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"You're lucky I didn't cut you to ribbons."
"Not with a Y7 rating, you won't!"


Ratings put in place by the local Media Watchdog to give consumers an idea of the content of a specific media product, often times encouraged by the producers of said media in order to avoid the alternative of a Censorship Bureau. The specific criteria for assigning are usually fairly open, although the two biggies (sex and violence) are given different emphasis in different parts of the world, so one critique of the system is that sometimes the difference between two assignments is a single addition of a curse word. Occasionally the rating system is so seemingly arbitrary that it's possible to wonder why one film got a '15' when another, more violent and with more sex and swearing, managed to be rated '12'.

In some parts of the world the ratings are enforced, while in others they are merely suggestions. For example a British retailer can be fined for selling a DVD rated '18' to a 15 year-old, while in the United States it's up to each retailer or theatre to choose whether or not to maintain the age restrictions, with the exception of selling or showing porn to minors. (Of course, any retailer or theatre that significantly broke these guidelines would immediately suffer huge backlash from the public, assuming they weren't some rinky-dink shop in a back lot too small to be noticed.) Canada is a special case: provincial ratings are enforced by their respective governments, while the pan-Canadian rating is only for home video; consisting of the average of all the provincial ratings and is not enforced. (Quebec is not a member, so home media for the province has to be rated by their film bureau.) Some US states have attempted to introduce ratings backed with the force of law, most recently California banning sale of M-rated video games to minors; as of June 27, 2011, this was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, so industry-run voluntary systems it is.


The most prominent and well-known ratings system for video games is administered by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (or ESRB). The ESRB is a volunteer organization that was created in the mid-90s after Mortal Kombat and Night Trap raised concerns about the content of violent or "mature" video games. The ESRB must review everything — they see a full script, review all art assets, and even play through the game — before they give a final rating, and they'll sometimes revise that rating post-launch if circumstances warrant. (The most famous example of this was when the original version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was raised from "Mature" to "Adults Only" in the wake of the Hot Coffee scandal. When new versions were released, with the originally Dummied Out content now completely removed, the "Mature" rating returned.)


Exactly what qualifies a film or TV show for a rating varies wildly between countries. For example, in some more permissive jurisdictions productions that would score an R or even NC-17 in the US due to sexual content have been rated the local equivalent of PG - sometimes after editing, sometimes not. However, in the States, there are many PG-13 horror/psychological thriller films like Insidious, Split, and Lights Out (2016) that have gotten the local equivalent of an R rating abroad. A good example of this variation is the TV-MA series Girls which due to its explicitness is rated TV-MA (adults only) in the US, yet its Canadian DVD release carries 14A, meaning it's considered suitable for teens in that country. Not to be confused with Media Categories FAQ, which covers how trope pages are divided up by medium on This Very Wiki.

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Pretty much every country in the world has variations on the following classifications for film, TV or both:

     Not classified or exempt from classification 
(In most places (with exceptions; see below), things like exercise and instructional videos go under this.)
  • UK: E for Exempt. Used by many distributors on the packaging of non-fiction home video works, therefore sometimes assumed to mean E for Educational, or sometimes E for Exercise. Until 2014 this was automatic for non-fiction works, but the rules were changed in that year to require a BBFC certificate for anything with content above a PG, due to press and political controversy over sexual content in pop music videos. Not actually an official rating, but a widespread convention.
  • Australia: E.
  • Germany: "Ungeprüft". Though in Germany, usually this translates to "non-rated", and thus "not to be sold to minors", which is different from the other cases mentioned here as 'E'.
  • United States: NR for Not Rated. For theatrical releases, ratings systems are voluntary, however theaters generally enforce the movie ratings as part of their distribution agreements with the studios. A production company can choose not to submit their film to the MPAA for rating, and mark themselves as NR, however much like with Germany, this is considered a de-facto NC-17, albeit with fewer unsavory connotations. For this reason, this is typically only seen with independent "art" productions with little-to-no budget, as they're more likely to decide that saving the money needed to submit is worth the loss of potential audience. (In other words, if the producers already know they would likely be rated as NC-17, there's no need to have confirmation - they can just run it as NR instead, and be treated in just the same way.) Even if a film has already been rated NC-17, which is considered an industry Kiss of Death, it's trivial to perform a few insubstantial cuts that add up to a minute, then claim it as a new, unrated version.
    • However, retail-only videos are routinely sold unrated with little-to-any restrictions. In fact, some theatrically-released movies have "unrated" video editions to imply that they are raunchier or more violent, when it may only mean a minute of footage was added and the producers didn't pay to get the new version rated. Special features (making-of documentaries, deleted scenes, etc.) are usually not rated either, and while they're required to show that (see the picture above), it never has a detrimental effect on purchasing.
    • For television, everything is required to have a rating with the exception of news and information shows. By default, they are given a TV-G rating, in order to be compatible with automatic rating screening settings on TVs and cable boxes. An example of this is the American Scripps networks (Cooking Channel, DIY, Food Network, HGTV and the Travel Channel) rating nearly all their shows TV-G, which can be quite a bit jarring when an owner on Mystery Diners made an observation about an employee and his triplet brothers "triple-fucking" him with their behavior, along with many multiple bleeps in several of their series.
    • Filipino movies released in the US by Star Cinema in US theaters are also exempt from getting rated by the MPAA, although they never carry the NR mark or "This movie is not rated" when advertised on Filipino channel TFC, or by print advertising in most Filipino stores. The same can be said for Spanish movies for the Hispanic community when shown in US theaters. The only exception is mostly on film sites like Fandango when said movies do show up on some theaters' screening schedules, which do get marked as not rated.
  • In the Philippines, news and current affairs programs are exempted. Those broadcast by the major TV networks, however, may attach a PG or SPG rating depending on the content of the news items contained therein. It's the same in the United States, though documentaries are usually rated.

