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Movie Censorship and Ratings in America


It is not possible today to think of a time when there were no movies or motion pictures. We can’t even afford thinking how people used to entertain themselves those days. We are fortunate that we have such a wonderful medium of entertainment in the form of motion pictures, thanks to science and technology which have never stopped evolving right from the beginning of the creation of the human race. Hollywood started rising around World War I that is around 1920. Starting from then it has kept its position as the most prestigious name in the movie world. The first motion pictures were, of course, works of art without any sound. Those silent movies, though not able to convey the message in spoken words, were considered to have some different kind of beauty in them. Then it was time for the talking movies or “talkies”, with characters being able to deliver dialogues inaudible sound. “The Jazz Singer” which was released in the year 1927 was the first talking movie. No doubt that was a big hit as there was a natural curiosity among people to feel the difference between a talkie that of a silent one.

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Right from that day, motions pictures or movies took a different shape. Newer technologies have evolved and still evolving making movies appear more and more realistic. They are representing people’s emotions on the screen. Starting from fantasies and science fiction to our day-to-day life movies have covered every field. The characters are our, especially youngsters’ own. Many of us like to imitate these characters in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes some of us believe so much in these on-screen incidents that we start thinking them to be real, rather than reality. We love the way the on-screen characters talk, walk, present themselves or perform the day-to-day functions from dressing up to making love. A part of society tries to behave in that way. But, these behaviors, start drawing objections from another portion of the society, as they sometimes do not appear to be suitable in the real life. There, the question of censorship comes into existence.

Censorship History

In the year 1896 Movies arrived in the United States. This new form of entertainment soon started attracting a huge number of audiences. But the critics and cynics assailed them, including Thomas Edison’s landmark 1896 film, “The Kiss”, as a potential threat to the morality of the general masses. But as it is today it was the same that time, movies were the most popular form of entertainment, to be very clear the most powerful form of mass communication. In the year 1907, the state of Chicago creates the first movie censorship law in the United States, and the other states and cities followed suit afterward. This is how movie censorship started in America.

The Oxford dictionary has four definitions for the word censorship. Unlike the two definitions given for censorship; the Roman Magistrates who took census or the psychology definition describing the mental faculty that represses certain elements of the unconscious, this paper is going to take censorship as deletion of communicative bits and pieces which may be considered offensive, injurious, insightful, or awkward to the government or media organizations as determined by a sensor. Censorship can also be taken as all social approaches whether by political, religious, or economic systems of authority which go against the spreading of ideas, information, messages, or images through the appropriate channels. The US constitution provides the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion, and freedom to petition the government for a remedy of grievances through the first amendment. This gives the people the right to watch or say whatever they please when they feel like as long as it does not interfere with a second person. There have been various attempts to downplay this right by censoring some things like books, movies, music, opinions, ideas, and literature. It is now evident that the right to free speech is a longstanding U.S. tradition, but actual respect for the right to free speech is not.

Right from the beginning movies have influenced people in many ways. There is no harm in getting influenced by a movie or the characters depicted in it. But if that influence becomes so intense that somebody finds nothing wrong in imitating something wrong performed by some on-screen character, it signals danger.

Trouble starts right at that point, that is when movies start influencing people more than reality. Movies through the ages have evolved in a way that the boldness in movies has increased day by day. Movies have always had some degree of violence or sexual content from the time they came into existence. As they have a huge impact on people’s minds, a part of the society sensed that if a scene has something to do with some act which in reality is never an act to be performed in public, then that scene should not be shown in the movie. Else some people might go against the moral sense and get provoked to repeat such acts in the real life. In some movies, there was violence that could create fear in the minds of people and how the violence was shown could influence somebody to commit some gruesome crime. Some acts in some movies were nothing to object to when an adult watched them but was not suitable for an underage person or a child. So they felt it to be necessary to restrict such seen from coming in public and keep the minds of people free from any provocation to indulge in some unjust act. This restriction that is eliminating objectionable scenes from movies or restricting underage people to watch a certain movie is called censorship.

