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'Red Dawn,' first PG-13 movie, is released

'Red Dawn,' first PG-13 movie, is released

On August 10, 1984, the action thriller Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze, opens in theaters as the first movie to be released with a PG-13 rating. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which oversees the movie rating system, had announced the new PG-13 category in July of that same year.

Founded in 1922 as a trade group for the American film industry, the MPAA introduced its first-ever movie rating system in November 1968. The system came in response to groups who wanted better guidelines for parents to determine whether or not a movie’s content and themes were child-appropriate. The initial rating categories were G (appropriate for audiences of all ages), M (for mature audiences, but all ages admitted), R (anyone under 16 not admitted without an accompanying adult) and X (no one under 17 admitted). The M category was eventually changed to PG (parental guidance suggested) and on July 1, 1984, the PG-13 category was added to indicate film content with a “higher level of intensity” than PG, according to the MPAA. Starting in 1990, the X rating was changed to NC-17 (anyone 17 and under not admitted) because it was believed that “X” had come to connote hardcore pornography.

The MPAA’s ratings board reportedly issued the first PG-13 rating to The Flamingo Kid, which starred Matt Dillon; however, Red Dawn opened in theaters first. Red Dawn told the story of a group of teenagers who band together to protect their small Colorado town after it is invaded by Communist paratroopers from Russia and Cuba. Along with Patrick Swayze, the film co-starred C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and Harry Dean Stanton. Red Dawn was one of Swayze’s early films, along with The Outsiders (1983), a teen drama that featured the actor as part of a roster of up-and-coming young stars, including Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise and Diane Lane. Swayze’s real breakout performance came in 1987’s Dirty Dancing, also co-starring Grey. In 1990, he co-starred in another big hit, Ghost, with Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.


Red Dawn (2012 film)

Red Dawn is a 2012 American action film directed by Dan Bradley. The screenplay by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmorea is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The film centers on a group of young people who defend their hometown from a North Korean invasion.

  • September 27, 2012 ( 2012-09-27 ) (Fantastic Fest)
  • November 21, 2012 ( 2012-11-21 ) (United States) [2]

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced its intention to remake Red Dawn in May 2008 and subsequently hired Bradley and Ellsworth. The principal characters were cast the following year and the film went into production in September 2009 in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Originally scheduled to be released on November 24, 2010, the film was shelved because of MGM's financial troubles. While in post-production, the invading army and antagonists were changed from Chinese to North Korean in order to maintain access to the Chinese box office, though the film was still not released in China. [5]

Because of MGM's bankruptcy, the distribution rights were sold to FilmDistrict in September 2011 and the film was released in the United States on November 21, 2012 to mostly negative reviews. The film is also a box-office failure, grossing $50.9 million from its $65 million budget.


1. John Milius rewrote the script of Red Dawn.

Kevin Reynolds wrote Red Dawn while still a student at USC film school. MGM optioned the script and asked Milius to direct it. “I brought the writer in and said, ‘This isn’t going to be easy for you to take because, you know, you’re kind of full of yourself, but I’m going to take this and I’m going to make it into my movie, and you’re just going to have to sit back and watch, and it may not be too pleasant,” Milius told Creative Screenwriting. “My advice is to take the money you have and spend it on a young girl. Enjoy getting laid and write another script. Because this isn’t going to be fun to watch.’”

Milius said Reynolds’s script was similar to Lord of the Flies. “I kept some of that, but my script was about the resistance. And my script was tinged by the time, too. We made it really outrageous, infinitely more outrageous than his vision. And to this day, it holds up, because people ask, ‘What’s that movie about?’ And I say that movie’s not about the Russians it’s about the federal government.”


How ‘Indiana Jones’ Finally Forced Hollywood To Create The PG-13 Rating

However, a more important anniversary is what "Temple of Doom" helped to usher in — the creation of the PG-13 rating, a box-office sweet spot that would shape film production.

Here's how the rating came to be.

A Darker Dr. Jones

Of all the films in the Indiana Jones series, there's no doubt that 1984's PG-rated "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is the darkest.

