Do You Know Your Ratings?

By Christa_Banister
Posted: Sat, 10/30/2010 - 21:33

album promo image for Do You Know Your Ratings?

By Christa A. Banister, senior editor,

As a movie critic, I watch a lot of movies, good, bad and somewhere in between.

And because I review films for a faith-based publication, there’s a little more to my job than merely giving a flick the requisite thumbs up or thumbs down. Since we want our readers to be able to make an informed decision about what they plunk their hard-earned money for, it’s imperative that I’m cognizant of everything that’s even potentially objectionable – sex, drug use, violence, the obligatory four-letter words, the use of the Lord’s name in vain and the list goes on and on...

Now some of you may be thinking, that’s nice, but isn’t that what ratings are for? I mean as long as a movie isn’t rated R, you’re fine to take the entire family, right? Well, that really all depends.

Since ratings were first introduced in 1968, the criteria for what constitutes a specific rating has certainly changed with the times. In fact, it’s pretty surprising what passes for a PG-13 rating these days (but more on that in a minute).  

Even the R rating has undergone a major makeover. Back in 1985, John Hughes’ coming-of-age flick The Breakfast Club was given an R rating for its occasionally salty language. Unlike your standard-issue R-rated fare, however, there wasn’t even any sex, nudity, drug use or violence that wasn’t of a comedic nature. But because the standards were a whole lot stricter, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) assigned it an R nonetheless.
These days, The Breakfast Club would easily earn a PG-13 or even a PG with a little creative editing (like substituting the increasingly popular “frickin” for the actual “F” word, etc.). See, the movie studio execs are smart. They know that PG and PG-13 movies will sell more tickets (and really, it’s all about the money, isn’t it?) because they cater to a wider demographic.
And now that all PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies certainly aren’t created equal, we at thought we’d offer a little refresher course on the current state of movie ratings so you won’t be surprised the next time you’re munching on popcorn at your Saturday afternoon matinee.

G (general admission)
When a movie earns a G rating, it means there’s no offensive content, which makes it a perfect choice for audiences of all ages. And while this is generally the case, even a family-friendly film like Toy Story 3, one of my favorite films of 2010, could be a little scary for kids under five because of an occasionally ominous tone involving our favorite toy protagonists, so it’s always best to do your research beforehand.

PG (parental guidance)
A PG-rating is assigned to films where children under 10 should have a parent along. In a PG-film, profanity and potty humor are allowed, but not frequently so. The bad language can include instances where God’s name is misused.
Typically, no drug content is allowed, but there can be sexual content, violence (although not particularly graphic in either case) and suggestive humor.

PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned)
With a PG-13 movie, the MPAA says that some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. In many cases, filmmakers push the boundaries with this particular rating and there can be as many as two f-words, partial nudity (usually the backside or the side view of a woman’s breast), humor with decidedly sexual undertones (see: almost every Will Ferrell movie) and pot smoking, the only drug use that’s allowed in PG-13 movies. While some PG-13 movies have more objectionable content than others, parents will definitely want to do their research because some PG-13 movies share more in common with their R-rated counterparts, while others are closer to a PG in terms of racy content, violence and language.

R (Restricted – under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian)
Like the PG-13 rating, R-rated movies can definitely be cut from a different cloth, too. While both rated R, last year’s The Hangover and 1999’s The Matrix are drastically different in terms of objectionable content. While the latter was assigned an “R” for brief language and sci-fi violence, The Hangover featured pervasive language, sexual content including nudity and some drug material. Typically, a movie is rated R when there’s more than two uses of the “F” word and other expletives, love scenes not shown off-screen (some with nudity, some without), drug use and gratuitous violence that’s not primarily bloodless like your typical PG-13 movie. R-rated movies generally have heavier themes or if they’re a comedy (see Judd Apatow’s popular films), they are usually bawdy.

NC-17 (no children under 17 admitted)
Formerly known as the “X” rating, NC-17 movies are rarely shown in a Cineplex near you these days. Even some video stores refuse to stock NC-17 DVDs, and the bulk of these flims, which feature particularly explicit sexual content, nudity language and violence, are shown exclusively in arthouse theaters.


About the Writer

After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, (she review movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media,, and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.

Vote On News

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

News You May Also Like