The Hays Code

The Hays code enlisted a huge number of criteria that were there to guide any movie to be able to be considered fit for public display. But there were three main principles on which the code was based. The detailed specifications of the code were known as the “particular application”. They can be summarized as follows:

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  • Crimes against the law like murder were to be portrayed in a way not imitable by anybody. Brutal murders if necessary for the plot could be shown, but not in detail. The idea of “revenge” was not welcome.
  • Other crimes like theft, smuggling, safe cracking, arson, dynamiting were not to be presented in detail.
  • Illegal drug trafficking was made prohibited on screen.
  • Use of liquor in day-to-day life was not to be portrayed without the need of “proper characterization.”
  • The institution of marriage was to be treated with the utmost respect; illicit sex or adultery was not at all allowed to be encouraged or justified even if needed for the plot.
  • Nudity was forbidden in any form.
  • Dancing was to be treated as a medium of art and suggestive dancing was prohibited.
  • Passionate scenes should be used in case of necessity for the scene only. Scenes portraying “excessive and lustful kissing” were not welcome as that might work as instigation for others to indulge in “lower” behavior.
  • “Venereal Diseases” or “sex hygiene’ was not to be topics of a movie. Childbirth in actuality, seduction, rape, alleged sex perversion like homosexuality were taboo. Children’s sex organs were not to be shown.
  • “Miscegenation”, that is “sex relationships between the white and black races” were not allowed to be shown.
  • Religion, prominent citizens, history, and institutions were never to be ridiculed.
  • National flags were to be treated with respect.
  • Vulgarity or obscenity, that is “low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects” were to be always subjected to “dictates of good taste.”
  • Capital punishments, cruelty to animals and children, and surgical operations were to be handled carefully.
  • Use of low-grade, offensive or filthy language was banned.

Though these rules were made to keep the movies inside the boundary of a so-called moral boundary, films like Baby Face (Warner Brothers) and I’m No Angel (Paramount Pictures) were made. The Catholic Church was skeptical right from the beginning about the effectiveness of the Hays Code. Now they became furious and initiated the formation of The Catholic Legion of Decency and staged protests and boycott against certain movies throughout the country.

This forced the MPPDA to bring an amendment to the Production Code and form an authoritative body called the Production Code Administration (PCA).

Starting from July 1, 1934, every Hollywood movie which waited for release needed to be approved and certified by the PCA. The studios started to abide by the rules of the Production Code, though that was not a law enforced by the government. That could be called a sort of self-regulation by the studios. The first movie to get an approval seal was “The World Moves On”.

In 1934, Joseph Breen was made the chief of the PCA. It was during this time the act of censorship became an act of dictatorship. The scripts of the movies were altered or eliminated in a way that the moviemakers were rather unhappy than happy. In the film “Tarzan and His Mate” a nude scene of the actress Maureen O’Sullivan was deleted though it involved a body double. The Production Code also kept “The Outlaw” waiting for release in theatres for a long time as it alleged emphasized the breasts of Jane Russell while advertising.

In the 1940s, two forbidden subjects in the Production Code, rape and Miscegenation were allowed to be portrayed in movies, first in Johnny Belinda (1948) and then in Pinky (1949). Another major exception of the Production Code was seen in the movie The Moon Is Blue, which used the word ‘virgin’, which was not previously used in Hollywood. But that movie was nominated for seven academy awards. Those were the signs of movies straying from the tight bindings of the Production Code and the weakening of the latter. By this time in 1945, Hay had retired. The MPPDA was renamed The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). This is the name by which it is still called. But the code by that time had lost much of its influence over the moviemakers, one reason for which is considered to be the absence of Will Hay.

In the 1950s televisions posed a threat in front of the movie makers in Hollywood. Now the average American audience could watch not only Hollywood but also foreign movies sitting right inside their homes. As the foreign films did not have to abide by the Production Code, they threw challenges to the Hollywood moviemakers. Now movie makers had to become adventurous to draw an audience to the theatres. But the MPAA was not ready to be flexible. Instead, it amended the production Code in 1951 making it stricter.

As the entire movie makers were fuming due to that amendment, a miracle happened in 1952 when the Supreme Court of the U.S entitled the motion pictures to the First Amendment Protection. This nullified the chances of The Miracle, a short film getting banned by the PCA. This was a major blow to the PCA and reduced the power of PCA to a great extent.

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Gradually during the 1960s, the code was visibly weakening. Adult subjects were dealt with and language was not confined within the code boundary. One such film was “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” from the production house Warner Brothers. The movie contained strong language and was prohibited according to the code. But, most of the language was retained and the movie was released.

In the year 1963 the movie “The Pawnbroker” was released, without the Production Code Seal. In the movie actresses, Linda Geiser and Thelma Oliver were shown with fully bare breasts. Except that, lustful and suggestive sex was made visible. The MPAA approved the film by reducing the length of the scenes and stating it as a “special and unique case”. This incident was treated as a victory for the movie producers. Following this case, the Production Code was abandoned in 1967.

After abandoning the Production Code, it was visibly not possible for the MPAA to regulate the content of the movies made in Hollywood. Therefore the rating system came into existence. The rating system started in 1968 with the four rating grades, G, M, R, and X. Today the current rating shows six grades, G, PG, PG – 13, R, and NC – 17.

