The MPAA: 50 Years of Movie Ratings

Posted on December 9, 2018 at 10:46 pm

MPAA head Charles Rivkin writes about the first half century of the Motion Picture Association’s Ratings system.

It took a little time but, over the decades, the rating system gained credibility and acceptance with audiences. And this month, as we celebrate the system’s 50th anniversary, it remains the gold standard of voluntary industry self-regulation.

Given the extraordinary changes in our culture, entertainment, and society over the past half century, this anniversary feels particularly hard-earned and special. And if you can measure success by how long it has lasted, then I agree with The Center for Association Leadership which recently called the ratings system “the most famous association initiative of all time.”

We could point to many factors behind that success. But the clearest one of all comes directly from its founding mission: to maintain the trust and confidence of American parents.

I have often complained about the MPAA rating system, but Rivkin is right that it was a huge improvement over the Hays Code, which literally set a time limit for kisses and forbade portrayal of clergy as incompetent or corrupt — and, most importantly, required all movies to be suitable for all audiences. We look forward to continued refinements over the next half century.

Related Tags:


Understanding Media and Pop Culture

MPAA Ratings #Fail on “Horrible Bosses 2”

Posted on November 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Copyright CARA and MPAA 2014
Copyright CARA and MPAA 2014
In yet another example of the inadequacy and the deliberate obfuscation of the MPAA ratings systems, we have the ratings for both the theatrical release of “Horrible Bosses 2” and the upcoming unrated DVD. Not only does the explanation omit the violence in the film (including a deliberate murder by gun), it makes no distinction between the theatrical release and the presumably raunchier DVD, with whatever scenes were omitted to get an R rating.

Related Tags:


Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Does PG-13 Mean Anything Anymore?

Posted on October 25, 2014 at 8:00 am

The Washington Post has an article about a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Parental Desensitization to Violence and Sex in Movies,” with some disturbing conclusions about parents’ ability to make good decisions about the impact some media may have on their children. This is not just an issue of parenting choices — it is an issue of child health and ability to thrive.

According to Rentrak movie research firm, more movies have been rated PG-13 than any other rating every year since 2008 have been PG-13 movies. The category has consistently grown each year as the PG and R category slowly shrink. In 1999, 35 percent of top movies were rated PG-13. Last year, 47 percent were PG-13 and only one film was rated G.

But for many parents, the PG-13 rating is too broad. Movie studios draw limited audiences for G and PG films, with kids wanting to see the hottest action films, such as PG-13 rated “Guardians of Galaxy.” R-rated films have pushed the edge of their rating too, deleting just enough content to be appropriate for teens.

The new study comes amid fresh criticism that Hollywood has neglected family-friendly movies. Last year, Romer published a study that showed the amount of gun violence in PG-13 has has tripled since 1985 and in 2012 the category had more gun violence than R-rated films.

Test yourself with the Washington Post’s quiz on movie ratings.

Related Tags:


Commentary Parenting

An R Rating for Being Gay?

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 10:00 am

“Love is Strange,” a tender, beautifully written and performed love story about a three decade relationship, stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.  The MPAA has given the movie an R rating even though there is nothing in the film that normally triggers an R in the categories of language, violence, nudity, or sexuality.  The only possible explanation is that the gay characters at the center of the story somehow put the film into the R category.

In the Star-Ledger, Stephen Whitty compared the film to the other two R-rated movies opening this week, which feature extreme violence and explicit nudity and sexual situations.

It’s a simple human story. And it is very hard to imagine that — if it starred, say, Robert Duvall and Jane Fonda as a similar long-time couple suddenly facing homelessness — it would be lumped in with movies crammed full of queasily stylish sexism and sickening torture porn.

(Oh, and by the way, that last “Transformers” movie — which memorably featured a man burnt to a crisp — was rated PG-13. So was “The Expendables 3,” a film whose body count would require a calculator.)

He’s right.  And I agree with J. Bryan Lowder, who wrote in Slate:

Let’s hope parents are smarter than this. There is nothing “adult” or at all worrisome about a movie that quietly and gently portrays a gay couple and their struggles. To think otherwise is to participate in an insidious sort of homophobia that uses child-sized human shields to disguise basic prejudice. And the worst part is that Love Is Strange is exactly the kind of “gay film” that younger teenagers, both gay and straight, would benefit from seeing. For the former group it offers a vision of a gay romantic future that, while beset with a specific struggle, is also full of love, as well as a sense of community and history—older, happy gay people exist! And for the straight kids, the film can reinforce the dignity of gays and their relationships in a way that abstract lectures never could.

Related Tags:


Understanding Media and Pop Culture

What Happened to the G Rating?

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I’m quoted in this NBC article about the MPAA ratings system and the disappearance of the G-rated movie.

“The G rating has all but disappeared from theatrical releases other than one or two animated films each year,” said Nell Minow, who advises parents about movies as The Movie Mom. “It’s all about money. School-age kids think that G-rated movies are ‘babyish,’ so only Disney can get away with it.”

Related Tags:


Understanding Media and Pop Culture
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik