What Movie Was Responsible for the Creation of the PG-13 Rating?
It was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Or rather, that one was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Most of the movie was typical PG adventure fare, no different from the previous Indy movie or Star Wars, but then there were a few disturbing scenes like the one where Mola Ram extracts a man’s heart and sacrifices him to Kali. Initially this was deemed enough to give it an R rating,
just as the climactic scene was for Raiders of the Lost Ark before it. In that instance, all Lucasfilm had to do was obscure Belloq’s exploding head with a column of fire to reduce the impact of the scene and they got their PG back, but Temple of Doom was comparatively a lot more pervasive with things that might have been disturbing to young children.
Frustrated with this state of affairs and not wanting to water down the movie, director Steven Spielberg decided to argue with the MPAA over it. He felt that although some of the action and horror was too intense for children, it was still clearly a work of fantasy and, as such, didn’t seem like it should be restricted to audiences 17 and up.
This wasn’t the first movie to struggle with this distinction: a whole class of action and horror movies were emerging that definitely didn’t seem “mature,” but still registered complaints for the PG rating being misleading about their level of gore and violence in some scenes (Joe Dante's Gremlins, which Spielberg produced, was one example). So, Spielberg and company went on to suggest that the MPAA needed some kind of middle rating between PG and R to denote movies appropriate for teenagers but too mature for children.
While Temple of Doom itself remained rated PG, leaving many parents in 1984 rather dismayed, the new rating was instituted that very year as PG-13, and was first applied to the movie Red Dawn several months later.
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