The Awakening: R Rated Movies

My first change is subtle and nuanced, but the decision to alter my thinking regarding the type of media I watch is a change I’m looking forward to. To understand the change that has happened, reading this post on my media standards is essential. In short, I’ve decided to watch my first R-rated movie. (I have watched “clean” version of R rated films like Amelie, Memento, Man on Fire, but those are difficult to find because movie studios have said they don’t want people editing the films to clean them up.)

I was reading through the things I wrote previously, and when I say out loud that I’ve decided to watch R-rated movies now it sounds much more dramatic than it is. My standards for violence, profanity, and sexuality haven’t changed all that much. What is dramatic is that I’ve decided not to worry about what is said in the Strength of Youth pamphlet when I choose what to watch. Previously, I read what was said about movies (or other things in that pamphlet) and made my list of what I should or shouldn’t do, and that was it. Now, I make my own list.

You know what I’ve always wanted to watch? Schindler’s List. But I never did because it was rated R, and I wanted to hold on to the statement that I had never seen a rated R movie. Not because I thought it made me “better” in some Mormon sense, but because I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I had done it, and they could to. Now I guess I will tell them that I’d like them to follow my example through high school, and that I think they will likely be better off for it, but once they are in college and developing their critical thinking skills it’s up to them.

I think if I were to write out my new media standard now, it would be that I want to try to focus my media consumption on things that I feel broaden my worldview in some way. I’ll probably apply this most stringently to movies, though I’d like to take a closer look at the tv shows I watch while I cook because time spent watching Drop Dead Diva could be spent watching Ted talks (Biggest Loser will always be on my playlist though, because I’m such a sucker for these personal stories of triumph, no matter how short-lived they may be). I want to go through the DVDs I own and get rid of those that don’t fit with my goals (maybe I’ll do a big giveaway and send them off to you guys? 🙂 ), and when a movie comes out instead of immediately searching the Rotten Tomatoes page for the MPAA rating I want to look at the synopsis and the number of critics who liked it and think about what the movie means and how it could make me think.

I’m still going to keep using the site Kids In Mind, because I’m worried about desensitization. I like that I don’t swear, and I think it would be easy for me to start slipping and doing so when angry, frustrated, or surprised if I was consuming a lot of media that used such language frequently. And that’s certainly not the type of sounds I want filling my son’s sweet little ears. I don’t really want to a lot of nudity, frankly because I like that those things stay out of my head when I’m being intimate with my husband. I don’t want images of unrealistic, jealousy-inducing bodies popping up in my head during those times. Violence has always been the area where I am the most lenient because of the ways it does (/not) affect me, and will continue to be so, largely because I don’t have any intention of watching movies that are violent in an attempt to celebrate violence (a la horror films). I’m thinking more along the lines of Saving Private Ryan (I realize that’s the second Spielberg movie I’ve named in this post, I think it’s because these are movies I’ve been intrigued by for a long time, hearing my friends talk about them when I was a teenager, but have never allowed myself to watch), a movie which, based on the synopsis, may will help me think about war and move closer to understanding what war is and how it affects those who fight.

As for some of the things I named in my previous post, pornography is still out (for the reasons mentioned above). Same standards for music. Interestingly, we ordered some Friends DVDs via Netflix, and I just couldn’t get excited about watching them. I think I loved that series so much because of the way I shared it with my college girlfriends. Now, I love 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation because I watch them with That Husband.

I actually have a fun request for you. Now that I’ve opened myself up to new possibilities, what do you think I should watch? I’m still kind of puzzling through exactly what do and don’t want to watch, I think it will be a process that ebbs and flows over time. Currently on my list are:

Schindler’s List
Passion of the Christ
Taxi to the Dark Side
United 93

I opened up The Sweet Hereafter and Ides of March from Netflix this morning, though I’m still not sure what I think about the latter as it is really profanity-laden. We’ve considered a ClearPlay player to allow us to eliminate the profanity from movies like Ides of March if we wanted, but I’m not sure what we’ll do yet.


324 thoughts on “The Awakening: R Rated Movies

  1. Hi, I think it is so great you are willing to be more open as films can be so educational and thought provoking. I am a bit of a film buff and it is hobby I share with my husband. I am sure you will get lots of suggestions, so I will give just one,
    Children of Men.
    It blew my mind and really made me think about our society and where it was headed as a whole.
    Highly, higly recommened!!

