Essay on Violence in Films

The argument of films being too violent has been an issue since the creation of cinema but has recently been brought to the foreground by concerned parents who believe that films have become far more violent. The problem isn’t an easy one to solve as it’s an art form and some believe that it shouldn’t be censored, or forced to adhere to rules, but as it has become a large part of our culture and society, and become its own industry some feel it needs to be regulated by a government bureau in order to ensure it will be good for all the public, which isn’t that far from what has happened in the past “In September 2000, at the request of President Bill Clinton, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report titled Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries.” (Afra Kia). President Clinton was trying to crack down on overly violent actions in children's entertainment.

People are very much against violence in film because of their perception that there is a rise in violence and crime affecting our nation. Parents are concerned with the psychological effects violent scenes will have on their impressionable children. They are also worried about the lack of consequences seen in violent films as they feel it will put the impression on youth that they can’t hurt others or be hurt themselves by violent acts. Though perception is not always the truth, “Opinion surveys regularly find that Americans believe crime is up nationally, even when the data show it is down.” (Gramlich) . While a lot of these concerns seem reasonable, they aren’t grounded in fact but instead come about through opinion, and prejudice against the film industry.   

In 1972 the MPAA system only had four ratings , G (General admissions), PG (Parental Guidance), R ( Restricted), and X (17 and under not allowed). It wasn’t until the 1984 Steven Spielberg film INDIANA JONES, AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM when during the heart gouging scene parents complained that the scene was too violent to belong in a PG film, in response to this the MPAA, not thinking this film should be classified as R, created the rating of PG-13 stating “A PG-13 film is one which, in the view of the Rating Board, leaps beyond the boundaries of the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other contents, but does not quite fit within the restricted R category. 

Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. . . . If nudity is sexually oriented, the film will generally not be found in the PG-13 category. If violence is too rough or persistent, the film goes into the R (restricted) rating. A film's single use of one of the harsher sexually derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead the Rating Board to issue the film an R rating, as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. 

These films can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote, the Rating Board feels that a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of American parents.” -Afra.  The argument that PG-13 movies are becoming too violent is one that may be warranted if enough parents believe this too be true, because the restrictions of the PG-13 rating say that it is based on the view of the American parents. 

Some people believe that violent films actually have a positive effect on people. They believe that even though being desensitized to violent acts may seem like a bad thing it is actually a good thing, they argue that it makes you more level-headed in intense situations, and makes you more able to react quickly to immediate dangers. They also argue that it can help with over aggressive behavior. There isn’t much evidence to support this argument, but don’t let that fool you, because the majority of the evidence to support the other side is mostly correlation and not causation.

Both sides have valid arguments, but both sides also have leaps in logic, ultimately the choice is up to you, if you believe that modern films will be too violent for children then don’t take them go to see those movies, if you think that violent films are good for children then take your kids to them.

Works Cited

Sapolsky, Barry S., Fred Molitor, and Sarah Luque. "Sex and Violence in Slasher Films: Re-Examining the Assumptions." Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 1, 2003, pp. 28-38. ProQuest,

Afra, Kia. "PG-13, Ratings Creep, and the Legacy of Screen Violence: The MPAA Responds to the FTC's "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children" (2000-2009)." Cinema Journal, vol. 55, no. 3, 2016, pp. 40-64. ProQuest, 

Woodcock, Scott. "Horror Films and the Argument from Reactive Attitudes." Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 16, no. 2, 2013, pp. 309-324. ProQuest,, doi: 

McArthur, David L., et al. "Violence and its Injury Consequences in American Movies." The Western Journal of Medicine, vol. 173, no. 3, 2000, pp. 164. ProQuest, 

Stoolmiller, Mike, et al. "R-Rated Movie Viewing, Growth in Sensation Seeking and Alcohol Initiation: Reciprocal and Moderation Effects." Prevention Science, vol. 11, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1-13. ProQuest,, doi:

“R-Rated Movies Increase Likelihood of Underage Children Trying Alcohol.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 12 Mar. 2010,  





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