Movies were not always rated, however, which meant that their content was universally restricted in order to make it appropriate for all audiences. This also meant that the subject matter that could be dealt with within the context of a film was very restricted, and that directors had to find ways to deal with objectionable subject matter in creative, non objectionable ways.
Movies that are released today receive a rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, based on a system of criteria adopted in 1968. Before this time, there were no G, PG, PG13, R or other ratings designations in place.
A Universal code of screen content, the Hays code, adopted in 1930, stated, among other things that movies were not to portray drug trafficking, excessive kissing or seduction. The code, put into place because of the rapid transition at the time from silent films to longer movies involving dialogue and more involved plot lines, also forbade the glorification of murder, adultery, and childbirth.
This code remained in effect until the 1960s, when changing societal attitudes necessitated the move to a rating system that allowed certain things that had been previously forbidden, but restricted who could watch them, namely children. Although the Hays code was just that, a code, very few filmmakers took the chance of producing movies that violated the codes standards, since this would have doomed their films to obscurity.
The original movie ratings system developed in 1968 included G, M, R, and X for general, mature, restricted, and no one under 17 admitted, respectively. PG replaced M in 1970, and the R rating was modified to restrict admission to persons under 17 unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. In 1984, director
Steven Spielberg requested that the PG 13 rating be added, after parents of preteens raised concerns that some of his films, like Gremlins and Indiana Jones, were too scary to be rated PG.
In 1990, the ratings system was modified again, and the X rating was changed to NC 17 to indicate a movie that was non pornographic but still unsuitable for persons under 17. When people go to the movies nowadays, they use these ratings guidelines as a way to know what to expect when it comes to making the best entertainment choices possible.