MPAA (The Motion Picture Association of America)

When there was a need for such serious action like censorship in the movies, there was an obvious need for an authority that could make a decision on the scenes to be allowed or disallowed to be shown in public and make the movie morally fit. This authoritative body was formed way back in 1909 by the People’s Institute in New York called the “The New York Board of Motion Picture Censorship.” All the motion picture producers needed to get approval for their movies to be released. Such was the power of the board and gradually increasing. The board changed its name in 1915 and became “The Natural Board of Review”. Though this board was formed for reviewing the movies, several other bodies started claiming authorities in the process; they were named the Federal Motion Picture Censorship Commission, State Censorship boards, and several strong religious groups. Everybody seemed to have a say over the contents, taste, and morality of the movies made in Hollywood.

The movies were under the threat of getting cut from different angles by the different authoritative bodies. Some movies were under the threat of getting banned altogether by some of the boards. To prevent this from taking place, some steps had to be taken. The Hollywood studios and Distributors advanced in that direction. They formed “The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA)” in 1922. This was the authoritative body which kept the right to censor the movies made in Hollywood and all the other restrictions put by the other boards were nullified by them. The first President of MPPDA was Will. H. Hays. He was the former U.S. Postmaster General and was hired with an annual salary of $ 150,000. He acted as the main advisor head of the MPPDA. The MPPDA started functioning at the time of silent movies and continued at the advent of “talkies” or “talking movies”. In the silent era, MPPDA emphasized scenes that were not suitable for public showcasing but with the advent of talkies it had to extend its field of restriction in the direction of offensive dialogues also.

During this period the Church had some objections with some of the movies which appeared to be immoral and indecent in their eyes. The MPPDA then decided to put forward a code of conduct for movies made in Hollywood. They wanted to make sure that the strongest form of entertainment, the motion pictures, are used for teaching people decent, moral things instead of influencing them with any objectionable word or act. On 31st March 1930, the MPPDA published “The Motion Picture Production Code” which was also known informally as the “Hays Code”, in which there were the principles that were made a must to follow for every movie made in Hollywood. Today after all the revisions it has gone through it is known as The Production Code. The code took four years to take shape and became functional in 1934.

The Movie Rating System

The movie rating system of MPAA applies to the motion pictures which are submitted to them to get a rating. This determines the age of the viewer, that is whether the content of the movie is suitable to an underage viewer or a child or not. This rating system is voluntary and not anything enforced by law. The MPAA maintains secrecy over the process of rating and no guidelines for getting a specific rate are available. There have been controversies also regarding inconsistencies found in ratings given by the MPAA.

The Early Rating system in 1968 had the following ratings:

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  • G ( suitable for all ages)
  • M (mature audience but suitable for all ages, parental guidance needed)
  • R (Restricted – children under 17 need parental or guardian assistance)
  • X (Not for any children below 17)

In 1970, the M rating was replaced by GP to indicate that the content is suitable for the general audience but parental guidance was needed. Grade M created some confusion regarding the content suitability of the movie for all ages. In 1972, this GP rating was again changed and made PG as the meaning of GP was not very clear to the parents. PG indicated that the content partly might not be suitable for pre-teenagers. Later in 1978, the word pre-teenagers were replaced by children.

In 1984, a new grade, PG – 13 was introduced in the rating system. The violent content of two movies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dooms and Gremlin, raised significant parental protest. That is why the new rating PG – 13 was brought into function denoting that the content is not suitable for children below 13.

The X-rated movies usually had strong adult content. These might or might not be pornographic. But gradually X rating was referred to as a synonym for pornographic films. Due to this problem, the X-rated nonpornographic films which were so rated for strong violence rather than sex were deprived of a proper exhibition because of the stigma of X rating attached to it. A new grade RR was introduced following the release of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, with strong adult content. To sort out such dilemma in 1990 the rating NC – 17 was introduced, meaning “no children under 17 is admitted”. In 1995, it was changed a bit more as the NC – 17 was explained as “No One 17 and under is admitted”. Henry and June got the first NC – 17 rating.

The current rating today stands as:

  • G ( “General Audiences” – audience of all ages permitted)
  • PG ( “Parental Guidance Suggested” – content partially not fit for children)
  • PG – 13 (“Parents Strongly Cautioned” – no children under 13 years permitted)
  • R (“Restricted” – children under 17 years need the assistance of guardians)
  • NC – 17 ( “No One 17 and Under Admitted”)

The movies which are not submitted for rating are denoted as NR or Unrated. It is displayed for those movies as “This film is not yet rated”.

