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Ten PG-13 Sci-Fi Movies Almost Rated R

The difference between a PG-13 and R rated movie can be small but significant. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the organization that assigns movies, and they're a notoriously fickle bunch. Studios often try to get a PG-13 rating for their movies, because that will allow the widest audience. When the MPAA gives the movie an R rating, the movie often has to cut scenes to get the rating they want. Here are ten movies who scored a PG-13, and what they did to get that rating.

1. Marvel's The Avengers
Marvel's The Avengers (Credit: Disney/Marvel)
The Avengers seems like one of those movies made for kids. It has all their favorite Marvel superheroes fighting aliens. That's why it may be a surprise to discover it was given an R rating twice before it scored its final rating. When asked why, Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Fiege said, "Well, whenever you impale somebody from their back and the blade comes out their chest, there are issues." Apparently, the MPAA objected to the scene where (spoiler alert) Agent Coulson is impaled by Loki's staff. In the original cut, we saw the bloody staff's tip coming out of Coulson’s chest. In the final cut, we only hear it, not see it.

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Credit: Lionsgate
The dystopian sequel to the movie about children forced into gladiatorial combat was already edgy. You would think it would be hard to get a movie about a bunch of people killing each other in staged combat to be rated PG-13, but not as hard as you'd think. Apparently, the only change the director had to make was changing one death at the cornucopia. Instead of getting shot in the face, the victim got an arrow to the chest. Better than an arrow to the knee.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Indiana Jones is an iconic action hero whose first adventure sent him in pursuit of the biblical Ark of the Covenant. He does a lot of fighting in this movie, especially with Nazis, so it may not be a surprise that the movie originally received an R rating. But the turning point for the MPAA came when they opened the Ark, and angels came flying out to consume the Nazis with fire. All of them die in pretty gruesome ways, but Jones' rival archaeologist Belloq fares the worst when his head exploded. They had to cover the exploding head with fire to avoid the big R.

4. Sucker Punch
Credit: Warner Bros Pictures
This dream-within-a-dream action movie about four girls trying to escape from a mental institution/brothel had the toughest time getting its PG-13 rating. It had to be sent back five times to the MPAA, and cut eighteen minutes of footage. They eventually did release an R-rated version with the eighteen minutes of footage restored. Movie Censorship.com has a good overview of the changes, but I'll cover the broad strokes. Some of the sexuality was cut with conversations about “picking her flower” making it clear Baby Doll’s virginity was supposed to be sold to the High Roller. They also shortened a scene where a cook tries to rape one of the girls. They also had to cut longer battle sequences in the fantasy world with spraying green blood, and combat sequences in World War I. The most significant change came in the final encounter with the High Roller, where the High Roller actually seduces Baby Doll instead of the final version's implied rape.

5. Transformers
Credit: DreamWorks Pictures
Transformers was the start of a huge franchise about warring robots from space disguised as vehicles on Earth. Apparently, the MPAA considered the movie too violent, even though most of it was just robot-on-robot action. Rather than make cuts to the movie, producer Steven Spielberg stepped in to argue with the MPAA, and they gave the movie its PG-13 rating. If that doesn't tell you how arbitrary the MPAA can be, think about that fact: the exact same movie that’s been beloved by kids for almost a decade was originally considered too violent for kids by the MPAA.

6. Spider-Man
Credit: Columbia Pictures

The first Spider-Man movie started a franchise five strong. Much like Avengers, Spider-Man was always targeted to kids, which is why its PG-13 rating was critical. And it almost didn't make it. It was the final battle in a graveyard between Spiderman and the Green Goblin that tipped it over the line. In the original version, they were surrounded by buzzing razorbats slicing at them during their fist fight. All of the bats had to be cut. They also had to change the blood on Parker’s lip to clear spit.

7. X2: X-Men United
Credit: 20th Century Fox

With X2, they wanted to go further than the original movie, especially with Wolverine. It was a close call to keep its rating kid-friendly. When discussing why the movie almost lost its intended PG-13 rating, producer Ralph Winter said, “...in the fight, that happens in the augmentation room. From the origin of it we have two characters that have claws. At some point they're gonna fight. At some point [they’re] gonna go at it. So for us it was about the intensity of that. It was about the blood, which we tried to hold back on, because that's what really pushes it over the edge and makes it unnecessarily gory. So we made changes in that fight sequence to minimize that for the ratings board, but I don't think that diminishes anything from the fun of that."

8. Hancock
Hancock (Will Smith)
Credit: Columbia Pictures
Hancock is an edgy movie about an alcoholic, foul mouthed superhero. It walked a line, and crossed over it when the MPAA sent it back twice with an R rating. In the version of the movie we all know, Hancock goes to jail because of all the damage he’s done to the city. In the original cut, it was a different crime that sent him to the big house. Director Peter Berg explained in an interview shortly before the film's release, "We had statutory rape up until three weeks ago." In a deleted scene, Hancock got drunk and had sex with a seventeen year old. Funny how the MPAA had a problem with that. But it’s better than the scene in the original script, where the girl was twelve.

9. Daredevil
Daredevil (Ben Affleck)
Credit: 20th Century Fox
This movie has been the whipping boy of superhero movies for years, which I never felt was deserved. However, much of the problems with the movie lie with the studio’s attempts to get a PG-13 rating. The original cut of Daredevil was far bloodier and more violent in the combat scenes, especially in the final fight between Daredevil and the Kingpin. The MPAA made them cut the edges off all the fight scenes to make the movie more kid friendly, but the director’s cut restored the movie to its original glory. Do yourself a favor and give it another chance with the director's cut.

10. GoldenEye
Xenia Onatopp (Famke Jennsen)
Credit: United Artists
The studio had a lot riding on this movie when it was released. It was the first Bond movie to set after the fall of the Soviet Empire, and the Cold War had been a driving force for Bond throughout his history. GoldenEye needed to prove Bond could still be successful and reach the widest audience possible, which is why they fought for a PG-13 rating. It seems like villainous Xenia Onatopp was the main problem with the movie, since cuts were made to her scenes, including removing some of the deaths when Onatopp gunned down the workers at the Severnaya station, Bond giving Onatopp a rabbit punch in the car, and shortening the scene of Onatopp being crushed to death in a tree.

Which were you surprised to learn had a hard rating?

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  1. The MPAA is a joke. The Kings Speech got an R rating for an F-bomb or two while ultraviolet movies like the Transformers ones get a PG-13

  2. I'd still rate suckerpunch an F - awful movie.
    I knew Temple of Doom stirred controversy with it's heart removal scene and prompted PG-13 in the first place. Some of those things they had to cut seem so minor, but I guess it's just years of wearing down the ratings.
    And F-bomb alone won't get an R. Remember Sixteen Candles? PG - and they "F'ing forgot her birthday." (And that was back in 1984.)

  3. I'm glad they made that change to Hancock. I think it's a great film, but that would have been beyond the pale.

  4. I heard transformers was supposed to be amazing.

  5. such a fine line between what is acceptable gore and not anymore... pg13 is that okay for 13 year old kids to see much of what is allowed? i remember POLTERGEIST being disturbing for me...


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