As producer George Lucas explained to Empire, "Part of it was I was going through a divorce, Steven had just broken up, and we were not in a good mood. It ended up darker than we thought it would be. Once we got out of our bad moods . we kind of looked at it and went, 'Mmmmm, we certainly took it to the extreme.'"

Those extremes — which included an incredibly violent human-sacrifice scene — outraged parents who brought their children to the PG-rated film. Still, the darker installment was massively popular and brought in $179 million in the U.S. alone.

"Everybody was screaming, screaming, screaming that it should have had an R-rating, and I didn’t agree," director Steven Spielberg told The Associated Press in 2004.

But with no rating in between PG and R, Spielberg would come up with a compromise that would change movies and the rating system forever.

A New Rating

Up until 1984, there had been only four ratings that a film could receive: G, PG, R, and X (which would later become NC-17).

Films like "Temple of Doom," which were too mature for PG audiences but not mature enough for the R rating, would find themselves in limbo.

Spielberg found this "netherworld" rating unfair to both filmmakers and audiences. So, according to a 2008 interview with Vanity Fair, Spielberg says he came up with a new rating that would bridge the gap:

On Aug. 10, 1984, only three months after parents were outraged over the release of PG-rated "Temple of Doom," "Red Dawn," a drama starring Patrick Swayze, became the first film to be released with the PG-13 rating.

The Popularity And Profitability Of PG-13

The highest-grossing film ever, 2009's PG-13-rated "Avatar," raked in $760 million at the domestic box office, while the highest-grossing R-rated film, 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," took in a comparatively low $370 million.

With its ability to be both safe and threatening while still reaching a mass audience, the rating has become a great marketing tool for most major studios.

"In a way it’s better to get a PG-13 than a PG for certain movies," Spielberg told the AP. "It turns a lot of young people off. They think it’s going to be too below their radar and they tend to want to say, 'Well, PG-13 might have a little bit of hot sauce on it.'"


5 Movies That Should Have Been Rated PG-13 — And 5 That Shouldn’t Have

Thirty years ago yesterday, on August 10, 1984, John Milius’ Cold War wet dream Red Dawn rolled into theaters, helping launch the careers of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey. But it also launched a significant chapter in movie history: it was the first film released to theaters carrying the new PG-13 rating, a Goldlocks-ish “just right” nestled between the PG and the R, prompted by the outcry from parents of terrified children after the release of the PG-rated Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom earlier in the summer. But as with all things MPAA-related, the PG-13 became a giant clusterfuck in the three decades hence, as its desirability led studios and filmmakers to push the rating to its absolute breaking point — loading up their PG-13 blockbusters with dead bodies while the ratings agency’s bean counters tallied “F-words” and bare butts. So to celebrate this dubious anniversary, let’s take a look back at ten cases where the 30-year-old rating was woefully misapplied.

Boyhood MPAA rating: R Should have been: PG-13 Why: If there were ever a better example of twisted MPAA logic, I can’t think of it — you literally have to be as old as Mason Jr. is at the end of Boyhood to buy a ticket and watch him grow up. The ratings board gave Boyhood an R for “language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.” So, in other words, since the film shows teenagers talking like teenagers talk and doing stuff teenagers do, teenagers can’t see it. Well, most can’t New York’s IFC Center waved a middle finger at the MPAA, announcing on its website, “IFC Center feels that the film is appropriate viewing for mature adolescents. Accordingly, the theater will admit high school age patrons at its discretion.” Now if we could just get the rest of the theaters in the country to go along…

The Breakfast Club MPAA rating: R Should have been: PG-13 Why: Then again, the MPAA has a long history of shutting teenagers out of films about teenagers — at least, the ones where they say “the F-word” too much. John Hughes’ 1985 comedy/drama features about 30 uses of the word “fuck,” and goodness knows that would’ve been the first time teen audiences had heard such salty language the movie also includes the smoking of marijuana, which might have been acceptable in a PG-13 movie in 1985 if they’d just thrown in a Nancy Reagan cameo, reminding these kooky kids to “Just Say No.”

