Discussion: When Should Kids Be Allowed To Watch R-Rated Movies?

Discussion: When Should Kids Be Allowed To Watch R-Rated Movies?

The other week, I watched the action-comedy flick Kickass 2 at the cinema. The movie is a delightfully perverse slice of extreme violence and non-stop swearing punctuated by the occasional gross-out bodily fluids gag. In other words, it’s in no way intended for children and has a rating to prove it. However, I happened to spy some kids sitting directly in front of me who looked suspiciously tweeny…

[credit provider=”Universal Pictures” url=”http://www.universalpictures.com/”]

Doubtlessly they snuck into the screening or managed to bluff their way past the usher. In any event, it got me wondering what the appropriate age is to start showing your kids R-rated movies. How young is too young?

The Australian Classification Board restricts R-rated movies to people who are aged 18 year old and over — but very few people actually stick to these rules while growing up. Hell, most of us have drunk alcohol and had sex before we hit 18, let alone watched an “adults only” action movie. As a parent and avid movie-buff, I’m constantly thinking about when to introduce classic movies to my offspring such as Alien,The Terminator and Apocalypse Now.

Obviously, this is something that needs to be assessed on a film-by-film basis as some adults-only movies are harder than others (despite its gory action sequences, the aforementioned Kickass 2 is far too cartoony and hyper-stylised to ever be taken seriously). There are also plenty of films supposedly intended for kids that are needlessly traumatic, proving that ratings aren’t the best barometer to go by.

But speaking broadly, when do you think is the best time to show R-rated movies to kids? 14? 15? 11? Share your opinion in the comments section below!


  • I’d like to be the first to point out that the age of consent in Australia is 16 not 18 because we’re not derpy enough to disallow a 17 y.o. and an 18 y.o. from having sex.

    I think the correct answer is when you, as a parent, think they are ready. Or whenever they get a bootleg copy of an R-rated movie online (which is always).

    • Yes, I’m aware of that. My point wasn’t that you need to be 18 to have sex, but that most teens are worldly enough to handle an R-rated movie.

    • Just to correct you on something. We’ll split the difference on something between 16 and 18.

      In Tasmania and South Australia for SOME reason, the age of consent is 17. No idea why at all.

      In Queensland, if anal sex is performed, the age of consent is 18, not the previously stated 16. Go figure. Queensland is the only state that has put this law down. No idea why.


      • As a lifetime resident (mostly) of Queensland I’d like to admonish our befuddled older population when it comes to modern times. We need Daylight savings, we need to allow people to marry no matter their persuasion, we need to stop using religion as an excuse for… everything! stop being luddites, and we need to join the modern world in general when it comes to keeping up with the times. Now I’ll just burn this soap box… 🙂

        • lmao I’m a QLD’er too, born here, moved around, lived back here since 89, but I must admit, some of our laws are just ‘stoopid’. No daylight savings always confuzzled me majorly… its so awesome for kids!!!!

  • When they are mentally ready for these sorts of movies also have to make sure as a parent you are aware what is in the movie. As a general rule of thumb i never watch a movie or play a video game that is M or MA in front of my kids i wait til they are in bed. You will know when they are/are not ready for it.

    • I play The Last of Us in front of my kids at the moment, 2, 3 and 9. Well on Father’s day I did anyway, cause it was MY day haha so I ‘was allowed’ could play games during the day.

      There is a good amount of swearing which goes over their head. They are too busy on their DS or 3DS or colouring in books or reading. They don’t even pay attention half the time.

      They find the zombies funny, not scary. Which I found interesting.
      But the find the roaring Lion from the old MGM intro and the wicked witch scary from the Wizard of OZ!

  • This is why I like Australias MA15+ rating.

    It basically says, “this movie is serious stuff, but a 15 year old can dig it.

  • When ‘The Dictator’ was out in cinemas, and i saw it being 17, i didnt expect a dad with 3 sons (possibly friends) aged around 6 8 and 10

  • I would argue the issue of censoring or restricting content for minors exists not for the violent or sexual content itself but the morality of these acts within context and the role models these films engender. Because younger people growing up in safe, developed countries have a ‘clean slate’ of opinion on a number of complicated elements of society, they’re more likely to adapt a view, no matter how wrong if it fills a vacuum on an issue. The whole notion of being impressionable, or lacking the expertise and previous experience to challenge incorrect notions.

    Now these aren’t things that can’t be remedied through effective parenting that rationalises fiction or is able to explain say the ironic, meta-comic and stylised violence nature of Kick-Ass. And they should be, actively, because as everyone is aware here, the internet has effectively neutered the effectiveness of censorship to impotence.

    Moreover, I think the tendency has always existed for parents, especially conservative ones for religious reasons to think that censorship is a cure-all that does away with the need to discuss squeamish concepts such as sexuality. In a time when that’s less true than it has ever been, I think it’s really important for parents to get ahead of the curve and align their children’s views on issues such as the objectification of women and violence as a source of power and authority correctly, before society inadvertently imparts the wrong notions on them.

  • I watched Predator when I was about 5 and remember running around yelling at people to “Get to the choppaaa!!”. Good times.

    • Funnily enough, Predator was one of my first R-rated movies too. My mates started watching it in the hotel during a school excursion and I ran and hid. I was 11.

      • Pet Cemetery 2 gave me nightmares before I was 10. I couldn’t even tell me parents why I couldn’t sleep….

    • Freddy Kruger – nightmare on Elm street
      We (me 7 and brother 11) took a written paper from dad to the video shop to hire the movie!

