How does the MPAA rate movies?

MikeEckman

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This may be off topic, but Im not sure where to ask this...
How does the Motion Picture Association of America decide what rating to give to movies? I mean, what makes a movie R, or PG-13, etc? Some illogical things that have made me curious are:
Titanic has a pretty lengthy nudity scene in it, yet its PG-13.
Scary Movie has a male ejaculation scene, female pubic hair, and several penis shots, and it rated R, yet Robocop was at risk of being X rated because of 15 seconds worth of extra violence?
Heres a puzzler, the original Planet of the Apes is rated G, yet it has blood and violence in it, the word "Damn" several times, and several male butt scenes. I would have imagined it would have been at least PG (I know PG-13 didnt exist in 1968).
A couple others, is nudity nowadays the only thing that can get a movie an NC-17 rating? I mean, if foul language could do it, then Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back should have more than made it NC-17 as I dont think ANY children should see that movie. Also, whats so wrong with an NC-17 rating? I know the X rating failed, but in my opinion, if the MPAA wants to be fair, they should come up with a standards thats easy to follow and STICK with it.
Sometimes movies are rated R and you wonder why? I mean, some R rated films just puzzle me, like Stand By Me. I mean, yes, there is quite a bit of foul language in it, but thats it. No real violence, no nudity or sexual innuendo. Maybe it was the shot of the dead boy. I mean, even though that movie isnt exactly PG material, I think it would hit home to any 12-15 year old boy watching it, and I dont think that it should be rated R.
Anyone know of a website where the rules are explicitly laid how how a movie can get an R or PG13 rating? Or is it all bribery?
 

Jason Seaver

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It's all bribery.

Basically, CARA has groups of parents that they show the movie to. They give the parents some basic guidelines, and after seeing the movie the panel gives it a rating. It's important to remember that each movie is rated individually - each movie gets a new panel - and the one sentence that comes with the rating ("Twister is rated PG-13 for graphic depiction of very bad weather") is all the explanation you're ever going to get.
 

BarryR

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Alot of inconsistencies. An innocuous film like WAITING FOR GUFFMAN is rated R for a very brief bit of strong language, yet it shares the same rating as far, far more intense films. I agree there should be something like a double R (?!) film that can restrict the stronger Rs from kids under age ten or something, because clearly what passes for R now wouldn't have flown not too long ago as anything but an NC-17.
[Edited last by BarryR on August 27, 2001 at 12:06 PM]
 

FilipM

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Do they even make R rated movies anymore? God forbid then you couldn't sell tie-in promo happy meals...
 

Sean Laughter

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Also, whats so wrong with an NC-17 rating?
As far as I know the only thing wrong with the NC-17 rating is the exhibitors. Many theaters will refuse to show NC-17 rated films like they'd refuse to show X rated films and so the potential screen distribution is significantly limited by such a rating. This makes studios reluctant to produce films that will garner such a rating.
Of course, the fact that the MPAA seems to rate on "whims" doesn't make it easy for a filmmaker to figure out what he can and cannot get away with.
 

John Berggren

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Just remember what the MPAA says: Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don't say any naughty words!
There is a double standard for violence and sex and language. I've never understood it myself. I would much prefer children to be exposed to sexuality than to horrific violence. Just as I'd prefer kids grow up to become sexually active to kids growing up to being violent, murderous individuals. Just a personal preference though
.
Interestingly enough - I attended the first day's screening of Both Hannibal and Jay and Silent Bob. For Hannibal, there was at least one mom there who brought her 7 and 12 year old (yeah, that smacks of responsibility). For J&SB, the youngest in attendance were unaccompanied teenagers.
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Greg_Y

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AFAIK, there is no longer an official X rating. http://www.mpaa.org/movieratings/
Instead of adding NC-17 which would have been more explicit than R but without the pornographic content of X, they merely removed X and replaced it with NC-17. So, the worse a film can get is NC-17 from the MPAA. Thus, the attached stigmata.
Roger Ebert frequently sounds off on this matter on his web page and in his reviews. The silly NC-17 keeps people from seeing films like Requiem for a Dream.
 

Dominik Droscher

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My favorite topic.

I watched Billy Elliot a few days ago and wondered what the rating was in the states. There are a lot of "fucks" in the movie but what do you expect in a mining community?
I wasn't surprised that it got the "R" rating (they released a PG13 version where all the foul language (and realism) was edited out). In Germany the movie was free for everybody over 6.
As long as nudity and swearing is seen as more disturbing for a kid over 13 than seeing someone getting killed I have absolutley no respect for the MPAA.
 

