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Motion picture rating systems

Motion picture rating systems are issued to give moviegoers an idea of the suitability of a movie for children and/or adults in terms of sex and violence. Ratings are often given in lieu of censorship.

Table of contents

United States

In the United States, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) issues ratings for movies. The system was instituted in 1968 and is voluntary; however, most movie theater chains will not show unrated films.

The ratings as they exist in 2002 are:

  • G - Movie suitable for all ages
  • PG - Parental guidance suggested - Contains mature themes, may not be suitable for small children
  • PG-13 - Parents strongly cautioned - Contains mature themes, may not be suitable for children under 13 years old
  • R - Restricted - Contains mature themes (usually sex and/or violence). Children under 17 not admitted without an adult
  • NC-17 - No children under 17 admitted.

For history and more details, see MPAA film rating system.


Movie ratings in Canada are a provincial responsibility. The Ontario Film Review Board[?] uses the following system:

  • Family. Film appropriate for viewing by a person of any age.
  • Parental Guidance. Parents should exercise discretion in permitting a child to view the film.
  • Adult Accompaniment. Persons younger than 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Restricted. Film restricted to persons 18 years of age or older.

The British Columbia system is:

  • General. All ages. The contents of these motion pictures are suitable for viewing by all ages.
  • Parental Guidance. All ages. Parental guidance advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children.
  • 14 Accompaniment. Anyone under 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Parents cautioned. These films may contain violence, coarse language, and/or sexually suggestive scenes.
  • 18 Accompaniment. Anyone under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Parents strongly cautioned. Will likely contain explicit violence, frequent coarse language, sexual activity and/or horror.
  • Restricted. No one under the age of 18 may view under any circumstances. Content not suitable for minors. May contain scenes of explicit sex and/or violence. However, the film classification office considers these films to have some artistic, historical, political, educational or scientific merit.
  • Adult. No one under 18 may view under any circumstances. May contain explicit sexual scenes and/or violence. However, the classification office considers these films to be tolerable to the community.

United Kingdom

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rates both motion pictures and videos. Local authorities are responsible for accepting and enforcing the BBFC's recommended ratings for cinema showings, whereas those for videos are legally binding.

The current BBFC system is:

  • Uc Universal, suitable for all but especially for young children.
  • U Universal, suitable for all.
  • PG All ages admitted, but Parental Guidance is recommended. It is the board's policy that movies rated "PG" should not disturb a child of about 8 years of age or older; however, "parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset young or more sensitive children."
  • 12A No one under 12 years of age may see a "12A" film (unless accompanied by an adult) or rent or buy a "12" video.
  • 15 No one under 15 years of age may see a "15" film or rent or buy a "15" video.
  • 18 Suitable only for adults. No one under 18 years of age may see an "18" film or rent or buy an "18" video.
  • R18 To be supplied only in licensed sex shops to adults of not less than 18 years of age.
  • E Exempt from BBFC rating system (so technically not a rating). (Often these are specialist educational programmes such as Trainspotting videos).

Australia The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification[?] (OFLC) uses the following system:

  • G Suitable for all viewers. It is noted by the board that a "G" movie rating in Australia doesn't indicate the movie is intended for children, simply that nothing in the movie will be disturbing or harmful to children.
  • PG Parental Guidance recommended for children under 15 years of age.
  • M Mature, recommended for audiences 15 years and over. Note: this is not a legally restricted Australian movie rating, but movies in this category cannot be recommended for those under 15 years.
  • MA Mature Accompanied. This category is legally restricted in that children under 15 cannot see "MA" films or rent them on video unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
  • R Restricted. This category is legally restricted to adults. No one under 18 may view these movies in a cinema or rent them on videocassette.
  • X Restricted. This rating applies to sexually explicit material which is restricted to viewers 18 years of age and over.
  • E Exempt from classification - thus not a rating as such. These are usually educational programs.

New Zealand The Office of Film and Literature Classification[?] (OFCS) first divides films into two categories ; unrestricted and restricted. Unrestricted films are assigned a rating label. Restricted films are assigned a classification label. The common labels in each category are as follows:

Unrestricted films:

  • G Suitable for all.
  • PG Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers.
  • M' Mature ; Suitable for people 16 years or older. Parental decision whether to let children watch a particular film

Restricted films:

  • R13 Restricted to 13 year-olds and older
  • R15 Restricted to 15 year-olds and older
  • R16 Restricted to 16 year-olds and older
  • R18 Restricted to 18 year-olds and older
  • R A special restriction (details of the restriction noted to the right of the label). Equivalent to the old 'RP' classification.

External links

  • This (http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Certificates/types_all) IMDb page has an extensive (but not exhaustive) list of certificates recorded in its database. Note however that this list mixes current and old rating systems and does not specify which is which.

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