What Ratings Mean

 G Rating — General Audiences. All Ages Admitted. A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture. The G rating is not a “certificate of approval,” nor does it signify a “children’s” motion picture. Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated motion pictures. Depictions of violence are minimal. No nudity, sex scenes or drug use are present in the motion picture.


PG Rating — Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children. A PG-rated motion picture should be investigated by parents before they let their younger children attend. The PG rating indicates, in the view of the Rating Board, that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, and parents should make that decision. The more mature themes in some PG-rated motion pictures may call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity. But these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated motion picture.


PG-13 Rating — Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13. A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous.


PG-17 — Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian. An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.


NC-17-Rating — No One 17 and Under Admitted. An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean “obscene” or “pornographic” in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children


Today’s voluntary movie rating system is aimed at giving parents the information they need to decide whether a film is appropriate for their family.

The current rating system emerged in 1968, when MPAA chairman Jack Valenti replaced the earlier moral censorship guidelines, known as the Hays Code, with a revolutionary new parent-focused rating system. While the Hays Code authorized a movie for distribution based on whether it was deemed “moral” according to an exhaustive list of rules, the current movie rating system was born out of the simple notion that the movie industry wouldn’t approve or disapprove what audiences should see, but instead would focus on “freeing the screen” and educating parents to help them make movie-going decisions for their family. The current Classification & Ratings Administration (CARA), with a rating board made up of an independent group of parents, gives advance cautionary warnings to families about a movie’s content. CARA’s mission is to afford parents the tools they need to make informed decisions about what their children watch.

These ratings equip parents with comprehensive and easy to digest resources. In addition to letter ratings, CARA provides brief descriptions of the specifics behind a movie’s rating. These descriptors apply to every movie rated G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17, identifying the content in the movie that raised it to that rating level. Moreover, modifiers and unique language applied to each descriptor are intended to give an even more complete picture about what parents can expect their children to see when they go to a particular movie.

Furthermore, to ensure our rating system reflects the current sentiment of parents, CARA’s system is constantly evolving. As American parents’ sensitivities change, so too does the rating system. Elements such as violence, language, drug use, and sexuality are continually re-evaluated through surveys and focus groups to mirror contemporary concern and to better assist parents in making the right family viewing choices.

The introduction of the PG-13 rating in 1984 expanded the scope of the rating system. Not intended to be tied to any specific age, the rating is a stronger note of caution suggesting to parents to further investigate the content of the motion picture before allowing their children to see it.

Through these changes, our mission remains the same: to inform parents about the content of the many great movies released every year. In doing so, we hope to provide parents with a useful social service, while allowing filmmakers to connect meaningfully with appropriate audiences.