Health + Safety

Study: PG-13 Movies are Now More Violent Than R-Rated ’80s Flicks

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Movies from the 1980s like “Terminator” or “Die Hard” were rated R at the time of their release – but if they were released today, they’d probably be rated PG-13, a new study suggests.

That’s because PG-13 movies today — such as “The Hunger Games” or “The Avengers” — contain more violence than the R-rated films of the 1980s, according to a new report published today in the journal Pediatrics. In particular, gun violence in PG-13 films has tripled since 1985, the year the PG-13 rating was first introduced. And overall, violence in movies has nearly quadrupled since the 1950s.

Psychologists say it’s a worrisome trend that we should take seriously, because there is evidence that watching violence on screen increases aggression in real life.

“Of course it’s not the only factor, and it may not even be the most important factor, but it isn’t a trivial factor — and it’s one we can change,” says Brad Bushman, an Ohio State University psychologist and lead author of the new report.

Bushman and colleagues analyzed 945 popular films released from 1950 to 2012. Each movie was among the 30 top-grossing films of that year, and they randomly chose 15 of those top 30 movies to scrutinize. Undergrads watched every film and counted every violent act — they defined a violent sequence as “physical acts where the aggressor makes or attempts to make some physical contact with the intention of causing injury or death.”

They found that since 2009, PG-13 movies have featured as much or more violence than the R-rated films released those same years. And in 2012, there was more gun violence in PG-13 films than in the R-rated ones out that year.

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