     Suitable for young children: 

  • UK: Uc (i.e. Universal: particularly suitable for children) – this rating was used for home video only and was discontinued in 2009, following reports that it was actively off-putting to children.
  • US: TV-Y (television).
  • Canada: C
    • Quebec: G (films tagged "For children")
  • Brazil: ER (i.e. Especialmente recomendado)
  • Germany: FSK0.
  • Portugal: M/3 note 
  • Spain: T and 7-rated films may add "Especialmente recomendada para la infancia" (especially suitable for young children) if the film is geared towards kids.

     Suitable for everybody 

  • UK: U (i.e. Universal).
  • Australia: G.
  • US: G (film, "General Audiences — All Ages Admitted"); TV-G and TV-Y7 [both with and without the FV for fantasy violence sub-rating] (television). The G rating is almost never used these days.
  • Japan: G.
  • Philippines: G (General Patronage) (film and television).
  • Hong Kong: Category I
  • Ireland: G.
  • Italy: T (per tutti).
  • Canada: C8+ and G.
    • Quebec: G.
  • Brazil: Livre.
  • New Zealand: G.
  • Netherlands: AL.
  • Portugal: A (film), T (television).
  • Singapore: G.
  • South Africa: A.
  • Spain: T (Autorizada para todos los edades).
  • South Korea: All.
  • Denmark: A.
  • Finland: S (Finnish) or T (Swedish).
  • Norway: A.
  • Sweden: Btl (abbreviation of Barntillåten).

     Still suitable for kids, but parents might want to watch with them on the first viewing, just in case 

  • UK: PG (i.e. Parental Guidance).
    • When the British ratings system was changed in the early 1980s, a lot of older stuff got chucked into this category, despite possibly not being suitable. Take, for example, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, which features a background striptease, getting the PG rating. It was originally rated an A; had it been released a few years later, it would probably have been rated AA, which would be a 15 certificate today. The standards for stuff getting cut full stop back then were set by some very arbitrary means — if it gave John Trevelyan (British Board of Film Classification head from 1958 to 1971) a boner or made him sick (no matter how slight), it was cut.
  • US: PG (film, "Parental Guidance Suggested – some material may not be suitable for children") and PG-13 (film, "Parents Strongly Cautioned – some material may be inappropriate for children under 13"); TV-PG and TV-14 (television).
    • Originally the second stage MPAA rating was M, for Mature ("Suggested for Mature Audiences – parental discretion advised"). note  In 1970, over confusion as to whether M-rated movies could be suitable for minors, the rating was changed to GP, for General - Parental guidance suggested. Since this was still somewhat confusing, in 1972 the rating was changed to PG - Parental Guidance suggested. It's stayed as PG ever since.
    • PG-13 was introduced in 1984 as an intermediary step between PG and R, in response to an upswing of movies that were pushing the envelope of the PG rating - they weren't quite graphic or mature enough to merit an R, but had content that few to any people wanted kids not yet teenagers to see. The two movies cited as inspiring the creation of the PG-13 rating are Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins. The first movie to be rated PG-13 was Red Dawn (1984).
  • Japan: PG12.
  • Hong Kong: Category II and IIa
  • Australia: PG and M.
  • Germany: FSK6.
  • Ireland: PG.
  • Canada: PG.
    • Quebec: Some G-rated films are tagged as "not recommended for young children", the equivalent of this as Quebec lacks a PG rating.
  • New Zealand: PG, M (film); PGR (television)
  • Netherlands: 6 and 9.
  • Portugal: M/6
  • Singapore: PG, PG13.
  • South Africa: PG.
  • Spain: All of the subsequent ratings (7, 12, 16, and 18) are purely advisory, meaning that children under that age can watch it (though it might upset them). This more liberal attitude likely came from a general public disdain for the Franco Regime's very strict and oftentimes excessive censorship. When Spain became a democracy in 1975, the Francoist censorship gradually disappeared (though some old books still bear the marks).
  • Denmark: 7.

     People under X years of age [usually 12 to 15] need an adult 

  • UK: 12A (12 Accompanied/Advisory, that is under-12s allowed in only if accompanied by an adult) — introduced in 2002 after a two-year trial period in Norwich, with The Bourne Identity the first to receive this rating. Still-playing '12' films already in cinemas at that point, such as Spider-Man, had their rating altered to the new designation. Almost all films receiving this certificate go on to receive a 12 (see below) for home-media release.
  • US: R (film; "Restricted – under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian" note ); TV-MA (Television) - TV-MA rarely appears on broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) and then only during the "Safe Harbor" period of 10 pm - 6 am. You're more likely to see it on original pay cable programs - probably the most popular TV-MA show is Game of Thrones.
  • Philippines: PG (Parental Guidance/Patnubay at Gabaynote ) (Film and television) and SPG (Strong Parental Guidance, Striktong Patnubay at Gabay) (television) — This rating emphasizes the gravitas of the TV show's possible descriptors (themes, language, violence, sex, horror, and drugs) that may affect children and is thus applicable to anyone under 18.
  • Canada: 14A and 18A (called 14+ and 18+ on TV)
    • Quebec: 13+.
  • Brazil: 10, 12, 14, 16 anos.
  • Hong Kong: Category IIb (first used with John Woo's A Better Tomorrow)
  • Australia: MA15+.
  • Ireland: 12A, 15A.
  • New Zealand: RP13, RP16, RP18.
    • The RP18 rating was introduced in 2017 is because of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The reason why it was introduced is that New Zealand has the highest suicide rate in the OECD and therefore teens under 18 are prohibited without Parental Accompaniment to view the series.
  • Netherlands: 12.
  • Russia: 6+, 12+, 16+, 18+.
  • Portugal: M/6, M/12, M/14
  • South Korea: 12, 15.
  • Sweden: 7.

