Which MPAA Rating Leads to the Highest Grossing Films?
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Which MPAA Rating Leads to the Highest Grossing Films?

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | July 8, 2012 | Comments ()


The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony's reboot of the Marvel franchise, shot its sticky substance all over the box office this weekend, racking up $65 million over the three-day period and $140 million since opening on Tuesday. It didn't quite match the six-day total of the previous two Spider-Man movies, but it did fare significantly better than recent franchise reboots like Batman Begins and X-Men: First Class. The test will be how it does in the coming weeks, and while the Cinemascore was high (an A-), the crushing competition of The Dark Knight Rises in two weeks may halt The Amazing Spider-Man before it reaches $300 million.

I also noticed that the $65 million three-day frame was the 47th highest opening weekend of all time for a PG-13 movie, which got me wondering: Which rating fares the best in terms of box office? I suppose it's not surprising that the PG-13 rating -- which has been around since 1984 -- is by far the most successful ratings.

Here's a look at the numbers:

  • The top four movies of all time (Avatar, Titanic, The Avengers and The Dark Knight) are PG-13 movies.

  • Nineteen of the top 30 movies of all time are PG-13.

  • 54 of the Top 100 Movies of All Time are PG-13.

  • 9 of the Top 100 Movies of All Time are G Rated.

  • 30 of the Top 100 Movies of All Time are PG Rated

  • 7 of the Top 100 Movies of All time are R-Rated

  • The Highest Grossing NC-17 Movie of All Time (Showgirls) is only the 2706th highest grossing movie ever.

  • Between 1995 and 2012, PG-13 movies dad an average box-office Gross of $42 million; the average for G-Rated movies was $38 million; the average for PG-Rated movies was $37 million, and the average gross for R-Rated movies was $15 million.

  • From 1995 to 2011, 3,400 R-Rated movies were released in theaters; 1900 PG-13 Rated movies were released in theaters; 930 PG-Rated films, and 238 G-Rated films were released in theaters.


    As for the rest of the box-office story, Ted continues to perform incredibly well, adding $32 million over the weekend to bring its ten-day total to $120 million. Not bad for an R-rated movie about a profanity-fueled, pot-smoking Teddy Bear. Meanwhile, Brave is hanging in there. It added $20 million and has now made $174 million.

    Oliver Stone's Savages had a modest $16.2 million opening (Oliver Stone's third best ever, and best for an R-Rated movie), while Katy Perry's Part of Me opened in 8th with $7.1 million.

    Magic Mike dropped a whopping 60 percent in week two, but the $5 million movie is closing in on $75 million and likely to top $100 million, so Soderbergh isn't sweating it. Finally, in 9th and 10th place went to the two films that will probably battle it out for the highest grossing indie flicks of the summer, Moonrise Kingdom ($4.6 million, $26 million overall) and Woody Allen's To Rome with Love ($3.5 million, $5.2 million after two weeks).

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  • Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

    • superasente

      It's odd that you would use a cosplay-posed picture as the header to this article. It seems to have no connection to the content of the article. Unless "The Dark Knight" being in the same franchise as the other two Batman films (the ones you actually reference in this post) is a close enough relationship to hinge the readership's expectations on. But still, why use a cosplay photo?

      The internet can't be running out of pictures already.

      [checks internet]

      Yep, still plenty of pictures.

    • Mr_Grumpypants

      "For an R-rated movie about a profanity-fueled, pot-smoking Teddy Bear." This sentence feels incomplete.

    • zeke_the_pig

      Judging by your review of it, I'll put a few million up for Savages just by my goddamn self.

    • Becca

      Based on my own common sense, I think that overall PG-13 movies are the most profitable. With that rating, tweens can still get away with lying about their age to get into movie theaters (as my friends and I did many a time) and older teens and adults don't feel like they're seeing a neutered product.

    • e jerry powell

      Do we account for movies that were subsequently re-rated (e.g. Last Tango in Paris, Midnight Cowboy), or did those films not do enough box office to merit consideration?

    • PDamian

      If an NC-17 is the equivalent of the old X rating, then Midnight Cowboy outsold Showgirls, making $44,785,053 to Showgirls' $22M and change. BoxOfficeMojo.com lists movies according to rating, but doesn't include movies with X ratings, and incorrectly lists Midnight Cowboy as rated R. I remembered Midnight Cowboy's X rating only because it's the only X-rated film to win a Best Picture Oscar.

      Granted, Midnight Cowboy's content would probably warrant an R these days. Nevertheless, it was sufficiently daring for its time to warrant an X rating. And that time was back when theatres actually checked IDs prior to admittance. There were quite a few unaccompanied teens in the theatre last week when I saw Magic Mike.

    • e jerry powell

      Yeah, that was what I meant in My comment. I guess Last Tango in Paris wasn't a factor.

      Midnight Cowboy was released as an X, yes, but it was subsequently re-rated "R" by the MPAA in 1971. Last Tango in Paris, another X-rated film from three years after Midnight Cowboy was also re-rated after the MPAA broadened its rules, but it still retains an NC-17 rating in its uncut print; MGM voluntarily released an R-rated cut in the early 1980s.

    • Blake Shrapnel

      R.I.P. Ernest Borgnine, 1917-2012

    • zeke_the_pig

      Holy shit.
      RIP indeed.

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