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The meaning of the M label

Posted on 29 May 2015 by Michelle (updated post)

Have you ever been faced with a pleading 12 year-old who wants to see an M movie and you aren't really sure if you should let them?

While an M classification means the film is unrestricted - anyone can see it - it is more suitable for older viewers. This is different to the red labels which are legal restrictions and the film cannot legally be shown to anyone under the age on the label.

The M classification means the movie might contain violence, offensive language, drug use, sexual or adult themes or nudity that some kids and parents find challenging.

A lot of blockbusters based on books popular with the 10+ age group are classified M, including most of the Harry Potter movies, The Hobbit trilogy and The Hunger Games. It can be a hard call for a parent, older sibling or other adult to decide what is appropriate.

Here's what we suggest. Have a look at the descriptive note on the classification - the bit on the label that says things like 'contains violence and offensive language'. It should give you an idea about some of the stronger content in the film.

A number of websites can give you more detailed information, such as the Internet Movie Database - movies in the database have 'parent guides' with comprehensive content advisories (take a look at the parent guide for The Hunger Games for example). Movie reviews at Common Sense Media are another good example.

Think about the format that is most appropriate for the child to watch the movie in. It might suit your family better to watch a movie at home on DVD or online, where you can switch it off, mute a scene or walk away if the movie is too much - rather than seeing it on a huge screen at the cinema with surround sound.

For more information about M classifications, please feel free to contact us. Happy viewing!

Michelle works in the Information Unit at the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification. Her views do not represent those of the Chief Censor or of the Classification Office. The Information Unit provides information to other staff, to the public, and to industry members - they are not involved in assigning classifications. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

M label on DVD
One of the most common classifications is also the least understood

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