What Does PG-13 Mean?

By Kim Nunley
All movies that screen in a theater are assigned a rating.

When the Motion Picture Association of America assigns a PG-13 rating to a movie, they're urging parents to be cautious when deciding whether to allow their children to watch that particular film. PG stands for parental guidance and the number 13 denotes that some material in the film may be inappropriate for pre-teens, or children under the age of 13. A movie rating doesn't indicate whether a movie is good or bad, but rather reflects the violent, sexual, drug use and language content within a film.

PG-13 Ratings and Making Informed Decisions

The movie ratings system is intended to give parents advanced information on the content within a film so that they can make informed decisions. According to FilmRatings.com, the rating of PG-13 isn't tied to a specific age, but simply cautions parents to investigate the content of a film before allowing their children to watch it. The PG-13 rating serves as a guide only, and there are no restrictions that prevent children aged 13 or younger from purchasing a ticket to a PG-13 film.

History of the Rating

While the Motion Picture Association of America established the movie ratings system in 1968, the PG-13 rating is relatively new. According to Chris Klimek at The Dissolve, the PG-13 rating came about after filmmaker Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" featured one violent scene that alone seemed unworthy of causing the film to receive an R rating. To offer a rating in between PG and R, the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984. The first film to receive the PG-13 rating that year was "The Flamingo Kid."

Within the PG-13 Rating Box

Within the rating box attributed to each film, not only will you be given the rating, but you'll be offered a rating descriptor, which provides a brief explanation of the elements that caused the film to receive that particular rating. For example, a rating box can feature the PG-13 rating, as well as a rating descriptor that notes, "extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images." The rating descriptors associated with PG-13 ratings are beneficial for parents who are concerned about exposing their children to a particular type of content.

How the Rating Is Assigned

Within the Motion Picture Association of America is the Classification and Ratings Administration, which is a rating board consisting of a group of parents. The producer or distributor of a film completes a Submittal Agreement and pays a fee to have their film rated by the Classification and Rating Administration, who then watch the film and agree on an appropriate rating. Both feature and short films can be submitted for a rating. Filmmakers don't have to submit their films for a rating, but the filmmaking members of the Motion Picture Association of America agree to always submit films for a rating, if they plan to release them in theaters. If filmmakers don't agree with a received rating, they can elect not to accept it. However, by rejecting the rating, they can only exhibit or distribute the film through channels outside of movie theaters.

About the Author

Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.