The PG-13 Movie Rating Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary
You can thank Steven Spielberg for a lot of things. Movies like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Hook, Jaws, The Adventures of Tin Tin, and Lincoln are just a handful of projects that have the Spielberg touch. You can also thank him for the PG-13 movie rating that was introduced 30 years ago by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
It was one of the more significant changes to the rating system since it was introduced in 1968. At that time the rating categories included G for General Audiences, Mature for more Mature Audiences (however all ages were still admitted), R (viewers younger than 16 were not admitted without an accompanying adult) and X (no one under 17 admitted). Eventually the M rating was changed to PG for parental guidance. But even that proved to be insufficient information for many parents since it lumped everyone under 17 into the same category.
On July 1, 1984, the PG-13 category was added to warn parents about content that may be inappropriate for children under 13. Among the content that could now be included in a PG-13 movie were “very strong language, nudity (non-explicit), strong, mildly bloody violence or mild drug content.”
Earning a PG-13 rating requires moviemakers to conform to certain standards around language, nudity and violence. But the new rating also allowed moviemakers to push the boundaries of what parents felt was appropriate for their younger children. After the release of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins, parents complained that the PG rating was insufficient to warn them about a gory heart-ripping scene and exploding critters in microwaves. In a
“I went to Jack Valenti, who’s a friend of mine, and I said, ‘Jack, why don’t we do a rating called PG-13, which would suit films like “Gremlins” and “Indy 2”?‘So I called Jack, and Jack said, ‘Leave it to me…’”
On August 10, 1984 the first PG-13 movie, Red Dawn, released in theaters. Since then the PG-13 rating has proved to be marketing genius. According to Box Office Mojo, many of the top worldwide grossing movies of the last couple of decades are PG-13 with Avatar, Titanic and Marvel’s The Avengers topping the list. And according to thewrap.com, PG-13 movies make more than three times what R-rated films do at the U.S. box office. The top grossing R-rated movie to make the list—The Matrix Reloaded—comes in at 54.