     People under X years of age not permitted at all and those under Y years of age need an adult 
(certain movies require that people be over a particular age (usually 15) or with an adult (anyone 17 or 18 years old and older). Often overlaps with the above.):

  • Canada: 18A (in Maritimes and Manitoba; over 14, under 18).
  • Germany: FSK12 (over 6, under 12)
  • Portugal: M/14, M/16, M/18 note 
  • South Africa: 7-9 PG, 10-12 PG.
  • Denmark: 11, 15 (under 7s not admitted at all)
  • Finland: 7, 12, 16 (up to three years younger)
  • Norway: 9, 12, 15 (up to three years younger)
  • Sweden: 11, 15 (up to four years younger can be admitted)

     People under X years of age not permitted at all 

  • US: NC-17 (film, "No children under 17 admitted" [1990–1996], "No one 17 and under admitted" note  [1996–present]), Previously X (film, "Persons Under 16 Not Admitted" [1968-1970]note , "No one under 17 admitted" [1970-1990], officially discontinued in 1990).

    • The two ratings serve functionally the same purpose, the one real distinction between them is that NC-17 is trademarked by the MPAA and can only be applied by them. The X rating was deliberately left untrademarked, and so free for any filmmaker to use as they saw fit. The reason behind this was that the MPAA originally (according to The Other Wiki) only planned three ratings [G, M, and R] and were perfectly fine with parents exercising discretion on what films they decided to take their children to. However, the National Association of Theater Owners balked at this, fearful that in some locales, that attitude could lead to prosecutions of theater owners for showing obscenity to minors and so urged the MPAA to include an "adults-only" category. To quell their concerns, the MPAA added the fourth X rating. The MPAA envisioned the rating to be self-applied to films like Midnight Cowboy or A Clockwork Orange or other similar mature fare note .

      Of course, this didn't happen. Instead of the thought-provoking mature dramas that were unsuitable for the under-17s they were after, the then-nascent pornography industry began self-applying the mark for films like Deep Throat. This (Midnight Cowboy's Oscar win — the only X-rated film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture note  — notwithstanding) made the X rating very quickly toxic as far as movie theaters were concerned, and as early as 1973 theaters refused to show any X-rated movie on the fears that the movie was porn. Filmmakers had to find workarounds or cut their films down to an R, as happened famously with RoboCop (1987), which would have garnered an X for violence. George Romero, as another example, knew that Dawn of the Dead's violence would exceed the threshold for an R rating, but was unwilling to either cut the movie or apply an X rating. He instead had a disclaimer placed on all advertising for the movie stating that while the movie had no sexual content, the graphic violence was so intense that no person under 17 would be admitted..

      Due to the taint of the X rating, it was officially retired in 1990 and replaced with the NC-17 in an attempt to sell serious movies that otherwise would have been labeled X. However, most theaters are forbidden in their lease agreements from screening "adult" films, and the agreements are interpreted in a way that would make NC-17 films non-starters. Further, nearly all newspapers and other media outlets usually refuse advertising for NC-17 films. Even further, some retailers will not stock NC-17 films, and Netflix and other streaming services have only a select few NC-17 films (usually extreme violence and sexual abuse more than consensual sex). Also not helping the rating's cachet are the high-profile box office failures of Showgirls, and The Dreamers (both of which were rated NC-17 for pervasive sexual content, including extremely frequent and explicit nudity) — both due to the aforementioned hesitance of theater chains to screen the films, but also because their quality was severely lacking, particularly Showgirls. Because of all these factors, the NC-17 rating is rarely used. Generally, the producer of a film that receives an NC-17 either releases it unrated (see above under "Not classified"), challenges the rating to get it softened to R, or edits it down to R to get it into theaters and releases the uncut version as an unrated DVD.
  • UK: 12, 15 and 18. The latter two replaced AA and X in 1982, while 12 was added in 1989 and retired from film in 2002 because of the 12A rating.
    • In practice, 12 and 15 are loosely enforced. There is little equivalent stigma to the NC-17 situation above attached to the 18 rating, though directors may well still make cuts to seek a 15 certificate and so a broader potential audience.
    • Like its American equivalent PG-13, the '12' rating was originally introduced in the cinema due to two problems created by the former large gap between 'PG' and '15'. On one hand, there was worry about the levels of violence and horror in certain action-adventure movies marketed to a family audience (with particular problems being caused by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doomnote  and Gremlinsnote ). On the other hand, there were complaints from film companies and audiences about comedies and dramas aimed at teens being given the R-equivalent '15' rating due to moderate profanity and implied sexual references (in particular Stand by Me).
    • As of 2002, the '12' certificate is now academic as it is used only on home media, whereas '12A' (see above) is used in the cinema.
  • Australia: R18+note .
  • Japan: R15+, R18+.
  • Hong Kong: Category III
  • Canada: R and A.
    • Quebec: 16+ and 18+.
  • Ireland: 12, 15, 16 and 18. The 12 and 15 ratings are used only for home video, and 16 is only for cinema. 18 can be applied to either.
  • France: 12, 16, 18.
  • Germany: All FSK ratings except FSK0, including films not assigned a rating by the FSK.
  • Italy: VM14, VM18 (vietato ai minori di quattordici/diciotto anni).
  • Brazil: 18 anos.
  • New Zealand: R13, R15, R16 and R18 (film); AO (television, 14 years and over)
    • The R18 rating in New Zealand is used for both Porn and Mainstream films (which is the equivalent of the old American X rating used by the MPAA)
    • There's also a special version of the AO (Adults Only) rating for Free to Air Television which is dubbed AO9:30pm. It means that programmes with much stronger content that is considered too early for to be shown at 8:30pm despite an AO rating is applied. Stronger moments of Violence, Offensive Language, Sex and Nudity are qualified for the AO9:30pm rating.
  • Netherlands: 16.
    • (This and the 18+ PEGI rating are ones that can be enforced by law (however, the 18+ rating has no legal status; thereby every person 16 years (the highest age limit) and older is able purchases a game which contains the 18+ rating from PEGI.), the rest are "suggestions")
  • Philippines: R-13, R-16, R-18.
  • Singapore: NC16, M18, R21.
  • South Africa: 13, 16, 18.
  • South Korea: 18.
  • Finland: 18.
  • Norway: 18.