It is true that the rating system of movies by MPAA is not enforced by any law and is voluntary. But the effect of this system is quite evident on the market success of any movie. That is why the major studios who act as the signatories of MPAA voluntarily opt for a rating provided by the MPAA. An unrated movie is not expected to get wide distribution and hence the success is limited for that movie.

Rated films also depend a lot on the rating they have got for their market success. A G-rated film can reflect a film for children and hence might draw a limited batch of audience. If a film is PG rated, it might ward away teenagers and adults thinking that it is a film targeted at children. R and NC – 17 ratings are for adult individuals. Strict identity proof for the audience intended to see movies rated R and NC – 17 were announced to be enforced by the National Association of Theatre Owners in 2000.

The conditions Hollywood movies gave their specific rating

Although censorship in any form of expression is forbidden by the United States of America’s Constitution due to the absolute right to Freedom of Speech, in practice it has been applied in numerous subtle ways to keep the filmmakers in line. Film regulation became a national issue in 1930 and it led to the creation of the Motion Picture Production Code, which is more popularly known as the “Hays Code” after its creator, Will H. Hays. Its guidelines, together with those laid down by the influential Catholic Legion of Decency, had a great effect on mainstream film production in the US. The Hays Code is now officially changed by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). They now use a rating system to rate films by discussing the thematic issues and content suitability for audiences in the United States and some other territories.

Nowadays ratings are divided into the following divisions:

  • G-It stands for general audiences, it continues from 1968, an audience of all ages can watch a G-rated movie.
  • PG-The abbreviation PG stands for Parental Guidance. In PG movies some materials can be unsuitable for children. It has started in the year 1972.
  • PG-13-In this type of movie this rating suggests that some materials may be inappropriate for children aged under 13, and the parents are strongly cautioned about this issue. This rating has been started in 1984. In the year 1984 blockbuster movies like Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Gremlins” were released. The parents were angry about the explicit violence shown in the films. At that time only the PG ratings were given only. By the suggestion of Spielberg, the PG-13 rating was started. “Dreamscape” and “Red Dawn” were the first films to have this rating.
  • R- R stands for restricted. Here an under-17 person must have to be accompanied by a parent or an adult guardian. This rating has been started from the year 1968.
  • NC-17-It means no one under 17 is admitted to watching the movie. From 1990 this rating has been there. On September 27, 1990, this rating was started. “Henry and June” is the first film to receive an NC-17 rating.

Though the MPAA does not have any specific guidelines as to what movie content will receive which rating, but they do state that some factors that are considered for a movie’s rating are the portrayal of sex, violence, nudity, language, adult topics, and drug use. In the mid-1970s, Hollywood mainstream films such as “Airport”, “Planet of the Apes”, “The Green Berets”, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” etc were released with G ratings. All of these films were considered for adult viewing. At that time, adult content such as the portrayal of partial nudity, mild violence, and cursing, were found in G-rated films. The G rating later became mostly associated with children’s films, around the 1970s. Many G-rated films, which at one point time may be referred to as adult films have been re-rated PG since then.

Generally, the type of scenes is taken out to make the movie an R rating instead of an NC 17 rating:

Generally, to make a movie suitable for all age groups of audiences, the violent action scenes or the sexual parts may be the scenes contain nudity are chopped off. But sometimes these scenes become very important to the film’s plot or the context. And so the scenes remain in the film and the film in most cases receives an NC-17 rating.

Odd ratings

It is said that the director had used color destruction for lessening the impact of the bloody shoot-out in the climax. The use of a topic like prostitution was also a topic of controversy. The most dangerous outcome of the violence shown in the film was the attempt to assassinate Ronald Regan by John Hinckley, who got away with that because of insanity. He admitted that he tried to impress Judie Foster with his act.

We can mention movies like Commando (1985) which contains no sex but a lot of killings. These killings, though shown without a lot of blood can act as instigation for young people who might not get the seriousness of these shootouts properly if these are shown in abundance in Hollywood movies. There are enough odd decisions of MPAA regarding movie ratings of violent movies contrasting movies with sexual content.

Though MPAA must prevent movies with both violent and sexual content to come in front of the underage audience, it is seen many times that sex gets harsher treatment than that violence. Violence, though having a more harmful effect on a child’s brain, somehow manages to acquire a gentler grade than a movie with passionate content. If a movie is rated NC – 17 because it contains sex, it becomes as stigmatic as that of a pornographic movie. A movie should be equally judged upon the violent and sexual content rather than being biased against sex only. We can state the example of “Eyes Wide Shut”, which had to block several scenes to avoid an NC – 17 ratings. The film “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”, which challenged the ambiguity of the rating system got an NC – 17 because of strong graphical violence. These decisions appear unfair when most of the gruesome violence-containing films get away with an R rating. The latest ambiguity was the R rating of “Slumdog Millionaire”, which got an Oscar and contains nothing of that category. This rating has drawn a lot of criticisms.

The MPAA should give focus on violence as that affects the tender minds more severely. It is not that excessive sex is welcomed in any way. But it is necessary to prevent otherwise good movies from being rated in the same status as a pornographic movie and violent movies which have no other virtue from being rated R so that children under 17 can’t see them. Violence is unnecessary, not only for children but for adults also.

Violence in movies: Comparison of the movies

Here in the discussion, we have mentioned the Indy adventure “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” which had got a PG rating. The other films in this series had received PG-13 ratings all over, even the last one of the series, the recently released “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull”, which had mild Russian bashing in the content, received the same. The Bond series films which contain both violence and sex, but showed in a really intelligent manner mostly receive PG-13 ratings in the United States. Action films like, “Con Air”, “The Rock”, “Face/Off” received ‘R’ certificate in the USA. Also many action films like “Eraser”, “True Lies”, “End of Day”, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, “Rambo” series, “Die Hard” movies mostly earned ‘R’ certificates. But the last part of the “Die Hard” series, “Live Free or Die Hard” received a PG-13 certificate, while having some mind-blowing action scenes. But the most important factor here there were no direct deaths shown in the film which helped this film to earn this rating. Another notorious film was the Al Pacino movie “Scarface”. This was the remake of a movie of the same name released in 1932. It had everything, from violence to sex, from murder to drugs and cursing, with one of the greatest movie performances by Al Pacino. Originally the movie got an X rating and later it got ‘R’ rating. This movie was banned in several places of the world.

One of the greatest action movies and potentially a series in making is Christopher Nolan’s retelling of Batman. His two films, “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” both received a PG-13 rating. A study in characterization and immensely well-acted these two gems of movie making can show that where one should maintain balance in every aspect of movie-making. Nowadays the essence of Hollywood is the retelling of old stories, reinventing old popular characters. “Casino Royale”, released in 2006, which started the Bond saga once again, received a PG-13 nomination with cuts. It had got violent scenes of torturing the lead character and some mild sex scenes. Actually, in the very end, movies are an art form. From violence to nudity, from sex to assault, from racial talks to abusive words, everything can be handled artistically, and that should be the target of the filmmakers. A Moving Piece of Filmmaking like the Hilary Swank starred “Boys Don’t Cry” received an R rating because of the brutal rape scene, sexual content, and drug uses shown in the film. Several people who based their ideas on ratings may have missed this near-perfect movie-going experience.

“Seven” is a 1995 American cop-murderer film directed by David Fincher and it had Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Gwyneth Paltrow in the leading roles. The film was stylishly named Se7en and a lot of audiences hailed this film as probably the greatest murder mystery ever made. The seven deadly sins mentioned in The Bible are as followed- gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, pride, and lust, which shapes the crux of this thriller. An enigmatic killer played effortlessly by Kevin Spacey punishes citizens who are according to him is committed these crimes with unimaginable cruelty and calculation in this bleak thriller. The setting of the movie is a gloomy unnamed city somewhere in the United States. The film opens with a police detective Somerset, on the verge of his retirement, in his final week on the job in the police force, teamed up with a newcomer rookie cop named Mills played by Brad Pitt. When an obese man is found brutally murdered in his home, the more experienced investigator Somerset believes that this is not an ordinary killing-someone tortured the victim in a calculative way maybe because of his appetite, maybe because of the sin of gluttony. Slayings that may be caused because of the sins of greed and sloth soon follow in the town, and both Somerset and Mills embark on to find a mysterious person called John Doe, who is believed to be responsible for these methodical murders.

The murder mystery starts to become more and more entangled in webs of mystery and both the investigators desperately search for the predator responsible for these calculated assassinations. After a brief opening scene, the movie shows a memorable title sequence. A lot of critics highly praised this scene as a masterpiece of the title card. The brilliance of the film lies in the aspect that it cleverly avoids depicting the acts of violence on the screen, instead of focusing on the remains of the crimes committed as seen by the eyes of the investigators who later shows in the spot, which ultimately allows viewers to investigate along with the detectives, which makes the film much more appealing to the audience. Though not a whodunit format of storytelling, it has got a serious repeat viewership in the worldwide audience. One of the rare examples of flawless filmmaking, Seven had a crafted story by Andrew Kevin Walker, the brilliant direction of David Fincher, and excellent performances from the entire cast. These elements lead to the film’s unforgettable and stunning climax in the outskirts of the city where John Doe tells the investigators about the murders and also reveals that he had killed Mills’ wife. Doe is finally being killed by Mills completing the seventh sin as “Wrath”. The film ends with a monologue by Somerset. He quotes Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and states that the earth is a place valuable enough to fight, which also serves as one of the taglines for the film.

