Sunday Discussion: Does an R-Rating Finally Mean Success?!

August 17, 2008
Source: Hollywood Reporter, Movie Marketing Madness

Does an R-Rating Finally Mean Success?!

There is an article that I've wanted to discuss for a few weeks now, and with Tropic Thunder performing fairly well this weekend (with a $26 million weekend total and the #1 spot), I thought this would be the right time to tackle it. The article is titled "R ratings might help comedies" and is written by Carl DiOrio of Hollywood Reporter as originally pointed out by Chris Thilk at Movie Marketing Madness. I think both of these articles present a very interesting outlook on the progressing state of cinema. In the past, R-ratings were always looked at as a bad thing for films that were trying to be mainstream successes (e.g. make a lot of money at the box office). However, I think that idea has changed entirely, and now R-ratings are potentially helpful in guaranteeing the success of certain types of films like comedies. It's an interesting flip flop and I love how we've grown to this point as moviegoers because it's entirely up to us.

Chris Thilk really puts this whole discussion into perspective with this statement: "These movies would still be more successful if they were toned down and rated PG-13 since more people would be able to get in to see it. That much is just a no-brainer." Is it really? I hate to always argue with some of Chris' statements, but just because some trend was established years ago doesn't mean it won't change over time. And obviously we (as moviegoers) have progressed. The Hollywood Reporter article is generally more of a report from a Fandango poll that showed that moviegoers were more interested in R-rated comedies like Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. Extending into the past, it was Wedding Crashers in 2005 and Superbad in 2007 that first started to show that an R-rating was not a bad thing like most blindly believe.

Addressing Chris' article and the Fandango results, Chris states that: "My guess would be that Fandango's users tend to skew younger and more male than the general population." I think it's a bit crazy to completely throw out speculation like this from Fandango just because the demographic is not the entire population. Which is why I'm bringing up this discussion today anyway, because I do think R-ratings, for particular films, are starting to interest more people than always deter them. Here are two great examples on both sides of the equation. The Dark Knight would definitely not have done as well as it's doing if it was rated R, but I really felt like it tested the edges of the PG-13 rating anyway. However, I think Watchmen is going to perform much better by being an R-rated movie true to the story in the graphic novel than being edited down to PG-13 to be made "more accessible."

Obviously if you simply compare something like The Dark Knight and its PG-13 rating and ~$500 million box office total versus something like Superbad's $121 million box office, the PG-13 rated film prevails. Unintelligent logic would say that obviously the rating was a factor, which it is, but that doesn't mean something like Watchmen should immediately be pushed to PG-13. In fact, I would argue that if Warner Brothers were to make it PG-13, it would perform worse than I think it's going to this March by being R. I'll obviously be talking about this more again next year, but for now it's my very educated guess based on all of the hype. Maybe box office earnings aren't even what I'm trying to discuss here anyway. I know that Hollywood only really cares about money, but the moviegoing public also cares about quality - and it's more the quality of The Dark Knight that made it so much money than its rating.

What I am wondering is whether this R-rated interested will ever extended beyond comedies and the occasional comic book movie. From last year, Oscar interest in No Country for Old Men eventually earned that R-rated film $74 million total, but that's not an amount that would change the way Hollywood works. And looking at the list of the top R-rated films, it's obvious that no R-rated movie will ever reach the levels of The Dark Knight (even though Passion of the Christ came very close). But as I mentioned earlier, the goal of making the most money is not the only part of this discussion. And I honestly think Watchmen could be on its way to earning a spot in that top 10 just as 300 did last year, more proof that the rating is helping it. In combination with Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder this year so far, it finally is starting to look like it's more than just a series of anomalies. Does an R-rating mean more success?

