Movie Ratings: ‘X’ Marks the What?


On this date in 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America introduced its first rating system.

Here are 10 things you may not have known about movie ratings.

The rating system replaced what was popularly known as the Hays Code, which was a moral code established in 1922 to avoid government censorship. The Hays Code effectively banned profanity, nudity, depiction of drug use, prostitution, ridicule of clergy, and anything willfully offensive. The Code was a voluntary set of guidelines, but all of the major studios participated.

Two things ended up dooming the Hays Code. The first was the finding that studios owning movie theaters was an anti-trust violation. This meant studios could no longer keep unapproved and foreign films out of theaters. The second was a 1952 Supreme Court decision that held that motion pictures are entitled to First Amendment protection.

Gradually, the code was weakened. Movies like “Anatomy of a Murder,” and “Suddenly Last Summer” were given approval, despite having themes that would have not been approved in previous years. “Some Like it Hot” which featured Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag, was not given code approval, but still went on to earn six Academy Award nominations, winning one — naturally, for best costume design.

By 1966, the existing system was not working and Hollywood needed a way control itself and keep the government from interfering. The new president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti, created the stopgap measure of the “SMA” advisory, which stood for “Suggested for Mature Audiences.”

In 1968, the voluntary ratings system was introduced. For the first two years, the ratings used were “G” for General Audiences, “M” for Mature Audiences, “R” for Restricted to people 16 and older, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, and “X” which kept out everyone under 16.

In 1970, the ages for “R” and “X” rated films were raised to 17, while the “M” rating was changed to “GP.” In 1972, “GP” was changed to “PG.”

In the early 1980s, director Steven Spielberg suggested an intermediate rating between “PG” and “R” following reaction to gory and violent films such as his “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Gremlins,” both of which were rated “PG.”

Also in the 1980s, the “X” rating began to become synonymous with pornography, rather than mainstream films that were unsuitable for children. Films that would have been rated “X” began opting out of the rating process, rather than be associated with pornography. While this helped, it also hurt films at the box office.

In 1990, the MPAA introduced its “NC-17” or “No Children Under 17” rating in hopes of creating more opportunities for adult-oriented films to be seen by mainstream audiences. It didn’t really work, as the public believed that “NC-17” was an exact replacement for “X.” In 1996, the “NC-17” rating was changed to include 17-year-olds in the group that is barred admission.

The ratings system has come under criticism for being lenient on violence, and strict on nudity and language.

Our question: What was the first film to be rated “PG-13”?


Today is All Saints Day, World Vegan Day, and National Bison Day in the United States.

It’s unofficially National Vinegar Day, National Deep Fried Clams Day, and National Author’s Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Stephen Crane, who was born in 1871; golfer Gary Player, who is 81; and musician Anthony Kiedis, who is 54.

This week in 1968, the top song in the U.S. was “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.

The No. 1 movie was “Live a Little, Love a Little,” while the novel “Airport” by Arthur Hailey topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

Which two U.S. states have never recorded a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit?



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