Top 20 PG-13 Movies That Should Have Been Rated R | Articles on (2024)

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Timothy MacAusland

An R rating for these movies would have stood for “rectified.” For this list, we'll be looking at PG-13 movies that would have benefitted from an R-rated approach, and not so much overly edgy PG-13 movies we think the MPAA misjudged. Our countdown includes "Taken", “Suicide Squad”, “Alien vs. Predator”, “The Ring”, “World War Z”, and more!

#20: “Suicide Squad” (2016)

The film coming off the heels of the very dour “Batman v Superman,” early promotional material for “Suicide Squad” seemed to confirm that the DC Extended Universe would be taking a much more serious storytelling route, even with its more offbrand entries. However, some poor reception to the former film, and a lot of reshoots later, “Suicide Squad” turned into, basically, a jumbled, PG-13 mess whose rating undercut much of the thematic richness of its source material. Fortunately, now that superhero movies have had more success in R territory, reports have surfaced that the sequel will indeed go edgier. Still, we’ll believe it when we see it.

#19: “Mortal Kombat” (1995)

“Mortal Kombat” was, and still is, one of the bloodiest video games of all time. After its release in the arcade, a live-action feature was inevitable. The film itself is okay, bearing the look and characters of the video game, plus that kickass theme song. Yet, there’s still a grave disappointment that came with its PG-13 rating. This means no blood and gore, poor fatalities, and pretty much none of the gruesome imagery that “Mortal Kombat” is best known for. It might have been a box office champ, but the film was far from a flawless victory when it comes to faithfully adapting its source material. The 2021 reboot, thankfully, is slated to be rated R.

#18: “Ghost in the Shell” (2017)

If only a PG-13 rating was the worst of this movie’s problems. A live-action remake of the 1995 anime film of the same name, which in turn was based on the manga series, 2017’s “Ghost in the Shell” was primed to challenge audiences with weighty sci-fi themes and striking visuals. What we got was a fairly lifeless slog that failed to capture the essence of the source material. While the story never called for excessive violence, a sharper edge could have made up for dull acting and writing and fit the adult viewing audience. Instead producers took the safe route with its rating and still had it falter financially, though we’re sure a lot of that had to do with the whitewashing controversy.

#17: “The Shallows” (2016)

Between this, “Shark Night” and the “47 Meters Down” movies, shark-based horror-thrillers have, oddly enough, skewed more to the PG-13 crowd than the R-rated one. Granted, that’s probably where the big bucks are, but more often than not it neuters the bloody carnage we already know is happening. Of the aforementioned films, “The Shallows” is easily the best, what with its pulse-pounding setpieces and clever camerawork, but we can’t deny it would have been better had it gone all out. Just judging by the way it roughs up its protagonist, we can feel this movie wanting to go R, unafraid to make its beast seem ferocious. Still, every time it flirts with an R rating, the movie pumps the brakes.

#16: “Alien vs. Predator” (2004)

How in the everloving heck did we get a crossover movie of two of sci-fi’s bloodiest franchises that was rated PG-13? How? On paper, it would seem that both series’ usual flourishes are represented, with a tricked out arsenal of deadly Predator weapons and plenty of Xenomorph chest-bursting. Sure, there are gobs of green alien blood, but otherwise, perhaps for fear of already feeling silly conceptually, “Alien vs. Predator” was stripped of its teeth. Both layers of teeth, that is. A sequel, “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” and marketed as “AVPR” learned this lesson and went to the next level, only somehow managed to be worse all the same. Oh, well. At least we have the unrated cut.

#15: “The Wolverine” (2013)

Comic book readers know Wolverine as one of the deadliest, most badass characters ever created. While we got to glimpse some of his famous berserker rage in “X2,” moviegoers haven’t been treated to a true show of his full abilities. 2013’s “The Wolverine” could have been the opportunity fans had been waiting for. We mean, come on, it’s Wolverine vs. Ninjas in Japan! That’s a blood fest waiting to happen. Sadly, the X Men franchise has been keen on keeping their films open to all theatre-going audiences. We did however get an unrated version with the Blu-ray release, but come on! We want to see that added "R" stuff up on the big screen! Hey, Deadpool delivered the naughty parts. [Replaced part of line here for length, can keep if needed.] Thankfully, 2017’s “Logan” went the R route.