    Brooke Reply:

    Oooh, I really enjoyed that one as well! Very thought provoking.

  2. Pan’s Labyrinth. I *loved* that movie.

    Grace Reply:

    Pan’s Labyrinth is really beautiful. I found the violence (especially the torture) too much to take personally, but I agree it’s very well done.

    Sophia Reply:

    Yes, I definitely had to look away during those scenes!

  3. I love The Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile! Watch those, they are both great!

    I am not very religious, but I do not watch any old R rated movie. I only watch things that interest me. I also do not like very violent films like horror movies, but movies like Saving private Ryan are great films.

    Oh, one more movie. Watch Forrest Gump if you have not seen it!

    Teale Reply:

    I second all of these! And the books–The Green Mile is one of my favorite books (and a Stephen King one, at that!)

  4. Children of Men is amazing! I would also recommend the documentary “dear zachary: a letter to a son about his father” there are some F words, but I forgive it because they interview parents who’s son was murdered. It is fascinating, really. 127 Hours is also a good one. I don’t think e language was all that bad, and the gore wasn’t either. They cut away from the incident at good moments, I think. It is such a life affirming movie and made me SO grateful for what I have. Changed the way I prayed, for sure! I am much more thankful now.

    I just watched the Ides of March. Rather pleased with it, actually. I didn’t think the F words were too much, but I have been watching R rated movies for years, so maybe I am desensitized. 😉 I don’t think is has more than the average R rated film, though. The HBO movie Recount is also a good one, although I can’t remember how bad the language is. Even if though we all know the ending, it is still interesting.

    I used to have the same standards as you, but changed my tune in college. I don’t really agree with the R rated movie “thing,” especially when we are a worldwide church and some countries do not have the same rating systems. What is R here is 14+ in Canada and so on. I think at I would show SPR to my junior, after they had studied WWII that year.

    Anyway, what is come down to is that I don’t think that an organization like the MPAA should hold sway over my choices to that extent, so I make my own list of what I will, and won’t watch.

    Katy Reply:

    “Dear Zachary” KILLED me. I did not see that end coming. But it was a well done and very moving. As I’ve said in my comment, as an LDS person I generally stay away from R rated films – it’s a good guidline to follow on it’s head – but you’re totally right about how different rating systems are here vs. other countries. Are we more righteous than our worldwide brothers/sisters in the church because we stay away from them more here in the U.S.? Of course not.

    Regardless of rating and where you live, we simply need to do right by our own personal testimony and what standards we want to follow for our entertainment (and not yield total control to an organization’s arbitrary ideas).

    Katy Reply:

    (…and by organization I mean the MPAA):)

    Julia Reply:

    OMG the end of Dear Zachary?!?!?! I was BAWLING. But I still recommend it to EVERYONE.

  5. I like your take on this. 2 of my favorite movies are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mr. Nobody.
    I’m excited to read everyone else’s suggestions.

  6. Choosing good entertainment that entertains and/or enriches your life is less about following a specific mandate – letter-of-the-law – and more about evaluating the intent of the content and the benefit vs. harm (as you percieve it) – the spirit-of-the-law.

    For us LDS people – if we do choose to stay away from R rated movies altogether because we want to adhere to the guidline and avoid content we don’t agree with – can’t then shut off our minds and think that anything with a lower rating is perfectly acceptable. There are plenty of lower rated movies and television that is just as filled with gratiutious content and that isn’t exactly faith-promoting.

    It’s always felt hypocritical to me when people avoid R ratings, but have no problem seeing a movie that probably *should* have been R rated. It seems more spiritually and intellectually honest to be the kind of person that does occasionally see an R rated movie, but judges that movie and all others regardless of rating on the same scale based on their level of acceptance of certain storytelling usage (sex, violence, swearing, drug use, etc). Which – by the way – I put myself in that category of being somewhat hypocritical! 🙂

    However, Jenna is one of the few people I’ve know that both before and after her decisions regarding R movies has been in my mind consistent. When she didn’t want to see any R rated before, she was also very selective about other entertainment as well. Even now that she’s decided it’s okay to see an R film on a case-by-case basis, that selectivity doesn’t seem to have changed.

