The best PG-13 movies of all time, in honor of PG-13’s birthday

Happy Birthday to the Motion Picture Association of America’s PG-13 rating! As of today, July 1st, this rating has been around for 31 years. Movies have been around a lot longer than that, but there wasn’t always a rating that suggested a parent or a guardian should come along, too. When the MPAA rating system was first introduced in the late 1960s, films were really divided between two ratings: G/PG, for general audiences; and R/M, for mature and restricted audiences. There was no in-between. The movie was either just right for kids, or not right at all.

Then, in 1984, a little movie called Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came along. It was a family-friendly movie, but then again there’s also that scene where someone’s beating heart is ripped out of their chest. It was time to create a rating that explained that movies could be kid-approved, but the kids should most definitely bring an adult along for the scary parts.

Since then, some of the best movies have been rated PG-13. They’re neither specifically geared towards kids, and not necessarily geared towards adult audiences, either, which makes them weirdly just right. So in honor of your birthday, PG-13, here are some great movie treasure that have joined your ranks.

Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing is actually a very tame movie, compared to some of the dance flicks we see today. However, the dancing was, according to whoever decides these things, juuuuuust suggestive enough to merit a PG-13 rating. And that’s just one of the million reasons why we loved the movie. In 1987, we were all Baby—caught somewhere between being a little sister and being a grown-up dance partner who can handle lifts and such. If you were under 13 when this movie came out, the PG-13 rating only made Baby’s summer more awesome and thrilling to watch. So thank you, cool parents who hosted sleepover parties.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls was actually almost rated R, if you can believe it, and many jokes had to be altered to fit in with a lesser rating. But, a lot of the jokes that did push the MPAA’s envelope actually made it in, and we will continue to bask in Mean Girl‘s epic dialogue for many centuries to come.

Pirates of the Caribbean

If you want to impress your friends, tell them that Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is the first movie under the Disney name to receive a PG-13 rating. Jack Sparrow probably is the most family-friendly pirate to date, and his mass appeal is apparent, but due to the swashbuckling nature of the film, and the violence, it needed a PG-13 rating.

The Lord of the Rings

I was reading Lord of the Rings waaaaay before I was 13. Yes, basically all of it went right over my head at that age, but I still read on, experiencing Frodo’s very long walk to Mt. Doom. When it was time to bring the story to life, and actually show this epic quest, LOTR received a PG-13 rating for, “for epic battle sequences and some scary images.” Sure, MPAA, epic battle sequences can be scary sometimes.


As if! Clueless has a PG-13 rating? It sure does. Fun fact: The MPAA will give any film in which a teen drinks or does drugs a higher rating, because they’re just looking out for the youngins. Whatever.

Iron Man

The movie that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and gave us the best gift ever, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark — needed to be rated PG-13 for, “intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.” That certainly stopped no one from going to see this movie, and it hasn’t stopped anyone from seeing any Marvel movie of the last decade. All of them have been rated PG-13, and that’s partly due to the few moments where the Avengers get serious about battle.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Judging by how often this movie ends up on television, it’s a surprise it’s PG-13. But Ferris’ adventures were just too wild and crazy for general audiences. It mainly has a higher rating for language, which was taken sooooo seriously in the late ’80s. If Ferris Bueller were to come out now with the same script, it’d probably maybe only scratch a PG (but this is not a call to remake Ferris Bueller, this movie is perfect, and let’s never touch it).


It’s understandable that Titanic has a PG-13 rating. For one, it does have a whole nude scene, even though it’s not a suggestive nude scene. However, according to the MPAA, “disaster related peril,” is enough to merit a higher rating, along with some violence. This was actually the first PG-13 movie I saw, and it was a BIG DEAL for me.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump runs the gamut of history (and our emotions), and maybe that’s why it earned the reward of a PG-13 rating. Sure, it’s incredibly heart warming, but it does have a lot of intense scenes — namely the ones where Forrest and Lt. Dan are off at war. This does not, however, deter from the fact that teachers will start showing this movie as early as 6th grade (anyone else watch a lot of Forrest Gump in school?).

(Images via Paramount Pictures, Disney, and MGM)

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