Movies with the same content but different MPAA ratings

It’s no secret that some of the ratings decisions from the MPAA can leave you scratching your head and wondering what just happened.

The MPAA assigns ratings of G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 to films, and often those ratings don’t seem to represent the film quite as well as we’d like. Recently we posted an article titled “5 movies with the wrong rating” where we pointed out some films that probably should have received a different rating.

We now want to take a look at some comparisons and break down some movies that have nearly identical content but completely different ratings.

Philomena (PG-13) – Nebraska (R)

Both “Nebraska” and “Philomena” were released in 2013 and tell compelling, funny and touching stories. Both films received high marks from critics and audiences alike, but the MPAA saw the films very differently.

Both “Philomena” and “Nebraska” received R ratings when they first went to the MPAA. Both films appealed the rating, and “Philomena” was dropped to a PG-13 while “Nebraska” retained its R rating.

According to the MPAA, “Philomena” is PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references. “Nebraska” was rated R for some language.

To break it down further, “Philomena” has four uses of the f-word compared with the two in “Nebraska.” On, “Philomena” has an age rating voted on by users of a 14+ and “Nebraska” has a 16+.

The Lovely Bones (PG-13) – Heavenly Creatures (R)

Our next example comes from two films directed by Peter Jackson. His 1994 film “Heavenly Creatures” is rated R for a chilling murder and some sexuality. His 2009 film “The Lovely Bones,” however, has a PG-13 rating for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images and some language.

Both films involve murder and both are quite disturbing. Both films have intense sexual references and violence, yet one receives an R while the other gets a PG-13. The difference in rating on these films is particularly striking considering the disturbing and sexual content in the films is very similar and the language is actually stronger in the PG-13 “The Lovely Bones” than it is in the R-rated “Heavenly Creatures.”

On “The Lovely Bones” has an age rating of 15+ and “Heavenly Creatures” has a 16+.

The Fall (R) – Big Fish (PG-13)

The 2006 film “The Fall” and the 2003 film “Big Fish” have a lot in common. Both take us on a journey to another world where our protagonists escape to a better place, only to realize the world they live in offers more than they dreamed. Something else these films have in common is that they’re beautiful from both a visual and storytelling perspective.

Where these films differ, however, is the rating. “Big Fish” is rated PG-13 and “The Fall” is rated R.

According to the MPAA, “Big Fish” received a PG-13 rating for a fight scene, some images of nudity and a suggestive reference. “The Fall” received an R rating for some violent images. That’s literally all it says: some violent images.

To break it down a little further, “Big Fish” features brief nudity, some violence and some profanity. Truth be told, the PG-13 rating is probably appropriate for the film.

Now, let’s look at “The Fall.” There is no sex or nudity, the violent images are far less than anything you’d see in a Batman or a James Bond film and there’s less language than most PG films. This one really is hard to understand. Really hard.

“The Fall” has a 14+ age rating on and “Big Fish” has a 13+.

Life of Pi (PG) – Cast Away (PG-13)

The 2012 film “Life of Pi” captivated audiences with its stunning visuals and arresting story. It also reminded some people of the 2000 film “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks.

While these films share some elements, they are very different stories and special in their own ways. When it comes to content, the two films are very similar; again, however, they received two different ratings. “Cast Away” was rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some intense images and action sequences. “Life of Pi” received a PG rating for emotional thematic content throughout and some action sequences of peril.

Sounds pretty similar, right? Let’s look a little closer. “Cast Away” features intense scenes that include a deadly plane crash and Tom Hanks’ character trying to survive on his own on an island and on the sea. “Life of Pi” features intense scenes that include the sinking of a ship that kills several people and the lead character trying to survive on an island as well as on the sea.

“Life of Pi” also features animal violence and themes of cannibalism and murder. Both movies are almost completely devoid of language, yet one film gets a PG- 13 while the other is given a PG. “Life of Pi” has an age rating of 10+ on and “Cast Away” has a 12+.

Do you think the MPAA got these ratings right? Or do you think it’s time to rethink how we rate our films? Let us know on the comment boards or on Facebook.

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