The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is an independent organization that reviews and assigns ratings to movies based on theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use. The movie industry is not required to submit their movies to the MPAA for a rating assignment; it is strictly voluntary.
The MPAA was first established in 1968 in response to public pressure for parental movie guidelines. The National Association of Theatre Owners (co-founders of the MPAA) first enforced the new rating system in their theatres and today, movie ratings have become an industry standard.
The MPAA Rating Board has 10-13 members consisting of parents from varied backgrounds with no ties to the movie industry. The members watch each movie and independently assign a movie rating based on the content. The Board submits their ratings and votes on a final rating assignment.
Below is a list and brief description of each MPAA rating.
G rating (General Audiences)
The public usually associates a G rating with animated children’s films, but this is not necessarily the case. Some innocuous comedies, dramas and documentaries may also receive a G rating.
Generally, a G rated movie does not contain realistic violence, nudity, sex and drug use. The movie can contain a minimum amount of implied violence and the themes and language are appropriate for young children.
PG rating (Parental Guidance)
The PG rating encourages parents to determine if a movie is appropriate for their children, since many parents may interpret the same mature content differently. One parent may feel the violence level is acceptable, while another parent may adamantly object. This is an important reason for the PG rating. To allow for differing opinions, the Rating Board recommends that parents view the movie to determine for themselves if the content is appropriate for their children.
PG movies do not contain depictions of illegal drug use, but may contain some profanity, violence and brief non-sexual nudity.
PG-13 rating (Parental Guidance for children under 13)
The Rating Board has determined that certain intensity levels of the rating criteria are not appropriate for children under 13. Created in 1984, the PG-13 rating fills the niche between PG and R ratings. Generally, PG-13 movies have higher levels of profanity, violence and nudity than a PG rated movie, but lower levels of the same compared to an R rated movie.
A PG-13 rated movie may contain some depictions of illegal drug use, mild to moderate profanity, moderate violence and mild nudity related to sexual situations. Determining a PG-13 rating is a slippery slope compared to other MPAA ratings. For example, one instance of a strong, sexually based expletive can change a movie rating from PG to PG-13 and a second instance will change PG-13 to an R rating.
R rating (Restricted)
The Rating Board determines that R rated movies contain adult content such as strong profanity, violence and sexual situations that is not appropriate for children under 17. A parent or guardian must accompany underage children to an R rated movie. The Board strongly advises parents to see an R rated movie before making the decision to allow their children to see the movie.
NC-17 rating (No Children under 17)
A NC-17 rated movie contains a high level of any or all rating criteria such as profanity, violence, nudity, sexual content and disturbing images. No one under the age of 17 (even accompanied by a parent) is allowed to see this type of movie.
Retrieved March 1, 2007, from Motion Picture Association of America Web site: http://www.mpaa.org/index.asp