Sex in movies

The movies with a theme of sexuality like “Striptease”, “The Blue Lagoon”, “Indecent Proposal”, “Basic Instinct” all had got the same ‘R’ rating. We can here discuss an erotic thriller “Original Sin” which was released in 2001. The movie got an R rating, and afterward, it became unrated. The movie has got some erotic sex scenes and that gave the audience the shock value they always wanted from a movie.

The necessity of censorship came from the effort of stopping unacceptable actions to be shown to the public with the fear that those will provoke unethical and immoral behavior to any person who watches it. The two main elements of concern were violence and sex. The censoring authorities starting from PCA to MPAA had tried throughout the era of film making to censor violent or passionate movies, but still, movie makers have dared to make movies with passionate or violent content. These were landmark movies many times, raising several controversies and getting varied reception from the audience.

We can find these movies right at the beginning of filmmaking ear and continuing till today. Let us see some of these worthy of mention movies that had violence, either with or without coupling with sexual content.

Bonny and Clyde (1967)

Bonny and Clyde was a landmark in a real sense. This movie talks about a couple involved in crime, enjoying that life and dying as a consequence of their crime. Bonny and Clyde formed a duo that started committing small crimes for getting excitement rather than making a big notch. They then teamed up with Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche along with C.W. Moss, a gas station attendant.

After making a big gang, they started doing big crimes like robbing banks. The movie has shown violent methods of bank robbery to depict the way Bonny and Clyde used to commit the crime. In one of the robberies, Clyde had shot the manager of the bank right in the face. The gang became so notorious that they were desperately sought by law enforcement. During this time the gang got so fearless that they got hold of the Texas Ranger Frank Harmer and humiliated him and released him afterward. But after Buck was killed in a raid, Blanche became sightless and the police gets her. Harmer came to know the name of Moss from Blanche and found out the place where Bonny and Clyde were hiding; the place was Moss’s father’s house.

Then police laid a trap for them with the help of Mr. Moss, who was angry with the couple for taking his son to the wrong path. When Clyde tried to help Mr. Moss with his troubled car, police ambushed them and killed them on the spot.

The main casting of the movie was:

This movie had several things which were considered unacceptable at the time of its release. It had portrayed a couple doing all sorts of violent crimes and generated a sort of affection for them among the public. Making a crime doing a couple of the central characters of a movie was a daring act. Clyde had ruthlessly shot a man in the face during a robbery. Not only violence, it showed attempted oral sex and relation between a man and a woman. It had portrayed Clyde as an impotent person and indicated the frustrations arising from that aspect.

Though the movie portrayed so many taboo things like violence and sex, it was very popular among the audience, especially the young people who loved it for breaking all those taboos of that era. It has won honors like the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons for playing Blanche) and Academy Awards for Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). Bonny and Clyde acted as the pathfinder and provided courage to future movie makers to dare to show bolder content in their movies.

The Wild bunch (1969)

The Wild Bunch was released in 1969 and had a clear influence on Bonny and Clyde in the content. This movie tells a story about a group of outlaws and shows considerable bloody violence. This movie used slow-motion camera technique which was something sensational at the time of the making of the movie.

The story is about a group headed by Pike Bishop, who wanted to retire with a real big feather in his hat by robbing a load of silver contained in a railroad office. But they were ambushed there by one of Pike’s former partners, Deke Thornton and a bloody shoot-out take place killing most of the gang members. The remaining members set out for Mexico, where one of the alive gang members, Angel, had his native village. In the village which was paying price for the Mexican Revolution. There as a consequence of some incidents and an angel killing his former girlfriend, the gang got engaged with Mapache, a corrupt General serving under Mexican Federal Army for gold worth $ 10,000. to steal arms from a U.S Army train. Again an encounter took place between Pike’s gang and Deke but was unfruitful.

Angel shifted some of the guns for sending them to his village, but Mapache caught him for the theft. The rest of the gang had another fight with Deke and they went back to Mapache’s camp for hiding. There they found Mapache torturing Angel. A very fierce gun battle was initiated which destroyed the camp of Mapache, but in the process, all the members of the gang get killed.

