What Does Rated R Mean?

Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by

You’re watching the trailer of a film, and suddenly, a red band card appears. It is oozing blood, and it explicitly says, ‘The film advertised has been rated R.’ Also, you see another message below the big R, ‘Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.’ What? What do those messages even mean?

You then decided to ask google what rate R means. You get here and find out that R is short for RESTRICTED, and R-rated movies are those that contain violence, strong language, drug content, and explicit sex scenes.

So, any young person under 17 shouldn’t watch an R-rated film without a grown-up around. That way, they will shield the non-adult if anything scandalous happens in the movie. Also, they’ll be in a better position to explain and enlighten.

Some of the popular R-rated movies include:

1. The Terminator (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger)

2. Ted and Ted 2 (starring Mark Wahlberg)

3. Deadpool (starring Ryan Reynolds)

4. The Matrix (starring Keanu Reeves)

This article will look at the systems and ratings that the Motion Picture Association uses. The MPA is a US-based institution that matches movies with particular audiences. It ensures that exhibit films are vetted before they reach the theaters. Simply put, the MPA is a watchdog that labels individual motion pictures.

By looking at MPA, you’ll know the meaning of other movie ratings and the uniquely colored rating cards. Also, you’ll learn about the components used to rate films and what you can do when reviewing movie ratings.

Finally, you’ll get answers to many related questions, and we will have put the issue to rest. Now, if you’re game, let’s see what this voluntary scheme has to do with the films that make it to the big screen.

Before Everything Else…

Although the MPA plays a significant role in rating films, another board handles the rating process. It is the Classifications and Ratings Administration, or CARA. A group of independent parents forms the panel, and their role is to determine if a movie is okay for children.

You should know that the parents at CARA don’t give ratings to draw lines between appropriate and inappropriate films. Instead, they mark them to tip off parents as to what content the movie has.

For parents, the rating helps them make informed decisions about what their kids should or should not watch.

The Different Parts Of A Rating

When you’re looking at the MPA designation of a film, here are three parts to pay attention to:

1. The letter, which can either be NC-17, R, PG-13, PG, or G. It marks the content level of the film.

2. The definition. In the lower part of the rating box, the MPA leaves you a detailed explanation of what the letter means. For example, here are some statements you may find (though not word for word):

Some of the Material May Be Inappropriate for Kids Under 13

Some of the Content May Be Unsuitable for Children

3. The descriptors. On the rating letter, you’ll find the descriptors that are different from the definition. That’s because they are unique to each film, and they explain why it has received the rating it has. Such statements may look like this (not word for word):

a. Extended periods of intense action violence, and terrifying images

b. Some nudity/sexuality and language throughout

c. Some crude humor plus mild language

What Each Movie Rating Means

The R rating isn’t the only one that the MPA applied. As you’ve already seen, five letters point to 5 movie ratings. Here is what they all mean:

1. NC-17 (No One 17 Or Under Admitted)

Such films have too much adult content for teenagers. However, that doesn’t mean they are pornographic or obscenely so. It is just that their content wouldn’t sit well with the parents of most, if not all, children.

Before NC-17, the MPA used the X-rating to mark inappropriate movies.

2. R (Restricted, Under 17 Need Accompanying Adult Guardian Or Parent)

This rating tells you that the movie in question contains adult content like harsh language and adult activity. In addition, it has drug abuse, intense graphic violence, and nudity.

Theaters always have policies regarding R-rated movies, like checking IDs before the screening. Some may only allow parents or adult guardians to purchase the tickets with the under 17.

To be sure, ensure you check what your local theater prescribed. That way, you can prepare well before watching an R-rated movie.

3. PG-13 (Parents Cautioned Because Some Content May Be Unsuitable For Children)

It was in the 1980s that the PG-13 rating was introduced. Why you ask? Well, some films received complaints because they had content which:

1. It wasn’t suitable for all children

2. But was mildly appropriate for some children

So, the MPA introduced an intermediary in the name of PG-13.

Simply put, PG-13 cautions parents that pre-teen kids may not be the best audience of the movie in question. The film may have strong language, long periods of sexy scenes, and blatant drugs.

To be sure, always check the specific movie rating to get a glimpse of the content.

4. PG (Parental Guidance Needed, Some Content May Be Unsuitable For Children)

For PG-rated movies, parents should be cautious and investigate before their children watch them. That is because they may contain brief nudity, language, and violence. However, such scenes are not intense, and they only need a parent’s witty comment.

5. G (General Audiences And All Ages Are Admitted)

Such movies usually have no nudity, violence, sex, or strong language. The Rating Board usually marks them for everyone since they wouldn’t offend parents if children watched them.

However, note that a G-rated movie isn’t automatically a kid’s movie. So, even though it has a green color, check for any content that may not sit well with you.

Colored Rating Cards (Green, Yellow, And Red)

Apart from the letters, definitions, and descriptions, MPA assigns colors for theatrical trailers. Here is an explanation of what they all mean:

1. The Green Band

When the trailer of a movie starts with a green band, it usually has words like, ‘The following movie preview has approval for appropriate audiences

As you may have already figured out, this band appears in trailers of G-rated movies, meaning that audiences in theaters can watch them in peace.

