Should Oscar-winning The King’s Speech be seen by all ages? Should younger audiences be kept from seeing the coming-of-age classic Stand By Me? Those are the questions raised by some of the most controversial rating decisions in Hollywood history.
A movie’s rating has a huge impact on a movie and an R-rating excludes a large portion of the audience from seeing it. But some of these beloved movies that received R-ratings, for anything from language to mature subject matter to violence, deserved to be PG-13 and be accessible to the younger viewers as well.
10/10 Nebraska (2013)
From Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne, Nebraska is a quiet, small yet very effective story. The black-and-white movie stars Will Forte as a man who accompanies his father (Bruce Dern) on a road trip to collect a clearly bogus sweepstakes winnings.
What makes the movie work so well is that it is treated in a grounded way, making the humor and the moments of warmth feel all the more important. But with the grounded approach, there are also a couple of instances of some cursing which is easy to overlook to get to the charming father-son story.
9/10 The Conjuring (2013)
When it comes to horror movies, sometimes the rating system has to make arbitrary decisions about how scary a movie is before it is too much for younger audiences. The Conjuring is a horror movie based on a true story about a family seemingly haunted by evil spirits and the paranormal investigators who try to help them.
Unlike many other modern horror movies, The Conjuring doesn’t rely on gore and gruesome deaths to elicit scares from the audience. But despite little to no violence in the movie, the R-rating was given simply based on the movie’s intensity.
8/10 Plains, Trains And Automobiles (1987)
One of the most controversial aspects of the rating system is their view on cursing, deciding that the F-word in particular has no place in PG-13 movies. However, in movies like Plains, Trains and Automobiles, weighing a movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family against one hilarious profanity-laced sequence is tough.
The movie follows two strangers played by Steve Martin and John Candy who find themselves on a road trip from Hell together. Though it is a fairly clean-cut movie for much of the runtime, one scene has a frustrated Martin delivers a monologue with nearly 20 instances of the F-word, sealing its R-rated fate.
7/10 Army Of Darkness (1992)
After Sam Raimi delivered the shocking ending of Evil Dead II, the third movie in the franchise picks up with that bizarre development. Army of Darkness finds Ash transported to the Middle Ages where he once again battles the forces of evil.
While the first two Evil Dead movies are seen as horror classics with plenty of gore and mayhem, Army of Darkness is more of a live-action cartoon. It has a great silly sense of humor and the kind of over-the-top violence one could expect from a Bigs Bunny adventure.
6/10 Eighth Grade (2018)
There is certainly a lot of irony in giving an R-rating to a movie for depicting the lives of teens realistically. Comedian Bo Burnham continued to show his levels of talent by writing and directing this hilarious and smart comedy about a teen girl struggling with that awkward stage in life.
Eighth Grade is relatively tame but features cursing and some talk about mature subjects which is accurate to how teens talk. It is especially sad that the rating likely prevented some youngsters from seeing the movie and having it speak to them in a personal way.
5/10 The Matrix (1999)
When it first hit theaters, The Matrix was seen as a ground-breaking achievement and features some of the coolest scenes in movie history. But some were kept from experiencing this cinematic brilliance thanks to its R-rating.
While there is a fair amount of violence in the movie, it is quite bloodless. Modern superhero movies get away with about the same action with a PG-13 rating. And in the context of the movie, very little of the violence is actually taking place in reality.
4/10 Chef (2014)
Like Nebraska, Chef is a father-son road trip story, though this one focuses on younger generations. Jon Favreau plays a renowned chef who is fired from his fancy restaurant and decides to start over with a food truck. As he takes his new truck on the road, he is able to connect with his son in a way he never had before.
Along with being a movie that will immediately make fans hungry, Chef is a sweet and totally inoffensive movie. It is easygoing and has a fun energy to it, but was unfairly penalized for a few understandable curse words.
3/10 The King’s Speech (2010)
While the rating system seems to have strict rules about the use of curse words, they often overlook the crucial context of the profanity. A perfect example of this is The King’s Speech which tells the true story of England’s King George VI working to overcome his stutter in order to deliver a wartime address to the nation.
In one scene, a speech therapist instructs the king to loudly curse as a proven method of helping with such a speech disability. Using profanity in such a way is not only silly to earn an R-rating, but it also ignores the message of the movie and how it might help younger audiences with similar speech disabilities.
2/10 Stand By Me (1986)
When it comes to Stephen King adaptations, it is not surprising when they earn an R-rating. However, Stand By Me is a different kind of story, becoming a wonderful movie about childhood friendship that every kid should be able to see.
The movie’s plot centers around four young friends who venture out on a mission to locate a potential dead body. While that kind of subject matter might have contributed to the R-rating, it also features the kids smoking, cursing, and handling a gun. Yet it is still a movie about kids, nostalgia, and friendship.
1/10 Boyhood (2014)
It is always a shame when coming-of-age stories get an R-rating as it seems like the most important audience for the story is being denied. Such is the case with Richard Linklater’s critically acclaimed drama Boyhood.
Shot over the course of a decade, the movie chronicles the journey of a young boy growing up, learning about love, struggling with family, and ultimately starting life on his own. For the movie to pretend such a journey would adhere to PG-13 would be a disservice to the story.
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