Why is Cop Out Rated R: Unraveling the MPAA's Classification System for Films

Why is Cop Out Rated R: Unraveling the MPAA’s Classification System for Films

The MPAA and Film Ratings

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is responsible for assigning ratings to films released in the United States. These ratings, ranging from G to NC-17, provide guidance to parents and audiences about the content of a particular film. However, the MPAA’s classification system can sometimes be confusing, leaving viewers wondering why a certain film received a specific rating. One such example is the film “Cop Out,” which received an R-rating. In this article, we will unravel the MPAA’s classification system and delve into the reasons behind the R-rating for “Cop Out.”

Understanding the R-Rating

The R-rating, which stands for “Restricted,” indicates that a film contains content that may not be suitable for viewers under the age of 17 without accompanying parent or guardian. This rating is often given to films that contain violence, strong language, nudity, or other adult themes. The exact criteria used by the MPAA to assign an R-rating can vary, leading to inconsistencies in the rating process.

The Content of “Cop Out”

“Cop Out,” directed by Kevin Smith and starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, is a comedy film revolving around two detectives on a mission to recover a stolen baseball card. The film includes elements of action, violence, and profanity, which contributed to its R-rating.

Violence and Action

One of the main factors leading to the R-rating for “Cop Out” is its depiction of violence. The film contains scenes of gunfights, car chases, and physical altercations, which may be deemed unsuitable for younger audiences. The MPAA considers the intensity and frequency of violence when assigning ratings, and in the case of “Cop Out,” the action-packed nature of the film played a significant role.

Language and Profanity

Another contributing factor to the R-rating of “Cop Out” is the use of strong language and profanity throughout the film. The MPAA takes into account not only the frequency of such language but also its context and impact on the overall film. In the case of “Cop Out,” the extensive use of profanity by the main characters influenced the decision to assign an R-rating.

The MPAA’s Classification System

The MPAA’s classification system aims to provide guidance to audiences, particularly parents, in making informed choices about the films they and their children watch. However, the system is subjective and can be influenced by societal norms, cultural sensitivities, and the personal opinions of the MPAA’s rating board members. This subjectivity can lead to inconsistencies in ratings, with some films receiving higher or lower ratings than expected.

The Importance of the R-Rating

The R-rating serves as a way to protect younger audiences from potentially inappropriate content. By assigning an R-rating to films like “Cop Out,” the MPAA aims to ensure that parents are aware of the film’s content and can make decisions regarding their children’s viewing experiences. The rating system allows for freedom of expression in filmmaking while also providing a level of responsibility to filmmakers and distributors in ensuring that audiences are adequately informed.


The MPAA’s classification system for films, including the R-rating, plays a vital role in informing audiences about the content of a particular film. In the case of “Cop Out,” the film’s depiction of violence, use of strong language, and adult themes resulted in its R-rating. Understanding the criteria and considerations used by the MPAA can help viewers make informed decisions about the films they choose to watch. As viewers, it is important to be aware of the rating system and utilize it as a tool to navigate the diverse landscape of films available today.


1. What is the MPAA’s classification system for films?

The MPAA’s classification system for films is a rating system used in the United States to inform audiences about the content and suitability of a film for different age groups and audiences.

2. What are the different ratings given by the MPAA?

The MPAA provides the following ratings: G (General Audience), PG (Parental Guidance suggested), PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned), R (Restricted), and NC-17 (No one 17 and under admitted).

3. What criteria does the MPAA consider when assigning ratings?

The MPAA considers factors such as violence, language, sexuality, drug use, and nudity when assigning ratings to films. The extent and context of these elements are crucial in determining the appropriate rating for a particular film.

4. Why did “Cop Out” receive an R rating?

“Cop Out” received an R rating due to its strong language, pervasive crude content, and some violence. These elements exceeded what the MPAA deemed suitable for a PG-13 rating.

5. Can a film’s rating be changed after its initial classification?

Yes, a film’s rating can be changed after its initial classification. Sometimes, filmmakers appeal the initial rating given by the MPAA and provide additional context or edits to persuade the MPAA to reconsider and assign a different rating.

6. How does the MPAA benefit from having a rating system for films?

The MPAA’s rating system allows audiences to make informed decisions about the films they choose to watch, ensuring they align with their preferences or what they deem suitable for themselves or their children. It provides clarity and transparency regarding a film’s content.

7. Are the MPAA ratings legally enforceable?

No, the MPAA ratings are voluntary guidelines provided for the benefit of the movie industry and moviegoers. The ratings are not legally enforceable, but many theaters and retailers have policies in place to restrict access to films based on their ratings.

8. How do parents use the MPAA ratings to guide their children’s film choices?

Parents can use the MPAA ratings as a general guide to assess a film’s suitability for their children based on age and personal values. However, it’s important for parents to consider additional factors such as reviews, content descriptions, and their own understanding of their child’s maturity level when making informed decisions.

9. Is the MPAA’s classification system perfect or without controversy?

No, the MPAA’s classification system is not perfect and has faced criticism and controversy over the years. The system’s subjective nature and occasional inconsistencies have led to debates about whether certain ratings were justified or if certain films were unfairly treated.

10. Are films rated outside the United States subject to the MPAA’s classification system?

No, films rated outside the United States are not subject to the MPAA’s classification system. Each country has its own rating systems and criteria, although some international markets may take the MPAA ratings into consideration when determining how to classify films for their local audiences.