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Opinions



i think what is happening is that people want to see more "realistic" movies. The R rating removes a lot of restrictions and gives us a more gritty and real story. I mean, let's face it, life is NOT PG or G, or even PG-13. The R movies, i feel connect with the audiences more because we can look and see how it feels realistic. Like no country for old men, you really believed that it could happen or it had happened. Comic book movies, PG-13 is doable, they are comics, Iron man, very successful didn't need an R rating in my opinion. Punisher, needs an R rating, its more gritty and violent, as i have said before, he does not give justice/punishment using Hugs and Kisses. Not ALL movies need to be R to do better. tropic thunder, was hilarious, i don't think it would have been as funny as PG-13 because some of the scenes were so funny because of the outlandish profanities. so, No, R rating does not mean more success. it all depends on the movie and the intention of the movie as well as the crowd. PG-13 can do just as well, if it has good writers and GOOD directors and producers. The movie industry seems to be struggling to get this, with the punisher and some other movies. but i think they will catch on, as long as the people are vocal and we let them know what we want.

TaurinH24 on Aug 17, 2008


The Dark Knight did not make a ton of money because it was PG-13. Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder aren't going to be blockbusters because they're rated R. Hollywood supremely underestimates their audience at every turn, so I'll break this down into the simplest terms: WE'RE TIRED OF REMAKES. WE'RE TIRED OF USELESS SEQUELS. RATINGS DON'T MATTER IF THE PRODUCT IS GOOD.

Brian on Aug 17, 2008


I completely agree with TaurinH24. If spider man was R it would do horrible because it does not respect the original vision and nobody wants to see that. However look at the Die Hard series was just as successful as a PG-13 movie as an R rated movie, Of course it got a lot of complaints at first but then people saw it and realized it was just as violent and awesome as the others. The only thing that matters is weather or not the content suits the characters.

Iron Man Fan on Aug 17, 2008


An R rating gives the director and/or writer the freedom to put what ever they want on screen. Pg ratings are restrictions. Thus causing the quality to diminish. However that is not always the case.

Buttons on Aug 17, 2008


this discussion started out as a discussion about comedies being better when they are rated R. If tropic thunder had toned it down and been rated pg 13, it would have lost its edge. I personally want to see more mature comedies, and usually the more immature ones such as the epic movie and all that crap are I think rated pg 13 and are dumb. R rated comedies are generally better

tashawnda on Aug 17, 2008


Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer was pretty good, but it was PG. I think it would have been better if it had been PG-13. The FF may be a family, but that doesn't mean it should be completely family-oriented. THere should have been more action, funny moments, and a more interesting storyline. THat's not saying SS/Galactus isn't interesting (in my opinion, I think it's one of the greatest Marvel storylines), but come on, they shouldn't make it so simple an eight-year-old could understand it. SS rules. As for Tropic Thunder and Dark Knight, had their ratings been different, neither would have been as good as they were. Mature comedies like Tropic Thunder truly are the best, where there can be mature jokes and slapstick humor too.

Kyle on Aug 17, 2008


and Step Brothers is another example. that movie has made almost 91 million. and will probablly close at 100 mil.

Branden on Aug 17, 2008


Dont forget 300 and its 'Rated R' Domestic: $210,614,939 + Foreign: $245,453,242 = Worldwide: $456,068,181

REAL6 on Aug 17, 2008


I think it is the context of the film. DARK KNIGHT can be a PG-13 film and doesn't need to be R. PUNISHER needs to be R and a PG-13 would hurt it like an R would hurt KNIGHT. It just depends on what type of movie you are making and how it will effect it's outcome.

Ryan on Aug 17, 2008


#4....Red, that does not even make sense. And no, R rating does not mean more creative freedom based on subject material. Depends on the content, vision, artistic freedom?? Or are you comparing Space Chimps with something like 300??!! "However, that's not allways the case". Good job # 9. That makes sense.

D-9 on Aug 18, 2008


Film Rating does not determine success. CONTENT determines success.

Carlo on Aug 18, 2008


OK, so I saw it, just to shut some of you up. Worthless, no smiling when ever Stiller is in frame.....RD Jr. saved this piece of shit. Biggest waste of 9 bux ever.....never again will I waste money on this lame ass, with the timing of a rock. Horrible WOAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Cannot act or direct his way out of a paper bag.

Tim "Cloverfield" on Aug 20, 2008

New comments are no longer allowed on this post.



Subscribe to our feed -or- daily newsletter:
Follow Alex's main account on twitter:
For the latest posts only - follow this one:

Add our updates to your Feedly - click here

Get the latest posts sent in Telegram Telegram