The sex scene between Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril took nine takes to get right, and about nine hours to film. Pedro Almodóvar chose to use the last take as, by that time, the two actors had worked themselves up into a sweat which made the scene appear to be more authentic. Elia Kazan later remarked that he thought it was one of the best sex scenes he had ever witnessed.
One of the films (along with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)) that was instrumental in bringing about the introduction of the NC-17 rating in the U.S., as the film's distributor, Miramax, took the MPAA to court over the X certification it had initially been designated. According to Pedro Almodóvar, the MPAA did not believe an R was appropriate, even after cuts, because they were afraid the film would inspire young men to kidnap women out of lust. Miramax argued an X rating implicated pornography and would diminish its audience, but they lost the lawsuit and the film was released unrated. In September 1990, the MPAA replaced X with NC-17 in response to numerous appeals by other filmmakers under similar circumstances. Eventually, the film was re-rated NC-17 for home video release, the reason being the explicit scene of Marina being aroused by a toy diver in the bathtub.
In the United States, the home video releases from Miramax and Anchor Bay are rated NC-17, with the latter studio distributing the film under license from Miramax. The Criterion Collection releases are unrated because they were licensed directly from El Deseo, S.A. and neither studio are under contract with the MPAA to distribute the film with a certification.