#14: “Assassin’s Creed” (2016)

According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the “Assassin’s Creed” games have largely been rated “M for Mature” for blood, strong violence, strong language, and in some cases, sexual content. The movie on the other hand: rated PG-13 “for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic elements and brief strong language.” So, in essence, the video game, but toned way down. As if the stylization of the movie wasn’t languid and pallid enough, any chance of redemption in the form of believable action sequences went right out the window. Even on an intellectual level we can feel that the movie wants to be mature, so why wouldn’t it do so in other aspects?

#13: “Pearl Harbor” (2001)

Using film to teach a history lesson isn’t an uncommon practice. Still, there’s a difference between the hard R realism of a film like “Saving Private Ryan” and the young adult marketed and PG-13 rated “Pearl Harbor.” Director Michael Bay’s retelling of the December 1941 attack on the titular naval base had its moments of intensity. But focusing on a boring love triangle for younger audiences, rather than going for an honest war tragedy, felt like an insult to the historic event itself. Though a triumph at the box office, “Pearl Harbor” is far from the over-the-top, violent explosion fests Michael Bay is best known for.

#12: “Insidious” (2011)

Most horror movies in general should be created with an R Rating in mind. The images they can produce are often intense and can sometimes stick in your head for days. “Insidious,” from director James Wan, centers on a family trying to keep ghosts from taking over their son. Unsurprisingly, this storyline produces some of those aforementioned long lasting horror images. Despite a PG-13 rating giving audiences the okay to bring their kids in with them, it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone if their children come running to them in the middle of the night saying they dreamt of some of the scary stuff they saw in “Insidious.” Horror is a fun genre, but just mayyyyybe it’s not for all ages.

#11: “The Ring” (2002)

This is the movie that scared a whole generation of youngsters. And while it subsequently served as the introduction to horror for many, “The Ring” gets pretty cozy sidling up next to that R boundary, without ever crossing it. It is rife with bleak color palettes and strikingly disturbing imagery, so much so that you wouldn’t know it was PG-13 just by looking at it. In fact, much of the graphic violence had to be either toned down or removed completely to avoid an R rating, including the infamous flashback to a murder. Just looking at the box office receipts, we can see why this choice was made, but we’d still like to see the whole shebang.

#10: “Terminator Genisys” (2015)

You remember the “Terminator” films, right? You know, those unstoppable cyborg fight fests with harsh language and bloody action? Well, Hollywood felt that after years of R-rated exclusiveness, it was time to branch out to a wider audience. While “Genisys” isn’t the first PG-13 rated entry in this franchise, it was a mistake to keep that trend going after “Terminator Salvation” was so poorly received. If you ask most fans, “Genisys” didn’t need to exist in general. Despite Arnold Schwarzenegger’s praised return, treating the film with kid gloves didn’t help its chances of being a new launch point for the once prideful “Terminator” series.

#9: “Sucker Punch” (2011)

Director Zack Snyder followed up his successful R-rated adaptations of “300” and “Watchmen” with this stylish fantasy action flick. Following the exploits of Babydoll, who seeks to escape an insane asylum/brothel, the film boasts much of Snyder’s visual flair and skill for darker storytelling. With subject matter dealing with lobotomy and the danger of rape at the hands of the insane head honchos of the facility, it’s kind of strange that this movie wasn’t Rated R. Snyder reportedly originally wanted it to be that way, but had to cut scenes for the censors. Maybe he also did it to bring younger viewers, especially girls, into an action film led by powerful female leads. Whatever the reasons, the decision was a sucker punch to the film, and led to this one underperforming at the box office.

#8: “The Expendables 3” (2014)

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the first attempt to make “The Expendables” franchise more open to all ages. The same tactic had been attempted with “The Expendables 2.” This was quickly met with rage and boycott threats from fans. “The Expendables” series is supposed to be filled with nods to the glory days of ‘80s action films. There should be a ton of blood, one-liners, muscle-bound strong men, and a lot of explosions. Compared to the first two films, “The Expendables 3” is pretty tame, and borderline boring, even with all the explosions. Hopefully the lesson will be learned here for future installments of this action franchise and we can get back to basics.