    Katy Reply:

    I do want to be clear that if any (including fellow LDS people of course) want to stay away completely away from R-rated films, that’s great. At the end of the day, we are just talking about movies here..not matters of life and death. 🙂

    And while I have seen the occasional R-rated film in my life and don’t feel horrible for it, I still habitually stay away from them for the most part. Most films we enjoy (my husband’s FAVORITES are Godfather 1 & 2 and Shawshank Redemption – seen those a trillion times) we first saw and many just watch on TV. We normally don’t encounter any R movies that we wanted to see so bad that we couldn’t wait until it comes on TV anyway.

  7. Watch Saving Private Ryan for sure. It is a wonderful example of everything a great movie should be. Raw, real, intense and emotionally moving.

    I agree with those above that recommend Shawshank Redemption as well. I only saw it two years ago (my husband was stunned that I had never watched it) and I thought it was an excellent movie.

    Though many forms of entertainment are over the top in the way they use language, nudity and violence, I look at some of these movies differently upon viewing them because they make an impact on my life. Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite movies ever. I just love the message and the story is so beautifully told. The language is a bit rough but it is being used as a part of the characters lives and not so much for the sake of being crude.

  8. Don’t bother with Ides of March. My husband and I went to see it and I found it deeply disturbing, and not in a good, critical thinking kind of way. It’s very disturbing, both sexually and morally. I walked away from it and I desperately wished I’d never seen it. The use of profanity in it is also gratuitous and really kind of disgusting.

    Have you seen Braveheart or is that rated R? Because that one is excellent and I also would say you should definitely watch Shawshank.

  9. Shawshank Redemption was the very first movie that came to mind. Seriously, it’s amazing.

  10. I’d recommend ‘The Thin Red Line’ by Terrence Malick. I loved this movie, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not plot driven and is instead a meditative take on the the nature of war and human nature itself. It’s beautifully shot, so you might enjoy it for that alone, since you’re a photographer.

    ‘A Very Long Engagement’ is a beautiful movie, by the director of Amelie and also starring Audrey Tautou. It’s a love story, mystery and war movie all rolled into one. Honestly, it’s one of the best love stories I’ve seen in a while. You didn’t say if you’re opposed to movies with sub-titles, but since this is a french movie, sub-titles would be needed.

    Don’t forget about classics like ‘The Godfather’!

  11. I’m excited to hear your experiences watching some new movies. I’ve been watching R-rated things since I was 3 years old, so I’m pretty desensitized these days. The movie has to be extremely dark to shake me. (But those are my favorite kinds of movies!)

  12. I could say a bunch of things but it basically boils down to this: THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. I agree with Katy above, who talked about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. Watching some guy do cringe-worthy stuff with baked goods in American Pie is a completely different viewing experience from watching Brokeback Mountain, which will make you think (and make you cry). Maybe Brokeback Mountain isn’t quite what you had in mind but you get the idea. As for other film suggestions, take a look at what’s won best picture for the past few years. You have a lot of catching up to do! 🙂

    Lydia Reply:

    Brokeback Mountain is seriously one of my favorite movies. I hate that there are so many tasteless jokes about such a beautiful love story.

  13. Some of my favorite R movies – Gladiator, The Kings Speech, Braveheart, The Pianist, The Green Mile, The Patriot, A Few Good Men, Saving Private Ryan, Jerry Maguire

    I actually don’t think I’ve seen Schindler’s List all the way through OR Shawshank Redemption.

  14. The Fall. I just watched it about a month ago.
    A beautiful-in-every-way movie.

    Katy Reply:

    YES!!!!!!!! I have yet to talk to someone that has seen that movie!!! Seriously, that just made my day.

    I really, really enjoyed that movie. It was a bit different, such visually stimulating scenery(added by Lee Pace…I admit I’m a fan of him;), and a wonderful, interesting story. Is that little Romanian girl not the best little actress? It’s like she not even acting. Loved her.

    Seeing as I normally don’t see R rated films I was fascinated as I watched it and found that I had no idea why it was really rated R. There is some violence, but it didn’t strike me at all as anything more intense than your typical PG13. The only thing I can think of is because of the theme involving death and manipulation.

    But I loved it. Always reccommend it to people that enjoy a movie that is just a tad different, but still relatable and enjoyable to watch.