     People Y or over, to be shown or sold in licensed venues only and not to be made available by mail order 

  • Canada: A.
    • Quebec: 18+ with the "Explicit sexuality" tag.
  • UK: R18 – applies to material that can only be shown at licensed adult cinemas or sold at licensed sex shops. Essentially applies only to porn - a very small number of arthouse movies containing hardcore unsimulated sex scenes have been passed at 18 after convincing the BBFC of their True Art nature (most famously including In the Realm of the Sensesnote , Intimacy, 9 Songs, and Shortbus). Some types of kinky sex are still completely banned due to fears that they would contravene the traditional "liable to deprave and corrupt" obscenity law or more recent laws against "extreme pornography" (essentially, material featuring strong rape role-play, bestiality, or acts of BDSM considered to pose even remote risks of serious injury or death).
  • Germany: Indexed products – applies to games, books and magazines; can only be ordered by special adult delivery. When sold at brick-and-mortar retailers, they may only be purchased "behind the counter". This is essentially the German equivalent of the NC-17 rating... but on steroids. Not only can Indexed media not be legally sold online in most settings (they cannot be listed on popular retailers like Amazon or eBay), they are stuck on the index for at least 25 years until the BpJM (a government agency designed to protect youth) removes them.
  • Australia: X18+
    • Due to state laws Hardcore pornography or anything rated X18+ is strictly prohibited and therefore cannot be sold within any state. Hardcore pornography is sold only in territorial regions (A.C.T and the Northern Territory). Mail order outside of the Territorial regions is legal.
    • Also, some porn titles are prohibited from being sold in Australia due to strict censorship legislation under the Classification Act 1995. Here are the rules on what is and isn't allowed (they are very strict, so be aware).
  • Portugal: M/18, P (for Pornography)
  • Spain: Película X - denotes pornography that may only be shown in licensed adult cinemas to those 18 and older. The only mainstream film to get this onerous rating was Saw VI — in its uncut form, it was deemed so violent as to be pornographic. Buena Vista (yes, the same one owned by Disney) appealed the rating, and with a few cuts, it got an 18, allowing it to be shown in mainstream cinemas.
  • South Africa: X18.
  • South Korea: Limit (for 19 years and over).

     Not to be sold 

  • UK: Rejected.
  • Australia: RC (Refused Classification).
  • France: Interdiction.
  • New Zealand: Objectionable
  • Philippines: X.
  • Singapore: NAR (Not For All Ratings).
  • South Africa: XX.

The MPAA also has special rating cards for theatrical film trailers. In most trailers, the cards have a green background and note that the trailer has been approved for "appropriate audiences" or (since 2013) "to accompany this feature." (Until 2009, they were approved for "all audiences" but this has since been changed since a so-called "green band" trailer for a James Bond film might not be appropriate to show ahead of a children's movie.) So-called "red band" trailers, having a red background and an approval for "restricted audiences only," are prohibited from being shown before movies rated G, PG or PG-13 and may include violence, nudity, sexual content and language otherwise not allowed in the green trailers. Some films are promoted using both green and red trailers, depending on the subject matter of the film.

One episode of Freakazoid! had Jack Valentinote , then president of the Motion Picture Association of America (and his cheeks) giving a lecture about the MPAA's rating system as an interstitial, using a process of elimination on an example family as he describes the appropriate ratings. This speech is reprinted here for convenience:

"Now, if a family wants to see a movie and it's rated G, then everyone can go: Mom and Dad and Buffy and Jody and Grandma and Grandpa and even Sergeant Scruffy. If it's PG, then there might be something unsuitable for young or sensitive viewers, in which case Buffy will just have to stay home. Along with Grandma, who didn't wanna go to the movies anyway. Now if a movie's rated PG-13, it might have some material in there that Mommy and Daddy might not like some of the young kids to see, so Jody might just have to stay home. Now if the movie's rated R, then it's gonna contain some adult material. In which case Dad, who's got a lazy tummy, will probably wanna stay home. But if the movie's rated NC-17, that means that kids can't get in, only adults can get in. Mom doesn't wanna see adult movies, but Grandpa was in the army, and he's not bothered very much and so he decides to stay, along with Seargent Scruffy, who's just a dumb dog anyway."

