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What Movie Led to the PG-13 Rating?

Before the PG-13 movie rating arrived, moviegoers’ options were limited to G, PG, R, and X. There was a huge gulf between PG and R ratings. One man, a rather famous one, decided that gulf was too big and problematic. He took the initial steps that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in May of 1984. Although it was a hit at the box office, it was quite controversial. Temple of Doom is the darkest of the original Indy trilogy. A few scenes pushed the envelope for a PG movie, and many parents and groups complained that it should have been rated R. Its director, Steven Spielberg, disagreed with that sentiment. Earlier that year he was also involved in Gremlins, another classic flick that was criticized for being too violent for a PG rating.

Instead of laying low and taking the criticism, Spielberg decided to do something about it.

I remember calling Jack Valenti [then the president of the Motion Picture Association] and suggesting to him that we need a rating between R and PG, because so many films were falling into a netherworld, you know, of unfairness. Unfair that certain kids were exposed to Jaws, but also unfair that certain films were restricted, that kids who were 13, 14, 15 should be allowed to see. I suggested, “Let’s call it PG-13 or PG-14, depending on how you want to design the slide rule,” and Jack came back to me and said, “We’ve determined that PG-13 would be the right age for that temperature of movie.” So I’ve always been very proud that I had something to do with that rating.

So, just like that, a new movie rating was born. Red Dawn became the first PG-13 movie in theaters, released in August of 1984. Since that time, PG-13 is definitely the sweet spot for blockbuster hits. 9 out of the top 10 domestic highest grossing movies ever are rated PG-13.

Portions of this post were curated from the following:


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