    Erin J Reply:

    I have never heard of this movie, but I loved Lee Pace when he was on Pushing Daisies so I am going to add it to my movie list! 🙂

    Katy Reply:

    Lee Pace will also have a small(ish) role in the last Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2. I know this because I’m one of “those” people

    My name is Katy and I’m a huge, (somewhat) unabashed Twilight fan. The side of me that never aged past 16 rears it’s head sometimes thanks to these books. I’m quite excited to see Rob *and* Lee Pace in one movie. That will be a nice little treat for the eyes. 🙂

  15. Have you seen The Notebook? It’s an incredibly romantic movie about true love. I cried my eyes out the first time I saw it. Please see it! It’s soooo good. There is one (very short)love making scene (you can’t really see anything, but it is suggested).

  16. Some of my very favorite thought-provoking movies (not sure about their ratings one way or the other):
    –The Seven Samurai (Japanese action movie by the great director Kurosawa; incredibly entertaining and has some profound things to say about duty, social class and the role of violence)
    –City of God (2002 Brazilian movie about gang wars and the growth of organized crimes in the favelas: really interesting and authentic; only one professional actor in the cast, the rest were from favelas)
    –Day of Wrath, Danish (1943 Danish drama about sin (of the sexual variety and otherwise), witchcraft and religious persecution. Mentally intense but fascinating.)
    –Alien and Aliens (probably the best science fiction movies I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Not for the faint-hearted, but they have a lot of interesting things to say about femininity, among other topics)

    The Shawshank Redemption is pretty good too (a little sentimental for my taste). So are Saving Private Ryan and Schlinder’s List, actually: Spielberg is a great filmmaker, but also very cheesy.

    I liked Brokeback Mountain a lot, but it does have a couple sex scenes (they are not very erotic though). Really interesting depiction of the costs of being closeted (and beautifully shot).

    Lea Reply:

    City of God is a good movie. But forewarned: there is A LOT of violence in it, including violence against children, and it is incredibly tough to watch.

    Kristin Reply:

    A good front runner to City of God is a documentary called Noticias de uma guerra particular (in English it’s called News from a personal war). City of God is hard to watch for many reasons, but Noticias does an excellent job of looking at all aspects of the drug problem in Rio, something that City of God doesn’t fully address. As for the violence against children it is horrific to watch, but sadly a reality. There are many academic papers which deal with the Criancas de Rua (Street Children) and the social disconnect they face, which often leads to violence against them sometimes resulting in death. Jenna I applaud your take on things, I came to this same realization years ago and have seen many eye-opening films because of it!

  17. The King’s Speech was a lovely film. Saving Private Ryan is good, however you might consider watching Band of Brothers….it is fantastic. Also, they often air it as a marathon on AMC and other cable channels, I think with the profanity eliminated. But excellent from a historical perspective and understanding war.

  18. I read an interesting comment from the SixSeeds magazine regarding Christians watching media:

    “When you watch a movie, take in a TV show, or listen to a song, you are not condoning, assenting, agreeing, or endorsing. You are listening.”

    — Rebecca Cusey of TinselTalk at Patheos, in her latest piece on Christians and entertainment

    I think this is a healthy opinion. It’s easy to get caught up in an isolated bubble. You can learn a lot of things from unconventional places. I had a great conversation with my husband over manipulative, controlling relationships after watching Paranormal Activity.

    I’d recommend Life as a House. There’s no nudity (though there is sex, you just don’t have to see the details), minimal cussing, and overall it’s a beautiful film. It’s about a father who finds out his cancer is terminal, and his decision to spend his last summer building his dream house with his disaffected teenage son. So beautiful and moving. You will cry, I guarantee it!

  19. I’ll second the Life as a House recommendation (the sex scenes are minimal).

    And I’ll be the 18th person to endorse Shawshank. 🙂

    If you want to open your mind to world views (while seeing a well made movie) I highly recommend Hotel Rwanda (hmm… was that R or just pg13? Not sure.

    With regards to the swearing, I might start out more lenient with that (because I think we get that from people, not from movies), and if you drop something and then swear – no more swearing movies! But I think you might miss out on some really poignant moments of good movies if you either skip the movie or get a editing device.

  20. I have a very similar standard as you do. I don’t care about the rating – I won’t watch many PG-13 movies if I don’t think they have any redemptive qualities. But a movie like Braveheart, which is full of war violence, is so inspiring and tells such a story of sacrifice and redemption, is on my list of favorites.

    You are right about what you said regarding violence, though – I can’t stand movies that glorify it (horror) or use it gratuitously (i.e. Wanted, Drive).

  21. same here – we watch movies based on the content. If we mis-judge, we turn it off and are more careful the next time. That’s not for everyone of course (Mormon-wise) but it works for us.