Almost Famous MPAA rating: R Should have been: PG-13 Why: The MPAA had few louder critics than the late, great Roger Ebert, who was particularly incensed that Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical 2000 comedy/drama (Ebert’s pick for the best film of the year) was branded with an R rating for “language, drug content and brief nudity.” (Among its many other crimes, the MPAA apparently does not believe in the Oxford comma.) “Consider,” he wrote. “Coyote Ugly, which glorifies girls who dance on top of bars to sell more drinks, gets a PG-13 because there is technically no nudity. But Almost Famous, which shows a bright teenage boy successfully negotiating the minefield of a rock tour and forming a value system with the support of his mother, gets an R because of brief and insignificant nudity and language, and drug use presented as a cautionary lesson. If you were to see the two movies side-by-side you might be as mystified as I am why the MPAA thinks one is appropriate for 13-year-olds, while the other is questionable for 17-year-olds. But of course the MPAA cannot have values it can only count beans, or nipples, or four-letter words.”

The King’s Speech MPAA rating: R Should have been: PG-13 Why: The King’s Speech’s R rating caused a fair amount of controversy back in 2010, when the totally harmless period drama got an R for “some language,” which means, in ratings logic, that the frustrated King George VI yelling a few nonsexual “fucks” posed exactly the same danger to our nation’s youth as the intricate torture of that year’s Saw 3D. So after The King’s Speech won the Oscar for Best Picture, distributor The Weinstein Company decided to play along, resubmitting the film with the bad words muted and receiving the PG-13 it should have gotten all along. And then they just replaced the R-rated version, still in theaters, with the PG-13, which was totally dishonest false advertising, but hey, one bad turn deserves another.

A Film Unfinished MPAA rating: R Should have been: PG-13 Why: Of all of the ratings controversies, this is probably the most infuriating. Yael Hersonski’s 2010 documentary concerns an incomplete Nazi propaganda film called Das Ghetto, mixing staged and on-the-street footage shot in a tiny Jewish ghetto. It’s a difficult, essential film, examining both the Holocaust itself and the very nature of propaganda. Perhaps its most stomach-turning scene finds a group of Jews stripped and forced to take a “ritual bath” it’s about the least titillating thing you’ve ever seen, but the “nudity” of the scene prompted the MPAA to slap the film with an “R” rating. Yes, the organization determined that Holocaust nudity should keep educators from showing an important historical documentary to their teenage students, and in spite of appeals, citing of previous precedent, and common sense, the R rating was upheld. A Film Unfinished was released unrated.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me MPAA rating: PG-13 Should have been: R Why: Hey, look, I like a good dirty joke as much as the next guy, and let’s be honest: keeping teenagers out of an Austin Powers movie pretty much eliminates their entire target audience. But, lest you’ve forgotten (and it’s been 13 years and those movies all kinda blur together, so that’s understandable), the 2001 sequel actually includes a scene where one character drinks a cup of shit. Couple that with the film’s endless string of double entendres, and you’ve got a movie that’s far dirtier than much of its R-rated brethren as the A.V. Club noted, “when the MPAA routinely gives R ratings to movies because characters use the word ‘fuck’ as an interjection, it doesn’t make much sense to stamp a PG-13 on a film that is actually about fucking, roughly 25 percent of the time.”

Much Ado About Nothing MPAA rating: PG-13 Should have been: PG Why: Hey, who’s cleaner than Shakespeare, right? Wrong — Kenneth Branagh’s sunny 1993 adaptation of the Bard’s classic comedy got a PG-13 for, get this, “momentary sensuality.” This is apparently a reference to a very brief scene early on where several characters of both sexes bathe and dress, featuring (very) fleeting glimpses of a few bare butts. So rest assured, parents of 1993: the MPAA was making sure your kids could not get their jollies by checking out the bare backsides in that Shakespeare movie.

World War Z MPAA rating: PG-13 Should have been: R Why: The rules for the PG-13, in the 30 years since its establishment, have become pretty clear: no explicit nudity or sex and only one, nonsexual use of “fuck.” But violence? Have at it. As long as it’s not too bloody, you can pretty much kill all the people (or robots, or zombies, or whatever) you want — and studios tread this line very carefully, since the last thing they want is to make a $100 million-plus movie that theaters have to turn anyone away from. Thus we have World War Z, in which the world is taken over by hordes of terrifying flesh-eaters, who are frequently taken out by automatic weapons. It’s all gruesome, intense, and scary as hell. And PG-13 for the whole family!

