MPAA Movie Ratings (USA)

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) supervises a board of 8 to 13 members who work for the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). In turn, the board is funded by film distributors and producers, who pay a fee to have their films rated.

The MPAA President (currently Chris Dodd) chooses the Chairman of the Rating Board. Board members are chosen from U.S. society and must meet the qualifications of having a "parenthood experience" and possessing an "intelligent maturity" (quoting the MPAA website). They meet in Los Angeles, California, and apply the following ratings to films:

Rating Description
G General Audiences. All ages admitted.
PG Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
R Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 No one 17 and under admitted.

Operating since 1968, an important difference between the MPAA and movie rating boards of many other countries is the voluntary nature of the American movie rating system. No studio, distributor, theater, or video store is bound by any legislation to follow the ratings applied by the MPAA ratings board.

However, member companies of the MPAA (Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony/Columbia Tristar, MGM, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros) have good incentive to submit all of their releases for ratings along with many other non-member studios. Many theaters and theatrical chains have policies whereby they refuse to exhibit movies that have not been rated by the MPAA. Also, the increasing threat by U.S. lawmakers to put legislation in place if the industry cannot regulate itself, is incentive for the motion picture industry to keep their own policing efforts in force.

While the MPAA ratings appear on home video titles released in the U.S., DVD releases are not considered separate products from the original films and therefore retain the identical rating provided to each movie for its theatrical release. That means MPAA ratings on video releases do not take extra features into account. Also, if the main film has been altered -- such as a special "Directors Edition" -- the film will revert back to "Unrated" status when it is sold on home video formats.

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
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