R Ratings and Seeking After the Good Films

I’ve talked about my views on R rated movies several times on this blog, but I feel it is necessary for me to address the subject again. Ever since I started reviewing movies regularly I get lots of questions about what I will and won’t see. Just this weekend we have Alien Covenant coming up and I haven’t decided whether I will see it or not. It is rated R for “for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity” and Ridley Scott has said it is a “hard R”. However, I love the first 2 alien movies and liked Prometheus, so the decision to see it is far from an easy one. I could take the easy way out and refuse to see any R rated movies but that would be a cop out. There’s a difference between a film being mature and offensive. My job then becomes finding the R rated films (or any rating for that matter) which work with my standards.

The first question I ask myself is ‘why is it rated R?’. Is it language, nudity, violence etc? I have a screenit.com account but there are other resources like imdb parental guidance that are very helpful.

For example, recently I considered seeing the film Free Fire. I did my research and found out the following:

It would be one thing if it was extreme in just profanity but when it is extreme on violence, profanity, blood and gore etc I will probably skip that film. It’s just not worth it for me to see.

“Now wait a minute” I can hear you saying “Didn’t you see and love Hacksaw Ridge and it’s super bloody and violent?”. Yes, yes I did. So call me a hypocrite if you want, but I look at these films on a case-by-case basis. Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie and that is a genre where mature content makes more sense. Plus, Hacksaw Ridge at its core is a faith-based film about a man who commits himself to God above all else. So, like it or not, context and subject matter play a role in my decision making process. Also, a movie that is an Oscar contender with objectionable content I am more likely to see as it is more likely to be worth my time. This won’t always be the case like I will never see Wolf of Wall Street despite the Oscar nominations because of the content.

There are some times when I take risks and try to push myself out of my comfort zone. This was the case with The Revenant and Silence, which I saw on the recommendations of friends. Revenant I liked but not as much as most and Silence I hated with a passion. Nocturnal Animals is another one I saw on the recommendation of friends and it was too violent for me to really enjoy.  You win some. You lose some.  I also took risks at Sundance because there are no ratings and no way to do much research before hand.

I come from a faith and tradition that highly values the arts. When the pioneers first came to Salt Lake some of the first buildings they erected were theaters and concert halls. Dance, music, theatrical societies were a key part of the Mormon culture from its very inception. We are commanded in scripture: ” If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Seeking after is not a passive, lazy process but requires work and research. I am not perfect, but I try my best to wade through all the options at the cinema and find the praiseworthy films- no matter their rating. I really believe this is what Jesus would want me to do.

At times I can get a lot of flack for not seeing films like Deadpool or Logan amongst the film community. It can be very tempting to see these films just to be a part of the discussion. However, I am not doing my job of seeking after the virtuous and praiseworthy if I give in every time something hard R rated becomes popular. There are going to be films I miss out on and that’s just the way it is. Oh well!

The good thing is there is a never-ending supply of movies to see. Nobody sees everything and so what I miss in Logan I hopefully make up for in other films. Back in the time of Christ the Sadducees and Pharisees stuck by ridged rules as sign of obedience and faith. For example, you had to wear certain clothing or do certain things on the sabbath. These rules were enforced with a strict authoritarian rule.  Then Jesus came in and shook things up. He healed on the sabbath and spent time with all kinds of people. “For the whole have no need of a physician.”

I believe Jesus would want me to do my best in seeking after the good films and books out there. Having a ridged rule like the Sadducees and Pharisees isn’t the answer. He wants me to seek after “ANYTHING virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy”. How can this not require some prayerful effort?  My hope is through my own endeavors I can provide a service to help other people with their own quest for good and uplifting content. My process and reviews can become part of your research and decision making process. I take that very seriously.

In the end, everyone has to make decisions on content they feel comfortable with, and I will not judge anyone on what they chose to see or not see. This is just my process and the admittedly muddy way I try my best to balance my faith with my passion for film.

3 thoughts on “R Ratings and Seeking After the Good Films

  1. This very much sums up how I feel as well. It was a really hard decision for me to see Hacksaw Ridge after I’d heard how extreme the violence was, but I was glad I did by the end. I still think excessive violence, language, etc. are almost always unnecessary, but there is a level of discernment necessary. I too will not watch Deadpool or Logan no matter how popular they may become, yet Alien: Covenant will probably sway me. Like you said, “muddy,” but we do our best. Often I end up researching a film with no regard for spoilers to know what I’m getting myself into, and while it takes away from any surprise, it’s a method that’s worked for me so far.

    1. I’m really glad I wrote this because it’s nice to know other people struggle with what to see and how to handle content

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