Rules for automatic "R" rating

NOTE: Keep the language CLEAN on this thread, thanks!

I know that certain words will get a movie an “automatic” “R” rating by the MPAA. The MPAA web site does not list these words.

Somebody told me there were 17 words on this list, and, unless they count variations due to various prefixes and suffixes, I’m having trouble coming up with half that number. I started with George Carlin’s famous “7” words, and added one or two others, but then I’m stuck.

NOTE: I suggest we keep the language clean on this thread - refer to links if possible. I don’t want to receive lists of obscene words, just citations of what the MPAA uses. !

How do you know that certain words get an automatic R? 'Cause someone said so? [/snotty attitude]

According to Roger Ebert’s Movie Answer Man column there is no pattern ( ) to the MPAA. You might want to ask him. He provides a form at .

I don’t have any good citations, but thinking about how the Ratings Board works, I just don’t think it’s possible that there’s a static list as you describe. As you know, movie ratings are assigned by a vote, and the voters are people who serve for limited amounts of time, and their identities and individual opinions are kept secret, to keep the system from being tampered with.

Now, it’s possible that someone has identified 17 words which have never appeared in a G, PG, or PG-13-rated film. However, this does not mean that every film that does have those words was rated R because of them.

Furthermore, I know of at least one of George Carlin’s seven which has appeared in a PG-13 film.

P.S. Do a Google search for "MPAA rating criteria " and take a gander at the near 2,000 hits. Do “MPAA rating criteria words” and only get about 500 hits.

The best site after a quick look see seems to be a school/university paper in Finland at:


A film’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead the Rating Board to issue a film an R rating, as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. These films can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote, the Rating Board feels that a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of American parents.

From THE MOTHER TONGUE (by Bill Bryson, Avon Books 1990)

“The Rating Code Office of Hollywood has a list of seventeen seriously objectionable words that will earn a motion picture a mandatory R rating.”

Okay, I will stand corrected, but what the heck is the Rating Code Office of Hollywood? Do they have official ties with the MPAA?

Nope, I can’t find anything about “Rating Code Office of Hollywood”, Bill Bryson must have meant the MPAA which invented the “R” rating in 1968 to replace the old “Hayes Office Code” .

My guess is that the current MPAA system has guidelines to be used by the board INTERNALLY, but these are not to be published. A movie producer can get feedback for a film’s rating, but Jack Valenti wants to preserve some leeway, by NOT publishing the guidelines.

I don’t know where Bill Bryson got his 17 word count.

According to director Kevin Smith on the commentary tracks to Jay and Silen Bob Strike Back, the MPAA cannot officially tell you anything about why your movie recieved the rating that it received (they made three passes to get an R instead of the initial NC-17). He said you had to know people in order to find out what the specific problem areas were. I don’t think it will be documented anywhere what the “17” words are and probably they are an urban legend.

1"F" word=PG-13
More than 1=R rating

i.e. Ghost and Armegeddon.

For what it’s worth, today at work I met an irate customer who wanted to return her copy of the film “Casino” due to the words used by it’s evil, violent, sociopathic, and just plain mean characters. She imformed me that there should be a warning, and she would never have wanted to buy it if she had known about the “bad language”…

I briefly wondered how many deaths it would take to equal one “F-word” in her world.

Perhaps the 17 word thing came about after “The Breakfast Club” was rated R. No violence or nudity in that film-- Just teenagers talking to each other. Judd Nelson’s replay of an encounter with his father was what did it, if I recall correctly…

They could have taken out the language, have Molly Ringwald dance topless on a table, and gotten away with a PG-13. Instead, there’s that “R” for realistic use of a taboo word.

Methinks the MPAA is full of “S-word”

Darth Nader: That’s fine if you disagree with their ratings, but it’s really American parents that you have a disagreement with, since the MPAA bases their decisions on routinely-collected data from that demographic.

Egads, Achernar, I had no idea that the MPAA was so in touch with mainstream society. I respectfully request proof or a cite showing parents perfer keeping vulgar language away from their children before images of graphic violence and/or the female torso.

Sorry, Bradwalt, for the hijack.

me being in favor of both the f-word, and all female chests, as any rational human should be…

BTW, Spaceballs was only rated PG and had a couple of uses of the S-word and the F-word used once as an exclamation (but not in the sexual sense).

The Blues Brothers was a movie whose rating always baffled me. No nudity, no blood/gore (the violence is merely tons and tons of car crashes), no crude sexual references or even the f-word used sexually (it is used on its own a couple of times). I’m guessing that it only got an “R” because it pre-dated the “PG-13” rating.

And to expand on what Cooper said about Kevin Smith and the MPAA, I agree that his films tend to prove how ludicrous the system is. Clerks, a film with no violence or nudity (unless you count the scene where Randal shows the guy the porno mag), was originally supposed to be NC-17. Smith also said the MPAA tended to come down much harder on penis jokes than anything else in his movies.

Clearly this is a struggle between the director’s vision and how much influence the movie studio exerts over him/her and over the fargin evil cretin son of a malaaka that is Jack Valenti and the MPAA (**Am I still ‘G’ rated bradwalt? :slight_smile:

If you say something like

You piece of Mother******* sucking ******* Potato** **** ***** **** Teapot ******* **** ******…
then i think it wll get an R rating…

Well, until you provide a cite that the MPAA holds that preference, that request seems somewhat unfair. But here’s a cite for what I said:

There’s nothing to otherwise recommend this lame comedy, but in the middle of Student Bodies they take a break from the action and cut to a well-dressed man sitting in an office. The camera tracks in as he explains that, in order for a teen comedy to do well, it needs an “R” rating. Since they don’t have any sex or nudity or violence, the only way to get such a rating is by swearing. So he says “(F-word) You”. “Thank You”. Then it goes back to the movie.

Interestingly, it seems that if you use that most nasty of nasty words in two different contexts, you can get away with the PG-13 rating. See the Mikhail Baryshnikov/Gregory Hines magnum opus “White Nights” in which you will find a generic “what the f—?” and a “that ratf—er!”

It’s aaaaaaaaaaaall arbitrary.

The policy was elegantly mocked by the underrated Kuffs, starring Christian Slater as George Kuffs and Tony Goldwyn as Ted Bukovsky. Ted has a long diatribe at George in which the profanity, which is clearly (by reading his lips) the notorious f-word, is censored by a series of different sound. (Bleeps, gongs, bells, etc.) Until the end … I’m sorry, but I can’t give the full flavor of this without including that, so stop reading if you don’t want to see it.

Obviously, a PG-13 movie. In spite of teasing the MPAA about their ratings standards. :smiley:

My favorite anecdote on this one is the one about the South Park movie Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have told this story in several interviews, the one I remember most was on HBO’s The Dennis Miller Show.

They initially got an NC-17, IIRC, and basically (obviously) the MPAA had a huge number of problems with many of their jokes. Every time the MPAA would reject a certain joke or phrase, they would replace it with something they considered much worse, but they would change the thrust of it. Like maybe it was a di…penis joke to start with, it would get rejected, so they’d replace it with an anal sex joke that was much worse. Every one of the second tries passed. So they just kept playing the game!