Open Forum Friday: Are PG-13 Action Movies Always Inferior to R-Rated Ones?

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The Expendables 3 arrives in theatres this weekend with a PG-13 rating, becoming the first installment in the series to make itself accessible to a teen audience and re-igniting a familiar debate across the blogosphere. We’ve already seen sequels and reboots of R-rated ’80s action franchises like The Terminator, Die Hard and Robocop softened up to broaden their appeal and increase their box office numbers. While most of these movies were not particularly well-received, many would argue that the lack of blood and guts was the least of their problems. When it comes to The Expendables, however, the franchise has little reason to exist other than to play to an older crowd and serve as a violent throwback to the days of old. So does a PG-13 rating automatically make The Expendables 3 worse than its predecessors?

In recent years, the action movie landscape has changed from a place where cops and soldiers wage bloody wars against bad guys with bullets to a place where superheroes and CG robots duke it out in much more fantastical fashion. The increasing importance of the teen demographic and a more politically-aware social climate have driven movie studios to focus on escapism over gritty realism. Even when gritty realism is desired, the dreaded “shaky cam” aesthetic and rapid fire editing are often used to tone down violent scenes. But is the graphic violence really so essential or are there other more important elements to making a great action movie? Can a movie still have thrilling action sequences without excessive amounts of blood? Is an R-rated action movie always better than a PG-13 one? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • Dave Fontana

    I don’t think that a PG-13 rating automatically makes an action movie inferior to one with an R rating. Blood and gore aren’t always essential. Using The Expendables 3 as an example, I didn’t feel that it was any worse than the previous two (or better). None of the films are perfect, but the flaws don’t come from the lack of violence, it’s more from an overload of characters and an uninteresting screenplay.

  • Owozifa

    Indiana Jones will always make this answer, “Nope.”

  • gordonbleu

    i do miss those 80s blood squibs but i feel that it is not necessarilly a lack of violence these days in pg-13 action movies but the language and occasional T&A that helped get a movie that R and helped to make 80s early 90s action movies so memorable

  • 5OF4

    Having watched Expendables 3 it wasn’t the same with the toned down violence. Bring back the squibs x

  • Indianamcclain

    I prefer R, but there are tons of PG-13 action movies that are awesome. And I loved Die Hard 4, granted I prefer the R rated version, but the PG-13 version wasn’t bad at all.

  • parapa

    I suspect Raiders would have a hard time getting a PG-13 if it was released today. Temple of Doom even moreso. Both would’ve ended up getting released, but they would be slightly trimmed back, and not the versions we have now.

  • Owozifa

    I don’t really buy that reasoning, as there have been studies to suggest modern PG-13 films have violence on the level of R rated ones from the mid 80s.

  • Lior

    Temple of Doom was actually the movie that helped create the PG-13 rating. The MPAA wanted to slap it with an R but the producers objected vehemently. And thus PG-13 was born as a compromise. That was Spielberg at the height of his power, and even the mighty MPAA bowed down to him…

  • Jameson

    I’d say the choreography/direction are more important than the amount of blood and gore.

  • FDB

    If the choice is between PG-13 or shitty digital blood, I’ll take PG-13 all day. I think people argue that the R matters because the great R-rated action films that people reference in that argument (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Robocop) are from a time when ALL action movies were better than they have been recently, regardless of the rating. If you look at modern R-rated action movies, they’re pretty bad, because most modern action movies are bad.

  • Indianamcclain

    Or in their case the CG blood.

  • LordAwesome

    I’ll take the PG rated RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK over any R-rated action movie.

  • Brittany Gresang

    Bond. James Bond.

  • Snabel

    Porn > Romatic Comedies always, but for action movies it’s slightly more nuanced. I would be more inclined to see a R rated action though.

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  • Cameron

    I’ve always preferred R Rated action films because they have a better impact, are more hardcore, and they show the consequences of the mayhem. besides some exceptions, I hate pg-13 action, there’s no blood, there’s no gore, they never show the consequences of the mayhem, and they use shaky cam and cut aways WAY TOO MUCH. So in short, R Rated action films are so much better, including the foreign ones