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How are Movies Rated?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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When you look at an advertisement for a movie, there should be a rating symbol next to the name of the film. This is known as the film's classification or rating. The rating gives the intended viewer an idea of the type of content that the film contains and the intended age of the viewer. Films are given a rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The process of submitting a film to the MPAA is purely voluntary for the filmmaker. The majority of film makers submit their films to receive a rating. If they are not happy with the rating they receive, they have the option of recutting the film. The filmmaker is also free to market his or her films without a rating.

Films are given their ratings by a board of members. There is a special committee approved and designed specifically for the ratings purpose. Members of the committee view and discuss each film before deciding, based on its content, which age group it would be most suitable for.

Factors such as sexual content, violence, nudity, language, and theme all play a part in the ratings decision. Another factor is how the content material is used in the context of the film. Ratings are not used in a critical sense; they only provide a guide to the age group for which a certain film is most suited.

There are five different film classifications. Movies rated G are deemed suitable for a general audience. People of any age can be admitted to them. There should be nothing in the film that can be considered harmful to even the youngest member of a family. G movies should contain no nudity, drug use, profanity, or sexual scenes.

Parental guidance, or PG, is the next step up in the movie ratings system. PG movies may not be suitable for very young children. They may contain scenes that younger children will not understand or may find offensive. They should not contain drug use or sexual scenes. There may be some moderate nudity and violence in movies rated PG.

PG13 movies are inadvisable for children under the age of 13. There may be scenes of violence, some drug use, and some profanity. There is usually not any strong sexual content in these movies.

The next movie classification is R. Movies rated R, or restricted, contain adult content and material. An R rated film could contain strong language, sexual scenes, violence, and scenes of drug use. Anyone aged 17 or under should be accompanied by an adult or guardian to an R rated movie.

The final movie rating classification is restricted under 17, or NC-17. Anyone aged 17 or under will not be admitted to NC-17 movies. They may contain scenes of an explicitly sexual nature, very strong violence, and sexual language.

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Discussion Comments
By anon935689 — On Feb 26, 2014

I think that there are many overrated movies and that they should be changed. Forest Gump is a huge letdown. So is Caddyshack.

By anon261642 — On Apr 16, 2012

The MPAA just wants to make money. "The Hunger Games" shows kids killing kids. PG-13 -- really?

By geronimo8 — On Feb 17, 2011

I'm glad that most movies go through this process of being assigned ratings. It makes it much easier for me to pick out movies that are appropriate for my family. I can't even imagine what it would be like without this convenience. I don't think we would have family movie night nearly as often!

By heath925 — On Feb 15, 2011

It is very common for me to disagree with current movie ratings. I tend to stick with a rating one step down from what is recommended for my kids. It seems like I often find that I think the rating of a movie should be higher than it is.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, or maybe my kids are just very sensitive. But it seems like they don't even really enjoy, and are often scared by, movies with a PG rating, which should be fine for them.

Plus, I have seen a lot of PG-13 movies and wondered why they weren't rated R. I think it's really up to parents to view movies and decide what is right for their children.

By JoseJames — On Feb 10, 2011

I seems like the ratings systems have changed throughout the years. I remember when the warriors came out in the 80's it had an R rating. But compared to movies today it would have got a Pg13 or lower. They didn't have PG13's back then they only had G, PG and R back then.

I remember right around the time in the 90's when NC17 first came about. I think the movie striptease was the first movie to have a theatrical release with the rating in the USA.

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