Which movies are suitable for older kids?

As my kids have grown, the choices of movies has become a little harder. With one 14 and the other 11, most kids’ movies aren’t very appealing, but many adult M-rated movies aren’t suitable either.

MA15+ is a legal restriction — kids under 15 can’t legally see the movie unsupervised, and although they can see them if supervised by a guardian, that rating doesn’t get applied for no reason. It’s almost always quite strong stuff. I don’t go there.

In contrast, M is just a recommendation, and the content can vary widely. I’m of the view that there are movies which are stronger than PG and fall into M without really being too bad.

Australian ratings

So how does one determine which are suitable, preferably without watching them first?

One easy way is to check the ratings in other countries. The USA’s MPAA ratings include a PG-13 rating, for which there is no Australian equivalent. There are a number of movies which get PG-13 in the States, but M here, and my view is that generally these are okay for my kids to watch. Examples include all three Lord of the Rings films, Avatar, Star Wars episode 3, and the latest Star Trek movie.

It’s easy to look them up at, and it also shows you the ratings in a variety of other countries. For Star Trek for instance it lists all of these:

USA:PG-13 (certificate #44847) | South Korea:12 | UK:12A | Netherlands:12 | Ireland:12A | Finland:K-13 | Singapore:PG | Norway:11 | Switzerland:10 (canton of Vaud) | Switzerland:10 (canton of Geneva) | Australia:M | Portugal:M/12 | Italy:T | Canada:G (Quebec) | Canada:PG (Alberta/British Columbia/Manitoba/Ontario) | Brazil:12 | Sweden:11 | Philippines:G (MTRCB) | Hong Kong:IIA | Argentina:Atp | Peru:PT | Iceland:10 | Germany:12 | South Africa:10V | New Zealand:M | Mexico:B | France:U | Canada:PG (Canadian Home Video rating) | Austria:10 | Denmark:12 | Denmark:11

If more detail is required, has lots of information for recent movies, though you have to negotiate your way past all the ads to the list of all titles, and some are behind a pay wall.

I suppose everybody has a different strategy for this. That’s mine.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Which movies are suitable for older kids?”

It is interesting to see these ratings applied to television shows here and they are frequently mentioned before a program comes on. In the US they are generally only applied to theatres. TV in the US is much more heavily censored than in Australia and almost all “bad words” are “beeped” out and sometimes the speaker’s lips are blurred out too. It is usually very easy by context to fill in which bad word was said however. Bull****(beep) is often heard. Programs with stronger themes are often only aired after 9 or 10 PM to avoid children seeing them. This applies mostly to broadcasts by the big networks. Cable TV channels are much less censored. Since the late 70’s and early 80’s most US homes have had cable TV available and most people subscribe to it.

When I am watching TV in Australia it is still surprising to me to hear profanity on the news and other ordinary programing. It is even more surprising to sometimes hear an American utter profanity on an American program aired in Australia that would never be heard during the same program in the US.

There are sites like, which go into the specifics of what parents may find objectionable: “We enable adults to determine whether a movie is appropriate for them or their children, according to their own criteria.” Sex, violence and profanity are “rated” separately, in case boobies bother you more than beheadings or vice versa.

A warning: the reviews go into such detail that you may learn a lot about the plot before you see the movie.

Jed, am I correct in making the statement that US network television has always been ‘censored’ (ie, produced without profanities and sexual behaviour )? My understanding is that it has always been rather conservative (and I don’t use that word disparagingly, as I am quite conservative myself), and the shows are produced with those stringent guidelines, as we see here with such shows! I seem to recall about the time of the 2000 Olympics,on NBC’s official Olympics website, when mentioning facts about Australia, they mentioned, rather surprisingly, that Sex and the City was shown on network TV, which of course would never happen in the US, only on cable! Though I have noticed US cable shows are more than making up for it, with shows such as Sex and the City, Californication, and True Blood being basically watered down pornography!

It has been rather different here in Australia! From about the early 1970s, network TV has been rather liberal in its attitudes to censorship. One of the first shows to really push this boundary was ‘Number 96’:
This show had it all- sex, nudity, violence, even a homosexual love scene (yes, in the 1970s!)! It is still recalled to this day, and promoted, for its sex and nudity! Apparently, a US version was made, though understandably didn’t last long! Another show in a similar vein from the early 1990s was Chances:
This one was just weird- started off as a family winning the lottery, and went on to having Nazi sex romps and other such nonsense! It is ridiculed still to this day! The Underbelly series seem to be carrying the baton, with sex scenes seemingly put in just for the hell of it!

Another comparison would be comparing the show ‘All in the Family’ to it’s Australian counterpart, ‘Kingswood Country’:
As a disclaimer, I have never seen an episode of AITF, but have seen almost every KC episode (one of my favourite shows)! While both shows and main characters, Archie Bunker and Ted Bullpitt, were bigotted and used degrading insults, Ted used such phrases as “bloody wog”, referred fondly to his concrete Aboriginal statue, was very insulting of gays, and occasionally sipped in a d@$#head or two! I often say that KC could never be made today, in many ways it was surprising that it was made in the 1980s! If you’re interested in Kingswood Country, Comedy Channel on Foxtel tends to show it!

