The idea and method behind our rating system


Unlike the MPAA, we do not assign a single, age-specific rating and we do not make recommendations. Instead we assign each film three distinct, category-specific ratings: one for SEX & NUDITY, one for VIOLENCE & GORE and one for PROFANITY. Each rating is on a scale of zero to ten, depending on quantity (more F-words, for instance, will mean a higher Profanity rating, and so on) as well as context (especially when it comes to the categories of sex, nudity, violence and gore, since they are not as easily quantifiable as profanity).

In addition to assigning three ratings, 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 (topics that may elicit questions from kids) and MESSAGES (what values the film conveys).

Please note that two movies which have received the same rating -- let's say a 9 in VIOLENCE & GORE -- will not necessarily contain an equal amount of violence; they are only similar in the level of violence they contain. Plus, like most numerical rating systems, the numbers are inherently approximations (think of them as plus-or-minus-one). Only the detailed descriptions we provide with each review will give you the proper context.

Unlike with the MPAA ratings, we do not make age-specific or critical recommendations. Since our system is based on objective standards, not the viewer's age or the artistic merits of a film, we enable concerned adults to determine whether a movie is appropriate for them or their children according to their own criteria.

As we never tire pointing out, we make no judgments about what is good or bad or anything else. We do not "condemn," "critique" or "criticize" movies. And we don't "praise" or "recommend" movies either. We advance no "beliefs" and we do not "preach" anything. We are not affiliated with any political party, any cultural or religious group, or any ideology. The only thing we advocate is responsible, engaged parenting. If one reads our reviews one will often find many instances where our descriptions are so detailed they seem absurd. But we'd rather err on the side of comprehensiveness. It's up to parents to decide which details are useful to them and their family, and which ones they consider fatuous.

The MPAA rating system is not accurate because of several reasons: the MPAA itself is not an independent body but is financed and controlled by the film industry, its standards are constantly shifting to accommodate marketing decisions by the film industry, the ratings are negotiable (and in effect promote censorship for independent films while powerful directors can get the rating they want), and the ratings are age-specific, not content-specific and thus essentially approximations.

In reality, any rating above G may imply sexual content, violent content, profanity, or any combination of the three in varying degrees. At the same time, an R-rated movie may not be as objectionable to many thoughtful parents as one would think. A movie that gets an R rating, for instance, because of several F-words is not the same as another movie that gets an R rating because it contains violence, gore, sexual situations, etc. (we venture to guess that even parents who vociferously object to profane language would agree). For instance, the G-rated "Babe: Pig in the City" was assigned a violence rating of 5 principally because of one excruciating scene of a dog being slowly strangled. At the same time, "Erin Brockovich" as an example of an R-rated film that got a kids-in-mind violence rating of 1 and a sex rating of 3. Yet it was branded with an R rating by the MPAA just for language. And there are others: "Waking Life" and "Good Will Hunting" getting an R for just language, and there are many other R-rated films with low violence and sex ratings. And, of course, we haven't even gotten started on the ostensibly more innocuous PG and PG-13 ratings.

But we trust you get our point: If a parent is primarily interested in not having their children exposed to violent content, then he may decide that many an R-rated film is more appropriate for his kids than many G and PG and PG-13 rated films. Furthermore, since the MPAA makes age-based ratings their recommendations cannot be relevant for all parents since not all children are equally mature.

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