How Alberta classifies films

Alberta’s film classification ratings and what they mean.

Overview

Every film and trailer screened in Alberta must be rated before it is made public. A rating is a public notice that indicates what kind of content you can expect to see. All movies shown in public for an admission fee in Alberta are assigned a film rating by staff at Alberta Film Classification.

An Alberta film rating has 2 parts:

  • an age-based rating
  • any related advisories, also known as warnings

A classification report is available for most films that explains why a movie was given a certain rating. These aren't reviews and they don't contain spoilers.

Ratings are applied to individual films based on our understanding of what the audience most likely to go see the film would consider appropriate.

Age-based ratings

Age-based ratings are categories that describe how appropriate a film’s content is for people of different ages.

Theatre managers use these ratings to know who to permit into the theatre for each movie and who must be accompanied by an adult under the law. However, the law does not give us the power to cut scenes, censor content or ban films from being shown in the province.

You can also see examples of Alberta ratings in common film genres.

Every film must be sorted into one of the 5 age-based ratings categories. The age-based ratings in Alberta are:

General (G) film rating icon

General (G)

Suitable for all ages.

Parental Guidance (PG) film rating icon

Parental Guidance (PG)

May not be suitable for all ages. Parental guidance is advised.

14A film rating icon

14A

Suitable for persons 14 years of age or older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

18A film rating icon

18A

Suitable for persons 18 years of age or older. Persons under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Restricted (R) film rating icon

Restricted (R)

Not suitable for minors. Admittance restricted to persons 18 years of age and older.

Film rating advisories

Advisories are warnings attached to an age-based rating that highlight movie themes and elements audiences may wish to consider.

Because there are only 5 age-based ratings for all different kinds of films, each rating is a spectrum rather than a “one-size-fits-all” label.

Films can scale higher or lower within a rating depending on the detail, frequency and intensity of the following content:

  • coarse language
  • violence and frightening content
  • sexual content and nudity
  • substance abuse and crude content
  • subject matter and tone

Advisories highlight these elements to help audiences make a more informed viewing choice.

There are 17 advisories that can go together with an age-based rating. For consistency, we do not deviate from the following terms. We can, however, add the words “Crude” and/or “Gory” to an advisory to clarify the warning.

Advisories related to coarse language

Advisory Common rating(s) What it means
Coarse Language

PG

14A

18A
Contains profanity, expletives, vulgar expressions, threats, slurs, sexual references or sexual innuendo.
Language May Offend

PG

14A
Contains language that may be offensive to some groups. It may include sacrilegious language, slurs or vulgar expressions.

Advisories related to violence and frightening content

Advisory Common rating(s) What it means
Violence

PG

14A

18A

R

Contains scenes of violence, which could range from mild hand-to-hand combat to detailed portrayals of torture, depending upon the rating of the film.
Frightening Scenes

PG

14A
Contains images that may frighten a person, or are clearly intended to shock or scare.
Brutal Violence

14A

18A

R
Contains detailed portrayals of violence that may include extreme brutality, bloody or gory violence, and may include images of torture, horror or war.
Gory Scenes

14A

18A

R
Contains graphic images of bloody or gory violence, and may include images of torture, horror or war.
Sexual Violence

14A

18A

R
Contains scenes of sexual violence, which could range from scenes of non-consensual sex acts to graphic portrayals of sexual assault, depending upon the rating of the film.

Advisories related to sexual content and nudity

Advisory Common rating(s) What it means
Nudity

PG

14A

18A

Contains breast, buttock, and/or genital nudity. Nudity can be portrayed in a sexual or a non-sexual context.
Sexually Suggestive Scenes

PG

Contains scenes that imply, rather than show, that sexual activity is taking place or has occurred.
Sexual Content

PG

14A

18A

Contains sexual language, references, innuendo, and/or scenes of implied or simulated sexual activity.
Explicit Sexual Content

R

Contains sexual activity that is explicit and unsimulated, as in adult films that involve actual genital contact.

Advisories related to crude content and substance abuse

Advisory Common rating(s) What it means
Crude Content

PG

14A

18A

Contains crude portrayals of bodily functions.
Substance Abuse

PG

14A

18A

Contains excessive alcohol use or the use of illegal substances.

Advisories related to subject matter and tone

Advisory Common rating(s) What it means
Not Recommended For Young Children

PG

May be inappropriate for young children. For example, the subject matter could include the death of a family pet, a complicated family breakdown or images considered frightening or disturbing for the very young.
Not Recommended For Children

14A

May include scenes that reflect a more mature situation, such as drug use or abuse.
Mature Subject Matter

PG

14A
Contains scenes or themes that may be upsetting or troubling to some. The film may contain portrayals of sexual violence, torture, deviant behaviour or cruelty.
Disturbing Content

PG

14A

18A

R
Contains images or storylines that may be challenging for minors. The film may contain portrayals of domestic violence, racism, religious matters, death or controversial social issues.

Classification report

A classification report provides additional information about the rating of the film, and includes the following sections.

Synopsis
A short description of the film’s plot, its genre and featured leading actors.
Content elements
A list that describes notable aspects of the film, including type of content and its context, frequency and level of detail. It expands on any advisories included in the film’s rating.
Thematic elements
A list of 2-4 prevalent themes explored in the film to provide helpful context.
Classification rationale
A short explanation about why the film received its rating.
Classification date
The date the film was classified. Classification dates are not related to film release dates.

Classification process

We rate approximately 700-800 films per year, plus an additional 700-800 trailers per year. Here’s how we do it.

Step 1. Films are sent, received and scheduled

Every film must be classified by law. Film distributors must send their movies and trailers to Alberta Film Classification before they open in Alberta. Films are scheduled and then evaluated by a team of full-time, professional film classifiers. We can classify anywhere between 2-5 movies a day!

Step 2. We re-create the experience

A film shown in a public movie theatre often has a more intense impact than when watched at home. We replicate the public experience by screening films in a fully equipped theatre, with 3D capability, and each movie is watched from beginning to end without stopping.

Step 3. Discussion and classification

After watching the film, a rating is decided upon by committee, sometimes after vigorous debate. A film’s theme and tone, as well as its intended audience, are all important factors when weighing the impact of different kinds of content within a film.

Once consensus is reached, a rating is given and a classification report is written and shared online.

Step 4. Research and refinement

Alberta’s film ratings system is continually refined based upon detailed record keeping, industry and community monitoring, and feedback from movie-going Albertans. This system helps ensure that our evaluation of content reflects the evolving nature of Alberta’s community.

Get involved

Ongoing input from Albertans is key to our ability to accurately apply standardized ratings to the wide range of films shown every year in Alberta. Your voice matters.

Find out how to take part in film classification.