Movie Content Ratings

Movie theaters will tell you a film's rating

Movie content ratings are a useful tool for many parents looking to understand what type of movie they should show their children. Content ratings are also useful for adults to understand what type of content is likely to appear in a film they would like to watch. However, there are few people who really understand where movie ratings come from and what encompasses each letter grade given to a movie. 

What Is a Movie Rating? 

Movie ratings are created by a third-party organization that analyze the content in a film in relation to established criteria. Historically, the main governing unit for films in the United States, the Classification and Rating Administration, grants the movie ratings. In use in the US since 1968, the movie rating system divides films into two types: unrestricted and restricted. The primary difference between these two categories is that films that are restricted require those under the age of 17 to either have an adult accompany them or not see the film in theaters. 

Each type of rating is given to a film based on the content of the film. 

  • A G film rating is deemed appropriate for all audiences. From a content standpoint, a G rating means that there are no sex scenes, strong language or violence. Content also cannot be suggestive in order to receive a G rating. There will be no blood, graphic scenes (such as a character vomiting) or nudity. Overall, a G rating asserts to a parent or moviegoer that this film has content that is appropriate for all to watch. 
  • A PG film rating suggests that the content of the film is a bit stronger than a G rating. The abbreviation PG is short for parental guidance suggested and recommends to parents that the film may not be a good fit for any child under 10. Content that may appear in a film with a PG rating includes smoking, suggestive humor and situations, and mild violence. 
  • A PG-13 film rating suggests that the film's content may need to be reviewed by parents before they allow their children under 13 years of age to watch it. A PG-13 rating indicates that the film's content may involve sex or sexual situations, mild nudity, blood, graphic violence, suggestive situations, crude situations or humor, and language. Many films in the United States fall into this rating category and the content of PG-13 movies tends to appeal to older audiences as well as more mature younger audiences. 
  • An R rating for a film is restricted to audiences 17 or older. Those under the age of 17 can see the film if they are accompanied by an adult. The content of a rated-R movie can involve strong violence, language and sex. The film may also picture blood, gore and graphic drug scenes. R-rated films may also involve strong horror and fright. 
  • An NC-17 rating indicates that no one under the age of 17 will be admitted to the film -- even if they have an adult with them. These type of films feature heavy amounts of sex, violence, nudity and can be viewed as obscene by some. The content of a film with an NC-17 rating is normally meant for a mature audiences although many adults may still choose to not watch a film with such a drastic rating. 

Where to Find Movie Content Ratings 

In the United States, there are several places where you can find out the rating of a film. 

  • If the movie is in theaters, there will be a sign at the theater letting you know the rating. If you would like to know before going, check with your local paper or look up the movie on a movie ticketing site like Fandango
  • If you are looking to purchase or rent a film, the rating will be present on the case itself. If it isn't, be sure to check with the staff. 
  • The movie's own website will show you its rating 
  • You can also find out the rating of a film by visiting the CARR website. Just type in the name of the movie and hit enter. 

Movie content ratings don't have to be difficult to understand. Just use the tools at your disposal and you'll be on your way to finding the perfect movie.

Movie Content Ratings