The Frida Cinema

Orange County's Year-Round Film Festival

7 Popular Films that are Surprisingly Rated PG

When many of us think of PG-rated movies, we tend to think of more family-oriented films; your E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialStar Wars, and Hook-type fare that appeal to adults and children alike. However, before the introduction of the PG-13 rating on July 1, 1984, many films were surprisingly labeled with a PG rating, including films with killer animals, infidelity, child slavery, and even suicide.

For years, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) only had G, PG, R and X ratings. The controversy involving the content of two Steven Spielberg films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins, resulted in Spielberg himself suggesting the middle ground rating of PG-13.

If the films featured on this list were released today, they would probably fall under a PG-13 or R rating. Yet, the charm of these films is that they represent a unique period of film history, where filmmakers were allowed to experiment with vague content restrictions, making a slew of beloved and memorable films.

7.  Back to the Future (1985)

Marty accidentally goes back in time to the 1950s where he tries to help his teenaged parents fall in love, while also working together with his friend Doc Brown, to go back to his original time period. While the film has a generous amount of cursing, it also has the funny but awkward situation of Marty’s teenage mother Lorraine, making multiple sexual advances on her son, including kissing him.  That’s heavy, Doc!

6.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The first “proper” feature movie of the popular edgy British television comedy troupe Monty Python and the Flying Circus. In typical Monty Python style, the cast take part in a rather silly parody of the classic tale of King Arthur and his search for the Knights of the Round Table. Though the film took a milder approach to the visual humor Monty Python is known for, it is still surprising how much bloody violence and sexual innuendos they were able to get away with. 

5.  Airplane! (1980)

One of the most popular, yet risqué comedies of the 1980s. When a plane’s crew and the majority of the passengers become severely ill with food poisoning, it’s up to an ex-pilot with a fear of flying, to safely land the plane. The fast paced barrage of slapstick comedy and double entendres, including a very happy inflatable co-pilot, pushes conventional PG comedic boundaries.

4.  The Graduate (1967)

A significant 1960’s film, with stunning cinematography and a groundbreaking soundtrack by folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Recent college graduate Ben, who’s trying to figure out what to do with his life, has an affair with family friend Mrs. Robinson, only to fall in love with her daughter. An unusual and uncomfortable love triangle, with a surprising amount of nudity for such a mild rating.

3.  Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom (1984)

The much anticipated sequel to the successful Raiders of the Lost Arch took an unexpected darker tone which made many audiences uncomfortable. Indiana Jones travels to India with two unlikely companions, on the search for a precious crystal and kidnaped children, only to stumble upon the devious plans of a human sacrificing cult. With its vivid scenes of human sacrifice and child slave labor, this film ignited the conversation of a new letter rating.   

2. Gremlins (1984)

A beloved childhood Christmas comedy for many, unintentionally became the second influence for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Billy, a teenage boy, is given an adorable ‘Mogwai’ creature for Christmas, only to break all of its care rules, which results in Billy having to stop a slew of evil gremlins from taking over his small town. Many audiences felt horror in a holiday-themed movie and the violence surrounding the gremlins (including both the deaths caused gremlins and the gremlins’ deaths themselves) were too inappropriate for small children.       

Honorable Mentions:

Cabaret

Ghostbusters

Alfie

Beetlejuice

The Bad News Bears

Barbarella

The Witches

Harold and Maude

Watership Down

Goldfinger

Top Secret!

Poltergeist

Dr. Strangelove

1.  Jaws (1975)

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year is a movie that made a generation of people afraid to go into the water. After the deaths of beachgoers by a killer great white shark, three unlikely heroes must band together to destroy this underwater monster, before he kills again. The intensity and suspense of this unlikely horror film keep you at the edge of your seat, making it difficult to believe it’s only PG. You’re gonna need a bigger rating system.