Before 1990, when the Motion Picture Association of America rated a movie, that rating was all the commentary they offered: G, PG, PG-13, R, X, M, GP (look ‘em up!). But in September of that year, the MPAA began amending ratings with brief descriptions of the action that resulted in that rating, and that’s where the fun began. You see, those descriptions give the rest of us an opportunity to not only figure out exactly what was offensive to this super-secret group of oral sex-loathing penis-fearers, but to read their oh-so-delicate descriptions of said offenses, which often read like hilarious blank verse — or, in the case of this week’s “unusual behavior” notation on Fifty Shades of Grey’s R rating, like the hothouse declarations of a delicate flower in a lesser Tennesse Williams play (“I do decla-yuh, this is such unusual behav-yuh, oh Beulah, get me to the faintin’ couch!”). So as a thank you for literally years of giggles, here are some of our favorite MPAA descriptions:
The Fugitive (1993):
“Rated PG-13 for a murder and other action sequences in an adventure setting.”
OK, I’ve read this one about 20 times and still don’t understand what it means — neither what “an adventure setting” is, nor what the hell that would have to do with a rating. If only we’d put those action sequences in a telenovela setting, we could’ve pulled a PG!
Blue Crush (2002):
“Rated PG-13 for sexual content, teen partying, language and a fight.”
Sounds like both a reasonable justification for a PG-13 rating and the kind of night on the town I could never quite make happen in high school.
Mother’s Boys (1993):
“Rated R for language and for a mother’s sociopathic behavior.”
“Rated R for strong sexuality, some nudity, depiction of behavioral disorders, and language. “
You can put your value judgments in a pipe and smoke ‘em, MPAA!
Much Ado About Nothing (1993):
“Rated PG-13 for momentary sensuality.”
I think we all have an embarrassing “momentary sensuality” story, though very few of them could be rated PG-13.
The Indian in the Cupboard (1995):
“Rated PG for mild language and brief video images of violence and sexy dancing.”
I feel like the MPAA might have somehow seen a compromised version of The Indian in the Cupboard. Was Tyler Durden the projectionist?
War of the Buttons (1994):
“Rated PG for mischievous conflict, some mild language and bare bottoms.”
While most of the MPAA ratings are written for parents of small children, the last phrase of this one sounds like it was written by small children. “Um, this movie had, arum, runnin’ around, and um, bad words, and, um, bare bottoms, and a racecar, vroom vroom!”
“Rated PG for language and a mild birds and bees discussion.”
“Birds and bees discussion”? Seriously? Well, at least it was a mild one. (“For a Good Time, Call… rated R for explicit birds and bees discussions.”)
Ghost Brigade (1993):
“Rated R for satanic war violence.”
Again, it’s the modifier. This isn’t just war violence, parents — it’s satanic war violence. Also, Satantic War Violence: great as-yet-unused band name.
Alien Trespass (2009):
“Rated PG for sci-fi action and brief historical smoking.”
The MPAA’s 2007 decision to add smoking to the list of ratings considerations led to a couple of pretty great descriptions — particularly here, as historical context is one of their factors (so the pervasive smoking of, say, Good Night and Good Luck might not count against it). But you’ve gotta wonder what the historical context is for smoking in something called Alien Trespass, right? Does the alien trespass into the signing of the Declaration of Independence?
Alice in Wonderland (2010):
“Rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.”
Smoking Caterpillar= another great unused band name. Just a small finder’s fee, that’s all I ask.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005):
“Rated PG for quirky situations, action and mild language.”
“Quirky situations,” aka the Official Tim Burton MPAA Rating Description.
Pink Flamingos (1972, re-released 1997):
“Rated NC-17 for a wide range of perversions in explicit detail.”
“A wide range of perversions in explicit detail,” aka the Official John Waters MPAA Rating Description.
A Dirty Shame (2005):
“Rated NC-17 for pervasive sexual content. “
A Dirty Shame: The Neuter Version (2005):
“Rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content, including fetishes.”
Speaking of which, here’s an odd one: the rating for the cleaner, “neuter” version of Mr. Waters’ 2005 fetish-o-rama is more detailed, since it adds “including fetishes.” But what about the fetishes in the NC-17 original? Did Waters, that scamp, add in more fetishes for the R-rated version?
For the Moment (1996):
“Rated PG-13 for sexual situations, language and a poignant death.”
“Well, we should give it an R, what with that death scene and all — but it was so poignant…”
“Rated R for grisly afterviews of horrific and bizarre killings, and for strong language.”
Okay, “afterview” isn’t even a word. You’re just making shit up now, MPAA.
The Skateboard Kid II (1995):
“Rated PG for brief mild language and an adolescent punch in the nose.”
Good thing they didn’t get this detailed in the Seven description!
“Rated PG-13 for intense depiction of very bad weather.“
Not sure why, but for some reason, this one is funnier if you imagine Christopher Walken reading it.
The Brady Bunch Movie (1995):
“Rated PG-13 for racy innuendos.”
I like to imagine someone’s monocle popping out during this one…
Wayne’s World 2 (1993):
“Rated PG-13 for ribald humor.”
… and this one, which also requires a comically overdone British accent. “Oh, good heavens, those crude American boys and all their…. rrrrribaldry.”
Jefferson in Paris (1995):
“Rated PG-13 for mature theme, some images of violence and a bawdy puppet show.”
“And how about that vile puppet show? So very, very, bawwwwwwdy.” But if the MPAA thought that puppet show was bawdy, they should’ve seen what was coming nine years later…
Team America: World Police (2004):
“Rated R for graphic crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language — all involving puppets.”
And now I just want to go back and add “all involving puppets” to all of the other descriptions. “Rated PG for sci-fi action and brief historical smoking — all involving puppets.” “Rated PG-13 for sexual content, teen partying, language and a fight — all involving puppets.” “Rated PG for mild language and brief video images of violence and sexy dancing —all involving puppets.” “Rated PG for mischievous conflict, some mild language and bare bottoms — all involving puppets.” “Rated NC-17 for a wide range of perversions in explicit detail — all involving puppets.” I could do this all day.