The Dark Knight MPAA rating: PG-13 Should have been: R Why: Hey, look, there’s no bigger fan of Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy than your film editor. But holy Jesus is this movie dark. The MPAA gave it a PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence and some menace,” and they got that right: we’ve got hangings, maulings, burnings, a bomb that explodes inside a guy, and a character impaled on a pencil. FYI: the year’s R-rated movies — and thus the films the MPAA deemed less acceptable for younger audiences — included Slumdog Millionaire, Changeling, Milk, and Frost/Nixon.

Red Dawn MPAA rating: PG-13 Should have been: R Why: And just to bring us full circle, consider this: the first film to ever received the PG-13 rating was condemned, at the time of its release, as literally the most violent movie ever made. The National Coalition of Television violence counted 134 acts of violence in an hour (that’s 2.23 per minute), which got the film a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records. So you gotta give the MPAA this: from the beginning of the PG-13, they’ve at least been consistent.


Gen Z Reviews Classic Movies | 'Red Dawn' is the most violent film of its time but barely worth the trouble now

Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze and C Thomas Howell (IMDb)

The year was 1984 (coincidentally) and John Milius came out with his masterpiece, 'Red Dawn'. The first movie to bear the PG-13 rating in the US, 'Red Dawn' was once declared the most violent movie ever by the Guinness Book of World Record. However, watching it now makes you really wonder what all the hype was about. Is it violent? Yes, but not nearly as much as many of the movies that have been released in the 30-odd years since 'Red Dawn' hit the silver screen.

Keep in mind, the 'Rambo' series had only just begun two years ago and was yet to really get into form. And even in its year of release, 'Red Dawn' only holds the distinction of having been the first PG-13 movies because 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' and 'Gremlins' had both been criticized for the level of violence they featured despite having a PG rating.

So in other words, it's not so much that 'Red Dawn' was so violent they had to invent a rating category for it, it's just that it was the first to come out after the change had already been made. It was still the most violent film of its time in terms of kill count (2.23 acts of violence per minute) but we now live in a time where movies have turned violence into an art form and sadly, beyond the violence, there's really not much to the movie.

A still from 'Red Dawn' (IMDb)

'Red Dawn' is basically 'The Red Scare: The Cinematic Version'. The movie begins with the invasion of a town in Colorado by Soviet and Cuban troops and revolves around a bunch of teenagers (played by soon-to-be iconic actors like Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen) who begin waging guerilla warfare against the invaders.

If you knock your sense of disbelief out and leave it tied up in the attic before watching this film, you might still enjoy it. But it's so riddled with issues that it's hard to believe that this movie is something of a cult classic, to the point where the military operation that took out Saddam Hussein was called Operation Red Dawn and a remake of the movie was released in 2012.

'Red Dawn' feels like a strange combination of your grandfather's ravings about "the dirty commies" and your weird internet troll cousin's social media posts about the importance of guns and arming ourselves ahead of some phantom invasion or the other. To begin with, the movie's premise hardly holds up.

When the film begins, it is revealed that in this "near-future", NATO has broken up and Mexico is now a communist state. Yet none of that explains why the Soviets and the Cubans would pick Colorado of all places to launch their invasion. It's not a particularly well-written movie in any other aspect either. The plot seems hastily thrown together and the concept of character development doesn't seem to have been considered at any stage in the production process.

John Milius arrives at the Premiere of Lionsgate's "Apocalypse Now Final Cut" at ArcLight Cinerama Dome on August 12, 2019, in Hollywood, California. (Getty Images)

The only thing that comes close to explaining the why of the movie is Milius's own political views, which are on the very, very far right. The closest equivalents to his worldview that exist in contemporary politics are the anarcho-capitalist movements that deride both left-wing ideology and the state in equal measure. We see that distrust of the state in 'Red Dawn'. And a nice dose of hatred for "those damn dirty commies", of course.

