I was talking to my buddy Robin and she was baffled that the movie Showgirls was considered a cult film. Of course it is! I mention to her that it didn't do well in the theaters because, in part, of its NC-17 rating. She then wondered the difference between R and NC-17. So as I am trying to explain to her what makes those ratings different, I felt inspired to break down all MPAA movie ratings. Before you figure out if this is supposed to be a funny or serious blog, I will give you an inside tip.... I will present the facts before I add in my little tidbits.
G — 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.
So basically most Disney animated films, several annoying cartoon characters (and furry animals) and documentaries about nature. Squeaky clean stuff.
PG — 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.
Ah, PG fun. Look at Home Alone or Harry Potter #1, 2, 3, and 6, very good examples of normal PG movies. I do give credit to Dreamworks Studios for sneaking in adult humor in their animated films, especially in the Shrek franchise (some of them are so subtle that it makes me wonder how they got by with the PG rating.). Personally, many PG films seem appropriate for my 5 year old. Yea, some of the thematic elements may not be understood by him, but he generally gets the gist of things. There's just something more real when watching a PG film compared to one that's rated G. Oh, and this is where bad words start coming out, lol
PG-13 — 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.
I consider this rating my "feel good happy place." My favorite comedies, love stories, and comic book films rest here. Not too squeaky clean, but not too dirty either (like baby bear's porridge, just right!). Yea, you can see boobs here, maybe even a derriere or two, but more out of artistic expression or screwball comedy. Most "popcorn" movies are genrated here (you know, the ones that tend to keep your attention while shoveling handfuls of popcorn down your throat... for best description of this, watch Ellen DeGeneres Here and Now). Two of my top 5 favorite films are in this rating (Forrest Gump and The Dark Knight)
R — 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.
When I was 15, I bought tickets to an R-rated flick without being carded for my ID (and felt like a Rockstar when I walked away from the box office). It was for Cruel Intentions, which I admit is my number one coming-of-age/ guilty pleasure movie, lol. To me, this is where my heart lies when it comes to watching good movies. The realism, the way characters talk, the deep storylines and themes... only the best when presented with an R-rating. You see sex, drugs, lots of f-bombs (Hello Alpha Dog!). And, for the ladies and gay males... first appearances of penises, hehe. Of my top 5 favorite movies, 3 of them are Rated R (Shawshank Redemption, The Departed, and Pulp Fiction)
NC-17 — 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
Ok, going back to talking about Showgirls, which is the only NC-17 movie I have seen (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Zach and Miri Make a Porno were both thisclose to earning the NC-17 nod... and I kinda wish that they did). What makes Showgirls earn the NC-17 rating is mostly about the sexual aspects of the film: hardcore girl-on-girl grinding, the highly agressive pool sex scene, the nonchalant usage of crack/cocaine, and the rape/gangbang scene. You wont see those in an R-rated film. Oh, and fun fact: unerect penis gets an R rating, erect ones get NC-17!
Do I really need to explain the difference between NC-17 and X rated films? No? Good.... because if you have to ask, then I need to buy you a porn so you can evaluate it yourself! ;-)