A Smarter System for Rating Movies

I’ve written at some length about movie ratings, how they’re deeply broken, a moving target and biased toward violence and against sexual content. I was interested, then, to read on Boing Boing about this attempt (I think I’ve written about this before…) to build a better rating system:

We enable adults to determine whether a movie is appropriate for them or their children, according to their own criteria. Unlike the MPAA we do not assign an inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE & PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10. We also explain in detail why a film rates high or low in a specific category, and we include instances of SUBSTANCE USE, a list of DISCUSSION TOPICS that may elicit questions from kids and MESSAGES the film conveys.

They’re a secular company, which is good, because most of these obsessively-detailed review sites are powered by right-wing religious groups. That generally doesn’t make for a unbiased reading of the material.

However, I’m immediately perplexed by their rating decisions. Pan’s Labyrinth, Letters From Iwo Jima and The Departed all get an 8 for violence and gore. If I were rating them, it’d be:

  • Pan’s Labyrinth – 6
  • Letters From Iwo Jima – 8
  • The Departed – 9

I mean, how many head shots did The Departed have? What are the nastiest films? Devil’s Rejects and The Forsaken.

Hilariously, Team America: World Police gets a 9 for sexuality. The first sentence of their reivew is awesome:

Please note that all the characters are marionettes, thus some detail is limited with respect to body parts and sexual activity…A man asks a man if he is gay. A man talks to another man about fearing that he will force him to perform sexual favors. A woman says that she will have sex with a man if he makes her a promise. Women wearing traditional belly dancing outfits (revealing cleavage and bare abdomens) dance in a tavern. A woman wears low-cut tops that reveal cleavage. A man proposes marriage to a woman. A man and a woman kiss.

These obsessive lists of transgressions always sound like found poems to me.


  1. Wow… it’s a good thing they didn’t see the unrated DVD version of Team America. There’d be a few extra sentences in the sexuality section.

  2. Still not sold on the rating system out of a base of 37? That’s what we use in my close social group. We’ve agree on 37 and we like it. 37 offers flexibility, direction and no cop outs. Plus, it’s fun to discuss whether a movie was a 25, like Babel, which I just saw tonight, or a 33, like Children of Men, which was the movie I saw prior to Babel.

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