• 11.01.08

Movie Ratings: Running the Numbers

On November 1, 1968, bowing to howls that movies were corrupting youth, the film industry unveiled a voluntary rating system, which told youth what to see to be corrupted. The ratings have evolved (X is now NC-17, though we still say “X” since “triple-NC-17” sounds lame), but kids’ desire to sneak into R movies hasn’t changed. Here’s a look at the system and its stats.

In 2007, only 20% of MPAA-rated movies were G or PG, and almost half were rated R. The biggest moneymakers were PG-13 films; only 30% of movies got that rating, but they pulled in 46% of total box-office cash.


The 1970s spawned 679 G-rated movies. In the 1990s, there were just 142. In a typical year, 23% of Americans see an X-rated film.

Showgirls ($20.4 million) is the highest-grossing NC-17-rated film since the designation was created in 1990.

Of the top 10 all-time global box-office leaders, eight are rated PG-13 and two are rated PG. Still afloat at No. 1: Titanic.

Adjusted for inflation, 1939’s Gone with the Wind is still the No. 1 domestic earner of all time, at nearly $1.4 billion. The original 1977 Star Wars ($1.26 billion), E.T. and The Sound of Music each tallied a 10-digit gross.

Teens with high exposure to R-rated films are up to seven times more likely to take up smoking than teens with low exposure to them.

In a typical year, 23% of Americans see an X-rated film.


In 2007, teens under 17 could buy unrated DVD versions of films — which contain nudity, violence, and profanity cut from the theatrical release — without question 71% of the time, the same rate at which they managed to purchase R-rated DVDs.

Unrated versions typically account for more than two-thirds of DVDrevenues for a new-to-disc film.