The rating was widely expected and Fox Searchlight knew the film, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, would likely receive an NC-17. It includes full frontal male and female nudity and graphic sex.
The movie opens in limited -- with the NC-17, extremely limited -- release Dec. 2.
Also read: 'Shame' Shocks With Pitiless, NC-17 Sex
According to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which rates movies, NC-17 films are "patently adult." Children are not admitted to them -- even with their parents.
An NC-17 rating affects a movie's ability to make money for a number of reasons. Among the most important, many theaters won't show them. The rating also makes it difficult to advertise such movies.
The movie is an Oscar contender, and Fox Searchlight is aggressively pushing it for a number of awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director.
"Shame" stars Fassbender as Brandon, a man who is addicted to sex, whose private life is disrupted when his sister, Cissy, played by Mulligan, shows up for an unannounced -- and indefinite -- visit.