The Motion Picture Association of
America (MPAA) adopted a voluntary rating system for movies in 1968.
The goal of the ratings was to give advance cautionary warnings to
parents in regards to the content of films.
Ratings are decided by a 8-13 member
Rating Board who screen each movie volunteered for review. Since 1990
the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) has also cited the reasons for the rating it gives to a
particular film. For more information, visit www.filmratings.com.
Ratings And What They
Here are the current rating codes
and what they refer to, according to the leader in the system's
development, current MPAA President and CEO Jack Valenti.
General Audiences - All Ages Admitted
This is a film which contains
nothing in theme, language, nudity and sex, violence, etc. which
would, in the view of the Rating Board, be offensive to parents
whose younger children view the film. The G rating is not a
"certificate of approval," nor does it signify a children's
Some snippets of language may go
beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday
expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated films. The
violence is at a minimum. Nudity and sex scenes are not present;
nor is there any drug use content.
Parental Guidance Suggested, Some Material May Not Be Suitable For
This is a film which clearly
needs to be examined or inquired into by parents before they let
their children attend. The label PG plainly states that parents
may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but the
parent must make the decision.
Parents are warned against sending
their children, unseen and without inquiry, to PG-rated
The theme of a PG-rated film may
itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in
these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. But these
elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be
strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance.
There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film.
The PG rating, suggesting parental
guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents
before deciding on its viewing by their children.
Obviously such a line is difficult to
draw. In our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments
without incurring some disagreement. So long as parents know they
must exercise parental responsibility, the rating serves as a
meaningful guide and as a warning.
Parents Strongly Cautioned, Some Material May Be Inappropriate For
Children Under 13
PG-13 is thus a sterner warning
to parents to determine for themselves the attendance in
particular of their younger children as they might consider some
material not suited for them. Parents, by the rating, are alerted
to be very careful about the attendance of their under-teenage
A PG-13 film is one which, in the
view of the Rating Board, leaps beyond the boundaries of the PG
rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other
contents, but does not quite fit within the restricted R category.
Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13
rating. In effect, the PG-13 cautions parents with more stringency
than usual to give special attention to this film before they
allow their 12-year olds and younger to attend.
If nudity is sexually oriented, the
film will generally not be found in the PG-13 category. If
violence is too rough or persistent, the film goes into the R
(restricted) rating. A film's single use of one of the harsher
sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, shall
initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a
PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead the Rating
Board to issue a film an R rating, as must even one of these words
used in a sexual context. These films can be rated less severely,
however, if by a special vote, the Rating Board feels that a
lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of
PG-13 places larger responsibilities
on parents for their children's moviegoing. The voluntary rating
system is not a surrogate parent, nor should it be. It cannot, and
should not, insert itself in family decisions that only parents
can, and should, make. Its purpose is to give prescreening advance
informational warnings, so that parents can form their own
judgments. PG-13 is designed to make these parental decisions
easier for films between PG and R.
Restricted, Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult
In the opinion of the Rating
Board, this film definitely contains some adult material. Parents
are strongly urged to find out more about this film before they
allow their children to accompany them.
An R-rated film may include hard
language, or tough violence, or nudity within sensual scenes, or
drug abuse or other elements, or a combination of some of the
above, so that parents are counseled, in advance, to take this
advisory rating very seriously. Parents must find out more about
an R-rated movie before they allow their teenagers to view
No One 17 And Under Admitted
This rating declares that the
Rating Board believes that this is a film that most parents will
consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17. No
children will be admitted. NC-17 does not necessarily mean
"obscene or pornographic" in the oft-accepted or legal meaning of
those words. The Board does not and cannot mark films with those
words. These are legal terms and for courts to decide. The reasons
for the application of an NC-17 rating can be violence or sex or
aberrational behavior or drug abuse or any other elements which,
when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore
off-limits for viewing by their children.
Not Submitted For MPAA Review
The majority of feature films
and home videos are submitted voluntarily by the issuing studio or
distributor. However, an occasional film is not entered for review
-- for whatever reason. A "Not Rated" label is not an indication
of content. A children's movie like The
Lion King II: Simba's Pride and an adult-themed film can both be "Not Rated" if they were not
submitted for review.
"Not Rated" is not the same as
"Unrated." An unrated label often refers to content inappropriate
for minors. Many films are submitted in one form for theaters,
where it earned a certain MPAA rating. The same film may be
simultaneously made available on home video with additional
footage. This version is often considered the "Unrated"
By the same token, a film can exist
in two different MPAA ratings signifying two different cuts of the
film, like Two
Guys And A Girl, for