By the way, why is there an R and X rating, when both are 18+?

Thanks Kristine; that’s similar to Screenit, though looks to have less ads.

AndrewV, True Blood is not just watered-down porn. It has a solid story to it. I won’t comment on the others as I haven’t seen them, but I’m sure fans of them would say the same. Dunno if you knew that All In The Family was the US adaption of the UK series Till Death Us Do Part (eg Alf Garnett.)

Slightly off topic but they do have some funny and quite conservative censorship practices in the US as Andrew V points out, and they go beyond television. On holiday there back in 1998 we sent some postcards from the town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania. All reached Australia with the word ‘intercourse’ covered up with dark tape!!!!
Yes, Alf Garnett on Till Death Us Do Part was much in the mould of Ted Bullpitt on Kingswood Country going on about ‘Bloody Micks’ all the time and having a dig at his (small ‘l’) liberal-minded son-in-law referred to as ‘Shirley Temple’. It’s a shame one can only get the last two seasons of this shoe. The first three were subject to the BBC wiping policy, although apparently some of these actually do exist
Some explanation of the X-rating may be found here:
X was first introduced in 1984, and is now not allowed in cinemas and is banned in all states, but can be ordered from the ACT and Northern Territory. R does not have these restrictions

Indeed I did know about All in the Family being based on Till Death Us Do Part- in fact, Andrew S gave me the DVD box set (Till Death Us Do Part) for Christmas, and hope to watch it soon!

With regards to True Blood and the other shows, I was referring to the fact that they have rather graphic sex scenes, to the point where they are almost realistic! Furthermore, those shows seem to push the limit with regards to that! I’m not trying to pontificate- one of the few things that I’m somewhat liberal on is television! I’ve always believed the best censor is yourself, not the Government, and I’m rather open to my TV viewing. One thing that I’ve noticed with both Underbelly series is the way they just throw in sex scenes with no reason in particular- one such scene in the first series had two of the characters discussing some crime, then the next scene has them in an orgy! I know sex sells, but that’s ludicrous!

Jed, I was hoping if you’re reading, you’d answer me a question. Continuing on the topic of US network TV, there has been news in recent days about Jay Leno’s 10 PM show rating poorly at that timeslot, and thus canning the show, and NBC bringing him back to his original 11:30 PM timeslot, sharing it with Conan O’Brien. My question is, why would late night shows rate poorly at 10, but rate better at 11:30? After all, wouldn’t it have a greater audience pool at 10? Is it a historical thing going back to the days of Johnny Carson? I’ve heard so many comments about how it was a dumb idea, that it wouldn’t rate well, and turns out it has. It is odd here, as most late night shows ( Tonight Live, Rove, etc) have generally been on within the 9:30-11:30 bracket. I just can’t imagine many people staying up past 11:30 to watch such shows!

Shows such as Johnny Carson’s and Jay Leno’s have traditonally come on after the big 3 network’s (ABC, NBC, CBS) nightly news which airs generally at 11PM in the eastern time zone (New York, Boston) and at 10 PM in the central time zone (Chicago).

These shows generally appeal to adults and are adult themed and many parents would consider them mildly inappropreate for young children. Younger children in general would not really find these shows interesting anyway so I am not surprised that Jay Leno would not rate as well at an earlier time. The hours earlier than the news are prime time and shows at these times generally appeal to a wider age group. This does not apply as much to cable channel programming.

People in the US are very touchy sometimes about what is seen and heard on TV and many live programs are delayed 7 seconds so censors can have a chance to “beep” any “bad words” said. If any bad words do slip by, especially when young children might be watching, the network’s switchboards will be instantly flooded by outraged callers convined that their children have been traumatized by hearing such things. Remember the storm that happened after Janet Jackson’s breast was breifly exposed during the halftime show during the superbowl. Many heads rolled over this issue.

All In The Family was really ahead of it’s time when it aired in the 70’s and had many “firsts” that pushed the limits of what was appropreate to air on American TV. The show aired at a time before cable TV was available and many people only could receive a few channels of over the air broadcast TV. Andrew V., (and Daniel too) if you can somehow see an episode of this classic show you will find it very funny.

Since Hollywood is only interested in making films promoting drug abuse, sex and other filth, the way around it is to only allow G-rated films in the house. In practice this means most of your choices are pre-1950, but that beats the vile agenda today’s films promote.

Creamy your impassioned comment is a little generalised, America does produce a lot of generic films filled with violence, drug use and other social ills, though for many people this reflects there view of life and excitement.

America also produces some of the best cinema just look at Avatar or any of Clint Eastwood’s films.

The sad thing is that there is a lot of money in violence and sex and in a free/capitalist society the need to be socially responsible is not of high importance.

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