I'm curious how the movie The Right Stuff (1983) got away with a PG rating when there are at least 4 occurrences of the f-word. I'm not certain if there have ever been any hard set and official rules on the use of the f-word by the MPAA but it seems like in general, the f-word will get at least a PG-13 rating with very few, if any, exceptions.


2 Answers 2


Because the PG-13 rating wasn't created until the following year in 1984. And the leniency and context rules for cursing were much more relaxed. The current MPAA rule is a single non-sexual Fuck for PG-13. It is more of a guideline that can be fought, and is done with some frequency.

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    Hmm... ok that explains the initial rating, but why wouldn't they change the rating after the PG-13 rating was created? Its not uncommon for old movies to receive a new rating when the guidelines change.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:19
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    That's a separate question, but I've never heard of a rating change after the movie premiers, unless the movie changes something. Most often when the unrated full cut comes out on home video.
    – cde
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:21
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    Temple of Doom, essentially the movie which caused PG-13 to be created, is still rated PG.
    – cde
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:28
  • You're right, I could have sworn I'd heard all kinds of examples of movies that received new ratings after a few years, but everything example I can find of a rating being changed was either because of changed content or an appeal prior to release. This article gives some interesting info about PG movies using the f-word and I found some interesting info about the original rating of The Right Stuff as well.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:42
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    I believe the reason many films don't receive new ratings is because they're supplied by the MPAA, which has a trademark on ratings other than X. In order to receive a rating in the NC-17 range or lower, they would most likely have to resubmit the movie for re-rating. Given how many films come out each year I doubt the MPAA or even the studios have much interest in doing that, and besides that the ratings were a product of their time.
    – MattD
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 1:51

As mentioned by @cde, the short answer is that it received a PG rating because PG-13 did not exist at the time. Reading this answer led me to some more details that I feel are important.

First: The Right Stuff initially received an R rating.

From wikipedia - "The Right Stuff (1983)"

The film was originally rated "R" (Restricted, which means no one under 17 admitted) by the Motion Picture Association of America because of some strong language (the word "fuck" is used 5 times, which meant a near-impossible chance of it receiving anything short of an "R" rating) a scene of implied masturbation and other hard content; but it was given a "PG" rating on appeal (the PG-13 rating did not exist then; it was created the year after this film was released).

Second: Only two movies have ever been rated PG that used the f-word

From wikipedia - "List of films that most frequently use the word "fuck"" -

The Right Stuff (1983) contains five uses of "fuck", and All the President's Men (1976) uses the word seven times. Both portray historical events and were granted PG ratings on release; the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984. The Right Stuff continues to have a PG rating. The current version of All the President's Men contains 11 uses of "fuck" and is rated R.

So the only other PG movie that has ever received that rating while still using the f-word was "All the President's Men" which received an R rating in its current version because the content was changed (now contains 11 uses of the f-word).

So the answer appears to be that The Right Stuff received a PG rating because of an appeal which was apparently granted because it portrays historical events, and the PG-13 rating did not exist at the time. Most likely, if PG-13 rating had existed at the time, it would have received that instead of PG after the appeal, but that is only my personal opinion.

An obvious followup question as to why the rating has not changed is because the content has not changed and a rating appears to only be changed either due to a change in content or due to an appeal prior to its release.

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