The main casting of the movie was:

The Wild Bunch was nominated for several Academy Awards categories including Outstanding Directing – Feature film. But at the same time, it was criticized for portraying savage, gruesome violence leading to the bloodbath of people, including innocent ones. The director Peckinpah was criticized for using the historic war of Vietnam as the inspiration for the gun battle of a bunch of outlaws. The violence, in a true sense, was fearful, not entertaining. As far as rating is concerned, The Wild Bunch initially was referred to as X rating due to the sensational violence. But, it got away with an R rating.

The Taxi driver (1976)

The Taxi Driver was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The movie is about a lonely taxi driver named Travis Bickle who lives in Manhattan and drives a taxi at night. He developed an attraction towards Betsy, who worked as a volunteer to Charles Palantine, the New York Senator in the movie. He managed to take her on a date but took her to a sex education movie. Betsy got infuriated and left him. Bickle failed to make up with her.

The next portion of the movie portrayed Bickle as a man frustrated with the crimes he witnessed every night. He bought illegal pistols and tried to stop crimes with them. He shot a man trying to rob a shop. The most important part of the movie was to rescue a child prostitute, Iris, from her pimp. He helps her return to her parents after a fierce shoot-out. In between, he had also tried to assassinate senator Palantine but failed in the process.

The end of the movie was a little unconventional. Though Bickle was seriously injured while battling with Sport, Iris’s pimp, it was shown at the end that he got honored by the media for rescuing Iris and got admiration from Betsy. But as he drove away dropping Betsy to her place, he heard a noise a looked into the rear mirror.

The main starring of the movie was:

The movie won several awards, namely Palme d’Or in the Cannes Film Festival, Best Actor for Robert De Niro, BAFTA Best supporting Actress for Judie Foster, and BAFTA Best Newcomer award for Judie Foster. But it gave rise to a lot of controversies as well.

The Documentary: This film is not yet rated

An independent documentary film directed by Kirby Dick named “This film is not yet rated”. It was released in the year 2006 and also widely praised. It dealt with the subject of the MPAA rating system and its effects on the American people. The film documents the history of the MPAA rating board. In the film, there are interviews with numerous directors and actors about the censorship of their movies before they could be released. It includes acclaimed directors and actors in the movie who personally tell their experiences with the censor board. The director hired private investigators to find out the identities of the MPAA rating board members and see if the persons who rate movies are parents of children 5-17.

It concludes with some conclusions like in most of the cases violence wins over sex etc in film ratings. In this movie, it is shown that how biased the MPAA board is toward human sexuality but very accepting of violence. At the very end of the discussion, it can be safely said that one must not go to watch a movie only by the suggestion of the censorship ratings, one must know the content of the movie and then go to watch it. A lot of questions arose when There Will Be Blood was rated R. There was no blood shown in the film, also there was no cursing and nudity were there in the film that had an Academy award-winning performance by the ever-reliable Daniel Day-Lewis. If the content is catchy to someone, but the ratings are not allowing him or her to catch the flick, one must find some alternate ways to watch it. Because at the end of the day, for a movie the story, the acting, the direction, the photography, editing, and many other things matter only, not the censor certificate given by the decision-makers of the industry.

Violence vs. sex: why is violence ok in PG 13, but sex isn’t

Both violence and sex are indeed both part of life but it should be stated that for PG 13 moderate violence can be accepted but sex cannot be. This is because children are well aware of violent activities even in their playground though that not might be serious. Thus, children are aware of violence and are aware of the results of violence like parental scolding or classroom detention. So they know that if there is an act of violence, there is deemed to be a mode of punishment. In other words, they are well aware of the consequences. However, sex is very different in this context. Most juveniles are yet to reach puberty or sexual maturity in the P 13 group. Thus, viewing sex in movies would send the wrong signal of life to come. It is difficult to comprehend sexual activities without practicing them. Thus, the only thing the P 13 group would make in this context is a misinterpretation. Thus, it can well be stated that violence, in moderation, is acceptable for the P 13 group but sex cannot be accepted.

Violence and sex is necessary to show on screen

However, there are counterarguments about movie censorship. It is argued that the mass is well aware of good and bad and the social responsibility from the makers of the movie as expected in a civil society is sufficient enough to make movies informative and enlightening. The film “American Beauty” is an amazing piece of cinematography on multiple levels. Lester Burnham feels like he is a slave to everyone around him and everything in the world. Although his life seems good his whole life has been in servitude of others. So, throughout the entire film, his thoughts race of everything he truly desires. This includes his lust for a cheerleader at his teen’s high school, by the name of Angela Hayes. The chains of society stop many of us from achieving our full potential, especially here in America. Maybe one will never achieve a time where people can flourish and become truly happy, but we can always try, even if it means dying in the process. But dying is not the only truth in the movie, it is about the want to be happy and contented and a person in the range of middle adulthood would certainly identify himself or herself with the protagonist of the movie. Facing this truth is enlightenment all by itself.