2. The Yellow Band

This band was introduced in 2007 and indicates that a trailer contains restricted content. Such trailers have the following message on the Internet, ‘This preview is for age-appropriate users.’ Such users are mainly adults, and they access the content between 9 PM and 4 AM.

And, as you may have guessed, the yellow band appears in PG and PG-13 movies.

3. The Red Band

Lastly, we have this trailer band that is constantly oozing blood. More often than not, the MPA issues it to movie trailers with mature content. Obviously, such material is inappropriate for children.

MPA reserves the red band for the NC-17 and R-rated movies.

Components Used In Rating Films

So, what exactly does the Rating Board look at when marking movies. Well, the components are violence, substance, sex, language, and nudity. Let’s look at each of them briefly.


Any violence that is overly realistic or nastily extreme automatically receives an R rating. For G-rated films, violence must be kept at a minimum.

So, violence is okay for all levels, but children shouldn’t see too much blood or fresh entrails every two seconds. 


Drug use in movies is only permitted in PG-13 films and over. If the MPA picks out a movie with drug paraphernalia, the rating may even go above PG-13.

It was not until 2007 that the MPA started to factor in smoking as one of the metrics. And, in 2011, the film Rango, which is animated, was marked inappropriate. That’s because it had over 50 depictions of characters having their way with smoking.


Although the MPA doesn’t have criteria for appropriating sexual content, they advise against sex scenes for G-rated films.


For G-rated films, it is allowed to have language that slightly goes above the polite levels. However, no strong words should be present.

In PG-rated movies, profane language may be used by sexual suggestions, and innuendos occur at a minimum. If such language is used multiple times, the film gets an R rating.

It is important to note that sometimes a film can appeal a rating, especially if it sees the use of language as harmless. And if the appeal is successful, the film may get a lower, more inclusive rating.


If a movie has any nudity, it is assigned PG and above, or at least a PG-13 rating. And, if its nudity is sexually oriented, the R-rated hammer falls.

To add, the MPA either defines it as graphic or partial while flagging nude scenes in a movie.

What To Do When Reviewing Moving Ratings

Now that you know the ins and outs of movie rating, here are some helpful tips. They should assist you in deciding whether or not the kids should see the movie.

1. Watch It First

Like with apps and other forms of technology, you need to see it to believe it. So, if your children want to watch a movie, screen it first. After 120 minutes, you will know whether they should see it or not.

By having the film in mind, you will know how to approach the subject and a plan to talk to the underage fellow.

2. Look At The Rating Critically

With the information you’ve gathered in this article, you should know if a movie is appropriate for your kids or not. Use the letters, definitions, descriptions, and colors to filter content and give them the best.

3. Tell The Kids What You Expect Of Them

If you decide on the acceptable ratings in the family, remind them constantly. This also goes to their friends and other adults, and it should let everyone know what is inappropriate and what is not.

4. Read The Online Reviews

Sometimes, the movie rating may not accurately describe what the movie contains. So, go online and read the viewer reviews to see the actual content and feedback.

5. Be Open And Genuine With Your Kids

Talking about movies will help you understand what your children watch. Once you create a casual environment, it’ll be easier to help them process the content.

For example, tell your kids that even though a drug scene appeared on the screen, it is not right to do so. That will help them make proper judgment even when they stumble upon R-rated films.

Related Questions

Can A 12-Year-Old Watch A Rated R Movie?


However, they will need to be in the company of a parent or adult guardian.

Is The F-Word Rated R?

If the f-word is used in a sexual context, the MPA automatically assigns an R-rating.

So, yes, the F-word is rated R.

Is 18+ The Same As Rated R?

Not exactly,

18+ is the same as R 18+, but not R. That’s because under 17s can watch R-rated movies in the company of their parents but shouldn’t watch 18+ content.

Is it Illegal For A Kid To Watch A Rated R Movie?


But, it is recommended that the kid is in the company of an adult.

Should I Let My 17-Year-Old Watch R-Rated Movies?

Yes, but make sure you watch the movie first. And, if you can watch the film with the teenager so that you can highlight the talking points when the curtains come down.

Does PG-13 Allow Swearing?

Yes, but minimally.


Rated R means the movie either contains substances, sex, violence, or all of them combined. So, if you have a young person under 17, it is best that they don’t watch it. But, if they have to, let it be in the company of an adult.

Movie ratings are an excellent indicator, and they help improve the parenting experience. So, always check and see how the MPA has marked the movie before it gets to your living room’s TV.

And that was it!

If you enjoyed the content and its richness, don’t forget to share it with others. That way, they’ll get a summary of what the MPA does and how it affects the film industry. 

Then, talk to us in the boxes below about what we missed. We’ll be sure to update it in due time. Now, check out these related articles before you leave:

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Au revoir, and we’ll see each other in the next article!

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