×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

More Than Half of Movies Have Been Rated R in Past 50 Years, MPAA Study Says

WASHINGTON — The MPAA is marking the 50th anniversary of its film ratings by releasing data on the breakdown of how movies have been rated over the last half century.

The R rating has been placed on far and away the majority of the movies since then, more than half of the almost 30,000 titles that have been given classifications.

The breakdown: Since 1968, the first year of the ratings classifications, there have been 17,202 movies rated R, 5,578 rated M/GP/PG, 4,913 rated PG-13 and 1,574 rated G. Just 524 movies have been rated X or NC-17, reflecting the reluctance of exhibitors to carry those titles.

The MPAA also said that over the years, 1.4% (or 428 titles) of the ratings have been appealed, and 0.6% (or 165 movies) have had their rating overturned. The MPAA’s complete report is here. The organization also released a digital archive of documents, including such things as press releases and letters when it was formed, and copies of the pre-rating Motion Picture Code.

Joan Graves, the chair of the Classification and Rating Administration and MPAA senior vice president, also answers commonly asked questions in a series of videos.

The trade association also released the results of a survey, conducted by Nielsen, of 1,559 parents of children between the ages of 7 and 16. It showed that 59% strongly and 36% somewhat agree that the ratings are helpful tools. There also was substantial agreement that the descriptors for the ratings were helpful tools for parents. The MPAA also reviews advertising content, and said that it has overseen about 68,000 pieces of material over the past year, including 15,835 trailers.

MPAA Chairman Charles Rivkin said in a statement, “Given the extraordinary changes in our culture, entertainment, and society over the last 50 years, this anniversary feels particularly hard-earned and special. We could point to many factors behind the ratings’ success, but the clearest one of all comes directly from our founding mission: to maintain the trust and confidence of American parents.”

The ratings were announced on Nov. 1, 1968 by then-chairman Jack Valenti against threats of government censorship, particularly in local communities. The last state censorship board was disbanded in 1981.

Valenti, who became the head of the MPAA in 1966, was quickly faced with the controversies over “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Blowup.” Graves said that “the fact that he was able to convince all those different parties, the makers of films, the exhibitors of films, and the censors of films, and the church groups to take a chance on this, seems even more remarkable today I think than it was then.”

Before the ratings system was adopted, the industry operated under the Production Code, or Hays Code. The MPAA report goes into great detail about the history of that code, including some of the restrictions that “seem ridiculous today.” Among them: One foot on the floor in love scenes, depiction of childbirth as “painful,” and scenes of toilets. “Psycho,” made in 1960, was the first film to show a flushing toilet, according to the report.

The current ratings have evolved over time. The original ratings were G, M, R and X. In 1984, a “PG-13” rating was established to find a middle ground between PG and R, after controversy over some of the violence depicted in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” The MPAA said that the introduction of the PG-13 rating has reduced the number of studio and filmmaker appeals of their rating classifications.

The X rating originally went to mainstream movies, including “Midnight Cowboy,” released in 1969 and the only best picture winner to be rated X. The adult film industry began using the descriptor, though, and most studios and exhibitors steered clear of earning the classification. The MPAA replaced the rating with NC-17 in 1990, but that too has been met with reluctance on the part of exhibitors.

Popular on Variety

More Politics

  • Michael Bloomberg Democratic National Convention

    Michael Bloomberg Considers Presidential Run as Democrat

    Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering whether to jump into the Democratic primary, as he grows concerned that no one in the current field can beat President Trump. Bloomberg, worth an estimated $52 billion, previously ruled out a run, saying it would be difficult to succeed in a crowded Democratic field. But his [...]

  • President Donald Trump speaks in the

    Donald Trump Ordered to Pay $2 Million for Misuse of Charitable Funds

    A New York judge has ordered President Trump to pay $2 million to resolve allegations that he misused charitable funds for campaign purposes. The New York attorney general’s office sued Trump and three of his children in June 2018, alleging they had solicited tax-deductible donations for a veterans fundraiser in Des Moines in January 2016. [...]

  • Haim Saban

    Haim Saban Hosts Fundraiser for Speaker Nancy Pelosi Amid Impeachment Probe

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi will attend a fundraiser Tuesday night at the Beverly Hills home of billionaire Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl, as the Democrats seek funds to retain their House majority in 2020. Pelosi and House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries will both be in attendance to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign [...]

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris

    Kamala Harris to Hold 'Fireside Chat' Fundraiser at UCB Theatre

    Kamala Harris will hold another Hollywood fundraiser next week, as she looks to regain momentum with less than 100 days to go before the Iowa caucus. Harris will appear on stage on Nov. 13 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. The event is billed as a “fireside chat” with Matt Walsh, the “Veep” [...]

  • Tyler Perry Studios

    Tyler Perry Studios to Host Next Democratic Debate

    The fifth Democratic presidential debate will be held at Tyler Perry Studios, the sprawling 330-acre complex built on the site of a former Army base in Atlanta, MSNBC announced on Monday. MSNBC and the Washington Post will host the debate, which will begin on Nov. 20 at 9 p.m. ET. Four women will moderate: MSNBC [...]

  • Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton Says Mark Zuckerberg 'Should Pay a Price' for Facebook Fake Ads

    Democracy is under attack and data is the weapon being used to drive wedges in our polarized society. That was the message that Hillary Clinton delivered at a New York City screening of the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” on Friday night. The former secretary of state argued that tech giants such as Facebook need [...]

  • Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke speaks

    Beto O'Rourke Drops Out of Presidential Race

    Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, Texas, announced on Friday that he’s withdrawing from the presidential race. O’Rourke captivated party regulars only a year ago, coming within a few points of unseating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the midterm election. That campaign was fueled by massive contributions from small-dollar donors. That strategy initially [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content