#7: “Venom” (2018)

Here’s yet another comic book adaptation restrained by the superhero genre’s predisposition to the PG-13 rating. Centering around the classic Spider-Man villain-turned-anti-hero, “Venom” was set up perfectly to be the kind of high-octane, head-biting blockbuster that could give longtime fans the chance to revel in the kind of bloody, cinematic fun they couldn’t have if the character was under the banner of the MCU. But, nope, turns out Sony decided otherwise. It is beyond us how they could make a movie about a gelatinous monster that eats criminals PG-13, let alone its upcoming sequel, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” Somehow we doubt there will be.

#6: “The Dark Knight” (2008)

And to keep the comic book train rolling a little longer, let’s look at what many consider to be the gold standard for superhero movies, “The Dark Knight.” No, never did we expect Warner Bros. to actually make a Batman movie rated R - nor do we still in this moviegoing climate - but how cool would it be if they did? Of course, by proxy that means “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight Rises” deserve special mention, but if there’s one particular entry in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy that feels tailor-made for the R treatment, it’s this one. Heath Ledger’s nightmarish performance as the Joker alone is evidence of that

#5: “Drag Me to Hell” (2009)

Sam Raimi, though perhaps most widely known for helming the “Spider-Man” trilogy, got his start establishing himself in the horror genre. We don’t know about you, but we can’t imagine his pulpy “Evil Dead” movies being anything other than R. So, with it being in much the same vein, who thought it would be best to make his return to horror, “Drag Me to Hell,” PG-13? It didn’t burn down the box office like some other entries on this list, so we don’t think it would’ve isolated most of its audience by going R. Nevertheless, producers for some reason found the need to have much of the bloodletting excised from the finished product. That’s like eating a hot dog with nothing on it.

#4: “RoboCop” (2014)

Much like “Terminator,” “RoboCop” was a staple of the ‘80s action genre. The original was one of the most excessively violent action films ever made and that violence is one of the main reasons people remember it. Rebooting the character for a new generation wasn’t a terrible idea. No, the terrible idea was eliminating most of the violence, especially with regards to how cop Alex Murphy becomes the titular cyborg. Whether or not this reboot is better than its PG-13 brother, “RoboCop 3,” is debatable. Still, this action film doesn’t hold a candle to the very hard R entries that preceded it.

#3: “World War Z” (2013)

A zombie outbreak that wreaks havoc on a global scale? Like zombies desperate for brains, this is the kind of undead epic fans of the zombie genre have been clamoring for. And while “World War Z” boasts great scope and superstar Brad Pitt, it loses some of its intensity with the dialed down rating. The Romero-style carnage we find in most battles against the undead are nowhere to be seen in this Marc Forster-directed movie. While a fun film, “World War Z” could’ve been better if it had been given the chance to show those old school, gruesome zombie horror tropes on a worldwide stage.

#2: “Taken” (2008)

Honestly, just by watching this one, many of us might have been tricked into thinking it was rated R. Credited for kickstarting Liam Neeson’s career rebirth as a badass action star, “Taken” follows retired field agent Bryan Mills as he tracks down his daughter’s kidnappers in an attempt to save her from European human trafficking. Now if that’s not an R-rated premise, we don’t know what is. Somehow avoiding nudity despite delving into the thick of the sex trade, the movie also skimps on the bloodier aspects of Bryan’s quest. Thankfully, the action still is entertaining, but it definitely could have used an R rating, to say nothing of its lackluster sequels.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Austin Powers” Franchise (1997-2002)
Randier Than Most R-Rated Fare

“Black Christmas” (2019)
But It’s a Slasher Movie

“Total Recall” (2012)
Not as Edgy as the Original

“Spawn” (1997)
Seriously Toned Down From Comic Book

“The Hunger Games” Franchise (2012-15)
These Could Have Been Darker

#1: “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007)

This one might be one of the most successful entries on this list, with some calling this movie the best “Die Hard” since the original. Still, making a “Die Hard” movie PG-13 isn’t without drawbacks. The blood and violence the franchise is partly known for is tremendously toned down compared to previous entries. And while John McClane remains the king of badass one-liners, his signature motto is almost completely muted. That alone is pretty unforgivable. Probably best to stick with an R rating and let McClane do his thing unhindered and uncut. Then again… it’s not like an R rating saved “A Good Day to Die Hard.”

Top 20 PG-13 Movies That Should Have Been Rated R | Articles on (2024)
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