note: This is an update to an old post, which has a lot of cool links to articles concerning the historical link between MPAA rating and box office performance.
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Box Office Breakdown of MPAA Ratings, 1980-2022
I'm really proud of my original post, which looked at the percentage of the top ten films at the domestic box office as they relate to the films' MPAA ratings. I've always felt that the dominance of PG live-action movies had been waning (taken over by PG-13) hits, and it was reassuring to see that feeling accurately play out in chart form.
The chart above adds years 2016-2022, which saw a staggering increase in PG-13 domination, culminating in 2021 and 2022 where PG-13 films made up a 93% and 86% of the top ten box office dollars, respectively.
The gigantic 2021 PG-13 percentage was fueled by five PG-13 superhero movies, "F9", "No Time to Die" and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife". That's nine of the top ten films at the box office; the sole non-PG-13 film in the top ten was "Sing 2".
But look what happened in the truncated, abbreviated, all-around-crummy year of 2020: 41% of the top ten's box office was from R-rated films! The top film of 2020 was "Bad Boys for Life" which was rated R, and there were impressive showings from fellow R-rated movies "Birds of Prey" and "The Invisible Man". Granted, due to the pandemic the severely-constricted box office for the top ten films of 2020 was about 1/5 of the 2019 top ten, which included hits like "Avengers: Endgame", "The Lion King", and "The Rise of Skywalker".
That said, 2020's performance of R-rated films was the highest percentage since 1988 when "Rain Man", "Coming to America", "Die Hard" and "Cocktail" dominated the box office (42%). In 1996 when R-rated fare like "Jerry Maguire", "Ransom", "The Rock", "The Birdcage" and "A Time to Kill", restricted films made up 39% of the top ten box office.
The year which saw the highest percentage of R-rated hits in the top ten was 1987, where movies like "Fatal Attraction", "Beverly Hills Cop II", "Good Morning, Vietnam", "The Untouchables", "Stakeout", "Lethal Weapon" and "The Witches of Eastwick" made up for a staggering 70% of the top ten box office.