Why is 'The Green Mile' Rated R: Exploring the MPAA's Decision and Its Impact on the Film

Why is ‘The Green Mile’ Rated R: Exploring the MPAA’s Decision and Its Impact on the Film

When it comes to movie ratings, the decisions made by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) can have a significant impact on a film’s success. One such film that faced an unexpected rating is ‘The Green Mile,’ directed by Frank Darabont and released in 1999. Despite its thought-provoking and emotionally compelling storyline, ‘The Green Mile’ received an R rating. In this article, we will explore the MPAA’s decision and analyze its impact on the film.

The MPAA’s Rating Guidelines

The MPAA is responsible for assigning ratings to movies based on their content. The ratings range from G (General Audience) to NC-17 (No one 17 and under admitted). The purpose of these ratings is to provide parents and moviegoers with guidance on the appropriateness of a film for different age groups. The MPAA takes various factors into consideration, including language, violence, sexual content, and drug use.

Examining ‘The Green Mile’

‘The Green Mile’ is a film adaptation of the novel by Stephen King, which tells the story of a death row corrections officer and the supernatural events that occur at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in the 1930s. The film explores themes of racism, injustice, and the power of compassion. It features a stellar cast, including Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan.

Despite its powerful message and critical acclaim, the MPAA assigned ‘The Green Mile’ an R rating. This decision puzzled many who believed that the film’s content did not warrant such a restrictive rating. Let’s delve into the reasons behind the MPAA’s decision.

Violence and Disturbing Scenes

One of the primary factors leading to the R rating of ‘The Green Mile’ is the presence of graphic violence and disturbing scenes. The film depicts several executions and displays the harsh realities of death row. Additionally, it contains scenes of intense physical violence and cruelty, which may be unsettling for younger viewers.

While these scenes contribute to the film’s emotional impact and help convey its underlying themes, they also played a significant role in the MPAA’s decision to give it an R rating. The organization aims to protect younger audiences from potentially distressing or inappropriate content.

Language and Adult Themes

‘The Green Mile’ also features strong language and adult themes, which further contributed to its R rating. The film explores complex issues such as racism, injustice, and the abuse of power. It portrays the realities of life on death row and the challenges faced by the characters. The dialogue includes profanity and discussions of sensitive topics, which may not be suitable for younger viewers.

Furthermore, ‘The Green Mile’ tackles mature subject matter, including sexual assault, mental illness, and the death penalty. These adult themes, combined with the graphic language used in the film, influenced the MPAA’s decision to give it an R rating.

The Impact of the R Rating

Receiving an R rating can have both positive and negative effects on a film. On one hand, it can attract a more mature and discerning audience who appreciates challenging and thought-provoking content. The rating can lend an air of authenticity and credibility to a film, indicating that it tackles serious themes and does not shy away from difficult topics.

However, the R rating can also limit a film’s potential audience. Younger viewers, who may have been drawn to the film’s inspiring and emotional storyline, may be unable to see it without a parent or guardian. This restriction can significantly impact box office revenue and may prevent the message of the film from reaching a wider audience.


‘The Green Mile’ is a prime example of how the MPAA’s rating decisions can influence a film’s reception and impact. Despite its profound themes and compelling storytelling, the presence of graphic violence, disturbing scenes, and adult themes led to the film receiving an R rating. While this rating may have attracted a more mature audience, it also limited the film’s accessibility and prevented younger viewers from experiencing its powerful message.

Ultimately, the MPAA’s decision highlights the delicate balance between protecting audiences and allowing filmmakers to explore challenging subject matter. ‘The Green Mile’ serves as a reminder of the complexities surrounding movie ratings and the impact they have on a film’s success.


1. Why was “The Green Mile” given an R rating by the MPAA?

The MPAA gave “The Green Mile” an R rating primarily due to its violence, language, and adult themes.

2. What specific elements in the film led to the R rating?

The film contains graphic violence, including execution scenes and physical confrontations, strong language, some sexual content, and intense emotional moments that may not be suitable for younger audiences.

3. Did the MPAA provide any specific explanations for the R rating?

The MPAA did not offer a detailed breakdown of the specific reasons behind the decision, but they generally provided a brief description mentioning violence, language, and adult themes.

4. How does an R rating impact the film’s distribution and audience?

An R rating limits the film’s potential audience, as it restricts viewers under the age of 17 (18 in some cases) from watching it without a parent or guardian. The restriction also affects the film’s marketing and availability in theaters, as some cinemas may choose not to screen movies with an R rating.

5. Are there any alternatives to the R rating for films like “The Green Mile”?

Yes, there are alternative ratings like PG-13 and NC-17 that the MPAA considers for films with content falling between a PG-13 and R rating. However, “The Green Mile” was deemed to contain material that warranted an R rating rather than a PG-13.

6. How does the rating impact the film’s financial success?

An R rating can sometimes affect the financial success of a film, as it excludes a significant portion of the potential audience, particularly teenagers. However, “The Green Mile” was a critically acclaimed film that still found success at the box office, showcasing that quality storytelling can overcome the limitations of an R rating.

7. Does the R rating impact the film’s artistic integrity?

The R rating does not necessarily impact the artistic integrity of a film. Filmmakers have the creative freedom to explore mature themes and incorporate violence and strong language into their storytelling. The rating is primarily meant to guide viewers and inform parents about the film’s content.

8. Can a film with an R rating be educational or have important social messages?

Absolutely. Many films with an R rating tackle important social issues, provide educational insights, or offer thought-provoking commentary. The rating is not indicative of the film’s quality, message, or artistic value but rather serves as a guideline for appropriate audience age.

9. How does the MPAA determine ratings for films?

The MPAA employs a board of raters who watch films and assign a rating based on the guidelines provided by the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). The raters consider various factors like violence, language, sexual content, drug use, and thematic elements to determine the appropriate rating for a film.

10. Can the filmmakers challenge or appeal the MPAA’s decision?

Yes, filmmakers can submit an appeal to the MPAA if they believe their film’s rating is unfair or inaccurate. The appeal process involves providing additional context or arguments to support their case. However, the MPAA’s decision is generally final, and successful appeals are rare.