ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have made careers out of movies which feature greased action heroes firing a seemingly endless stream of bullets into the faces, stomachs and gullets of various ambiguously accented bad guys. Indeed, their ensemble action franchise, The Expendables, in many ways seems like the natural extension of their classic 1980s action movies - a celebration of guns and the All-American Hero set against the backdrop of buckets and buckets of red corn syrup.

Rambo is the worst backseat driver.
Rambo is the worst backseat driver.

However, the newest edition to The Expendables franchise might be shaking up this tried and tested formula. We recently heard that [The Expendables 3](movie:388705) would be rated PG-13 instead of the usual R-Rating the previous iterations of the franchise received. Despite Sly's claim that The Expendables 3 is still "very close to an R", this news upset some fans who feel the new sequel might be a watered down affair which is purely designed not to give Little Johnny nightmares and/or turn him into a raging psychopath.

In reality, recent studies showed PG-13 movies actually contain more gun violence than R-rated movies, suggesting the MPAA are willing to accept war and killing, just as long as no one gets naked or curses while they do it.

In this vein, here are 9 violent and potentially-inappropriate movies that still got away with a PG-13 rating.

World War Z

Surprisingly, the movie which featured more rotting corpses on screen at one time than any other movie in history (unverified fact) actually received a PG-13 rating. This is rather unexpected considering there are extended scenes of soldiers mowing down people with machine-guns, makeshift bayonet amputations and zombies smashing their heads into windshields. I suppose the mitigating factor here is that these 'people' are zed-heads who are essentially lacking all human emotions. Still, it seems strange that something which is essentially an onscreen massacre was marketed partly towards 13 year olds.

The Bourne Identity

Sure, The Bourne Identity is a bit of a generic action thriller, but it also prided itself on delivering very kinetic and gritty fight scenes. Of course, the one everyone remembers was when Jason Bourne clearly proved the pen is mightier than the sword (or more accurately, tiny dagger) in this increasingly bloody fist-fight. So it's a little tame by The Raid standards, but the pen stuck in his hand and the breaking of his arms and legs even had this 25 year old squirming.

The Dark Knight

While we're on the subject of using stationary to kill people, let's all remember this famous scene from The Dark Knight. As a superhero movie, you can kind of expect The Dark Knight to court the kiddie market, but there are several scenes in Chris Nolan's darker interpretation of Batman which would have surely shocked Little Jimmy's parents. Indeed, the British equivalent to the MPAA, the BBFC, received 364 complaints for The Dark Knight, making it the most complained about movie of the last decade.

Barbarella: Queen of The Galaxy

Let's take a break from violence to visit that other oft-loathed cinematic vice: Sex. Unlike some other countries, the US is clearly easily offended by the naked human body - for example Blue Is The Warmest Color received an NC-17 rating in the US, compared to a 12 in France. However, when some friends and I recently watched the 1968 sci-fi classic Barbarella, we were amazed about how much sex and nudity made it into this PG movie. There's full on nipple, open talk about the logistics of sex and even a weird organ/torture device designed to kill via orgasms. Oh and they also crucify an angel, which is probably frowned upon by conservatives too.

Now for your viewing pleasure, here's Jane Fonda stripping off in zero-gravity, 1960s style.


Right, well that's enough of that. Let's get back to the good ol' fashioned violence. Did you know one of your favorite action movies was also a PG-13? Yes, Liam Neeson's face-punching, chest stabbing, threatening phone call making epic, Taken, also has a surprisingly low rating. Despite a massive kill count and a story based on creating drug-dependent sex slaves, Taken still managed to avoid an R-rating. Take a look at this fight scene to see what I mean. Apologies for the over-dubbed French, but violence is the same in all languages.

The Grudge

I don't know about you, but even now I'm classed (officially) as a fully grown adult male, creepy little Japanese girls are still going to haunt my dreams. Although the original Japanese version of The Grudge was classed as an R, the American remake managed to reduce that to a PG-13. Dead bodies, jawless faces and nightmare-inducing specters all appear in the PG-13 version of The Grudge. The video below is from the Director's Cut, but it is merely slightly longer than the theatrical version.

The Lone Ranger

I know what you're thinking. Firstly, "How can a Disney movie feature excessive violence?" And secondly, "What is this excessive violence? I didn't actually see The Lone Ranger?"

I'm with you there, but apparently the director of the 2013 family-action movie flop likes gore so much he decided to name himself after it. Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger not only features scores of onscreen deaths but also a scene in which the villain cuts out and eats the heart of our hero's brother. The scene is in silhouette and apparently 'isn't dwelled upon', but it's surprising to think cannibalism is allowed in a PG-13 movie - as is genocide of an indigenous population, for that matter.


The 2014 remake of RoboCop also followed the modern trend of chasing a PG-13 rating. Although the 1987 version was rated R - and earned it - Jose Padilha's modern reboot drained some blood from their squibs and managed to get away with a PG-13. Generic violence aside, RoboCop also featured a scene in which Joe Kinnaman's decapitated head and respiratory system is stuck on a pedestal to have an emotional chat with Gary Oldman. The visible pulsating organs certainly has the potential to give Little Jimmy some rather disturbing nightmares.

X-Men 2

The recently released [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942) certainly featured its fair share of decapitations and deaths, but one particular scene from X-Men 2 has always stuck with me for its inherent violence. During the mansion attack scene, Wolverine goes full-rage mode and buries his claws into an unlucky soldier. Sure, Wolverine was just defending some kids, but the quivering body and screaming - plus the fact a superhero had just killed a dude - meant this scene was rather severe for a PG-13.

Can you think of any other PG-13 movies which got away with some rather adult content?


Which of these movies is most inappropriate for a PG-13?


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