One Step Toward Fewer R-rated Movies

I really loved Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.  When I saw the previews for The Watchmen, I was super excited to see that a similar movie was coming out.  That excitement all but got deflated when I saw that it received an R-rating from the MPAA.  I checked my normal resources to find out what exactly kept it from getting a PG-13 rating like the vast majority of other comic book movies.  Most comic book film adaptations (with exception to movies like 300) that get an R-rating (e.g., The Punisher) end up underperforming.  Maybe it's because the younger audiences are a better target, or it could be that for more people a movie is more enjoyable to watch (one of the main purposes of the cinema) without the gratuitous violence and sex.

I know that this is a pretty popular analysis, but I thought it would help to see in writing how much movie studios waste on R-rated movies (numbers came from the the-numbers.com).  Over the last 15 years (1995-2009)
  • 22.6% of all movies were rated PG-13 and each movie brought in about $40 million
  • 3.2% of all movies were rated  G and each movie brought in about $36 million
  • 10.9% of all movies were rated  PG and each movie brought in about $35 million
  • 41.5% of all movies were rated R and each movie brought in about $14.6 million
I've read comments by Orson Scott Card that pointed to the snob factor of the cinematic elite as the reason for so many R-rated movies and the reason they tend to drown out the decent movies in all the award ceremonies.  The Oscars, Golden Globes, etc. are not influenced at all by the average people who go to the movies, they are obviously influenced by the Hollywood society of nitwits.

Going back to The Watchmen, according to IESB, Warner Brothers has decided to stop making R-rated Superhero movies.  The Watchmen just didn't make enough money to make R-rated comic book movies worth it anymore.  Marvel made a similar comment when seeing the success it had with Ironman.

Commenting on the difference between The Dark Knight and The Watchment, decentfilms.com said, 
"Last year’s brilliant The Dark Knight showed how effective implied violence and menace could be without spurting blood or unnaturally draped limbs. The R-rated Watchmen is more explicit, but much less effective.
That quote pretty much spells out the fact that "less is more."  We don't need to see every gritty detail to understand good versus evil, to know that two people love each other, or that somebody died.  Is there any value to having an R-rated movie?  Does editing the film make it any better?  What about movies like Amistad or Schindler's List (two of which I've never seen but are on my to-see list), should those types of films be marketed to 13 year old kids?  Or are there some movies that should be reserved for audiences with a more mature understanding?

The article that spurred this post was linked off of Slashdot.


  1. I have seen Schindler's List and I think it's a movie you should see once in your life. It has impact and brings understanding. I don't think 13 year-old kids show watch it, but at the time that I watched the film, it made an impact on my way of thinking. I generally say that if I can't watch it with my kids, maybe I shouldn't watch it... I think this is an acception.

  2. The difference between Schindler's list and movies like Pearl Harbor (which isn't rated R)is the violence and atrocities shown are about historic, horrific events. Movies about comic strips are fantasy. I can't even watch Schindler's List or Pearl Harbor, but what I have been able to see has made a tremendous impact on me and created a desire to be a better person. Most of the time seeing previews of most "r" rated movies doesn't even inspire me to watch, let alone try and do something noble.

  3. I consider movies to be art. Maybe some is distasteful, sure - but one man's garbage is another man's art right? That having been said, is the value of art only in what it is worth to movie studios in real dollars? The reality is, there are some people in Hollywood that make movies to make money, and there are others that make movies for the sake of making good artistic movies. Take for example the movie "Once" from a year or two ago. It was rated R for language, but was a sublime film that gave some incredible insight into relationships and the human condition. I would think it near criminal to tell such film makers to hold back from making art in exactly the way they want to make it. (By the way, I would feel 100 times more comfortable letting my children watch Once than The Dark Knight which was very psychologically disturbing and hard for many adults to watch).

  4. I agree with your comment on the Dark Knight, and the movie Once sounds like one I would definitely want to see, and probably will (with toned down language). I guess this is my opinion of what "movie art" should be. Not that they only make movies that make more money, but going back to the comparison between The Dark Knight and The Watchmen, you don't need to display so much detail to get your point across. Part of the experience should be allowing the audience to come to certain conclusions, not spell it all out for them in gritty details on the screen. But then again, to some people this is art - I like that quote that one man's garbage is another man's art.