Ultimately, the movie does have its audience today. Granted, that audience consists mostly of alt-rightists, gun nuts, and the kind of people who watch films solely for the gore, but it is an audience nonetheless. If you do hold the aforementioned political leanings, you might enjoy 'Red Dawn'. If you're just a gore fan looking for some vintage violence, you might enjoy it a little less. And if you're literally anyone else, the only reason to watch this movie is in film school or because you've been asked to review it.

'Red Dawn' was released on August 10, 1984.

'Gen Z Reviews Classic Movies' is a column that revisits some of the greatest films of all time and discerns how they hold up decades later

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Contents

The film is set in an alternate 1980s in which the United States and Western Europe is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Warsaw Pact Allies. However, the onset of World War III is in the background and not fully elaborated. The story follows a group of American high school students who resist the occupation with guerrilla warfare, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot.

  • Patrick Swayze as Jed Eckert
  • C. Thomas Howell as Robert Morris
  • Lea Thompson as Erica Mason
  • Charlie Sheen as Matt Eckert
  • Darren Dalton as Daryl Bates
  • Jennifer Grey as Toni Mason
  • Brad Savage as Danny Bates
  • Doug Toby as Arturo "Aardvark" Mondragón
  • Powers Boothe as Lt. Col. Andrew "Andy" Tanner, USAF
  • Harry Dean Stanton as Tom Eckert
  • Ron O'Neal as Col. Ernesto Bella
  • William Smith as Col. Strelnikov
  • Vladek Sheybal as Gen. Bratchenko
  • Ben Johnson as Mr. Jack Mason
  • Roy Jenson as Mr. Samuel Morris
  • Pepe Serna as Mr. Mondragón
  • Lane Smith as Mayor Bates
  • Radames Pera as Sgt. Stepan Gorsky

8 Things You Probably Never Knew About 'Red Dawn'

No film better encapsulated the patriotic fervor of the Reagan era than John Milius’ 1984 cult classic “Red Dawn.” It’s a flag-waving, National Anthem-singing, gun-clutching, commie-killing masterpiece of propaganda that spoke to the hearts of every red-blooded American who spent the Cold War fantasizing about the day their love of country would be put to the ultimate test.

When the film begins, our heroes — a group of high school students calling themselves “Wolverines”— retreat into the wilderness after Soviet paratroopers descend on their small Colorado town. The year is 1989 and World War III is underway. Thanks to the Second Amendment, the Wolverines are able to launch an armed insurgency against the communist invaders. The stakes are high: A third of the United States is under Soviet control and civilians are being massacred in droves. The ensuing battle for America’s future is bloody — so bloody, in fact, that upon its release “Red Dawn” earned condemnation from the National Coalition on Television Violence as the most violent movie ever made.

Of course, the world is a much different place in 2017. As far as film violence goes, “Red Dawn” is laughably mild compared to what is currently considered acceptable. Also, the Russians might be our friends now. We’re not sure. Still, the film’s legacy lives on. In 2009, the National Review included “Red Dawn” on its list of “Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years,” and there was enough hype around the 2012 remake starring Chris Hemsworth to help the film gross more than $48 million, despite terrible reviews. Maybe “Red Dawn” was just too much a product of its time to make much sense in the post-Cold War world, but it’s still a timeless film.Here are eight more interesting behind-the-scenes facts about “Red Dawn” that may deepen your appreciation of the film — or at least help prepare you for your next trivia night.

1. An actual military operation was named after the movie in 2003. The U.S. military mission that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was codenamed Operation Red Dawn. “Operation Red Dawn was so fitting because it was a patriotic, pro-American movie,” Army Capt. Geoffrey McMurray, who picked the name, told USA Today.

2. In 1984, tensions between the U.S. and the USSR were so high that the Soviets boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, citing security concerns as the primary reason. “Chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in the [United States],” read a statement released by the Soviet National Olympic Committee when the boycott was announced. The fact that “Red Dawn” premiered that year probably didn’t help alleviate their fears.

3. “Red Dawn” was directed by John Milius, who at the time was best known as the screenwriter of “Apocalypse Now.” In his 20s, Milius tried volunteering for military service during the Vietnam War, but was rejected because he had asthma. “It was totally demoralizing,” he later recalled in an interview. “I missed going to my war. It probably caused me to be obsessed with war ever since.” Milius was known to carry a loaded pistol with him on set, according to IMDB. He was also the inspiration for John Goodman’s character in “The Big Lebowski.”