(The above also accurately describes the diminishing returns often experienced by films as they attain more-adult ratings, most notably, as referenced earlier, the NC-17 "box office poison" rating.)

At least during their heyday in The '80s, premium movie channels like HBO and Cinemax would display a film's MPAA rating immediately before the film would start (this being before the TV ratings bug would be introduced). Later on they mixed this with closed caption notices, etc. Anything rated R or beyond would be shown only during the watershed. Today the networks tend to use the TV ratings, with the majority of original series seemingly default-rated at TV-MA.

You can find more about the American ratings process in the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

Video game classifications

These are similar and yet slightly different:

     ESRB (USA, Canada, Mexico) 
  • Ages 3+ — eC (Early Childhood)
  • Ages 6+ — E (Everyone); originally known as KA (Kids-Adults) until 1998
  • Ages 10+ — E10+ (Everyone 10+)
  • Ages 13+ — T (Teen)
  • Ages 17+ — M (Mature)
  • Ages 18+ — AO (Adults only)

E used to be KA (Kids to Adults) up until early 1998. It was most likely changed due to the belief that it would be interpreted as being similar to the MPAA's G rating. E10+ was introduced in 2005 as an in-between rating similar to the PG rating (in concept, anyway) thanks to Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which contained a heavy amount of brutal fisticuffs and yet was still a Donkey Kong game (do the math and go figure). It was quickly abused, turning into a sort of Spotlight-Stealing Squad for video game ratings - to give you an idea of how bad it is, loud noises are apparently a reason to rate a game E10+ instead of a straight E. There is also RP (Rating Pending), which is only used in advertising when a game has been submitted but hasn't yet received its final rating.

You might be confused as to why the top rating is only one year older than the second rating. Generally, only things with pornographic content, or at least borderline porn, give a game the AO rating, and it's quite possible the highest rating was made to conform with general pornography laws, when they otherwise felt that 17 is the true developmental cutoff. An AO rating is a death sentence to a game's financial viability, as pretty much every large retailer will refuse to stock AO games, and the current major consoles refuse to license them (making them exceedingly rare to encounter as pretty much the only AO-rated games ever released were actual porn games issued during the 1990s during a short-lived flirtation the adult-film industry had with producing PC/Mac-exclusive content). The eC rating is also generally unused, with only 268 titles having that mark (mostly specialized titles specifically made for young children), and most publishers go for an E rating to avoid that Kiss of Death.

On the back of a game's box will be the rating, plus some predefined content warnings: Suggestive Themes, Animated Violence, Cartoon Mischief, et cetera...

Technically, getting an ESRB rating is voluntary, like a movie getting an MPAA rating, but in this case, it's voluntary in the same way as paying your taxes is voluntary. Not getting a rating is tantamount to being rated AO.

Predating the ESRB in the United States is Sega's V.R.C. [Videogame Rating Council], which used a system that was essentially a simplified version of ESRB's system:

  • Ages 6+ — GA General Audiences
  • Ages 13+ — MA-13 Mature (13+)
  • Ages 17+ — MA-17 Mature (17+)

In theory, the VRC was open to anybody, though it was overseen by Sega of America. In practice, it was only present on Sega games and third-party games for Sega consoles from 1993 until late 1994, when the ESRB was formed; most of the rest of the industry ignored it.

Also co-existing for a short time in the aftermath of the senate hearings that prompted the creation of the ESRB was Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC). Whereas ESRB was essentially console based, being headed up by Sega and Nintendo, RSAC was a system developed by primarily PC developers. For various reasons, RSAC never took off. It rated games according to thermometers - a thermometer for violence, sex, etc along with qualifiers. It was founded in 1994, closed in 1999 and reformed into Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). However, ICRA ended up getting shut down in October 2010, because it never achieved widespread acceptance.

     PEGI ("Pan-European Game Information", Europe except for Germany) 

  • Ages 3+ (4+ in Portugal)
  • Ages 7+ (6+ in Portugal)
  • Ages 12+ (used to be 11+ in Finland)
  • Ages 16+ (formerly 15+ in Finland)
  • Ages 18+

Add to this one or more icons indicating what gave it such a rating: offensive language, behaviors that can be construed as discrimination based on race, creed, ethnicity, and sex (including abuse against women and anyone who isn't heterosexual or doesn't identify as their birth gender), drug abuse, gambling, horror, sexual content (including innuendo and female characters in Stripperiffic clothing), and violence. However, those ratings are seemingly as random as those in the United States, as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess got 12+ for "violence". There's also the problem that it doesn't list what kind of violence is 12+ as opposed to 16+ violence. Perhaps it's due to a NICAM (the Dutch rating board that decides on these PEGI ratings) policy that also never seems to disclose why a movie is suitable for all ages despite it being about incest.

And as for visual novels, the PEGI doesn't consider them true games and as such will only rate their interactive parts; while this doesn't affect novels on the most interactive side of the spectrum such as Ace Attorney, this effectively skewers kinetic novels (visual novels completely devoid of interaction), leading to such hilarity as the official French release of the Higurashi: When They Cry sound novels, completely uncensored, getting slapped with a 7+ rating.

     USK (Germany) 

  • Without age restrictions
  • Restricted 6
  • Restricted 12
  • Restricted 16
  • Restricted 18

The USK (Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle) is the video game classification board of Germany, and it is legally enforceable. Games that are refused classification are placed on the "Index" and can only been bought on request to over 18s and cannot be advertised. Due to its strict censorship policies, many German gamers have had to import video games from Austria (due to the fact that it is another German-speaking country) due to the fact it uses PEGI.

