Home / Films & TV / G, PG, PG-13, & R Ratings Explained – Understanding the MPAA Rating System

G, PG, PG-13, & R Ratings Explained – Understanding the MPAA Rating System

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The MPAA, or “Movie Picture Association of America”, was first introduced in 1968. It has since been through many changes, ultimately resulting in some confusion and even anger. The system has many flaws, and is in desperate need of a change.

However, we still have to live with the system we have today whether we like it or not. Hopefully this article will fix some confusion you didn’t even know you had, about the movie rating system.

 

THE RATINGS:

       G = General Audiences – All Ages Admitted

       PG = Parental Guidance Suggested – Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children

       PG-13 = Parents Strongly Cautioned – Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13

       R = Restricted – Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian

       NC-17 = Adults Only – No One 17 and Under Admitted.

       X = Now known as NC-17

 

LANGUAGE:

       G: Some mean or rude language can be used; however, any cussing is prohibited in a G rated movie.

       PG: Language usually does not go beyond words like; “Damn” in a PG movie. Before 1984, when the PG-13 rating was released, much more cussing was allowed in PG movies, and all of the PG-13 rules apply to this category from movies of that era.

       PG-13: Just about all profanity can be said in a PG-13 movie, including the F word. The F word can only be used once however, and cannot be said in a sexual manner.

       R: Just about all profanity can be used.

       Examples of Movie Rating Reasons: Language, Brief Language, Brief Strong Language, Some Language, Pervasive Language, Etc.

 

NUDITY:

       G: No nudity is permitted in a G rated film.

       PG: Many PG movies before and during 1984 (before the PG-13 rating was introduced), contained plenty of scenes with nudity. Nudity could be shown for any length of time, but could not however, be shown in a sexual context.

Here are a few examples of some of the most popular movies between 1968 and 1984:

Barbarella (1968)

“In the opening credits Barbarella undresses while floating in zero gravity. We see her breasts and full body.”

There is a lot of nudity in this movie. I had to choose just one example. Click the link above for a full list of what is shown.

Logan’s Run (1976)

“When the two escapees are outside they strip and skinny dip. They swim around each other and the woman’s breasts are visible, and their buttocks also come into view when they dive under the water.”

There is a lot of nudity in this movie. I had to choose just one example. Click the link above for a full list of what is shown.

Hair (1979)

“Several men are shown naked from behind, and while jumping naked into the water, penis is visible. Female breasts are shown.”

Airplane 1 & 2 (1980 & 1982)

“We see a woman wearing only a thong. We can clearly see her breasts and she dances in front of the camera for about a second.”

“Two shots of females bare-chested (each about 3-4 seconds long).”

Sixteen Candles (1984)

“One shot of a female showering nude; there is a full on closeup on her breasts and a side-shot of her naked body including her rear.”

Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (1984)

“There is a brief scene where a native woman’s bare breasts are visible. There is also another scene where Sheena is shown bathing. Nudity can be clearly seen.”

Once The PG-13 rating hit in July of 1984, nudity was then very rarely seen in PG movies. Weekend at Bernie’s II is one of the rare occurrences, releasing in 1993. The rule from then on, was that a PG movie can show nudity briefly in a non-sexual context.

       PG-13: A PG-13 movie can show nudity for any length of time, and is not likely to be displayed in a sexual manner. So; Dressing, showering, bathing, skinny dipping, streaking, etc. are all allowed to be in a PG-13 movie.

Here are a few examples of some of the most popular movies between 1984 and 2016:

The Woman in Red (1984)

“There is a brief nudity shot of a woman when she gets out of bed. Her breasts and genitals are shown”

Doc Hollywood (1991)

 “Female nudity shown from the waist up, both breasts can be clearly scene. They are seen off and on throughout the scene during a long conversation”

Chaplin (1992)

“A man enters a dressing room with several topless women. Bare breasts can be clearly seen in many shots.”

Nell (1994)

“Nell is shown nude in three scenes in which she goes swimming. She is seen fully nude in silhouette, but her breasts and pubic region can be seen faintly. In another scene, her pubic hair can be clearly seen for a few moments. Her breasts and buttocks are clearly shown in all three scenes for extended periods of time.”

Epsilon (1997)

“Nude woman walks toward the camera. Breasts and full frontal nudity is clearly visible for a few seconds. Later she is seen in just a top while still naked and visible below the waist, front and back.”

Titanic (1997)

“A 19 year old woman strips down for a man to draw her naked. She strips down revealing her bare butt. She lays down on the couch and her left breast is shown for about 20 seconds.”

Transporter 2 (2005)

“A woman that ts only wearing her underwear gets wet, which results in the woman’s bra to be see through which shows her nipple. This is seen for over 20 minutes.”

“Female assassin is shown in revealing bras and underwear bra for most of the movie. There is a long shot of her lying in bed, her butt is covered but you can see the side of one breast and a nipple. You can see her butt for a few seconds.”

Bacterium (2006)

“In one scene, a young teenage woman is forced to undress until she is naked. There is also a lengthy scene where she is seen walking around a room completely naked (breasts and genitals shown).”

