Should R-Rated Franchises Ever Have PG or PG-13 Installments?

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A few months ago while promoting Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy said:

“I think what happened was, there was a period when Hollywood was on some PG-13… that’s how you reached most audiences. And there was, maybe, a 15-year period where that’s all everybody was doing. So I got caught up in that shit. But no, doing this movie, we went, ‘This movie has to be rated R because of the way Rudy Ray Moore was.’ But I’m doing Coming to America next, and that’s PG-13.”

The first Coming to America was an R-rated comedy, but the sequel will be PG-13. There’s a good chance that what Murphy has planned for the sequel fits better for the PG-13 rating, but it is still an example of a franchise that had its roots in R-ratings head to the other side of the pasture for some PG-13 fun.

Die Hard. Aliens. Terminator. The Expendables. Police Academy. RoboCop. Scary Movie.

The above franchises all began as R-rated, but over time shifted to the PG-13 rating, much to fan disappointment. With the news about Coming to America being the next circa-80s franchise to go PG-13 I began to wonder if there are ever examples of when this has worked to critical and public approval?

So the question I ask today is: should a franchise that began as R-rated ever move into PG-13 territory?

There is no right answer to this question. Some franchises that began as R-rated truly need to stay R-rated. The Expendables 3 should have been R-rated, but went PG-13 in an effort to make more box office coin. The Expendables franchise is rooted in the blood and violence that rarely makes it to the screen, and was a throwback to the films and stars of the 80s.

Terminator, RoboCop, and Die Hard have all experimented with PG-13 ratings after having at least half of their installments R-rated. However, when protagonists start a series being able to swear wildly and deliver a high, bloody body count to see that disappear or minimize in a sequel can be jarring. Live Free or Die Hard is still a good film even with a PG-13 rating, but the same couldn’t be said for Terminator Genisys.

There is also the flip side to this question: should PG-13 franchises go R-rated? If we said no, then we wouldn’t have gotten acclaimed films like Logan. However, fans would be quick to state that Wolverine’s solo movies should have always been R-rated given his bloody nature in the comics.

Personally, I think it all comes down to the type of story you are able to tell. The new Black Christmas remake is PG-13 when the original film was R-rated. Blumhouse has said that it wasn’t done to appeal to a larger audience, but that the film they made just happened to get a PG-13 rating. If a franchise is established on its swears, violence, nudity, and blood/gore then I don’t think it should ever descend into PG-13 territory as you will have to minimize what made audiences fans of the franchise in the first place. But if the R-rated stuff has ever only been garnish to the main meal then you can probably get away with a PG-13 rating.

So what about you, folks? Do you think R-rated franchises should ever go PG-13, and under what circumstances?

I’ll see you in the trenches.

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"