     BBFC (UK) 
  • U
  • PG
  • 12
  • 15
  • 18
  • R18 - this is used when the content is not merely raunchy sex scenes or a few horrible murders, but for extreme violent mutilation and hardcore pornography films.

It's seemingly random as to which games go before the British Board of Film Classification, with most titles carrying a PEGI rating. The difference with the ESRB and PEGI systems is that the BBFC has the law to back it up. If a retailer makes a sale against BBFC guidelines, he is in trouble. This is the same rating system as used in films, with the same classification criteria — what gets a film a 15 also gets a game a 15. (Although, of course, this suggestion is generally up for debate, especially following the furor surrounding Manhunt 2.)

     FSK (Germany) 
  • FSK 0
  • FSK 6
  • FSK 12
  • FSK 16
  • FSK 18
  • Spio/JK

Much like BBFC it is enforced by the law. Some people in Germany have problems with the last two 18 and Spio/JK as the controls are much too strict and often lead to Wallbangers such as Starship Troopers getting a Spio/JK rating because it is accused of glorifying war. Spio/JK rated films are rare and can only be sold at the check-out, which leads to most people thinking FSK 18 films are the uncensored versions. Most publishers just give out censored lower rated versions, leading some people to think that this is all German politicians' plan to cleanse the country from violent media. In truth they just don't care.

     CERO (Japan) 
  • A (All Ages)
  • B (Ages 12+)
  • C (Ages 15+)
  • D (Ages 17+)
  • Z (Ages 18+) - These titles are legally obligated to be held behind counters and advertising for these titles is forbidden. They may only be purchased online if the individual has a credit card account (since, with very rare exceptions, minors under 18 cannot get their own credit cards).

Here, the only legally enforceable rating is the Z rating. So if you're under 17, you can get a D-rated game. As with the PEGI system, it adds icons that show why the game got this rating: romantic themes, sexual content, violence, horror, gambling, crime, use of tobacco and alcohol, use of drugs, and language. It originally had 4 age ratings when it started in 2003:

  • Free (All Ages)
  • Ages 12+
  • Ages 15+
  • Ages 18+

Since there was a gap between 15+ and 18+, the rating system was redesigned in 2006.

Sega Japan had their own rating system between 1994 and 2000 (i.e. the Sega Saturn era), with a different colored label for each rating: a green label for "all ages," a yellow label for "18+ recommended," and a red label for the 18+ "X" rating (which was mostly applied to strip mahjong games, though it was also applied to Mortal Kombat II and, strangely enough, a Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki fan disc). Sega also had a "violent content" advisory label, which is still used to supplement the CERO ratings.

Other Ratings

     Anime & Manga 

Many English versions of manga have ratings on the back, although nobody really pays attention to them at all. The ratings usually go as follows:

  • A: All Ages, with absolutely nothing offensive whatsoever except maybe one obscure Parental Bonus. Viz allows for mild language (slang like 'crap') and fantasy violence at this rating, while some publishers require an All Ages to be squeaky clean. Similar to G.
  • Y: Youth, 7 and up. Chaste kissing and monster fights go under here. Similar to PG. (The now-deceased Tokyopop had this ratings separated into two categories at 7+ and 10+ levels.)
  • T: 13 and up. Innuendo and blood. On rare occasion, mature themes alone can push a series to a T rating. (Example: Bunny Drop lacks anything objectionable until the incest plotline comes into play later in the series.) Similar to PG-13.
  • OT: Older Teens, 16 and up. Stuffed with fanservice or gorn. Some books may be shrinkwrapped at this rating. Similar to R.
  • M: Mature, either really gory or hentai, both (let's not think about that), other types of disturbing / heavy content, or gay relationships note . Similar to NC-17. Shrinkwrapped and usually not in bookstores anyway, but the papers are all too eager to inform you that some ten-year-old could pick it up in the library. (Which isn't too far from the truth. If a younger reader tries to check out Ghost in the Shell or AKIRA, libraries can't do much beyond suggest that it's inappropriate; it's not their job to decide what your kids are allowed to read, and without direct instructions from the parents many libraries won't deny materials to patrons.)

Anime on North American home media used to have a separate rating system, but nowadays the US TV ratings (or the MPAA ratings for theatrically released films) are used in conjunction with the Canadian home video ratings. It wasn't uncommon in the late 90s and early 2000s to see stickers like these on the covers of VHS tapes, and later on the back of DVDs. While some companies like Geneon relied on common age rating rounds like 13-up or 16-up, ADV Films would slap pretty much any number on them. The only company that still uses this "_ and up/_ and older" system as of 2016 is Media Blasters.


Not actually rated per se, though producers may use multiple "X" labels to imply that their movie is even raunchier than an ordinary vanilla X. XXX or "Triple-X" seems to be the most common usage. As ratings are completely unofficial and not backed by any organization, there is no hard and fast (haha) distinction between X, XXX, or any other number of X's. Unofficially, however, XXX generally denotes "hardcore" pornography (depiction of penetration of an orifice, either with a body part or other object, or depiction of ejection of bodily fluids) and single X denotes "softcore" pornography (lacking any depictions of such). In Canada, porn films are required to be classified while their US cousins do not require that.

  • If you live in the UK, porn is usually rated R18 by the BBFC. However pornography laws in Britain are quiet stringent on what's acceptable and what's not. The most obvious examples are prohibiting female golden showers and other extreme activities (which was recently banned in 2014 under David Cameron's Tory Government) that is banned on British soil. Perhaps why the UK has the strictest pornography laws in all of Europe.

