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Top Five Classic PG Movies That Would Be Rated R Today

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark | Lucasfilm

Revisit Some Childhood Films That Would Be Considered Adult Oriented Today

Age ratings. They are what determine what content is appropriate for people of certain ages, though many use it as a way to see if something is child-friendly or not. One of the more well-known rating boards is the one for American films known as the Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA. 

The MPAA has implemented six ratings; G for general audiences, PG for movies that need parental guidance, PG-13 for films that need parents’ guidance and are for slightly older audiences than PG, R for movies that cannot be seen by someone under 17 unless they were accompanied by an adult, NC-17 for movies that nobody under 17 can seen even with an adult, and X for movies that are not rated which mainly go to “adult films”. 

Some have criticized the MPAA for how they rate movies with some suggesting they are too strict on filmmakers, especially after they created the PG-13 rating. For the longest time, PG movies got away with many things that nowadays would require a higher rating. So here are five classic PG movies that would be rated R today. Minor Spoilers Ahead!

5. Airplane! (1980) 

A spoof on disaster movies, this film follows a group of people aboard a plane who are forced to land themselves after the crew gets food poisoning. Although on the surface this film is considered a fun little parody, there are plenty of crude or sexual jokes, characters using drugs, mild swearing, etc, which is not exactly something to be going into a PG movie today. 

While some could maybe argue this movie could fall under PG-13 for some of these points, what ultimately puts this movie in the rated R status is a brief moment where a topless woman runs past the camera. Although PG-13 movies can get away with partial nudity including showing a person’s behind, full-frontal nudity of any kind will automatically make a film rated R. Of course, given how the nude scene in Airplane! has no plot relevance in the movie, it could easily just be edited out to try to avoid an R-rating like many other films do. 

That being said, even if the nude scene got taken out, there is still the other more “mature” content in the film. There are jokes of characters ending their lives after the character Striker (Robert Hayes) rambles on about his romantic past, a scene where another character, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), has to blow air into the autopilot which is a essentially blow-up doll, resulting in some sexual jokes, and a scene where a young girl with coffee (Michelle Stacy) comments about how she likes men. It’s all stuff that definitely would move this past PG-13 and into an R-rating. 

Airplane! can be found on Max. 

Julie Hagerty as Elaine Dickison in Airplane! | Paramount Pictures

4. Sixteen Candles (1984)

Directed by John Hughes, the movie follows a young girl named Samatha (Molly Ringwald) on her 16th birthday. Many considered this to be a classic not only in John Hughes’ filmography but in coming-of-age films in general. With all that said, there is a lot of this that results in it being rated R. Vulgar language, uses of alcohol and drugs, and several sexual references including scenes that imply characters having had “adult activities”.

The film has since been widely criticized for its more “mature content” such as the scene where a young girl is taking a shower despite the body double being in her 20s according to IMDb, the actual actress was underage. 

While many modern PG-13 coming-of-age stories deal with sexual themes to a degree, the way this film goes about would automatically be rated R. In fact, according to IMDb, the film almost did get an R-rating with the use of the f-word numerous times. Ultimately, the filmmakers cut out most of them except for one. While using one f-word would be acceptable for a PG-13, that only works if the use isn’t in a sexual way and Sixteen Candles does use it that way. 

Some might argue that the sexual themes and teen characters drinking alcohol or doing drugs are still fit for a coming-of-age story since many teenagers in real life do that stuff. While that is true, the way this film goes about could be seen as explicit and therefore not be appropriate for a younger audience. 

Sixteen Candles can be found on Netflix. 

Molly Ringwald as Samantha Baker and Michael Schoeffling as Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles | Universal Pictures

3. Poltergeist (1982) 

Directed by Tobe Hooper, this movie follows a young family who after moving into a new home, begin to experience paranormal activity. This is considered by many to be one of the scariest movies of the ‘80s and it is certainly terrifying. While PG movies will have scary moments, the amount of disturbing scenes in this film would be enough for the MPAA to declare this R today. 

From the face-peeling scene to moments of the young children being attacked, to the young girl, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) being dragged into a TV while screaming, it is enough to scare adults, much less children. 

Some may argue PG-13 would be more fitting, especially since the remake in 2015 got one, but there is so much about this film that wouldn’t fly by the MPAA to get that rating. There is the infamous pool scene in which the mom, Diane (JoBeth Williams) is in a pool with skeletons which, according to IMDb, were filled by real-life skeletons because the prop department thought using fake ones would look cheap. 

That alone would be enough for the MPAA to issue an R-rating since that scene is considered to be one of the scariest scenes in the past 40 years, even without that knowledge of the real skeletons. Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer PG movies that are allowed to have truly terrifying moments so a film like this wouldn’t even have a chance of getting that rating today. 

Poltergeist can be purchased or rented on YouTube, Google Play TV & Movies, Apple TV, Fandango at Home, and Amazon Prime Video.

Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling in Poltergeist | Amblin Productions

2. Watership Down (1978) 

Based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Richard Adams, the movie follows a group of rabbits including one named Hazel (John Hurt). This is considered by many to be one of, if not to some, the most horrifying, spine-chilling, blood-curdling, and frightening children’s movies of all time. 

With several violent scenes that have a decent amount of blood, people for years have debated whether or not this movie would be appropriate for kids. Some argue that this film, for as violent and scary as it is, serves an overall purpose for the story and as such, teaches kids mature themes such as the complexity of life. Because the film doesn’t shy away from these things like other children’s movies, it is considered to be important as it helps educate its young audience. 

While there is a strong argument for why this movie is still appropriate for kids, there are still parent groups out there who would disagree. Reviews of this film on Common Sense Media show that although plenty of people on there enjoy Watership Down, they do not consider it appropriate for younger audiences due to its violent nature. There is a good chance the MPAA will think the same thing.

Even though plenty of people will say children deserve dark and mature stories, there will be others who say something of the opposite. The reality is that what is considered too scary for kids is constantly changing, especially since many kids will watch R-rated horror movies anyway. 

Watership Down can be streamed on Max.

John Hurt as Hazel in Watership Down | Nepenthe Productions

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 

The first film in the Indiana Jones franchise follows the aforementioned archaeologist as travels across the world in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Even though plenty will say the second film, Temple of Doom (1984), is more deserving to be on here since that film, along with Gremlins (1984), helped create the PG-13 rating, the original Indiana Jones movie would definitely be rated R today. 

For some parts, the violent scenes are moderate with a character getting shot or punched and it isn’t explicit. But then, there are scenes with characters getting impaled by arrows, or chopped up by the blades on a plane, although the only thing shown is the blood splatter afterward, and of course, the infamous face-melting scene at the end. 

According to IMDb, this scene almost did give this film an R-rating due to Belloq’s (Paul Freeman) head exploding. The filmmakers were able to get the movie to PG by adding layers of fire in front of it in post. 

If this film came out today, no amount of added flames would stop this from being rated R. Gruesome deaths have always been something that has been an issue for the MPAA, even with movies that were trying to get an R-rating, so Raiders would get the rating, whether it deserves it or not. The scenes themselves aren’t even that long, but they still have a memorable impact on the audience. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark and the other Indiana Jones films can be found on Disney+.

Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark | Lucasfilm

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” Official Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailer

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I am from Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University majoring in Film Production with a minor in Media Production.
Author at Dead Talk News | Posts

Omid Rad is a freelance writer, movie lover and overall geek.