What is the purpose of the rating system?
Movie ratings provide parents with advance information about the content of films to help them determine what movies are appropriate for their young children and at what age.  Ratings are assigned by a Board of parents who consider factors such as violence, sex, language, drug use and other adult activities and assign a rating they believe the majority of American parents would give a film.

Do the 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 film. Rather, ratings imply offer guidance to parents as to the level of content in a film.

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 Classifications and Rating Administration (CARA), which is independently financed through fees it charges to rate films. 

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 film for a rating is a voluntary decision made by filmmakers.  However, the overwhelming majority of filmmakers have their film rated, and each member of the Motion Picture Association of America has agreed to have all their theatrically released films 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 legal 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.  Please sign up today for this free and convenient service at www.filmratings.com.

What about movie advertising in theatres?
Every CARA-rated film is required to have all of its advertising approved.  The Advertising Administration reviews 60,000 marketing pieces - from movie trailers to posters to Internet ads - each year.  Our goal is to respect parents who do not want their young children exposed to inappropriate content, while allowing filmmakers to responsibly market their movies to their intended audiences.  Film advertising that is widely viewed in public areas, such as theater lobbies, must be appropriate for general audiences.  Movie trailers featuring stronger content are permitted to run only before feature films with a similar rating and themes.  The objective is to give parents a reasonable expectation that if they are comfortable with the content of the feature film, then they will be comfortable with the content of the trailers preceding it.

WHAT DOES EACH RATING MEAN?

G - General Audiences. All Ages Admitted.
A G-rated motion picture signifies that the film rated contains nothing most parents will consider offensive for even their youngest children to see or hear.  Nudity, sex scenes, and scenes of drug use are absent; violence is minimal; snippets of dialogue may go beyond polite conversation but do not go beyond common everyday expressions.

PG - Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.
The PG rating indicates that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children.  A PG-rated motion picture may contain some profanity and some depictions of violence, sensuality or brief nudity.  But, these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be stongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance.  There is no drug use content in a PG-rated motion picture.

PG-13 - Parents Strongly Cautioned.  Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.
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.  Any drug use; more than brief nudity, though not sexually oriented; some depictions of violence, though not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence; and the use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, will initially require at least a PG-13 rating.

R - Restricted.  Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.
An R-rated motion picture may include depiction of 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.  Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.

NC-17 - No One 17 and Under Admitted.
An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under.  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.  The rating does not indicate that the motion picture is “obscene” or “pornographic” in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense.

For complete rating information and rules, please visit www.filmratings.com

FOR PARENTS

The rating system is committed to providing parents with clear, concise information about the content of movies.  This includes sponsoring "Red Carpet Rating", a free weekly email service that provides ratings information on current film releases.

To learn more about movie ratings, to find rating information on a specific film, or to sign up for  "Red Carpet Rating": please visit www.filmratings.com