This Segment Is Rated R
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
It's been 50 years since the Motion Picture Association of America came out with the movie rating system we all know. You know, G for stuff like animated fairytales, PG for costume dramas or pirate adventures. It was actually originally called M for mature, but it got changed because it was confusing. PG-13 and NC-17 were later additions. And then there was R, where all the sex and swear words and slaughter lived.
We asked you to share your stories with us about the first R-rated movie you saw, whether you were allowed to or not. Susan McKenzie of Montreal wasn't. She found "Prom Night" playing on late-night TV during a babysitting gig.
SUSAN MCKENZIE: And I had no idea what the film was going to be like.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PROM NIGHT")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: There's a special night in the lives of all of us - a night to be beautiful.
MCKENZIE: And it was scarier and scarier. And I've never been a fan of horror films. And I think that watching "Prom Night" alone in a strange house is probably partly to play for that. We got partway through the movie because, of course, there were commercial breaks back in the day. And the parents came home, and the movie wasn't over.
And even though I knew it was scary, I had to see the ending. So I got home. And just as I sort of turned the channel and sat down, I looked up, and one of the characters got beheaded. And the head got chopped off, and it rolled down the runway on the dance floor.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PROM NIGHT")
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (As character, screaming).
MCKENZIE: I cannot remember anything else about that movie except that one scene. And even now it still plays back in my head in black and white.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: For Joanna Chopp of Houghton, Mich., it was "Face Off" on the big screen.
JOANNA CHOPP: My friend Jen (ph) and I decided that we really wanted to see this movie. We were only about 15. So we went one Saturday afternoon to the only theater in our little town that was showing this movie, you know, said that we were 17, no problem getting tickets because it was the '90s. And no one was checking IDs.
And we thought we were so smart until we walked into the theater. And there, sitting in the back row right next to the door, was our high school history teacher.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FACE OFF")
NICOLAS CAGE: (As Castor Troy) I'd like to take his face off.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it's not all about sneaking around and getting scared. For Allison Waters (ph) of Dover, N.J., an R-rated film made her think differently about herself.
ALLISON WALTERS: About the time I hit puberty, I was having really bad insomnia. I just wasn't sleeping. And sometimes, I would just kind of wander downstairs and plug my headphones into this little TV set we had. And one night, I found this movie (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon - "Bound."
WALTERS: What I remember most is that there were two women, and they wanted each other.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOUND")
GINA GERSHON: (As Corky) To me, stealing's always been a lot like sex. Two people who want the same thing, they get in a room. They start to plan. It's kind of like flirting.
WALTERS: And I didn't know that was possible. And I've always maintained that I've always been gay. I just didn't have the vocabulary for it. And this was kind of an introduction to, oh, there's more. There's more of me. There's more other people out there. It was much more enlightening. It's almost like the rating is an afterthought.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Susan McKenzie, Joanna Chopp and Allison Walters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.