Across the Universe (2007)

A man sketches a sleeping woman. The woman rolls over, briefly revealing her bare breast.

“Completely nude women wearing white body paint are seen. Full frontal nudity (including breasts and genitals) is visible, however the white paint makes it very difficult to make out anything explicit.”

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

“A paralyzed man’s genitals are clearly visible for several seconds as he is being bathed. His penis, testicles and pubic hair are seen.”

“Part of his buttocks and her bare breasts are seen for about twenty seconds.”

There is a lot of nudity in this movie. I had to choose just two examples. Click the link above for a full list of what is shown.

Rush Hour 3 (2007)

“There is a scene where a man orders women to strip down to their thongs. They are obviously naked, but only their bare buttocks are shown–albeit for an extended amount of time, and quite clearly. This scene lasts until approximately 50 minutes and 16 seconds.”

The Longest Ride (2015)

This is a PG-13 movie that shows nudity in a sexual context. This is one of the extremely rare occurrences of this happening. Click the link above to read what is shown.

Nerve (2016)

“A teenage girl lifts up her skirt and shows her rear end to a stadium of teens at a football game.”

Shut in (In Theaters November 11th 2016)       

“he film contains a scene where female upper-body nudity is seen briefly as the female protagonist steps out of a bathtub while she is naked.”

 

R: R rated movies are allowed to show nudity for any length of time, with or without a sexual context.

        Examples of Movie Rating Reasons: Nudity, Brief Nudity, Partial Nudity, Brief Partial Nudity, Graphic Nudity, Brief Graphic Nudity, Male Rear Nudity, Full Frontal Nudity, Nudity Involving Teens, Etc.

 

VIOLENCE:

       G: Very little amount of violence can be shown in a G rated film.

       PG: Violence can be shown, but it cannot be extreme enough to have parents worried. The PG-13 rules below were applied here before 1984.

       PG-13: Movies with a PG-13 rating can depict violence, in a realistic, extreme or persistent fashion. They however, can typically only have one of the three.

       R: “Realistic, extreme and persistent violence” can be shown.

       Examples of Movie Rating Reasons: Violence, Elements of Violence and Peril, Horror Violence and Terror, Violence and Action, Violence/Warfare, Bloody Images, Sci-Fi Violence and Action, Fantasy Action Violence, Brief Violence, Etc.

 

DRUG USAGE:

(The MPAA do not have an official detailed guide for rating drug usage in movies. We are only providing the small bit of information that is represented in their guidelines.)

       G: No drug usage is permitted in a G rated film.

       PG: No drug usage is permitted in a PG rated film. (Keep in mind, some PG-13 ratings apply here, in movies before 1984).

       PG-13: Drug usage is allowed in PG-13 movies to a certain extent. (Does not typically surpass cigarettes and alcohol usage, along with small references to the heavier drugs.)

       R: Can surpass the PG-13 rating in drug usage.

       Examples of Movie Rating Reasons: Drug Material, Drug Content, Drug Use, Etc.

 

All of these rules are general, and are not very strict. Sometimes an R movie is rated R because of content that can easily be categorized as appropriate for a PG-13 movie, according to these guidelines. This is because the MPAA do not use these rules as a checklist. There is a specific board of people that watch the film, and then give their suggestion on what the rating of the movie should be. For the most part, the MPAA rates movies in a very inconsistent fashion, which is why the system is so corrupt. Sometimes an R rated movie is rated R for the exact same reasons a PG-13 movie is rated PG-13. If you take two movies with the exact same type of content in terms of violence, language, and nudity, they are not guaranteed to get the same rating. For example; the movie “Almost Famous” contains “brief nudity”, and that is put as one of the two reasons that its rated R. Some PG-13 movies show 10x more nudity then that movie did, and got a PG-13 rating. Yes, that movie has lots of drug usage, as well as language, so an R rating was necessary, but one of the actual rating reasons was “brief nudity” meaning it’s an R rated amount. Which it isn’t.

The guidelines need to be treated more like a checklist…rules. Not just like a suggestion.

 

The MPAA rating system has changed over the years, and society has as well because of it. Back before PG-13 existed, if a PG movie had some nudity in, no one thought anything of it. It’s just the human body. After they introduced the PG-13 rating, nudity was very taboo for a PG movie, and it was the end of the world if it had it in it. Same goes for language. A few cuss words here and there is a PG movie before 1984? Not a thought was crossed in parent’s minds. Many people believe that the MPAA should demolish the PG-13 rating, as it causes a lot of confusion because of how much they have changed their rating system. It would be much simpler if it was; G for kids, PG for kids-teens, and R for adults. Exactly like it was before 1984. The PG-13 rating is unnecessary, and the MPAA rating system is totally outdated.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think the MPAA should go back to its pre-PG-13 roots? Did you learn something from this article? Have something to add?

Let us know in the comments.

 

For a full list of official MPAA Guidelines, Visit:

http://filmratings.com/downloads/rating_rules.pdf

http://www.mpaa.org/

http://filmratings.com/

About Austin Horner

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