Just like television, movies are a form of media that can expose children to many situations that might not be appropriate for their age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published studies that found many movies promote unsafe behaviors such as drinking and smoking. The AAP has also found that children that watch movies where the characters engage in risky behaviors are more likely to engage in those same behaviors themselves. There are rating systems and resources in place to help you and your child make the best decisions on what movies to watch.
The Movie Picture Association of America (MPAA) has a rating system which is used for every movie released in the U.S.
G-rated motion pictures contain nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose children 0 to 18 view the motion picture.
A PG-rated motion picture should be investigated by parents before they let their younger children attend. The PG rating indicates that, in the view of the Rating Board, parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, and parents should make that decision.
A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suitable for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture.
An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean "obscene" or "pornographic" in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children
There are several websites dedicated to helping parents and children make informed decisions about whether or not to watch a movie. These sites review movies that are currently in theaters. Some sites even break down the parts containing risky behaviors so parents have an idea what to expect before watching.