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After watching the movie Foxcatcher, I was very surprised to learn that the movie was rated R, especially considering that there was virtually no sexual content or profanity in the movie at all. The content descriptor states that it earned its rating due to: "some drug use and a scene of violence."

The violent scene was relatively tame and certainly would seem to fall within the realm of PG-13. The drug use involved two characters on different occasions using cocaine. Is that alone enough to push a movie from PG-13 to R?

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This question may not be able to be answered by people that aren't members of the MPAA or Sony.

No one but the MPAA (and possibly, but not definitely, the studio) knows the exact criteria the MPAA uses to rate films.

As pointed out in the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The MPAA will not reveal any information about who or why certain decisions are made, and that the association will not even reveal to the filmmaker the specific scenes that need to be cut in order to get alternative rating [ Kirby Dick (2006-01-25). This Film is not Yet Rated (Film)].

Edit: Trey Parker and Matt Stone revealed that Major Studios can get information from the MPAA regarding the reasons specific cuts of films have received their rating, while independent movie producers can't get the same information. In the same interview they quote the MPAA as saying "we [the MPAA] caan't tell you what to cut because that would make us a censorship organization".

It might be fair to say that only the MPAA or an executive of the Sony would be able to provide the answer to your question. If Sony has this information, it may have been leaked during the Sony hack.

  • The MPAA is a censorship organization that should be disbanded. – Ben Plont Dec 30 '14 at 17:39
  • The guys from South Park revealed that the MPAA does provide detailed notes WRT movies from major studios when they request them. – BCdotWEB Dec 30 '14 at 17:59
  • at 1:33 TP & MS quote the MPAA as saying "we can't tell you what to cut, that would make us a censorship organization". TP & MS made their own cuts and changes and resubmitted until they got an R rating for Orgazmo. – Ben Plont Dec 30 '14 at 18:24
  • But I can add to my answer that Major Studios can get info from the MPAA. – Ben Plont Dec 30 '14 at 18:28
  • And half a minute later they explain how the MPAA was happy to cooperate when they did a movie with a major studio which got an NC-17. They then tell the story of how New Line Cinema also didn't get anywhere with the MPAA until New Line was bought by a major studio which was a sponsor of the MPAA. – BCdotWEB Dec 30 '14 at 23:21
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While Wiki is never a definitive source of information due to the way that information is obtained, you can certainly take a look at the Wiki page for MPAA ratings and have a fairly decent idea of why Foxcatcher might have achieved an R rating. They appear to be fairly strict on drug depictions due to the morality of it.

Drug use content is restricted to PG-13 and above.[22] An example of an otherwise PG film being assigned a PG-13 rating for a drug reference (momentary, along with brief language) is Whale Rider. The film contained only mild profanity, but was rated PG-13 because of a scene where drug paraphernalia were briefly visible.

A direct quote from that Wiki:

"The MPAA rating system is one of various motion picture rating systems that are used to help parents decide what films are appropriate for their children."

Depictions of drug use, especially cocaine, are probably best left for older teens.

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