    • My son has also watched predator at a young age and now still quotes get to the choppaa he is now twelve and still loves that movie and is asking to be allowed to watch pulp fiction he presented myself and his dad with a ton of arguments as to why we should allow him to watch said movie as he has given this so much thought and consideration we are doing the same with should he or not watch pulp fiction considering i watched that movie the minute it got out and i was under the recommended age for that movie I belive you need to take each movie and each child on the merits and meturity

      • Show him the TV edit, if only to hear Samuel L. Jackson repeatedly yell: “Muddy Funster”

  • I have to say that it’s not only a movie by movie decision, but also a child by child decision.

    I know way too many 18 year olds (and older) that would look at Jackass as an instruction video, whereas I also know 12 year olds that would see it for the entertainment it was designed to be.

    I’d have to agree that our ratings system is a little off sometimes. Quite often I’ll get to the end of a movie and wonder “Why did that warrant MA?” or “How does something this violent get rated PG?”

  • Personally I reckon the main issue is about maturity rather than age. Most children under 18 are pretty impressionable. They lack the maturity to understand that it is meant to be entertainment rather than mimicking real life (and other stuff along those lines). While there are children under the age of 18 who are mature enough to handle the impact of R rated movies, they are the exception. I reckon the R18+ rating is there for the masses who are not mature enough rather than those few who are mature enough. Its easier to have a blanket rule than a separate one. Also, there seems to be a recognition of the degree of impact that people of different maturities can handle. Hence (as others have pointed out), why we have the MA15+ rating as well as the R18+. The former pretty much says that 15 year olds can handle this stuff, but the 18+ is probably a bit too much for them. Just my 2 cents.

  • 12

    Seriously, I swear I could handle gorier stuff when I was a teenager, and I’ll hardly be able to stop my kids watching this stuff when I did it myself

  • I believe that this could not be solved with a blanket answer. Being in Year 8 at school, there are some people in my year who would be ‘ready’ for certain R rated movies, some that could watch because it is that much over their heads, and then those who would react negatively to it. It depends on the individual and the film itself. This, by the way who was playing MA games at age 3 and watched Robocop at age 4. At point, I would fall into the category of ‘much over head’.

  • When their parent considers them ready. But not all parents are responsible.
    Also, theres R rated movies and then theres *R* rated movies. Eg: Kick-Ass as oppose to Evil Dead.
    R rated because of some stupid violence and language, or R rated because it will traumatise your kid.

  • My mother bought me A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 on VHS for christmas when I was 7. Also happend to be the same year I played Leisure Suit Larry for the first time. First porno came 2 years after that (from a friend, not my mother).

    Ratings aren’t about the kids. Kids can handle almost anything in a safe environment. Ratings are all about the adults. Lots of parents shield their children from various entertainment mediums, and certain aspects of reality. Why? Could be any number of reasons. How they themselves were raised, religion, simply not wanting to discuss things, fear of being judged by other parents etc….

  • I think it is important with the type of film it is.
    Why did the film get an R rating, was it violence or drugs or sex?
    Then of course, the nature of the film, serious drama, gore fest or sex romp.

    If it is a gore-fest, then younger the child is fine.
    Drama with drugs, huge swearing and sex then older
    Sex-romp even older

    • I think I have the exact opposite position. Sex fine for kids. Drugs and swearing not so much. Violence, only for older.

      That said, by older I mean 7 or 8 so…

      • see that’s not old.
        I prefer not the nudity and swearing until older and blood and gore, whatevs, it is fake.
        horror……hmmmmm I am not sure about horror though. They probably don’t find it scary anyway I guess.

  • As a father of a now one year old, im quite saddened at the state of seemingly decaying moral standards around today (I’m only 28 fyi). i know that in my household as my kids grow up, there will be things that i wont want them to ever watch regardless of age, and things with ratings, i think i will probably not allow them to watch until they are of the correct age.

    having said all that now, im quite aware of the fact that as my kids get older and awesomer, ill probably ease up on my standards of what i think they can and cannot watch.

    and just in response to some posts above – my first R movie that i can remember was Ninja Scroll and i think i was about 8 or 9 when i saw it. maybe a little older. and im not that messed up, if not a little desensitized.
    WHICH in fact i guess is what i meant by my earlier comment about moral decay – is more to the point about desensitization and how scary that can be as a parent knowing that there are 11 and 12 year old kids having sex at schools, 14 and 15 year olds holding up people at knife point and 16/ 17 year olds shooting people because “they felt like it” (WTF!)

    anyways, paranoid parent out….

  • I remember seeing the Exorcist and Jaws when i was 7. Even at that age i knew it was not real but i still had to ask my mum why the girl’s head was spinning around spewing green vomit everywhere.
    I was the same age when i became an atheist because i knew religion was just made up as well.

  • I am only 12. I think I am quite mature for my age. I have seen Kickass 2, and several other R rated movies. I think it really depends on the sorts of things you can handle and whether or not you are mature enough to be seeing R rated movies. I suppose I can handle things like gore and sex because when I was only 4 I used to watch Supernatural.

  • Technically I think that it’s dumb to have rating not many people listen to it anyways and plus just cause kids watch movies in there teens that have sexuality doesn’t mean there gonna have sex or anything it’s just a movie and if the world has such a big problem with it than why make movies with it in it and from watching scary stuff well thats the point of the movie is to be scared duh that’s what I think

  • This may be a little off subject but right now I’m 17 I just graduated last year and my birthday is in early June , now I was wondering fifty shades of grey is coming out in February and I really want to see it , because I’m 17 do u think I’m able to watch it if I’m accompanied by my friend if they are 18 and older? Do you think the people will let me in the cinemas to watch it ? I live in cairns Australia.

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