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I've been curious about this for a while, though I really haven't found any kind of an explanation as to whether the choice of 17 as the allowed age for R-rated movies was completely arbitrary, or if there was something to make that happen.

Of course, now that people can go online and watch these movies at home or get them on DVD for their home theater system, I don't know if these ratings still apply unless one were to go to an actual cinema.

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    Today's technology has nothing to do with how accessible these movies are; before streaming you would he able to do the same by watching them on cable or renting them from a store with lax governance. – Jason P Sallinger Mar 14 at 11:02
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    The title of your question asks about why 17 was chosen as the age for R rated movies, but the body asks (and emphasises) why R and X are not combined into one rating. These seem to be two very different questions, to me, and should probably be asked separately if you want answers to both. Which one would you like answered here? – Steve-O Mar 14 at 13:41
  • I'd like to have the first question here, and then I can recreate a new question later about combining the R and X rating. – HeavenlyHarmony Mar 14 at 15:10
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    My parents took me with them to see Diehard when I was 7. I slept through most of the movie, mind you, but when I was with an adult, the rules for R-rating were never enforced, unless I was alone in my younger teens. But even as a late teen, looking younger than I was, I usually wasn't contested about buying R-rated tickets. If I remember right the rating system started in late 60's -- I don't know how well they were enforced in the 70's before we had VHS and/or Cable became a far reaching thing or a thing that most people had?? But it seems like there was never really any serious enforcement. – Darth Locke Mar 14 at 15:42
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Actually, at first, it was 16!

When the MPAA released the first ratings in 68 to replace the Hays Code, an R rating meant 16+. When the ratings were first conceived, only three where recognized, G, M and R. G were for general audiences, M for mature (parental discretion is advised) and R, for restricted, was 16+.

The National Association of Theater Owners quickly asked for a fourth, labelled X, that would mean people 16 and under could not see the movie. It was not an official seal of the MPAA but could be self-applied by publishers if they wished.

In 1970, to better reflect the age of majority in most states, the two ratings were adjusted up a year, which meant that X movies could only be seen by adults, along with clarifications on the code, like the replacement of the M for GP.

Source 1, Wikipedia
Source 2, the MPAA website

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  • Did you get this information from somewhere? If so, you should put the source in the answer... – Gustavo Gabriel Mar 18 at 14:15
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    There you go, I've added 2 sources :) – Synthetic_Synapses Mar 18 at 15:00

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