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February 16, 2019

Four R-rated movies today’s kids should see

Private RyanI want my kids to watch R-rated movies.

Let me explain before you go clutching pearls or putting me on prayer lists.

During a recent mom discussion about movies, a mother of young teens exclaimed, “I would NEVER allow my children to watch R-rated movies!”

To which I replied, “That’s a shame because there are a lot of R films your kid could benefit from.”

Oh, snap.

My remarks were met with stone silence and dropped jaws.

Had the discussion not met its abrupt end, I would have explained that I want my kids to watch SOME R-movies.


Because life isn’t always neat, pretty or easy. It can be messy, heartbreaking and difficult, and some films convey that message in a way that touches the mind and soul.

To be fair, the R-rated bucket is filled with a lot of trash. The Motion Picture  Association of America voluntarily set up its ratings system to give parents fair-warning about what content a movie might contain. To earn the R, which prohibits children from viewing without a parent or guardian, a film may contain one or more of the following:

  • Adult themes
  • Adult activity
  • Hard language
  • Intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements

The R-rated bucket is also very diverse. It contains movies such as the blood-and-gore “Saw” series, ultra-violent “Taken” films, hyper-sexed “50 Shades of Grey,” and crude humor flicks like “Ted” and “The Hangover.”

However, there are some films in that bucket that SHOULD be viewed because they share important historical lessons with people far removed from the emotional, spiritual and physical brutalities of war, conflict and sacrifice. These films share the human story in such a way that those who watch them appreciate the sacrifices made by others or personally vow to fight injustices.

Watching R-rated movies as a family

My family and I watched “Saving Private Ryan” together. My son was 11 and my daughter was 14 at the time. In the film, Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks) leads a group of soldiers behind enemy lines during World War II to find and return Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three brothers were killed in combat. We watched it as a family because it was important for our children to truly understand the sacrifice men and women make in defense of our country. The movie had a strong emotional impact on all of us, and it led to a great family discussion about our troops in the Middle East and the importance of living a worthwhile life.

Why is “Saving Private Ryan” rated R? Characters talk about sex, but the bulk of the rating is due to realistic war violence.

There are other R-rated movies I want my kids to watch with me:

“Schindler’s List” – German businessman Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) spends his entire fortune and risks his own life protecting the lives of Jews who work in his munitions factory. The film features a very graphic portrayal of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities during World War II, but also showcases how one person can save others by standing up to evil. It won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Picture and serves as a visual memorial to the 11 million people who were exterminated in the quest for a “master race.” It is rated R because of violence, nudity, profanity and some sexual content.

“Hotel Rwanda” – This film tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. It has heartbreaking depictions of violence against innocent people, but it shares an important lesson about the evil of genocide, which is especially relevant today in light of the race and faith-based atrocities committed by groups such as Boko Haram, ISIS and other extremist groups. It is rated R because of violence, disturbing images and brief strong language.

The Passion of the Christ”– Director Mel Gibson depicts the final twelve hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem. The film can be very hard to watch because of its graphic beatings and violence, but the imagery helps viewers understand the depth of his sacrifice for mankind.

*Parents are urged to make their own decisions about these movies based on their children’s maturity level and family convictions. The films I have listed may have subject matter that is too intense or disturbing for some tweens and young teens; however, it may be more appropriate for older teens. Family viewing and discussions are strongly encouraged.

Do you have any movies to add to the list?



6 Comments on Four R-rated movies today’s kids should see

  1. I agree that the MPAA rating system has absolutely nothing to do with the real value of a film. I know of many PG and PG-13 (and even some G-rated films) are such garbage that I wouldn’t want my kids to waste their time with them. I like your list, and I might even add one NC-17 film, that, under some circumstances, I would want an older teenager to see. The film is Darren Aaronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream”, and deals with the consequences of addiction in a very powerful manner.

  2. Hi Kim, I couldn’t hold back my additional suggestions to the list as I’ve watched my fair share of movies. Here’s a few that I looked at that might fit your list. JFK, ARGO, My left Foot, 12 Years a Slave, and even Erin Brockovich. All based on true stories and were all R ratings.

  3. While I agree that your list contains exemplary movies, I would still shield my kids from the excessive violence, disturbing images, and strong language. My husband and I have decided to never watch an R rated movie ourselves (with the exception of the “The Passion of Christ”) but we have actually seen the movies on your list by watching the edited versions on TV. Also there are websites where you can watch filtered movies/tv shows ( is an example).

    Personally, I feel the excessive violence, language, and nudity in any R rated movie are inappropriate for children. Those violent images (coupled with dramatic music that can move the soul) can stay with a child for a long time which may not be beneficial to their well being.

    There are several movies that convey the difficulty, harshness, and messiness of life without exposing children to those disturbing images. Life is Beautiful, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are about the Holocaust. Try looking at the the American Film Institute’s “100 years…100 Movies” list. You can find incredible movies that consists of important and realistic life lessons. Most of them are not rated R.

    • Thanks for your feedback. I will definitely be checking out the AFI List.

      Every parent needs to decide what is appropriate for their tweens and teens and base viewing on their family beliefs as well as the kids’ emotional, mental and spiritual maturity.

      As odd as it may sound, I am okay with films that show historical violence because I believe we do future generations are tremendous disservice if we minimize or sugarcoat real human experiences. In some cases, people NEED to see the inhumanity and cruelty so they will rise up against it if they ever see it again.

  4. The Patriot and Braveheart… Meghen says Twelve Years a Slave (maybe, she didn’t see it all), The Last of the Mohicans and The King’s Speech, I have not seen these…

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