    In fact, we just had a discussion about that very same thing after watching The Kind’s Speech the other night. It was such a delightful, well-done movie and I was sad it had a rating that would keep some from watching it. The rating was R because of two little scenes where they say “F…” a few times. And the way that use it is actually funny, not crude, if there is such a thing.

    Anyway… I definitely recommend that movie – it’s heartwarming and I think you’d enjoy it.

  22. ps -after reading other’s comments, I wanted to agree with the Shawshank recommendation but add a caviat: it’s about prison life (in the 30s I believe) so it’s not touchy feely, it’s more hard core, but it’s an excellent movie. Just know that going into it. The Green Mile is also an excellent movie – thoroughly enjoyed that one. The Gladiator – hands down, incredible movie and Russell Crowe was awesome. A Few Good Men – lots of language in parts but a brilliant classic (you can catch that on TV a lot so you can get the watered down version if you prefer). I’m sure there are others and they’ll come to me later. 🙂

  23. Master and Commander!! It’s just a great movie all around. The historical details are excellent if you are into that 🙂
    Well I just looked and it’s PG-13, so you might already have seen it. If not, do!

  24. I still have a policy of no rated R movies and apply judgement when it comes to other ratings. I think there are very few “life-changing” movies out there that are rated R that I am missing out on. I have made the exception three times: Billy Elliot (swearing scene), I capture the castle (brief front nude scene of woman), and The King’s Speech (swearing scene). All of these viewings came after the suggestions of friends who knew what my standards were. All of them were rating R ONLY for those mentioned scenes which were easy enough to block out or fast forward. Other movies I have caught once they were on TV. I think you just need to come to a decision as a family what you feel good about, which is what you are working on.

    Erin J Reply:

    They did release a PG-13 version of the King’s Speech in theaters, but I do not know if they actually released that version on DVD, but the swearing scene is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

  25. This is going to sound like I have a thing for Mel Gibson, but I just absolutely love these movies. The Patriot and We Were Soldiers.

  26. The part that I dislike is (being LDS) is that you have said “not to worry about what is said in the Strength of Youth pamphlet.” If you are in Young Womens and your kids ask you about this, how do you rationalize given that the Strength of Youth pamphlet is considered a “work” of the church? Do you tell them to pick and choose what they want to follow and where do you draw the line?

  27. Do you watch a lot of documentaries? I would recommend those for you. Obviously most are liberal leaning, but I think they are still very informative!

  28. I don’t think there is any rated R movie out there that is going to be that educational that you have to go against what the prophet has asked us to do. You can educate yourself in others ways then movies. I hope people understand that he LDS standard is black and white on this. Our prophet, that we have sustained and that we whole heartedly believe to be God’s mouthpiece here on earth (and if you didn’t believe that you wouldn’t be a part of the LDS church) has plain and simply asked us to not watch rated R movies and use our best judgement and dissernement on other rated movies. because yes even pg-13 movies should not be watched. sometimes we are asked to do things just to be tested in seeing if we are willing to obey.

    Sophia Reply:

    “sometimes we are asked to do things just to be tested in seeing if we are willing to obey.” I really, really disagree with this notion of God. That he sets up expectations as little ways of almost tricking us- “hey guys, this isn’t even important, really, I’m just saying it to see if you’ll do what I say- kinda petty, yeah, but I’m God, so you do what I say or else!”

    I just find that to be a terribly narrow view of the way the creator of the universe, and all human life, would behave in relation to his children whom he supposedly loves. It seems so childish to me, a needless display of authority “just because I can.”

  29. A huge recommendation from me for ‘The Wire’. That series is the best thing I have ever seen on TV.

  30. I’d like to echo Billy Elliot and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    And… if you ever change your mind about “horror,” I think The Shining and Silence of the Lambs and A Clockwork Orange are incredible films.

  31. The ratings system is so subjective–I have seen PG movies I would have rated near R and R movies that I never could figure out how it got the rating…..

    The Sweet Hereafter was good but it made me cry.

    I saw Schindlers List in school, actually–heartbreaking but much of history is. I plan on showing it to my children when they are old enough because I think it is so important for them to understand what happened.

  32. Not a film but a sitcom, a BBC sitcom, about a Chruch of England priest who becomes the vicar of an inner-city London church. Not sure if its being shown on BBC America yet but well worth tracking down. Its called Rev and, despite the occasional use of the F word, will get you thinking.

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