Movie ratings explained

Written by nan kimberling
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Movie ratings explained
Movies are rated voluntarily in partnership with the MPAA. (old movie film onwhite background image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from

Parents have a valuable tool in the Motion Picture Association of America's motion picture content rating system for use when deciding what to expose their children to in theatre-released movies. With children and young teens making up a large demographic market of the movie industry, especially in today's technology-driven industry, it is helpful for parents to be knowledgeable of the meanings of individual film ratings to judge what movies their children should or should not watch.

Motion Picture Association of America

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the non-profit trade organisation representing the interests of motion picture studios, producers and distributors. While its main focus is to protect motion picture content from copyright infringement and to oversee the business interest rights and legalities for and of the industry, the MPAA also rates motion picture content for the viewing audience to refer to as a set standard. According to, this voluntary rating system began in 1968 as a service to parents and in 2010 is overseen by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) in partnership with MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO).

G for General Audiences

In 2010 G-rated movies fall into the general category rating of film where all audiences are welcome and all ages are permitted. The content contains no offensive material as judged by the Ratings Board that would be questionable for a minor child. Orion Home Video release "Babes in Toyland," Walt Disney studio's "The Little Mermaid" and MGM studio's "The Wizard of Oz" are examples of well known G-rated motion picture content.

PG for Parental Guidance Suggested

The PG rating for motion pictures indicates that parental guidance is suggested when a minor child's attendance and viewing is in question. More mature themes than G-rated movies are explored in PG-rated films along with very brief or rare instances of profanity or nudity, and the parent is asked to make the decision for the child based on this information. Universal studio's "ET," DreamWorks studio's "Shrek" and 20th Century Fox studio's "Star Wars" are familiar examples of PG-rated motion picture content.

PG-13 for Parents Strongly Cautioned

The PG-13 rating category was the highest grossing rating category of 2009 with almost twice as much gross revenue as the nearest ranking PG category for the same year, according to The PG-13 rating strongly cautions parents that some content may be inappropriate for children, especially those below the age of 13 years. Brief nudity, mild violent situations or themes and use of profanity often will cause a film to be rated PG-13 and less suitable for younger children. Warner Brothers studio's "The Dark Knight," New Line Cinema's "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy" and Buena Vista studio's "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise films are well-known examples of PG-13-rated motion picture content.

R for Restricted

In 2009, 143 movies reached theatres with a rating of R by the Ratings Board indicating that the film is restricted, with no individuals below the age of 17 being admitted without a legal guardian or parent accompanying them. This rating cautions the parent of the introduction of heavy adult themes both in violence and sexuality, of extended or frequent scenes with nudity or profanity and of exposure to re-created drug or domestic abuse situations. Newmarket studio's "The Passion of the Christ," Warner Brothers studio's "The Matrix Reloaded" and DreamWorks studio's "Saving Private Ryan" are examples of successful films that hold an R rating with mature themes.

NC-17 for No Entrance Under 17

The rare NC-17 film rating designates that no one below the age of 17 years is allowed entrance into the film even with a legal guardian or parent. Studios typically shy away from producing movies that garner this rating or edit the films to reach an R-level rating if an NC-17 is handed back after submittal to the Ratings Board. The reason is usually purely economic, as shown in 2009 when no NC-17 motion picture content was theatrically released, according to

Unrated Motion Picture Content

Unrated motion picture content is content that has not been submitted to the MPAA for the voluntary ratings system. It can be any content from a studio production to an independent documentary or speciality film. The advertising pre-release trailers either close out or begin with a mandatory disclaimer that the content advertised in them has not been reviewed by nor been assigned a rating by the MPAA as of the trailer release date. This occurs often when the rating has not yet been assigned in time to make the advertising campaign deadlines.

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