Everything you always wanted to know about the movie rating system…
What is the purpose of the rating system?
Movie ratings provide parents with advance information about the content of movies to help them determine what movies are appropriate for their children at any age. After all, parents are best suited to knowing each of their children’s individual sensitivities and sensibilities to pick movies for them. Ratings are assigned by a board of parents who consider factors such as violence, sex, language and drug use, then assign a rating they believe the majority of American parents would give a movie.
Do ratings indicate if a movie is good or bad?
No. Audiences and film critics make these determinations. The ratings are not intended to approve, disapprove or censor any movie. Rather, ratings offer guidance to parents regarding the level of content in a movie.
Who rates movies?
Parents do. Film ratings are determined by a Board of parents who are selected to represent a diversity of American parents. Their job is to reflect what they believe would be the majority view of their fellow parents in rating a film. Raters have no prior affiliation with the movie industry and are employed to work for the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), which is independently financed.
What criteria do they use?
In conducting their work, raters consider the same factors parents might in making a judgment about a film’s appropriateness for their kids, including themes and content such as language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use. All these factors are considered in context when a final rating and ratings descriptor are assigned to a film.
How do I know specifically what kind of material is in a movie?
With the exception of G-rated films, which are deemed appropriate for all ages, movie ratings feature brief explanatory phrases specific to that film and its rating. Rating descriptors provide information to parents on the specific type of material in each movie that resulted in the rating so that the parent can decide if that content is appropriate to the individual maturity and sensitivities of their children. Rating reasons can be found in most movie advertising, many film reviews and at www.filmratings.com.
Do all movies have to be rated?
No. Submitting a movie for a rating is a voluntary decision made by filmmakers. However, the overwhelming majority of filmmakers have their movies rated, and each member of the Motion Picture Association of America has agreed to have all its theatrically released movies rated.
Is the rating system a law? If not, who enforces it?
No. The movie rating system is a voluntary system sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). The members of NATO enforce the system by asking for identification and refusing admission to R-rated movies by unaccompanied children or to NC-17 movies by children whether or not accompanied. Retailers and rental stores also enforce the ratings for movies released on video. Some parents inquire about whether it is lawful for other parents to bring their very young children to R-rated films. The R rating contains the strict and explicit caution that “generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated movies.”
As a parent, where can I learn more about ratings?
The Motion Picture Association of America offers a free weekly email service that provides ratings information on current films. You can sign up today for this free and convenient service at www.redcarpetratings.com.
What about movie advertising in theatres?
In conjunction with our process of reviewing and rating movies, we take every step possible to ensure that all advertising content is suitable for the particular audience that views it. We review more than 60,000 pieces of marketing each year, including theatrical, home video and online trailers, print ads, radio and TV spots, press kits, billboards, bus shelters, posters and other promotional materials. Our goal is to give parents the same confidence in movie advertising that they have in the movie rating system, while also allowing filmmakers to responsibly market their movies to their intended audiences. The key to movie advertising is compatibility. With trailers, we consider many factors to ensure their compatibility with the feature; on TV, we consider compatibility to the programming. Ultimately, we strive to make sure that if parents are comfortable with the content of the feature, TV programming or other media, then they will be comfortable with the trailers or other ads that go with them.
For complete rating information and rules, please visit www.filmratings.com