The movie rating system has had a number of high profile critics. Film critic Roger Ebert argues that the system places too much emphasis on not showing sex while allowing the portrayal of massive amounts of gruesome violence. The uneven emphasis on sex versus violence is echoed by other critics, including David Ansen, as well as many filmmakers. Moreover, Ebert argues that the rating system is geared toward looking at trivial aspects of the movie (such as the number of times a profane word is used) rather than at the general theme of the movie (for example, if the movie realistically depicts the consequences of sex and violence).
Many critics of the MPAA system, especially independent distributors, have charged that major studios' releases often receive more lenient treatment than independent films. They allege that Saving Private Ryan, with its intense depiction of the D-Day invasion of
Another criticism of the ratings system is the apparent arbitrary nature in designating PG-13- and R-rated content. Many critics (professional, the general public and religious and moral groups) believe that the content of recent PG-13 films equals that of R-rated films from the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. For example, depictions of sexual content, violence, profanity and other objectionable content in a PG-13 film from the late 1990s on may have been considered "R level" in the 1970s and 1980s. A Harvard study suggested that the rating system has allowed far more violence, sex, profanity, drug use and other mature content in 2003 than they have allowed in 1992 in PG and PG-13 rated movies.That study found this when they noticed that an R-rated movie released in 1992 had the exact same content levels as a PG-13 rated film released in 2003.