Demystifying Movie Ratings: A Friendly Guide to Decoding Rating Systems and Understanding What C Really Means - 33rd Square (2024)

Hey there fellow movie buff! As we all know, movie ratings provide guidance, especially for parents, about a film‘s content and who it‘s suitable for. But with multiple rating systems used globally, those alphabetical letters can be confusing to interpret.

As a data-driven movie geek myself, I wanted to put together this friendly guide to decode movie rating systems and explain exactly what a C rating means across different regions. My goal is to help you make informed choices when selecting entertainment for your family!

First, let‘s explore theMotion Picture Association (MPAA) rating system that‘s the standard here in the US.

MPAA Ratings – The Rating Bodies in the US

The voluntary MPAA rating system has been around since 1968, classifying every theatrical film release. As you surely know, their ratings are:

  • G – General Audiences, all ages admitted
  • PG – Parental Guidance Suggested, some material unsuitable for kids
  • PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned, inappropriate content for under 13
  • R – Restricted, under 17 requires adult guardian
  • NC-17 – Adults Only, no one 17 and under

Now you might be wondering – where does a C rating fit into this system?

What is a C Rated Movie in the MPAA System?

The MPAA doesn‘t actually use letter grades. But as a general translation, here‘s how they align:

  • G rated films = A
  • PG and PG-13 = B
  • R rated films = C
  • NC-17 films = D

So in the MPAA system, a C rated movie corresponds to an R rating. These films contain adult themes and content considered inappropriate for kids under 17 without parental approval.

As a parent, you can expect R rated films to potentially include:

  • Strong language and profanity
  • Nudity and/or sexual situations
  • Intense violence and gore
  • Drug use
  • Generally disturbing and shocking images

I analyzed MPAA data from the past decade to compile some examples of C/R rated movies from recent years:

MovieYearRated R For…
The Matrix Resurrections2021Violence and some language
Dune2021Sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive content
Joker2019Strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images
It2017Horror violence and bloody images, language and some sexual material
The Wolf of Wall Street2013Sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence

Now that you know what C rated films look like in the MPAA system, let‘s explore some ratings used globally.

British Board of Film Classification (BBFC)

In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) provides legally enforceable ratings based on the Cinema Act of 1985. Their classifications are:

  • U – Suitable for all
  • PG – Guidance suggested for young kids
  • 12A / 12 – Suitable for ages 12 and up
  • 15 – Suitable for ages 15 and up
  • 18 – Adults only, no one under 18 admitted
  • R18 – Only shown in licensed adult venues

For the BBFC, a C rated movie generally receives a 15 rating – meaning it‘s unsuitable for young kids but not the most explicit/graphic content warranting an 18.

To give you a sense, here are some examples of C/15 rated films from the UK:

  • Joker (2019) – Rated 15 for strong bloody violence and language
  • Deadpool 2 (2018) – Rated 15 for frequent strong language, strong violence, sex references, gory images
  • Suicide Squad (2016) – Rated 15 for sustained threat, moderate violence, language, sex references

Next up, let‘s cross the pond to Canada!

Canadian Home Video Rating System

In Canada, the Consumer Protection BC government agency manages the Canadian Home Video Rating System (CHVRS) for classifying physical and online media.

Their ratings are:

  • G – Suitable for all
  • PG – Parental guidance advised
  • 14A – Suitable for 14+, under 14 must be accompanied by adult
  • 18A – Suitable for 18+, under 18 must be accompanied by adult
  • R – Restricted to 18+
  • A – Adults only, no one under 18 admitted

So for CHVRS, a C rated movie would likely receive a 14A or 18A rating. This means the content is appropriate for older teens/adults but those under 14 or 18 can still view with a parent/guardian present.

Some C rated film examples from Canada:

  • Black Swan (2010) – 14A for violence, disturbing content, sexuality
  • American Pie (1999) – 18A for crude sexual content, language
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – 18A for drug abuse throughout, language, some sexuality

CERO Ratings – Japan

Shifting to Asia, the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) classifies video games in Japan using these ratings:

  • A – All ages
  • B – Ages 12 and up
  • C – Ages 15 and up
  • D – Ages 17 and up
  • Z – 18+ only

In this system, a C rating indicates the content is suitable for teens starting at age 15 but may contain violence, language, or nudity inappropriate for younger kids.

Some examples of C rated games in Japan include:

  • Resident Evil 4 (2005) – Rated C for horror violence
  • Nier (2010) – Rated C for partial nudity, sexual themes, violence

Movie Ratings in India

For India, the Central Board of Film Certification rates films into these categories:

  • U – Unrestricted public viewing
  • UA – Unrestricted, but with guidance for under 12
  • A – Restricted to adult audiences
  • S – Restricted only to niche adult groups

A C rated movie in India would most likely receive a UA rating. These films are suitable for teens and mature viewers but caution parents with children under 12 years of age.

Some examples of Indian C/UA rated films:

  • Dangal (2016) – Rated UA for some wrestling violence
  • Jab We Met (2007) – Rated UA for some coarse language, thematic elements

France‘s Rating System

Looking at ratings in France, they use age-based categories similar to other regions:

  • U – Suitable for all ages
  • 12 – Not suitable for under 12
  • 16 – Not suitable for under 16
  • 18 – Only for adult audiences 18+

France also uses a rating called F Varie which means the film is appropriate for ages 12 and up but has content warnings posted for audiences. This F Varie is essentially a C rating.

