What Do TV-MA, Rated R, and Unrated Mean? Definition and Examples

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 26, 2023

TV-MA, Rated R, and Unrated are ratings given to movies and TV shows. You can use them to determine if a program is age-appropriate if you know what they mean.

So, in this guide, you will find definitions and examples for each.

Do you need the short version?

Here it is: 

  • TV-MA is a rating the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires the television industry to assign to TV programs and series for mature audiences only. 
  • Rated R is a rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to movies suitable for audiences over 17 years old. 
  • Unrated means that a film was not reviewed, so there is no rating given.

There is a lot more to learn about these ratings. So, keep reading.

What is the Difference Between TV-MA, Rated R, and Unrated?

Ratings are given to movies, music, TV shows, and video games. TV-MA, Rated R, and Unrated are assigned to different media types.

  • TV-MA is given to television programs that are only acceptable for adults.
  • Rated R is given to movies appropriate for people 17 and older.
  • Unrated means that a movie or TV show is not given a rating.

At movie theater box offices, the sale of Rated R tickets is restricted to people over 17.

Definition of TV-MA: What Does TV-MA Mean?

TV-MA is a rating given by the television industry by regulations by the FCC to programs suitable for mature audiences over 17.

Other ratings in the system are:

  • TV-Y - Programs are suitable for children from 2 to 5 years old.
  • TV-Y7 - Programs are acceptable for children seven and older.
  • TV-Y7-FV - Programs are ideal for children seven and older but contain fantasy violence.
  • TV-G - Programs are appropriate for all audiences and not necessarily geared toward children.
  • TV-PG - Programs are suitable for audiences under 14 with parental guidance.
  • TV-14 - Programs are acceptable for people over 14.
  • TV-MA - Programs for audiences 17 and older.

Since 2000, all 13-inch or greater TVs manufactured must have a V-Chip that parents can use to restrict access to programs based on ratings like TV-MA.

The TV-MA rating includes films with nudity, drug use, profanity, and other mature themes that are inappropriate for younger audiences.

Definition of Rated R: What Does Rated R Mean?

Rated R is given to films unacceptable for audiences under 17 without an adult by an independent panel, the Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA), elected by the MPAA.

Other ratings in the system include:

  • G - General audiences
  • PG - Parental guidance
  • PG-13 - Parental guidance under 13
  • R - No one under 17 permitted without an adult
  • NC-17 - No one permitted under 17

These are the current ratings. However, the rating system has changed since the film industry adopted it in 1968. Rated R films include nudity, profanity, drug use, sexual themes, and violence.

At movie theaters, anyone under 17 years old without a parent or guardian is prohibited from buying Rated R tickets from the box office.

Definition of Unrated: What Does Unrated Mean?

The definition of an Unrated film has not received a rating from CARA. Most unedited versions of films are Unrated. Filmmakers do not have to have their films rated. However, movies without a rating cannot play in many theaters.

Not all Unrated movies have adult themes. However, the majority are.

Popular TV-MA Programs

There are numerous TV-MA programs. Currently, the ten most popular are:

  1. Succession
  2. Ted Lasso
  3. Silo
  4. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
  5. Love & Death
  6. The Diplomat
  7. Barry
  8. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  9. From
  10. Yellowjacket

Popular Rated R Movies

Approximately 25 percent of movies receive an R rating. According to Newsweek, the ten most popular Rated R films are:

  1. Joker
  2. Deadpool 2
  3. Deadpool
  4. The Matrix Reloaded
  5. It
  6. Detective Chinatown
  7. Logan
  8. The Passion of the Christ
  9. The Hangover Part II
  10. Fifty Shades of Grey

Popular Movies with Unrated Cuts

Many major motion pictures have an uncut, unrated version that includes scenes not shown in theaters. Some of the most popular unrated films include:

  1. Caligula
  2. American Psycho
  3. Gladiator
  4. Dawn of the Dead
  5. Requiem for a Dream
  6. American Pie
  7. The Hangover
  8. Almost Famous
  9. Basic Instinct
  10. The Human Centipede

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'TV-MA,' 'Rated R,' and 'Unrated'

Learning how to pronounce words helps you gain confidence in your ability to converse with others, and it can help you become a better writer.

So, here is a pronunciation guide: 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'TV-MA':

tee-vee em-ay

  • Use the phonetic spelling below to pronounce 'Rated R':

rayt-ed are

  • Pronounce 'unrated' with this phonetic spelling:


Sample Sentences Using 'TV-MA,' 'Rated R,' and 'Unrated'

You should know the difference between these three terms. But before you go, take a look at the sample sentences below.


  • You can block TV-MA programs using the V-Chip on your TV.
  • TV-MA shows are inappropriate for young children and teens.
  • You should watch TV-MA content before your teen to ensure it is appropriate for them.
  • TV-MA is a rating that warns parents that a show on television is only suitable for mature audiences.

Rated R

  • My son went to the movies with his friends but didn't tell me they were going to a Rated R movie.
  • I saw the movie but am unsure why it was Rated R.
  • Most Rated R movies contain a combination of violence, sexual content, smoking, drug use, and profanity.
  • No children can attend Rated R movies without a parent or guardian present.


  • Not all Unrated movies contain mature content.
  • CARA does not review unrated movies.
  • Many movie theaters will not play Unrated films.
  • Scenes that are not reviewed with the original edited film are Unrated.
  • Will you watch the Unrated movie with me?

Final Thoughts on TV-MA, Rated R, and Unrated

That was a lot to review. So, just to be sure that you know the difference between 'TV-MA,' 'Rated R,' and 'Unrated,' take a look at this quick recap:

  • TV-MA is a rating given to TV programs that are only acceptable for mature audiences. 
  • Rated R is a maturity rating given to movies that are acceptable for viewers older than 17. 
  • Unrated movies are not given a rating by CARA, so it is impossible to know who they are appropriate for without viewing them first. 

If you need help differentiating between these ratings in the future, you can always come back here to review this lesson. You can also learn about other commonly misused words and phrases in our confusing words section.

Each guide contains grammar tips, definitions, pronunciation, and sample sentences. So, whether you are learning English or trying to improve your communication skills, you can learn a lot from each post.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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