What's Behind the 'Star Wars' PG-13 Rating?

It follows 'Revenge of the Sith' as the only other 'Star Wars' movie with the intermediate rating.


The rating for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is PG-13.

The Motion Picture Association of America announcement has made it the second Star Wars movie to be labeled with the intermediate rating, after Revenge of the Sith.

The MPAA cited “sci-fi action violence” as the main reason for its decision. It makes total sense. What would Star Wars be without action and violence within a science fiction narrative? But why haven’t the other Star Wars movies with sci-fi action violence been rated PG-13?

For one, the first two movies in the original trilogy predate the creation of the PG-13 rating by a few years. The MPAA saw fit to add another rating between PG and R because of one man: Steven Spielberg. The questionably violent and bloody movies from the early 1980s that Spielberg had his hand in like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins were tame enough to avoid an R-rating, but parents complained about the content. I guess mom and dad didn’t enjoy watching a PG movie where a guy’s still-beating heart is torn from his chest and he’s dropped while screaming for his life into a pool of lava.

But Star Wars has always had a particular level of violence, too:

An entire planet and the Death Star are blown up
Countless Stormtroopers are bloodlessly gunned down with lasers
Darth Vader tortures Han Solo
Luke’s hand is sliced off with a lightsaber (though technically the lightsaber cauterized the wound as it cut his hand off)

And so on.

There’s no doubt that The Empire Strikes Back would have been PG-13 had the rating been around. As for the other Star Wars movies, well, add a little more blood or suffering in there and they probably would have gotten bumped up as well.

The primary reason Revenge of the Sith was branded with the PG-13 rating was because of the scene where Anakin is brutally burned and mutilated within an inch of his life and subsequently transformed into Darth Vader. It’s tame, but the higher rating is fair.

So what will the PG-13 mean for The Force Awakens? For one it won’t mean much to its box office potential. Jurassic World was rated PG-13 and it racked up over $600 million in the U.S. alone. But the rating means that we’re in for a slightly more grown up Star Wars movie.

There probably won’t be much blood, but there will definitely be some potentially brutal sci-fi action and violence.

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