live-Action TV 
  • To mark its fourth season debut and move to a later time slot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. featured both a shot of Skye's underwear clad rear end and newly added Ghost Rider spraying a character with blood from, as we learn later, him ripping out another character's spine in the first few minutes of the season opener.
  • Avocado Toast: The series opens on Elle having sex in the car with a guy.
  • Daredevil (2015) opens with young Matt Murdock being blinded in an industrial accident in graphic detail; as well as Daredevil breaking up a human trafficking case in the first few scenes, setting a darker tone compared to other TV works (and movies) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Latvia's entry for the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest was the vegan-themed "Eat Your Salad" with the opening line "Instead of meat, I eat veggies and pussy". As the EBU, who run the contest, have rules about this sort of thing the line had to be censored during the band's semi-final performance. Lead singer Jānis Pētersons cut off after "veggies" but the audience happily finished the line for him.
  • "To the Waters and the Wild", the first episode of Fate: The Winx Saga starts with a farmer dropping two f-bombs in rapid succession searching for one of his sheep that's gone missing, finding its decapitated head in a tree and then getting attacked and killed by something in the woods, complete with blood splatter.
  • Game of Thrones start with the discovery of hacked up body parts, cluing in even the most inattentive viewer that if they are looking for maybe a live action adaptation of a religious cartoon they've come to the wrong place.
  • The first episode of GARO has a picture of a naked woman less than five minutes in.
  • Hill Street Blues received outstanding reviews but had extremely poor ratings in its first season. One of the points that the critics focused on, besides the writing and characterization, was the amount of sex and violence in the show, which (for the time and for network television) was ground-breaking. So the second season debut cold open featured a large number of scantily clad women being arrested for prostitution and brought into the station, and a gang member who was there grabbing a cop's gun and threatening the rest of the room at which time every other cop in the room took him down in a hail of bullets. The camera scans over the main characters holding smoking guns standing over the dead gang member with a bunch of barely dressed women in the background, and then cuts to the theme song with the title cards. Basically, the intro clearly stated "Here is what you are in for if you watch this show".
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer (2021): "Hot Shrimp Salad" begins with Lennon and Margo having sex, which it turns out is from a porn video they did.
  • Jessica Jones (2015) starts with Jessica following a couple during a tryst and taking photos of them in the act as part of her job as a Private Investigator and swearing multiple times during her narration, clearly establishing that this show isn't for the kiddies.
  • The Law According to Lidia Poët: The series opens with the body of a ballerina soon being found who's been murdered, and then swiftly cuts to protagonist Lidia having sex while she's shown topless.
  • Mindhunter's first episode has one for the whole show. It opens with a hostage situation, full frontal nudity, and the Chunky Salsa Rule, even though most of the rest of the episode is people talking in rooms.
  • Pre-promotion for NYPD Blue focused on the fact the series would feature language and sexual content (including nudity) of a level previously unseen in a mainstream (non-cable) American network series. It gets off to a fast start in episode 1 with a lead character grabbing his crotch as he calls a female character a "pissy little bitch" before the opening credits roll, and soon after the word "asshole" makes its network TV debut.
  • Orange Is the New Black features two naked women making out in a shower within the first few seconds of the first episode.
  • Subverted with Stargate SG-1: the first episode includes some gratuitous nudity (Netflix even shows a TV-MA rating because of this), but the rest of the series rarely gets more graphic than a few shots of Alien Blood and the occasional sexy outfit.
  • Tidelands (Netflix): The series opens with a scene in which Leandra brutally murders Zach Maney through breaking his neck with her bare hands while wearing only a thong.
  • An early scene in the first episode of Torchwood features a Weevil graphically killing someone, letting viewers know that this is going to be much more violent than the other series in the Whoniverse.
    • If that didn't make them realize that this is more adult, the second episode revolves around a young woman being possessed by an alien fog and killing men with sex.
  • Twenties: The very first scene is of Hattie having sex with a woman (though without anything explicit).
  • The Vietnam War, a documentary miniseries from Ken Burns and PBS (of all networks), opens with shots of battlefield carnage in which just a few of the 58,000 American casualties are mowed down mercilessly in combat... while the TV-MA V icon is displayed proudly in the upper-left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Possibly one of the reasons David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman didn't get picked up. The opening scene shows a young high school athlete receiving a college acceptance letter, then promptly collapsing to the floor, bleeding from his eyes and ears. Just what moms with fond memories of watching Lynda Carter's series would want to share with their daughters!
    • After the teaser, we get our first glimpse of Wonder Woman lassoing a suspect by the neck and then torturing him for information.

