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What Happened to the G Rating?

G Rating

Think about this question: when was the last time you saw a G-rated movie?
Let me ask a better question: when was the last time you actually wanted to see a G-rated movie? Your kids didn’t drag you there, you weren’t just trying to kill time on a Friday night — you actually wanted to see this particular movie.

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t seen one in quite some time. Even more interesting, that film was most likely a Disney film, animated, or both.

It’s very hard to find a non-animated, non-Disney film that’s rated G. The only ones I can think of were all made before 1966: The Sound of Music (1965)Gone With The Wind (1939) (whose G rating is dubious), and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Even most children’s animated films today earn at least a PG rating. Where did the elusive G rating disappear to?

G Rating

Image via And So It Begins…

Most Successful G-Rated Films

No surprise: the top 10 highest-grossing G-rated films (not adjusted for inflation) are all animated Disney films. From number 1 to number 10, the list is as follows: The Lion King (1994), Toy Story 3 (2010), Finding Nemo (2003)Monsters, Inc. (2001), Monsters University (2013), Toy Story 2 (1999), Cars (2006)WALL-E (2008)Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Aladdin (1992).

G Rating

Image via Mental Floss

These movies were destined to succeed at the box office; Disney has the secret to make box-office hits by appealing to families with young children but also to adults. They’ve delicately mastered the art of making engaging stories without being too graphic. Not to mention that they are able to effectively utilize merchandise to appeal even more to audiences.

Hollywood is Becoming More Vulgar

While not all non-G-rated films are vulgar, the absence of the rating in most modern movies signals a change in Hollywood. Since the days of the Hays’ Code, movies have gotten away with more and more.

Showgirls (1995) is a movie all about the erotic showgirls of Vegas. Saw (2004) follows a serial killer who creatively tortures and kills people. For heaven’s sake, Pulp Fiction (1994) probably breaks every tenet of the once-revered Hays’ Code, not to mention a few commandments.

G Rating

Image via Critical Hit Entertainment

So, why the shift towards these more violent, sexy, gory films?

Human Nature

I’ve mentioned this before, but people are honestly just morbid ambulance-chasers. We love gawking at car accidents, pornography, and anything else that appeals to our crude interests. Movies that do not include any of those elements — G-rated movies — just don’t hold our attention anymore.

According to the MPAA official guidelines: “A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture…Some language may go beyond polite conversation but it is common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated motion pictures. Depictions of violence are minimal. No nudity, sex scenes or drug use are present in the motion picture.”

So, when faced with the choice of watching Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (2017) or something edgier like A Quiet Place (2018), we will most often choose the latter, simply because it includes those morbid elements that will capture and retain our attention.

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G Rating

Image via Science Fiction

Is It a Problem?

This is where we get to the most exciting part of the article: my opinion.

My opinion is this: the fact that we have fewer movies earning the G rating doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the movie industry — it means there’s something wrong with the film rating industry. Standards have changed since 1985, the last time the film rating industry made an alteration to their system (adding the PG-13 rating after Jaws (1977) received a PG rating). Even the most tame films can earn PG ratings nowadays simply by failing one of the above requirements. Not to mention that much of what is seen on the news earns at least a PG rating anyway.

G Rating

Image via Cheat Sheet

It’s a proposal heard by the MPAA probably daily, but I really think there needs to be a change. Either adding another rating or simply changing the standards for ratings could help people better decide what movies they want to see or they want their kids to see. After all, the ratings system was originally designed for parents to be able to decide what movies they want their kids to see.

The way we raise today’s children has changed significantly even in the last ten years, so it’s time the rating system we use to guide them changes too.


Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on the G Rating and the ratings system? Comment down below!

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8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Caron is correct; the creation of the PG-13 rating had nothing to do with Jaws, which had been released years earlier. It was created in response to the outcry from parents when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom received a PG rating despite containing a scene in which a still-beating heart is ripped from a person’s chest.

  2. What really bugs the H out of me is when I see a PG-13 movie that should be rated R, regardless if it was based on an appeal it not. The whole point of the rating system is to inform parents about the content of a movie so they can decide if it is suitable for their kids to see or not. I don’t think the rating system is flawed in regard to the G rating. I just don’t think they are as marketable or as commercially appealing as the PG and PG-13s, unless of course it’s Disney.

  3. It’s all a marketing strategy, with most movies being PG and PG-13 makes it possible for more people to go to see the film. Teenagers don’t mind PG films at all and parents are ok with PG-13 movies to be viewed with their children.

  4. Bryan Caron says:

    Nice article, Kali – One correction, though. The PG-13 rating actually didn’t debut until 1984, though it was in relation to another Steven Spielberg film (or films). “Gremlins” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” both received a PG rating, and parents were outraged. Because of this, Patrick Swayze’s Red Dawn was the first movie to be given the PG-13 rating.

  5. I feel like part of this has to do with the way society is today with trying to not offend anyone and being politically correct. I can see why it would be focused more on children, in regards to movie ratings. No one wants to expose children to something that could cause parents to have a backlash and therefore it is safer to give a movie a higher rating like PG versus G. But, this is just my personal opinion. Ultimately, I do agree with the fact that a change in the movie rating system would be beneficial for the film industry. As Tuttle noted, the things that people are exposed to today versus when the rating system last made changed are vastly different. It appears to be a case of the film industry being overly cautious about what constitutes a G Rating so the solution seems to be have less G-rated films and more PG or high rated ones.

  6. Keith Noakes says:

    Canada is a lot less strict with movie ratings. While there is also a lack of G-rated movies here, our system has many PG-13 movies rated PG and R movies rated 14A although the occasional R pops up every once in a while.

  7. I think about this – when I was a child, we were allowed to bring VHS tapes from home to watch in class for special occasions, but they had to be rated G. I’m not sure if that rule is even still followed, or applicable today. But it certainly was harder to break that rule in the 90’s than it would be today – though I have half a mind to bring in some children’s classics that I know would be new to kids today.

  8. I feel the rating system has gotten less strict regarding “adult” movies and more strict regarding children’s/family movies. Many movies these days get PG-13 ratings for a number of things like sexual content, language, nudity, violence, etc. and it almost seems that they were trying to be an R-rated, but toned down just a little bit to get the PG-13. And then you have many animated films that are honestly G, but get PG ratings for “mild action” or “mild rude humor” or the like.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’d love to start a movie studio that makes G-rated/family-oriented films that tackle deep subjects without having to rely on sex, nudity, gore, etc.

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