In a world where teenagers are 'sexting' each other with lewd images on their cell phones (and bizarrely enough being charged with sex crimes designed to protect minors), and every connected computer is one browse away from streaming porn and pictures of fatal accidents, the concept of rating movie content in any official manner seems quaint and ridiculous.
Still the charade continues, where Pixar's Up receives a PG rating rather than a U, while The Passion of the Christ gets an R. Titanic gets a PG-13 with a sex scene and topless shot, but Boys Don't Cry gets an NC-17 because Chloe Sevigny has a orgasm (women aren't allowed to have orgasms in the MPAA because it's kind of dirty). The Dark Knight, by contrast received a PG-13 despite extreme violence, though Lost in Translation gets a R for one brief nudity shot. I'm actually shocked that Milk got through the rating system at all with its depiction of, ahem,gay people but I suspect that the political pressure was a factor there.
The arbitrary nature of these ratings reflects a moral code we're all supposed to live by, and the system is endlessly gamed by directors who know that PG-13 and R is where the money is, and NC-17 is death to a movie. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button contained one F-bomb in order to get pushed to a R, and it's pretty routine to cut scenes or add coverage to manipulate the rating.
Proponents of this system say that parents need advice on what's suitable for their kids, as if they live in some sort of Kafka-esque vacuum where the movie names and artwork don't communicate this. Without the MPAA, they say, people may inadvertently show their five year old Quarantine or Schindler's List when they meant to replay The Muppets Take Manhattan. Anyway, a few years ago, the theater of the absurd took a new dramatic twist with the addition of descriptive ratings.
This Top 10 list was compiled by the All Movie Guide but represents some of the best advice from the MPAA:
10. Mother's Boys (1994)
"Rated R for language and for a mother's sociopathic behavior"
9. Indian in the Cupboard (1995)
"PG for mild language and brief video images of violence and sexy dancing"
8. All I Wanna Do (1998)
"PG-13 for teen sex-related material, language, and substance misuse"
7. The Hunted (1997)
"R for strong bloody ninja violence and a humorous drug related scene"
6. War of the Buttons (1994)
"PG for mischievous conflict, some mild language, and bare bottoms"
5. Alien vs. Predator (2004)
"PG-13 for violence, language, horror images, slime, and gore"
4. Skateboard Kid II (1995)
"PG for brief mild language and an adolescent punch in the nose"
3. Bushwhacked (1997)
"PG for language and a mild birds and bees discussion"
2. Twister (1996)
"PG-13 for intense depiction of very bad weather"
1. Jefferson in Paris (1995)
"PG-13 for mature theme, some images of violence, and a bawdy puppet show"
I know people will disagree, but if the appearance of Janet Jackson's nipple is really a concern when sites like YouPorn are only a click away, I wish you well.