  • Australia on the other hand has a long tumultuous history of harsh censorship (especially porn). Since 1984, all states have banned the X rating for porn (except for those in the A.C.T and Northern Territory). Because of this, most titles are either refused classification, refused to be sold without edits or not be sold in Australia at all. Female golden showers have always been banned in Australia.

  • New Zealand is not so much harsh on porn but still has issues with one (particularly any depiction of urolagnia which is illegal in NZ. However there is a harsh punishment, a person can be sentenced to 14 years of jail if objectionable content is being produced, being shared or being sold). The FVPC Act 1993 is enforced for these departments (including NZ Customs, Department of Internal Affairs and NZ Police) to ensure all content are abide by New Zealand law. if unsure what is allowed or not allowed in NZ, you can refer to this

     Fan Fiction 

The FictionRatings system is a self-imposed voluntary system used by online publishers, most notably Fan Fiction Dot Net and Fictionpress, who switched from the MPAA ratings when the MPAA objected. Very rarely used by other fanfiction sites since they're copyrighted to and because of the ubiquity and simplicity of the MPAA and BBFC systems.

  • B — ages 1-4 and preschool-level children, no violence, swearing, adult themes or ideas young children cannot comprehend. As anyone younger than five has no business being on in any way, and the majority of's stories involving preschool franchises and characters are very adult parodies which would scar any child for life, this rating was quickly phased out of the system entirely. Similar to the ESRB's equally unused eC rating.
  • K — ages 5+, no violence, swearing or adult themes. Similar to G.
  • K+ — ages 9+, mild violence or swearing and no adult themes. Similar to PG.
  • T — ages 13+, violence, mild language or mild adult themes. Similar to PG-13.
  • M — ages 16+, strong adult themes, language or violence. Similar to R. Filtered by default on searches, which leads to an inversion of the Rated M for Money effect where writers sometimes hesitate to give adult-oriented stories an M rating for fear of losing potential readers.
  • MA — ages 18+, explicit adult themes. Similar to NC-17. Controversially not allowed on Fanfiction.Net, at least in theory; in practice the administration seems to turn a blind eye to M-rated lemons beyond a cosmetic purge occasionally when some group en masse complains about them to satisfy their concerns, usually the infamous "Critics United"., an archive set up when banned MA stories, has its own system:

  • Adult — R
  • Adult+ — NC-17
  • Adult++ — Hardcore porn that makes Grindhouse movies look tasteful.

A similar rating system also runs on Archive of Our Own, a similar yet independent fan fiction site (Which ironically has a Fandom Rivalry with the above Fanfiction Dot Net due to the restrictions the latter carried):

  • Not Rated — Exactly What It Says on the Tin. For searching, screening, and other Archive functions, this may get treated the same way as mature and explicit-rated content.
  • General Audiences — The content is unlikely to be disturbing to anyone, and is suitable for all ages.
  • Teen And Up Audiences — The content may be inappropriate for audiences under 13.
  • Mature — The content contains adult themes (sex, violence, etc) that aren't as graphic as explicit-rated content.
  • Explicit — The content contains explicit adult themes, such as porn, graphic violence, etc.

If someone who doesn't have an account with the site reads a "Not Rated", "Mature" or "Explicit" rated work, they will receive a warning to advise them that the work may contain adult content. If they have an account with Archive of Our Own, however, they can just have the said warning disabled in their preferences, averting it.


Mexico legally has only four alphabetical ratings, but most theaters make up for it with a couple of unofficial classifications:

  • AA: Unofficial, usually means ages 3+. Also known as A3.
  • A: All ages.
  • B: Teenagers and older.
  • B15: Unofficial, usually means older teenagers, 15+.
  • C: Adults only. Theaters start asking here for voting cards (the official ID in Mexico).
  • D: Contains highly graphic material. Usually means some softcore or a lot of Gorn. Hostel was one of the few films to receive this profitable honor.


In Australia, films and video games have six main levels of ratings:

  • E — Exempt from classification (documentary, sport, news)
  • G — for all ages
  • PG — Parental Guidance is Recommended to persons under 15 years old
  • M — for Mature Audiences
  • MA15+ (Restricted 15+) — for Mature Audiences (Rating skipped for video games in South Australia; thank Mr Rau, attorney +general)
  • R18+ (Restricted 18+) — Adults only (Video Games rated this are banned in New South Wales)
  • X18+ (Restricted 18+) — Porn (available only in Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory due to State Laws)
  • RC (unofficial) — Refused Classification; as such, it is unlawful to sell, import and exhibit.

Aussie TV uses a similar system, designed by Free TV Australia:

  • G — for All ages
  • PG — Parental Guidance is recommended to young persons
  • M — for Mature Audiences (Watershed 20:30)
  • MA15+ — for Mature Audiences (Watershed 21:00)
  • AV15+ — for Programs with a lot of Violence (Watershed 21:30)

    United States Bishops 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Catholic News Service has its own ratings system for films (detailed here). These are not binding on Catholics, and are widely unknown or ignored today, though the organization's more active precursor, the Legion of Decency, helped pressure the Hollywood studios into enforcing The Hays Code. The classifications are:

  • A-I — general patronage
  • A-II — adults and adolescents
  • A-III — adults
  • Lnote  — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling
  • O — morally offensive. The O rating replaced the former B ("morally objectionable in part for all") and C (condemned) ratings in 1978.