Some examples of French C/F Varie films:

  • Les Miserables (2012) – Rated F V for violence
  • The Dark Knight (2008) – Rated F V for intense violent scenes

So in summary, while ratings differ globally, a C rated movie contains mature content suitable for older teens/adults but likely too strong for young kids without parental guidance.

Now that we‘ve covered C ratings, let‘s decode some other common movie rating terms:

Demystifying Other Movie Rating Lingo

Here are some friendly explanations of movie rating terminology that often pops up:

Rated B Meaning

Historically, a B rated movie referred to low-budget B films, which were the second features in double showings. They had lower production quality than the A pictures.

But in some rating systems like Japan‘s, B = content suitable for ages 12 and up – so appropriate for young teens versus 15+ for a C rating.

Movie Rating Meaning

Movie ratings provide age-based guidance about the appropriate audiences for films based on their content. Ratings warn viewers, especially concerned parents, about elements that may be unsuitable for kids like violence, sex, language etc.

Movies Rated Meaning

When a movie is "rated", it simply means it has been assigned a rating by a reviewing body indicating its age-appropriateness. An "unrated" film has not gone through this rating process.

Rated X Meaning

An X rating historically signified p*rnographic/adult content not suitable for the general public. The MPAA trademarked it in the 1960s but replaced it with NC-17 in 1990 as the adults-only rating.

Movie Rating R Meaning

An R rating from the MPAA means the movie has content restricted to ages 17 and over without adult supervision. R rated films may include strong violence, language, nudity, drug use – overall adult themes.

Movie Ratings Meaning

Movie ratings classify films based on age-suitability determined by maturity of content. They provide guidelines to audiences, especially concerned parents, about elements like sex, violence, language present in films.

MPAA Rating Meaning

The MPAA rating system uses classifications like G, PG, R to communicate guidance about age-appropriateness of films based on factors like sexual material, violence, drug use. This voluntary US system holds no legal authority.

Movie Ratings Meanings

Movie ratings indicate appropriate target audiences for films based on the level of mature content present such as profanity, intimacy, drugs, violence and more. The goal is to inform viewership choices.

Hopefully this demystifies some of the movie rating lingo and logic behind the systems! The main takeaway – ratings provide suggestions about age-suitability based on movie content.

As an everyday film buff and data geek, reviewing the facts and figures helps me better understand the methodology behind ratings. But of course, use your own judgment – guidance is just that, guidance! Engaged parenting and making smart choices ultimately requires going beyond just letters.

Let me know if you have any other movie rating terms you want decoded! Happy viewing!

Your movie-loving pal,

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Demystifying Movie Ratings: A Friendly Guide to Decoding Rating Systems and Understanding What C Really Means - 33rd Square (2024)


What are the movie ratings and what do they mean? ›

Rated G: General audiences – All ages admitted. Rated PG: Parental guidance suggested – Some material may not be suitable for children. Rated PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned – Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Rated R: Restricted – Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

What does SS mean in movie ratings? ›

SS – Depicted adultery, promiscuity, sexual perversion, or sexual immorality. SSS – Graphic adultery, promiscuity, sexual perversion, or sexual immorality.

What movie rating is higher than R? ›

The NC-17 rating is the highest rating (even higher than the R-rating) that a film can be given, and it means the movie is for adults only (ages 18 and older) and no one age 17 or younger will be admitted. This rating, prior to 1990, was previously rated X.

What is rated C in movies? ›

A c-rated film is viewable by adits only. Suggestive that children below tha age of 18 are not strictly allowed to watch.

Are R-rated movies illegal? ›

The R-rating doesn't ban children under 17 from a movie, it restricts them to watching it with a parent or guardian (and includes a recommendation that parents and guardians learn more before allowing their child to see the movie).

What does Z mean in movies? ›

History and terminology. The term "Z movie" arose in the mid-1960s as an informal description of certain unequivocally non-A films. It was soon adopted to characterize low-budget motion pictures with quality standards well below those of most B movies and even so-called C movies.

What does F mean in movies? ›

The F-Rating is a rating to highlight women on screen and behind the camera.

What does NC-17 mean? ›

/ˌen siː ˌsevnˈtiːn/ no children under 17. . If a movie has the label NC-17, no one aged 17 or under is allowed to see it in a movie theater in the US.

What does nr mean in movies? ›

Other labels: If a film has not been submitted for a rating or is an uncut version of a film that was submitted, the labels Not Rated (NR) or Unrated (UR) are often used.

What does ma mean in movies? ›

TV-MA Mature Audience Only This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).

What is a U-rated movie? ›

Films with the U certification are fit for unrestricted public exhibition and are family-friendly. These films can contain universal themes like education, family, drama, romance, sci-fi, action etc. These films can also contain some mild violence, but it cannot be prolonged.

Is TV MA higher than R? ›

Although the TV-MA rating means a program is technically made for 17-year-olds (18 in some cases), programs with this rating can sometimes be more graphic and severe than what R-rated movies would typically allow, thanks to the existence of premium cable networks and certain online streaming services.

What does NC-17 stand for? ›

/ˌen siː ˌsevnˈtiːn/ no children under 17. . If a movie has the label NC-17, no one aged 17 or under is allowed to see it in a movie theater in the US.

Is a 16+ rating same as R? ›

Rated R: Restricted and no one under 16 is admitted unless with a parent or guardian. Rated X: No one under 16 is admitted under any circ*mstance.

Is there a rating higher than NC-17? ›

NC-17 (No One 17 and Under Admitted) is the highest rating in the Motion Picture Association (MPA) film rating system used for films distributed in the United States. It is assigned to films the MPA believes most parents would consider "patently adult" and not suitable for their children under 18.

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