The motion picture ratings system is a voluntary system operated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). The ratings are assigned by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), a board comprising of 10-13 parents. The board members view each film and rate it after a group discussion. These ratings are intended to provide parents with necessary information to decide for themselves which films are appropriate for viewing by their own children. The Board considers a movie’s theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use in the decision-making process. Submission of a film to the Board for rating is not mandatory, but the majority of producers/distributors opt to do so. If a film is assigned a rating that a producer/director does not want, he or she may edit and re-submit the film for another rating.
Films are rated by the following federally registered certification marks.
- F – Family: This category of films is viewable for all ages. This rating does not signify a film designed specifically for children. However, most parents may let younger children watch this film unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.
- PG – Parental Discretion: The content description implies age suitability. This category of films contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children. Many parents may want to watch it with their younger children. The theme itself may call for parental guidance and/or contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V), some sexual situations (S), infrequent coarse language (L), or some suggestive dialogue (D).
- PD-M – Parental Discretion – Mature: This category of films is for people above 13 years of age. PD-M is thus a sterner warning to parents to determine the attendance in particular of their younger children as some material may not be suited for them. By this rating, parents are alerted to be very careful about the attendance of their under-teenage children. A PD-M film is one which, in the view of the Rating Board, leaps beyond the boundaries in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other contents.
- EM – Extremely Mature: All films under this category are suitable for people above the age of 17. These films are specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. These films contain one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).
- AO – Adults Only: This category of films is strictly for people of 18 years and above. Films rated as AO may contain intense violence and/or strong sexual content and nudity.
- NR – Not Rated: Films that are not submitted to rating will carry the label NR (Not Rated) or Unrated.