Ivan Berisic

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quote: In Germany the movie was free for everybody over 6.[/quote]
You forgot to mention that profanity is almost always removed from the German soundtrack.
I have a lot of R2 DVDs which contain the German soundtrack, among others, and profanity is almost always removed. There are exceptions - like 8MM, when Cage yells "You motherfuckers! You smalltime motherfuckers" in the German version it's "Du alles grosses Leichenficker" (or something like that).
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[Edited last by Ivan Berisic on August 27, 2001 at 01:25 PM]
 

Ivan Berisic

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quote: They released a PG13 version[/quote]
Where did you hear that?
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[Edited last by Ivan Berisic on August 27, 2001 at 01:24 PM]
 

Dominik Droscher

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quote: You forgot to mention that profanity is almost always removed from the German soundtrack.[/quote]
I haven't seen the dubbed version but you can watch the original version in Germany in many Cinemas and the rating stays the same.
You will find the information about the edited PG13 version over at www.imdb.com
[edited]I seem to remember that in the scene the piano player calls Billy "wanker" (London slang for idiot) it is translated as "Wichser" which means about "jerk off". At least this is what a friend told me when I asked about the meaning of "wanker".[/edited]
[Edited last by Dominik Dröscher on August 27, 2001 at 01:41 PM]
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Also, whats so wrong with an NC-17 rating?
Besides, I don't like the idea that the MPAA takes away options from people. R should be the highest rating. If some parents want to take their 9-year-old into a porno, let them. I don't think any institution should have the right to determine what people can allow their children (and themselves) to see.
As for "wanker", please excuse my ignorance of British slang, but I thought that DID mean a jerk-off.
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Morgan Jolley

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There really is no standard for rating movies. If Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back seems to be aimed at and appropriate for people 17 and older, it is rated R. If a movie is aimed at and is appropriate for little children, it is rated G. Its just like videogames. Some videogames have scenes involving sexual inuendoes and lots of violence that are rated for Teens, whereas some have Elmo and Big Bird and are rated for Everyone of all ages.
One big problem nowadays is that movies are being made that have more nudity/violence/swearing so they get R ratings, but most of the people who go to movies on the weekends are teens so they can't get into those movies. Sometimes, they will cut a film down so it is PG-13 and then release an unrated DVD or video so that people can still see the film in the theaters and then see the original version will all the dirty stuff at home.
 

JonZ

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My aunt told me when she went to see Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back the theater was about 1/3 kids, and by that I mean parents who brought their under 14 year olds with them.
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Jeff Kleist

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Billy Elliot is a G rated movie except they use the F word about 30 or 40 times. It's rated R
EVERY SIX YEAR OLD IN THE COUNTRY KNOWS THE WORD, THE MOVIE IS PG AT BEST!!!!!! LIGHTEN UP!
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MickeS

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quote:
I don't think any institution should have the right to determine what people can allow their children (and themselves) to see
[/quote]
Every adult should be free to watch whatever he wants.
They should not be allowed to be the sole authority on what their child can and can not watch. Many parents have no clue what's good or bad for their child, which is evident in theaters across the US every day. There are many small children who have no interest in seeing Hannibal Lecter slice up a man's head and force the man to eat the brain, but are forced to do so by lazy or uncaring parents who bring the child to the movie just because they themselves want to see it. It's almost comparable to child abuse, if you ask me.
The MPAA is needed, but the ratings need to be changed and the studios need to stop worrying so much about the bottom line all the time. "Hannibal" was a perfect example of what should have been an NC-17 movie.
/Mike
[Edited last by MickeS on August 27, 2001 at 04:55 PM]
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Dominik, I'd trust you're dictionary over me. I really don't know the terminology [EDIT: well enough] to be a credible source.
quote: They should not be allowed to be the sole authority on what their child can and can not watch.[/quote]I must strongly disagree with this. While alot of people now-a-days bring their children along to save the cost of a babysitter, you can't tell me that ALL children wouldn't be responsible for the movie. Or that ALL parents use poor judgement when bringing children to movies. While I most likely wouldn't bring my children to see 'Hannibal', if I had children, I can't presume to know what everyone else's children are like and what they can handle. I don't think the MPAA has any right to put blanket age brackets over everyone. I say if you want to bring you child to a movie, it's your right. If the child starts making noise, then I, as a paying customer, would have the management remove said parent(s) and child from the theater like I would with any noisy person.
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[Edited last by Adam Lenhardt on August 27, 2001 at 06:35 PM]
 

Chauncey_G

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There's also an obvious difference in how movies are rated (and how they're made) now vs. 15-20 years ago. Remember all those really cheesey sword-and-sorcery flicks that would come out all the time (Beastmaster, Clash of the Titans, etc.)? If memory serves, a lot of these were rated PG and yet you had nudity (usually just female chest and/or butt) and people getting skewered all over the place. Try to do an equivalent movie now and I bet you get a PG-13 at best, probably an R.
 

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