4. The “Red Dawn” remake was filmed in 2009, but didn’t premiere until 2012. Part of the reason for the delay was the decision to cast China, instead of Russia, as the villain. This raised serious concerns among potential distributors, who feared the choice would alienate the Chinese market. As a result, Chinese flags and military symbols were digitally erased from the film and dialogue was altered. When the film finally premiered, North Korean troops made up the bulk of the invading force. In a 2014 interview with Crave, Milius said he hadn’t seen the remake and had no intention of ever seeing it. “I don’t think there’s many kids sitting around thinking about Korea landing on our schools,” he said.

5. The cast of the original “Red Dawn” underwent eight weeks of military training before filming began. The movie’s technical advisor was quoted in the film’s production notes saying, “we took them out into the hills and ran them from sunup to sundown.” Patrick Swayze, who played the leader of the Wolverines, was also quoted saying, “I learned things I shouldn’t know. I know how to make bombs out of household good,” according to AMC.

6. “Red Dawn” is rated PG-13 thanks to Steven Spielberg. Up until 1984, there were only four film ratings: G, PG, R, and X. Spielberg changed that with a phone call. “I remember calling Jack Valenti [then the president of the Motion Picture Association] and suggesting to him that we need a rating between R and PG, because so many films were falling into a netherworld, you know, of unfairness,” Spielberg told Vanity Fair in 2008. “Unfair that certain kids were exposed to ‘Jaws,’ but also unfair that certain films were restricted, that kids who were 13, 14, 15 should be allowed to see.” The first film to receive the PG-13 rating? “Red Dawn.”

7. “Red Dawn” launched the careers of Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen. In fact, it was Sheen’s first feature film. However, in 1987, Sheen told ET that he wasn’t all that impressed with how “Red Dawn” turned out. “The film is such a comic book,” he said. “It was such a great concept on paper, but I think if Milius had paid more attention to his actors than his tank, we might’ve had something. I thought it was detrimental to the final outcome of the film.”

8. A key scene may have been deleted because of a real-life mass murder. The original trailer for the film included a scene of a tank rolling up to a McDonald’s where enemy soldiers are eating, according to IMBD. It’s speculated that the scene never made the final cut because of the so-called San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre. On July 18, 1984, a 41-year-old man named James Huberty walked into a McDonald’s in the San Diego neighborhood of San Ysidro and shot and killed 21 people and injured 19 others.

Adam Linehan is a senior staff writer for Task & Purpose. Between 2006-2012, he served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army, and is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow Adam Linehan on Twitter Twitter.

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Red Dawn (2012)

A remake of the 1984 movie of the same name.

In the 2012 version of Red Dawn JoshHutcherson plays Robert, originated by C. Thomas Howell, and becomes the group’s tech geek. Isabel Lucas is Erica, head cheerleader and Josh Peck character’s girlfriend whom he desperately hopes to spring from an internment camp. Lea Thompson played the character in the original.

Connor Cruise (adopted black son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) is Daryl, the son of Spokane’s mayor and Robert’s best friend.

Chris Hemsworth stars as Jed Eckert, the role that Patrick Swayze played in the original film.

The original 1984 “Red Dawn” was the first PG-13 rated movie.

The 2012 version of “Red Dawn” comes to theaters nearly three years after completion.

While the movie could have made or ruined two current noteworthy careers… Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, respectively, if it had been released in 2010, as originally intended, neither have cause for concern presently.

Josh Hutcherson is star of the Journey To The Center Of The Earth remake and all three movies based on The Hunger Games series.


A Brief History of the Movie Rating System

When you were a kid, sneaking into a rated R movie was a big deal. Everyone had their own tricks, but this author's was to buy a ticket to a rated G Disney movie, say, Mulan when the usher turned their back, I would run into a rated R movie like, for example American History X. But it wasn't always this way – not kids sneaking into movies deemed only for adults, but rather the movie rating system. There was a time when movies didn't have ratings. So how did we get from there to the current system?