  • Nine Inch Nails' officially unreleased Broken movie begins with a man being hanged.
  • The Offspring's album Ignition opens with a man shouting "fuck" four times.
  • The album appropriately titled Rated R by Queens of the Stone Age opens with Feel Good Hit of the Summer, in which the lyrical content consists entirely of "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol" and "C-C-C-C-COCAINE!!!", both repeated several times each.
  • Jamie T's Panic Prevention opens with him yelling "FUCKING CROISSANT!". Undoubtedly hilarious, but not so much if you're listening to it for the first time near your parents.
  • The Kanye West album The College Dropout opens with an employee of a school asking West to perform a song to entertain children, but West instead performs We Don't Care, a song glorifying selling drugs in order to keep an income. This results in the employee immediately giving West a Cluster F-Bomb laced angry lecture.

  • The absurdist French play Ubu Roi opens with the title character bellowing "MERDRE!"note 

    Visual Novels 
  • Several nukige visual novels drops you in Hentai scenes right from the start. Justified as they're Porn Without Plot (or Porn with Plot with a huge focus on the former) games.
  • The very first cutscene of the very first entry in the Danganronpa series is of Monokuma trapping someone (later revealed to be Jin Kirigiri, the true headmaster of Hope's Peak Academy) in a rocket ship, shooting him into the air, and letting him fall back down to Earth. While it's not quite as violent as later events (all we see of the person after he crashes is his skeleton), it still sets the tone for the rest of the franchise.
  • ClockUp is prone to having such openings in their visual novels. Considering the company's output, it's to be expected:
    • Shortly after the characters of Euphoria are introduced, one refuses to participate in the Deadly Game. She is subsequently made an example of by being strapped to an electric chair and shocked to death.
    • Maggot Baits first sexual opens with the "Witches" Isabel and Sandy having sex with and killing about ten men after talking about it to the protagonist. Taking place in a City Noir, the game and its citizens treats this as something natural.
  • When you boot up Your Turn to Die for the first time, you're met with a shadowy silhouette of Sou Hiyori, who forces you to decide between two people... without telling you that whoever you don't pick gets crushed by a rock, with visible blood. Then he, with a Slasher Smile on his lips, subjects you to a Jump Scare shortly afterwards.

  • Curvy starts of with Anais drawing naked women in her binder.
  • Go Get a Roomie! starts off with Roomie having lesbian sex in a bar's restroom.
  • Nine pages into Hell(p) and already we get blood splashing and body parts flying.
  • A more mild example, but the first Pesterlog in Homestuck is a discussion between two of the main characters about Little Monsters. Specifically, one of the characters is trolling the other into thinking about drinking urine after a mention of apple juice. This, along with other brief moments of Toilet Humor beforehand (including a joke command about pooping on desks) gives an early indicator the sort of humor this comic is known for.
  • Not exactly the first scene (although Jigsaw DOES threaten someone with 'a violin case'), but Last Res0rt throws around the stuff about Vampires pretty quick, and makes sure to toss in some blood after that. Word of God says this was done on purpose (along with the gratuitous swearing) just so she wouldn't have to deal with people complaining when she got up to scenes like this one. When you know scenes like that could take years to get to (and people have invested more than just a few bucks in their entertainment by then), an R-Rated Opening makes a lot of sense.
  • Ménage à 3 provides another lightweight example, as the first ever strip features gay sex. It's a comedy, but it's a sex comedy that doesn't pretend to be anything else (especially since some originally-obscured nudity got retconned in). Actually, one of those characters getting interrupted in the act has become a Running Gag in the comic.
  • morphE is mostly a magical boarding school from hell story about 5 captives who are being trained in magic by a sociopathic socialite mage. However the prologue chapter, lasting 4 pages, depicts two people running from a knife weilding mad-woman and running in to human bodies locked in crates, coated in blood and with many of their digits removed.
  • Remus kicks off with a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic flying a passenger jet into the White House, the U.S.'s rapid descent into a full-blown second civil war and crackdown on civil liberties, and then gives us a bloody glimpse of that war via the series' resident knife-wielder. And that's the first three pages...
  • While not right at the start the first chapter of Shadownova definitely counts. A school is blown up, killing heaps of people, most of which would be children. Not long after we see the wounded students and teachers who aren't quite dead. Then Cameron Hunter arrives.
  • The opening gag of the long-running Something*Positive is an abortion joke. And if the reader doesn't realize from that point onward that the author will go for dark, adult, offensive and sometimes violent humor, then they should figure it out pretty quickly when this is followed by main cast members attempting to steal from a Salvation Army Santa Claus and creating porno snow sculptures.

    Web Animation 
  • In Terrible Writing Advice, JP suggests to make the opening contrast with the lighthearted of the rest of the work. After all, according to him, it's like it doesn't drive away the audience expecting a lighthearted story, nor does it disappoint the remainder who expect the rest of the work to be mature either.

    Web Original 
  • APPLE.MOV: "Applejack, what are you doing? You can't eat all those fucking apples." "Fuck you I can eat all these apples!"
  • Evie and Aaron, the hosts of Awesomed By Comics Podcast related a completely accidental, but totally hilarious, example that occurred when they attended a matinee showing of Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time. In a grievous error, the movie theater accidentally ran the film that apparently had been shown the previous night on that particular multiplex screen — the very R-rated Drive Angry, whose opening minutes are particularly front-loaded with violence and profanity. Apart from Evie and Aaron, the audience consisted entirely of children and parents. Hilarity Ensued.
  • Big Bill Hell's: The very first words spoken (and shown on-screen) are "Fuck you, Baltimore!"
  • Lobo (Webseries): The very first episode starts with Lobo going past an exercizing alien who says "Hey, watch it! What are you trying to do, take my head off?!" Lobo goes back to him and shoots his head clean off with blood and eyeballs spurting out.
  • Proxy begins with Jeff the Killer killing an innocent woman and then being captured by a certain tall, dark and faceless entity who proceeds to force feed him some sort of suspicious liquid...
  • Invoked if not precisely played straight with the opening scene of Suburban Knights: no one expects the cast of Channel Awesome to be "family-friendly", but the bloody splattering of the clueless motorist across his car windows by Malachite definitely serves notice that things are about to get more serious than the previous outings.
    • This is lampshaded when the Critic reviewed this movie as a DVD extra.
    Critic: (when Bill's head explodes) Whoa! Um... okay, somebody's movie forgot to take its depression medication. I mean, I thought this was, like, fun, adventure, people in dress-up fantasy, ooooh, all sorts of whimsical comedy and— (the car blows up, much to the Critic's shock) Did I put in the wrong movie?! I mean, the back of the film says it's a hilarious adventure with non-stop fun! (replays the explosion) Maybe if you call it "An Arsonist's Christmas"!

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers pilot episode, "Phoenix", has about three minutes to set up the general situation - the Foxx family heading to Kirwin, the human-Kiwi collaboration on new agricultural tech...and then the Crown Destroyer shows up and people start getting gunned down right and left. For a cartoon in the 80s, that was pretty edgy.
  • Castlevania (2017) does this in a particularly interesting way, one that almost counts as a Snicket Warning Label of sorts, in the very first shot that opens the show as a whole. Said shot depicts hundreds of skeletons impaled on stakes sitting in the front yard of Dracula's castle, followed by a swarm of bats surrounding them for several seconds before we cut to Lisa getting to the castle's entrance while bloodily impaling one of the bats with her knife, basically establishing that the series won't be a fun ride. If that wasn't enough of a hint as going further, we later witness Lisa being burned at the stake by the evil Bishop, unleashing Dracula's rage and causing him to send off swarms of night creatures to massacre everyone, starting by sending said creatures into Targoviste to horrifically eviscerate the town's inhabitants, leaving trails of bloody body parts, intestines, blood and corpses all over the place in their wake.
  • The very first shots of The Headless Chicken have the protagonist, Amos the Chicken, getting decapitated by a farmer on-screen, immediately establishing the cartoon's horror-comedy tone.
  • Played with in Invincible (2021). Most of the first episode is a soft PG-13 at worst. And then you get to the ending, which plays Bloody Horror to the hilt as Omni-Man brutally slaughters his former teammates. This is in keeping with the spirit of the original comic book, which was certainly violent but relatively tame to begin with; the Omni-Massacre didn't happen until a few issues in.
  • Just in case you needed a hint that Ralph Bakshi's The Last Days of Coney Island is not fun escapist entertainment, it opens up with very dark, grisly scenery and a clip of JFK's assassination being played three times in a row, which also makes it clear that it does not intend to show a rose tinted view of the 1960's. And if that isn't enough of a hint, one of the first things you see a character in the film do is brutally murder his mother on screen for having sex with a clown.
  • The Legend of Vox Machina: In the span of the first two minutes a group of Decoy Protagonists get utterly eviscerated, there's a lot of drinking, lots of swearing, a Vomit Indiscretion Shot from a drunk Keyleth, a man asking another man to give him a hand-job (albeit as an Insult Backfire) and somebody getting their hand chopped off. The party bard Scanlan is also found shortly afterwards naked in bed with a woman.
  • Todd McFarlane's Spawn starts with a shockingly brutal scene where several people are killed in horrific ways, including one guy whose head gets twisted 180 degrees by the title character, another who burns to death in graphic detail, and another whose arm is snapped in half so that he blows his brains out with his own gun.


Video Example(s):


Big Bill Hell's

The ad opens by swearing at the viewer, and it only gets more vulgar from here.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (63 votes)

Example of:

Main / RRatedOpening

Media sources: