Since the launch of the MPAA ratings system in 1968, the “G” in G rating has stood for “General Audiences,” meaning viewers of all ages are welcome. Because it was retroactively applied to a number of older movies — most of which were crafted for adults — the rating breaks down informally into two categories. On one side are the legion of old movies that were wholesome by nature, but not necessarily aimed at children. On the flip side is contemporary G-rated fare, which often seems directly aimed at children or families and can be quite lucrative as a result. (See how many are among the biggest worldwide box office hits of the last 20 years.)
Due to their ongoing association with such a young demographic, G-rated movies retain a certain stigma among modern audiences, and sometimes justly so. The worst examples conjure little more than a threadbare storyline with no semblance of complexity or depth (for proof, look no further than the worst G-rated movies ever made.)
However, the best G-rated films of all time offer a starkly different perspective, displaying no shortage of intelligence and emotion. The animated output of Pixar and Studio Ghibli, for instance, is typically no less sophisticated than the arthouse drama playing in the theater next door.
Jump further back in time and one discovers a whole host of G-rated cinematic classics, although some are probably the last thing a child would want to see (“2001: A Space Odyssey?”). Meanwhile, there’s no viewer too old for Charlie Chaplin, who commonly layered mature themes beneath a veneer of physical hijinks. Some of his best work also happens to be rated G.
To identify the best R-rated movies ever made, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a database of over 17,000 movies and calculated an index of each movie’s rating on IMDb and its audience score and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes. IMdb is an online movie database owned by Amazon. Rotten Tomatoes is an online movie and TV review aggregator. Domestic box office figures came from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services, last updated in April 2021. Box office figures are not inflation adjusted. Casting and other supplemental data comes from IMDb.