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In the ‘80s, probably more movies than you realize became animated series. Sure, The Real Ghostbusters and Disney’s spinoff series were prolific, but did you know even Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, Beetlejuice, Bill and Ted, The Karate Kid and Back to the Future had cartoons? Those all make sense as they were family friendly films. But even some R-rated movies spawned kiddie cartoons.

Robocop holds his gun in the R-rated movie
Peter Weller | Orion Pictures Corporation/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

R-rated ‘Robocop’ movies had 2 animated series

The Robocop live-action films would eventually go PG-13 and include a child character in Robocop 3. But, there’s no mistaking the first two Robocops are not for kids. Still, the idea of a robot police officer could be kid-friendly, if you stripped it of the ultra-violence, profanity, corporate satire and Jesus metaphor. 

The first Robocop animated series came out only one year after the 1987 original movie, so it didn’t take them long to figure out the mass appeal of Alex Murphy. The 1998 series Robocop: Alpha Commando sees Murphy lead a task force against the terrorist group DARC (Directorate for Anarchy, Revenge, and Chaos). The sanitizing of Robocop sounds like something OCP would do. 

R-rated action movie ‘Rambo’ became G.I. Joe

In the ‘80s, Rambo was synonymous with ultra-violent jingoism. That was mainly due to the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II, where John Rambo Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) got to return to Vietnam and win this time. The original First Blood was a tragic tale of how badly the U.S. treated returning Vietnam veterans. That is hardly the subject of a children’s cartoon either. 

The Rambo cartoon came out in 1986, one year after the movie sequel. Rambo III would hit theaters in 1988 and remain R-rated. The animated series had Rambo leading the Force of Freedom against S.A.V.A.G.E. (Specialist-Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy, and Global Extortion). Boy, somebody really worked overtime on acronyms, but basically they made Rambo the star of a G.I. Joe type unit. 

‘The Toxic Avenger’ became a family friendly environmentalist

This one goes beyond R-rated. Troma movies are so extreme, the full cut of The Toxic Avenger is unrated. Creator Lloyd Kaufman was as surprised as anybody that they wanted to turn him into a children’s show. But, he went along with it although a live-action Toxic Crusaders movie never materialized.

The Toxic Avenger was a former nerd who fell into a vat of toxic waste and mutated into a superhero. Not only is his appearance monstrous, but he kills bad guys in absurdly graphic ways. There’s also plenty of Troma nudity to go along with it. But, on The Toxic Crusaders, Toxie led fellow mutants to fight for Planet Earth. Too bad they’re not still around to fight climate change. 

R-rated ‘Police Academy’ became a wacky animated series 

Maybe Police Academy recognized its audience because only the first movie was rated R. The second was PG-13 and every one after was PG. Really, the slapstick shenanigans of the officers didn’t need to be raunchy. By 1998, they tried an animated series but it only lasted one season. 

R-rated ‘Highlander’ had an animated series too

Though the first two movies were rated R, Highlander really had its greatest success as a long running syndicated TV series. After that found its audience, even the third movie was PG-13. Even though there can be only one, there were five movies, two live-action series and even an animated one. 

Conan the Barbarian had an animated series based on the book

Just including this to be thorough since there was an R-rated Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conan the Adventurer appears to be unrelated, as the Robert E. Howard books predate the movie. Anyone is free to adapt them, including Netflix, so this 1992 animated series just attempted a lighter adaptation. 

R-rated ‘Starship Troopers’ had a CGI animated

Two Paul Verhoeven movies made this list. Wonder if anyone tried to make a Basic Instinct cartoon too. The Starship Troopers movie was in the Robocop mold of ultra-violent sci-fi satire. The animated series Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles showcased late ‘90s computer animation but presumably had to tone down the bug massacres for television.