     The Netherlands 

Kijkwijzer is the Netherlands' rating system for everything except video games, which are covered by PEGI. As noted above, the ratings are age-based and mostly self-explanatory. As with PEGI, Kijkwijzer uses pictograms to describe the reasons for content ratings: violence, fear, sex, discrimination, drugs and/or alcohol abuse, and coarse language. Note that only the 16+ rating is required to be enforced, all other age ratings are merely suggestions.


Russian classification system was introduced in 2012 by Protect Children from Information Act (the actual name). Classification covers all kinds of media (movies, TV and radio programming, music, books, video games, websites, magazines and papers, except news broadcasts and commercials), and it grades them all by the same system hard-coded into the law. In almost every case content is rated by the distributor (save for movies, which are rated by Ministry of Culture during certification).

  • 0+: Allows nothing that could damage the well-being of children. Safe to say not every Disney fairy tale would make the cut.
  • 6+: Allows brief description of illness, accidents and mentions of natural death in a way that doesn't induce children's panic.
  • 12+: Allows brief violence without graphical descriptions of killing/crippling (with condemnation of said actions in narration and compassion to the victim); brief mention of smoking, drinking, gambling in a non-provocative way without showing the actual process or products; relations between man and woman without mentioning sex, should be non-graphic, inoffensive and non-obscene. One kiss raises the bar here.
  • 16+: Accidents, catastrophes, car crashes and natural deaths demonstrated in a way that doesn't induce children's panic or horror. Violence and brutality (non-sexual) with condemnation of said actions in narration and compassion to the victim. Brief using of swear words (non-vulgar). Relations between man and woman could be more graphic, but still non-obscene and without mentioning sex. Mentions of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs by their names in a non-provocative way still without showing the actual process or products. Yes, TV channels actually blurring cigarettes out of people's mouths on all programming.
  • 18+: Forbidden for kids. Over-the-air TV programming rated 18+ allowed only after 11pm. Mentions and descriptions of sex (porno still not allowed on TV); using drugs; smoking, gambling and drinking (it still have to be condemned though, so TV channels nowadays just air the standard anti-smoking bumper before every program to comply without cutting the scenes); violence; swear words (vulgarities are prohibited on TV and radio regardless of rating); everything above that could induce children's panic. Everything that defies family values, including propaganda of homosexual relationships, provoking disrespect to parents or other family members. That brilliant line covers every single dysfunctional family sitcom in existence, which usually results in heavy cuts to make them 16+ (especially the scenes with rebellious kids defying authority).

As you can see, said system is extremely harsh, taken from the deep dark corners of Moral Guardians collective mind. It became the target of criticism by virtually everyone, even by Moral Guardians themselves who rightfully claim that insane classification in current form doesn't prevent children to see it in any way. With TV, digital transition was halted dead by US/EU sanctions, and there are still no parental control chips on the market, so TV ratings are outright useless without parent present at home. There are still no written responsibility or punishment for retailer who sell products disregarding the ratings or for wrong classification by distributor. Something is definitely coming.

  • U: Tous public or For everyone
  • U!: (TV Equivalent: -10): For everyone but not recommended for kids
  • -12: Restricted to 12 and over
  • -16: Restricted to 16 and over
  • -18: Restricted to 18 and over

The French rating system is quite possibly the most lenient of any, both in Europe and in the world. Nudity and/or sexual content is actually considered very lenient, almost stereotypical, though a lot of it comes from having no real guideline; especially looking at the examples provided here.

TV is a little stricter than the film ratings, but even then, are still more allowing than other systems, compared to the United States or Canada. (For example, South Park airs with a -10 rating, compared to other countries giving something close to 16 or 18 and over, completely uncut.)


  • Btl (Barntillåten) - All ages allowed
  • 7 (Från 7 år) - For ages 7 and older (children under 7 allowed with a parent or adult guardian)
  • 11 (Från 11 år) - For ages 11 and older (children 7-10 allowed with a parent or adult guardian)
  • 15 (Från 15 år) - For ages 15 and older (children 7-14 allowed with a parent or adult guardian)

Like France, Sweden pays little if any attention to sexual content or profanity in films, and pays more attention to its impact on a child. Not all films rated Btl" would be considered necessarily kid friendly by American standards, as many American would find it quite the opposite many cases. Films with lots of adult humor/content like Magic Mike, The Aristocrats, Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids and American Pie have all received a Btl rating. Even films that most countries have rated for adult audiences, like Sausage Party and The Hangover were given a fairly lenient 11 rating.

The fact that ratings don't go higher than 15 would viewed by many in English speaking countries such as U.S., U.K., and Australia as bringing some potentially upsetting implications, since legally, young high schoolers can see some of the grisliest, gnarliest films imaginable without their parents knowing.


  • T - Tutti or Everyone
  • VM-14 - Restricted to 14 and over
  • VM-18 - Restricted to 18 and over

The Italian rating system may be easily the most lenient one towards violence; sexual content is usually treated a bit more strictly, with explicit and/or crude sex references often garnering a VM-14 at minimum. That said, the dividing line between T and VM-14 on both of those topics often appears pretty random.


  • G - Everyone
  • PG-12 - Under 12 must be accompanied
  • R-15 - No one under 15 admitted
  • R-18 - No one under 18 admitted

As a far as rating systems go, Japan can be pretty lax for an Asian country (according to IMDb, at least), though it is not the most lenient one. Notable for the sheer number of horror flicks that are rated G, which could make you believe that, adult content aside, scaring children to death isn't something that is frowned upon there.

PG-12 already includes a lot of R-rated stuff; a film usually has to be very gory or adult to get a R-15 (Battle Royale and Sausage Party have this rating, for instance), though the boundaries between ratings may seem a little random by Western standards.


Example of: