On this day in 1984, the action thriller Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze, opens in theaters as the first movie to be released with a PG-13 rating. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which oversees the movie rating system, had announced the new PG-13 category in July of that same year.
Founded in 1922 as a trade group for the American film industry, the MPAA introduced its first-ever movie rating system in November 1968. The system came in response to groups who wanted better guidelines for parents to determine whether or not a movie’s content and themes were child-appropriate. The initial rating categories were G (appropriate for audiences of all ages), M (for mature audiences, but all ages admitted), R (anyone under 16 not admitted without an accompanying adult) and X (no one under 17 admitted). The M category was eventually changed to PG (parental guidance suggested) and on July 1, 1984, the PG-13 category was added to indicate film content with a “higher level of intensity” than PG, according to the MPAA. Starting in 1990, the X rating was changed to NC-17 (anyone 17 and under not admitted) because it was believed that “X” had come to connote hardcore pornography.
The MPAA’s ratings board reportedly issued the first PG-13 rating to The Flamingo Kid, which starred Matt Dillon; however, Red Dawn opened in theaters first. Red Dawn told the story of a group of teenagers who band together to protect their small Colorado town after it is invaded by Communist paratroopers from Russia and Cuba. Along with Patrick Swayze, the film co-starred C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and Harry Dean Stanton. Red Dawn was one of Swayze’s early films, along with The Outsiders (1983), a teen drama that featured the actor as part of a roster of up-and-coming young stars, including Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise and Diane Lane. Swayze’s real breakout performance came in 1987’s Dirty Dancing, also co-starring Grey. In 1990, he co-starred in another big hit, Ghost, with Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.