Movies About Sex Work That Don't Sugarcoat Anything

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The first and only film with an X rating ever to win Best Picture, Midnight Cowboy tells the seedy story of Joe Buck, a Texas boy who moves to the big city and dresses up as a cowboy to sell his wares. He falls under the shaky wing of Rico “Ratso” Rizzo, played by Dustin Hoffman, who gets to deliver the often-imitated line “I’m walkin’ here!”

Directed by John Schlesinger and written by Waldo Salt, the film is notable for its empathetic portrayal — especially by 1960s standards — of low-level street hustlers, and its willingness to just spend time with its characters without judgement or false moralizing.

There’s a long story behind the film’s rating, which was later changed to an R.

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