On this day in 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which oversees the voluntary rating system for movies, introduces a new rating, PG-13.
The initial rating categories were G (appropriate for all ages), M (for mature audiences, but all ages admitted), R (persons 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), the R age limit was raised to 17 and on July 1, 1984, the PG-13 category was added to indicate film content with a “higher level of intensity.” According to the MPAA, the content of a PG-13 film “may be inappropriate for a children under 13 years old” and “may contain very strong language, nudity (non-explicit), strong, mildly bloody violence or mild drug content.” On August 10, 1983, the action film Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, became the first-ever PG-13 movie to be released in theaters.
Starting in 1990, every film given an R rating also received a short explanation as to whether it contained violence, drug use, nudity or hard language. This policy was later expanded to PG and PG-13 movies. Additionally, the X rating was changed to NC-17 (anyone 17 and under not admitted) because it was believed that “X” had come to connote pornography. Henry & June, which opened in U.S. theaters in October 1990, was the first film to be rated NC-17. According to the MPAA, the NC-17 rating “does not mean ‘obscene’ or ‘pornographic’ in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience.” All MPAA movie ratings are voted on by a Los Angeles-based ratings board whose members are all parents, from diverse backgrounds.