The personal feeling of “American Beauty” for middle adults changes to community feeling with the film Wild River (1960) by Elia Kazan. The director recreates a difficult and complex period in American history. This movie comes within the parameter of the early 1930s where Chuck Glover, is an idealistic character finds himself amid circumstances where he is bifurcated between his heart and his head, or better to say between his ideals and his employment. Here the focal point of the movie indicates the true nature of a free country. Director Elia Kazan stands hand in hand with the oppressed and the downtrodden and made way for a different route of justification and justifying human tolerance and the end of it by protesting against oppression. This is a movie about being political correctness that every individual especially a middle-aged person should always find all the foods for though with all the experience.

It should be mentioned that people watching a movie tend to go through an editing process where they reject all projections of swinging Spiderman and aggressive aliens and gets the main theme of the movie by themselves. It may be good over evil or love over hate. The bottom line is people know what is practicable and right and thus eradicates the impossible aspects of a movie. In this respect, it can be mentioned that Hollywood movies are doing a great job over the years by presenting different aspects of life that are less known and unknown to the audience and helping them to think, by providing visual information, and understand their life in a better mode.


If a conclusion is to be drawn on whether the rating system is to be supported or not, a few angles will have to be considered. The MPAA system of movie rating, though it has got a lot of criticisms regarding ambiguity in many of its decisions and for not having any declared line of guidance for movie ratings, has great effectiveness. Think of the time when the PCA used to alter the movie scripts at its discretion depending on what they liked or what they thought was not moral. Moviemakers had to invent so many ways to convey their intended subject to the audience in a creative way. Despite having good content due to some intense scenes they had to wait for the seal of approval for their movie.

Now, when the situation is far better than before, it is the responsibility of both the movie makers and the MPAA to showcase good movies for the audience. The rating system is voluntary, so no movie maker has to think of an alternate way to portray his favorite scenes if it is intense. The plots can have scenes filmed exactly in the way it could be done justice with. But, the responsibility of MPAA is to assign a proper grade to it depending upon the content rather than going by one or two scenes which might cause dislike to them. It has to be kept in mind that though the rating system is voluntary a lot depends on it as far as the market success of a movie is concerned. It is never just to cause business loss to a movie which is the result of the hard work of the movie unit by assigning it an improper grade.

The MPAA should take steps to create a balance between the incidents of violence and sex in the movies. Indeed, MPAA should not allow unnecessary seductive or sexual scenes to be shown to the underage audience but a movie should not be given a harsh rating only because it has strong sexual content if that does justice to the plot of the movie. At the same time violence should always be kept at strict limits, as it is more harmful to a child or a teenager to see. There are instances where movies with unacceptable violence got away with an R rating where a less violent but more intensely harmful passionate film has got a harsher decision. Violence should always be kept at bay.

On the other hand, the movie makers also have a part to play. The violence of sex in a movie might be necessary for the justice of a plot. But violence without reason or extreme instances of cruelty should never be portrayed as that is sure to have a huge impact on the minds of people, especially if watched by an underage viewer. The same was applicable with movies containing sexual content. There should be scenes that do justice with the movie, but excess of that degenerates the quality of the movie. It is not the morality, only the necessity to strike a balance between all the movies which create a good work of art.

A good movie can be presented to the viewer only if there is a cooperation between the movie makers and the MPAA. The viewers will be a profit in terms of being to be able to see a good movie and the movie makers will achieve just the kind of success they expect for their hard work.

Works Cited

Anderson, Roger. ‘Movie Censorship and American Culture’. The Journal of American Culture, 30.3, (2007): 349-350.

Bernstein, Matthew. Controlling Hollywood: censorship and regulation in the studio era. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000.

Chapman, Michael. 100 Favorite Hollywood Movies. New York: Pocket, 2003.

Couvares, Francis G. Movie censorship and American culture. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.

Flood, Michael. ‘The harms of pornography exposure among children and young people’. Child Abuse Review, 18.6, (2007): 384-400.

Freeman, David. ‘A guide to the literature on aggressive behavior’. Aggressive Behavior, 23.3, (2005): 233-240.

Müller, Beate. Censorship & cultural regulation in the modern age. Volume 22 Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004.

Perretti, Fabrizio. ‘Mixing genres and matching people: a study in innovation and team composition in Hollywood’. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28.5 (2007): 563-586.

Trumpbour, John. Selling Hollywood to the World: U.S. and European Struggles for Mastery of the Global Film Industry Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Wall, James M. Movies and Censorship: Who will Protect Freedom. Christian Illinois: Century Foundation, 1987.

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