Thomas Edison is credited for building the first film production studio nearby his home and lab in West Orange, New Jersey in 1893. It was called Black Maria, or the "Doghouse" by Edison himself. That is where he shot the short film The Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (otherwise known as Fred Ott's Sneeze) in January 1894, which became the first film to be registered for a copyright. Two months later, Edison's employee William K.L. Dickson filmed Carmencita, a Spanish dancer and maybe the first woman to appear on film. In some places, her projection was not allowed to be shown due to it revealing her legs and undergarments as she twirled. Perhaps the earliest case of film censorship.

In March 1897, James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons boxed one another in Carson City, Nevada. It was watched live by thousands of fans, but it was soon going to be seen by many more. Encoh Rector had filmed it on 11,000 feet of film and, two months later, the film premiered in New York. With a run time of over hundred minutes, The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight was the the first documentary and feature film ever. It would eventually be shown in ten different cities over an eleven month period. Now, prizefighting was illegal in every state in the country besides Nevada at the time, but it wasn't necessarily illegal to SHOW prizefighting, hence, the popularity of the film. In response to this new technology circumventing the rules, seven states (including New York) all passed a law fining those who showed the film. While most of the fines were ignored, this was one of the first instances of governing bodies monitoring what people watched on film.

Ten years later, Chicago became the first city to regulate and censor movies. With over 115 nickelodeons across the city and the Chicago Tribune announcing that they had an "influence that is wholly vicious," censorship rules were enacted in 1907. The city council gave the chief of police the power to issue – or not issue – permits for the exhibition of moving pictures. If a movie didn't meet his standards (or someone he delegated the task too), a permit would be denied. The United States Supreme Court upheld Chicago's right to do this. Additionally, Chicago created a separate pink permit to mark those movies that were "adult only." This backfired when the pink permits acted as more of advertisements than deterrents.

In 1909, New York City, by order of Mayor George B. McClellan, closed 550 theaters because the police chief claimed that "most movie material was reprehensible." In response to this, the National Board of Censorship was formed as "the first formal attempt by the film industry to ward off legal film censorship through quasi self-regulation." For a small fee, the Board would recommend cuts.


On This Day in 1984, the MPAA Introduced the PG-13 Rating

On July 1, 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) added a new rating to its arsenal: PG-13. At the time, the MPAA ratings included G, PG, R, and X (changed to NC-17 in 1990). PG-13 fit in between PG and R, and according to the MPAA, indicated content that "may be inappropriate for children under 13 years old."

Why add PG-13? In a word, Spielberg. Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out in May 1984, and it was decidedly dark, including very intense human sacrifice scenes. But it was caught in an odd place, given the MPAA's rating system at the time. It earned a PG rating (the tamer end of the spectrum), but many parents objected, saying it was simply too intense for young kids. What to do?

Well, Spielberg phoned up Jack Valenti of the MPAA to suggest a middle ground. Spielberg told Vanity Fair:

"The story of that was, I had come under criticism, personal criticism, for both Temple of Doom and, you know, Gremlins, in the same year. I remember calling Jack Valenti [then the president of the Motion Picture Association] and suggesting to him that we need a rating between R and PG, because so many films were falling into a netherworld, you know, of unfairness. Unfair that certain kids were exposed to Jaws, but also unfair that certain films were restricted, that kids who were 13, 14, 15 should be allowed to see. I suggested, 'Let’s call it PG-13 or PG-14, depending on how you want to design the slide rule,' and Jack came back to me and said, 'We’ve determined that PG-13 would be the right age for that temperature of movie.' So I’ve always been very proud that I had something to do with that rating. . "

Very quickly, the MPAA introduced PG-13 as a middle ground rating. It was a practical compromise, as R-rated movies required an adult chaperone for kids under 17. Slapping an R rating on a movie like Temple of Doom (or Gremlins for that matter) would have been a commercial disaster. By creating PG-13, the MPAA allowed parents to make age-related policy decisions about these middle-ground movies on their own.

The first film released with a PG-13 rating was Red Dawn in August 1984, though The Flamingo Kid was technically the first to receive that rating from the MPAA. (It was finally released in December 1984.)

If you're curious about the history of movie ratings, consult our detailed explainer.


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